Otherwise the conditions in both camp systems were similar: hard labour, poor nutrition and living conditions, and high mortality rate. The centralised detention facilities temporarily ceased functioning. Even more broadly, "Gulag" has come to mean the Soviet repressive system itself, the set of procedures that prisoners once called the "meat-grinder": the arrests, the interrogations, the transport in unheated cattle cars, the forced labour, the destruction of families, the years spent in exile, the early and unnecessary deaths. The official term, "corrective labour camp", was suggested for official use by the politburo of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in the session of July 27,
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Otherwise the conditions in both camp systems were similar: hard labour, poor nutrition and living conditions, and high mortality rate. The centralised detention facilities temporarily ceased functioning. Even more broadly, "Gulag" has come to mean the Soviet repressive system itself, the set of procedures that prisoners once called the "meat-grinder": the arrests, the interrogations, the transport in unheated cattle cars, the forced labour, the destruction of families, the years spent in exile, the early and unnecessary deaths.
The official term, "corrective labour camp", was suggested for official use by the politburo of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in the session of July 27, Background[ edit ] Group of prisoners in Sakhalin , remote prison island, c. Katorga , a category of punishment reserved for those convicted of the most serious crimes, had many of the features associated with labour-camp imprisonment: confinement, simplified facilities as opposed to prisons , and forced labour, usually involving hard, unskilled or semi-skilled work.
According to historian Anne Applebaum , katorga was not a common sentence; approximately 6, katorga convicts were serving sentences in and 28, in In the nineteenth century, the members of the failed Decembrist revolt , Polish nobles who resisted Russian rule , and members of various socialist revolutionary groups, including Bolsheviks such as Sergo Ordzhonikidze , Leon Trotsky , and Joseph Stalin were all sent into exile.
Despite the isolated conditions, there were prisoners who successfully escaped to populated areas. Stalin himself escaped three of the four times he was sent into exile. In the first decade of Soviet rule, the judicial and penal systems were neither unified nor coordinated, and there was a distinction between criminal prisoners and political or "special" prisoners. In the official in charge of prison administration wrote: The exploitation of prison labour, the system of squeezing "golden sweat" from them, the organisation of production in places of confinement, which while profitable from a commercial point of view is fundamentally lacking in corrective significance — these are entirely inadmissible in Soviet places of confinement.
In he was arrested for illegally crossing borders and smuggling. This notorious you-eat-as-you-work system would often kill weaker prisoners in weeks and caused countless casualties. The letter caught the attention of a number of high communist officials including Genrikh Yagoda and Frenkel soon went from being an inmate to becoming a camp commander and an important Gulag official. His proposals soon saw widespread adoption in the Gulag system . After having appeared as an instrument and place for isolating counter-revolutionary and criminal elements, the Gulag, because of its principle of "correction by forced labour", it quickly became, in fact, an independent branch of the national economy secured on the cheap labour force presented by prisoners.
It was renamed as the Gulag in November of that year. The growth of the camp system coincided with the peak of the Soviet industrialisation campaign.
Most of the camps established to accommodate the masses of incoming prisoners were assigned distinct economic tasks. The plan to achieve these goals with " special settlements " instead of labor camps was dropped after the revealing of the Nazino affair in ; subsequently the Gulag system was expanded. Hundreds of thousands of persons were arrested and sentenced to long prison terms on the grounds of one of the multiple passages of the notorious Article 58 of the Criminal Codes of the Union republics, which defined punishment for various forms of "counterrevolutionary activities".
Between and , the number of prisoners with higher education increased more than eight times, and the number of prisoners with high education increased five times. On June 27, the Politburo created a system of self-supporting camps that would eventually replace the existing prisons around the country. Prisoners that had a shorter prison sentence than three years were to remain in the prison system that was still under the purview of the NKVD. The purpose of these new camps was to colonise the remote and inhospitable environments throughout the Soviet Union.
These changes took place around the same time that Stalin started to institute collectivisation and rapid industrial development. Collectivisation resulted in a large scale purge of peasants and so-called Kulaks. The Kulaks were supposedly wealthy comparatively to other Soviet peasants and were considered to be capitalists by the state, and by extension enemies of socialism.
By late Stalin started a program known as " dekulakization ". Stalin demanded that the kulak class be completely wiped out. This resulted in the imprisonment and execution of Soviet peasants. The term "Kulak" would also become associated with anyone who opposed or even seemed unsatisfied with the Soviet government. This resulted in 60, people being sent to the camps and another , exiled in a mere four months.
This was only the beginning of the dekulakisation process. In alone 1,, people were exiled. The "special settlers", as the Soviet government referred to them, all lived on starvation level rations, and many people starved to death in the camps, and anyone who was healthy enough to escape tried to do just that. This resulted in the government having to give rations to a group of people they were getting hardly any use out of, and was just costing the Soviet government money.
To help prevent the mass escapes the OGPU started to recruit people within the colony to help stop people who attempted to leave, and set up ambushes around known popular escape routes. The OGPU also attempted to raise the living conditions in these camps that would not encourage people to actively try and escape, and Kulaks were promised that they would regain their rights after five years.
Even these revisions ultimately failed to resolve the problem, and the dekulakisation process was a failure in providing the government with a steady forced labour force. These prisoners were also lucky to be in the gulag in the early s. Prisoners were relatively well off compared to what the prisoners would have to go through in the final years of the gulag.
According to some estimates, hundreds of thousands of Polish citizens   and inhabitants of the other annexed lands, regardless of their ethnic origin, were arrested and sent to the Gulag camps.
However, according to the official data, the total number of sentences for political and anti-state espionage, terrorism crimes in USSR in —41 was , This period accounts for about half of all gulag deaths, according to Russian statistics. In , the term katorga works каторжные работы was reintroduced.
They were initially intended for Nazi collaborators , but then other categories of political prisoners for example, members of deported peoples who fled from exile were also sentenced to "katorga works".
Prisoners sentenced to "katorga works" were sent to Gulag prison camps with the most harsh regime and many of them perished. Right before the war, forced labour provided The Gulag quickly switched to production of arms and supplies for the army after fighting began. At first, transportation remained a priority. In the NKVD focused most of its energy on railroad construction. In addition, factories converted to produce ammunition, uniforms, and other supplies.
Moreover, the NKVD gathered skilled workers and specialists from throughout the Gulag into special colonies which produced tanks, aircraft, armaments, and ammunition. For one, actual productivity almost never matched estimates: the estimates proved far too optimistic. In addition, scarcity of machinery and tools plagued the camps, and the tools that the camps did have quickly broke.
In fact, prisoners in the Gulag were, on average, half as productive as free labourers in the USSR at the time,  which may be partially explained by malnutrition. To make up for this disparity, the NKVD worked prisoners harder than ever. To meet rising demand, prisoners worked longer and longer hours, and on lower food-rations than ever before. A camp administrator said in a meeting: "There are cases when a prisoner is given only four or five hours out of twenty-four for rest, which significantly lowers his productivity.
It was difficult to find people who were even able to gather firewood or bury the dead. The central government focused all its attention on the military, and left the camps to their own devices.
In the Gulag set up the Supply Administration to find their own food and industrial goods. During this time, not only did food become scarce, but the NKVD limited rations in an attempt to motivate the prisoners to work harder for more food, a policy that lasted until The Great Terror of — had provided a large supply of free labour, but by the start of World War II the purges had slowed down.
In order to complete all of their projects , camp administrators moved prisoners from project to project. By January the Gulag workforce had increased by approximately , prisoners. The camps lost still more prisoners to the war effort. The Soviet Union went into total war footing in June Many labourers received early releases so that they could be drafted and sent to the front.
As a result, the Soviet government pushed the Gulag to "do more with less". With fewer able-bodied workers and few supplies from outside the camp system, camp administrators had to find a way to maintain production. The solution they found was to push the remaining prisoners still harder. The NKVD employed a system of setting unrealistically high production goals, straining resources in an attempt to encourage higher productivity.
As the Axis armies pushed into Soviet territory from June on, labour resources became further strained, and many of the camps had to evacuate out of Western Russia. From the beginning of the war to halfway through , 40 camps were set up, and 69 were disbanded. During evacuations, machinery received priority, leaving prisoners to reach safety on foot. When the tide of the war turned, however, and the Soviets started pushing the Axis invaders back, fresh batches of labourers replenished the camps.
After World War II the number of inmates in prison camps and colonies, again, rose sharply, reaching approximately 2. British and U. The forced repatriation operations took place from — Of these, by , more than 90 percent were cleared, and about 8 percent were arrested or condemned to penal battalions. In , they were sent directly to reserve military formations to be cleared by the NKVD. Further, in , about filtration camps were set for repatriated Ostarbeiter, POWs, and other displaced persons, which processed more than 4,, people.
By , the major part of the population of these camps were cleared by NKVD and either sent home or conscripted see table for details.
The Gulag Archipelago
Si stava avvicinando, Aleksandr Isaevich, al novantesimo anno di vita. Una parentesi: non ho letto in nessuno degli obituaries a lui dedicati dai giornali che fu proprio Solzhenitsyn a usare per primo il termine oligarchia. Chiaramente, il noi sono tutti coloro, milioni di uomini e donne, che hanno vissuto quella orribile esperienza. La soggezione al male. A costruire questo monumentum aere perennius Solzhenitsyn ha legato non solo il lavoro di lunghissimi anni il tempo di raccogliere le testimonianze, sistemarle, nasconderle, scrivere, farlo arrivare in Occidente , ma il suo destino inimitabile di scrittore. Si tratta de Il Primo cerchio scritto tra i secondi anni Cinquanta e il e Padiglione cancro scritto tra il e il Si stava affermando, in URSS, il rigelo brezhneviano, una volta cacciato dalla guida del partito-stato Nikita Khurusciov.
Vivere senza menzogna: un ricordo di Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
Structure[ edit ] Structurally, the text comprises seven sections divided in most printed editions into three volumes: parts 1—2, parts 3—4, and parts 5—7. At one level, the Gulag Archipelago traces the history of the system of forced labor camps that existed in the Soviet Union from to Solzhenitsyn begins with V. Note 1 The book then describes and discusses the waves of purges and the assembling of show trials in the context of the development of the greater Gulag system; Solzhenitsyn gives particular attention to its purposive legal and bureaucratic development. Despite the efforts by Solzhenitsyn and others to confront the legacy of the Gulag, the realities of the camps remained a taboo subject until the s. Solzhenitsyn was also aware that although many practices had been stopped, the basic structure of the system had survived and it could be revived and expanded by future leaders.