Forced Labour Establishments

  • Edwin Bacon
Part of the Studies in Soviet History and Society book series


Opening archives have revealed some of the complexities involved in the organisation and administration of a vast network of forced labour establishments. Add to these complexities the chaos which the Nazi invasion wrought in Soviet life, and the Gulag at war begins to be revealed as a camp system in a state of flux. At the outbreak of the war, there were fifty-three centrally administered Gulag camp groups in the Soviet Union, and in 1945 the figure was exactly the same.1 Such a statistic might create the impression of a settled group of camps battling through the crises of war to emerge bruised but intact at the other end. However, these bare data do not begin to tell the full story. Instead, the war years saw great fluctuations in the identity of the Gulag camps, and the number of republican and local forced labour establishments.


Political Prisoner Labour Camp Camp Branch Camp Group Gulag Population 
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    I. Shcherbakova, ‘How Buchenwald became the NKVD’s torture chamber’, Moscow News, 23 (4 June 1993) p. 14.Google Scholar

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© Edwin Thomas Bacon 1996

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  • Edwin Bacon

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