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This Fake Gulag Will Let You Pretend the Soviets Are Still in Power

Barking dogs, harsh guards and brutal imprisonment in a bunker where the USSR never fell

The USSR is alive and well in a bunker in Lithuania. (EDUARD KORNIYENKO/Reuters/Corbis)
smithsonian.com

Inspections, interrogations and whippings aren’t usually on anyone’s vacation itinerary. But in a Lithuanian forest, tourists can pay 15 euro to relive the Soviet years in a fake gulag that takes visitors back to the USSR, Colors Magazine reports.

1984: Survival Drama brings Soviet Russia’s brutal gulag system back to life. Visitors are greeted with gulag fashion (a quilted cotton jacket) and ersatz coffee. Then the real experience begins: participants are hustled into an underground bunker straight out of the Soviet period, complete with barking dogs, yelling guards, interrogations and harsh punishment for infractions.

As Colors Magazine writes, Rūta Vanagite created the Soviet Bunker in response to what she considers the “illness of Soviet nostalgia.” From sighing for Soviet-era cooking to a longing for Communist-era products, many in Eastern Europe look back fondly on their totalitarian youths. But the gulag—part living theater, part historical classroom—turns tourists into prisoners. Along the way, it reminds visitors of Lithuania’s brutal repression by the Soviet Union, which deported, imprisoned and disappeared tens of thousands.

If signing a disclaimer promising you will carry out orders "without objection” and receive “psychological/physical punishments” in case of disobedience isn’t your style, you might want to to do the “easy way” tour offered by the bunker instead. Or, you could choose another sobering destination for your next vacation. The New York Times reports that a new tourist park in Crimea could use Napoleon’s ill-fated 1812 march as its theme. And this slideshow has suggestions for graveyards, battlefields and concentration camps that can help you ensure your next getaway includes a bit of the dark side of human misery.

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