Perm 36 (Gerlad Praschi WikiCommons)
Perm-36 is to be shut downGerlad Praschi WikiCommons

Russia's only museum commemorating the victims of the gulags is to close amid rising state pressure.

The news that Perm-36, which was created on the site of a Soviet forced labour camp, or gulag, is to shut its doors, the Moscow Times reports.

But this comes as authorities announced a new museum devoted to the nationalist Novorossiya project is to open in Saint Petersburg, reports News.ru.com.

In recent years the Kremlin has attempted to recast its history and de-tarnish its Soviet past, and has cast its recent annexation of Crimea as a reclamation of territory to which it has an historical right. A recent poll by the Levada institute showed 52% of Russians now hold a positive view of Stalin.

In recent months local authority funding for the gulag museum, which was nominated as a Unesco world heritage site, has been cut off, and in recent weeks its electricity and water supplies have also been severed.

Authorities investigated the camp, which is in the village of Kuchino in the Perm district, after a member of the public complained the camp vindicated Ukrainian and Lithuanian nationalists who were imprisoned there for fighting against the Soviet Union. Millions are believed to have perished in the gulag-forced labour camps under the Soviet Union.

Meanwhile the Novorossiya museum, which will be devoted to celebrating the exploits of the pro-Russian separatist battalions in eastern Ukraine, will open on 9 May, when Russians mark the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany.

"In the DNI and LC [pro-Russian militias] are many interesting personalities, many of whom died tragically. I would like to tell you more about them," said militia leader German Vladimirov, who had the idea for the museum.

Over the past year, pro-Russian militants demanding closer ties with Moscow have been battling Ukraninian forces in east Ukraine.

However, politican Boris Vishnevsky opposed the plan and said such initiatives "just toss firewood in this war", reports the news portal.

The term "Novorossiya" is used to refer to territory near the Black Sea, which Russia seized from the Ottoman empire in the 18th century, and has been employed by Russian President Vladimir Putin to stir nationalist sentiments in the wake of the Ukraine crisis.