Spotlight on dark tourism and Kazakhstan

11 June 2019

Professor John Lennon, Dean of Glasgow School for Business and Society, has delivered a keynote lecture in Kazakhstan on Gulag heritage sites and dark tourism.

The central Asian state was home to some of the largest Soviet-era prison camps and the Kazakh authorities have opened up several sites as officially sanctioned museums.

Professor Lennon, along with Dr Guillaume Tiberghien, of Glasgow University, visited two former Gulags, mass burial sites and an abandoned orphanage last year as part of a British Academy funded research project on the subject.

They returned to the country at the end of May to host a public lecture and a major workshop in Nur-Sultan, the Kazakh capital.

The presentation included findings from the year-long study which featured interviews with museum curators, archivists, policymakers, tourism operators, local NGOs and academics with expertise in post-Soviet heritage.

Professor Lennon said: “If sites like these don’t remain there is the potential for the history and evidence to be diluted or lost entirely.

“In an era of fake news and revisionism, such sites are hugely important.

“The findings suggest there is clear evidence of selectivity in historical understanding and interpretation.

“What is conserved and what is ignored conveys evidence of a nation less than comfortable with the recent past.”

More than 150 people attended a conference and workshop at Kazguu University on May 29.