Gulag tourism and visitation: the case of Kazakhstan

John Lennon, Guillaume Tiberghien

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


Kazakhstan is the location of some of the most important Gulag incarceration heritage sites from the Soviet period of domination. Despite the scale and severity of incarceration and loss of life commemoration, conservation and interpretation of Gulag sites is at best partial, visitation remains low and the attitude to this element of Kazakh history is (at best) ambiguous. This conference paper considers critical heritage sites and museums of the Gulag period in Kazakhstan and a qualitative case study approach is adopted to better understand the development and operation of Gulag tourism. Direct observations and qualitative document analysis of the major Kazakh Gulag museums and other important Gulag heritage sites was undertaken. Date from interviews with some 24 key stakeholders is also reported. This paper questions the orthodoxy inherent in the appeal of dark tourism sites and seeks to ascertain why domestic and international visitation remains low given the scale and importance of the Gulag incarceration narrative.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages39
Publication statusPublished - 5 May 2022
EventDark Tourism: Memory, Pilgrimage and the Digital Realm - Online
Duration: 5 May 20225 May 2022 (Link to event website)


ConferenceDark Tourism: Memory, Pilgrimage and the Digital Realm
OtherAcademic Symposium
Internet address


  • Gulag heritage
  • Gulag tourism
  • Dark Tourism
  • selective interpretation
  • collective memory
  • managing authenticity
  • performative authenticity
  • re-enactment


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