The Red Terror

The revolution of 1917 radically changed not only the political situation in the country, but also the structure of the state system. Consequently, the outbreak of the Civil War gave rise to a new punitive system. The first concentration camps began to appear.

Forced Labour camps

As the Civil War came to its end, the concentration camps were mostly eliminated, but this fact did not affect the forced labout camps administrated by the GPU. Constructed in 1923, Solovki prison was the most famous of these camps. It became the forerunner as well as the prototype for the GULAG system.

The Birth of the Gulag

By 1930, the Soviet government set the fundamental legal basis for the establishment of the Gulag. It was exactly the period when the total number of prisoners skyrocketed and reached 2 million by 1938.


Throughout these years the prisoners of the Gulag were sent to distant territories such as Taimyr, Chukotka, Kolyma and Vorkuta. They supposed to carry out the reclamation of these uninhabited places. As soos as the prisoners established life there, it was mundatory for them to immediately put into practice the plan of the party – the mining of minerals, primarily coal, tin and gold.

Deportations during World War II

The Gulag prisoners had a very hard time during war, because camps experienced terrible famine in 1941-1942. Nevertheless, in 1942 the railway linking Vorkuta with Moscow was established due to the prisoners hard labour. Thus, Gulag became one of the largest suppliers of coal, oil and tin to the military front.

The Empire and its Collapse

Post war Gulag acquired explicit forms of an empire: secret camps started to appear in large cities like Moscow and Leningrad; prisoners were engaged in all branches of production from sewing gloves and overcoats to the creation of airfields and large factories. However, after the Stalin's death on March 5 1953, the camp system failed - the largest construction projects were curtailed, the camps were disbanded.