Where are the gulags of Russia

What is the gulag?

The Stalinist Gulag

The gulag is not an invention of Stalin. Lenin already ordered "the class enemies of the Soviet republic to be isolated in concentration camps" in order to eliminate them in this way. But under Stalin's rule, the gulag system spread like an epidemic across the vast territory of the USSR.

Anyone who fell under the wheels of Stalinist mass terror and was not liquidated usually disappeared for years or decades in one of the dreaded prison camps. Many of the victims never returned.

The greatest extent of the Gulag comprised 476 camp complexes with thousands of individual camps, each of which housed up to several thousand people. The American journalist and Gulag expert Anne Applebaum has found out over years of research that 18 million people were interned in Soviet forced labor camps from 1929 to Stalin's death in 1953.

Four and a half million of them died of malnutrition, exhaustion, freezing, illness and the consequences of draconian punishments. Only the death of the dictator led to the dissolution of the Stalinist gulag.

"The Gulag Archipelago"

In 1974, the former prisoner and Nobel Prize winner Alexander Solzhenitsyn gave a shocking testimony to the inhuman machinery of the Gulag. His work "Archipel Gulag" describes the Stalinist camps as islands of inhumanity, oppression and annihilation, closed spaces with their own rules and laws.

The book gained worldwide attention at that time and drew attention to the Stalinist system of oppression, much to the displeasure of the Soviet nomenclature.

The prisoners themselves spoke of the "meat grinder" principle, reports Anne Applebaum: of arrest, interrogation, destruction of families, deportation in unheated cattle wagons, forced labor and exile, and of an early death. Solzhenitsyn describes the finely graduated hierarchies in the camp and the perfidious mechanisms of oppression - the gulag as a system that robbed the interned of their dignity.

Economic factor Gulag

In addition to the declared aim of interning millions of innocent political prisoners, Stalin started from the erroneous assumption that the gulag was essential for Soviet economic growth. The prisoners were supposed to promote the industrialization of the Soviet Union, exploit natural resources and open up the hostile Siberian north. The prisoners were burned in huge road construction projects, they mined gold, mined coal and ores and cleared entire forests.

After Stalin's death in 1953 it became apparent that the gulag was a highly inefficient and inefficient system of oppression that not only destroyed millions of lives but also cost the Soviet Union millions in investment. The Gulag system had even cemented the state's economic and political backwardness.

Author: Gregor Delvaux de Fenffe