Perhaps the best known of the Gulag camp complexes was Kolyma, an area in the Far East about six times the size of France that contained more than 100 camps. About three million are thought to have died there from its establishment in 1931 to 1953, the year of Stalin's death. The Gulag scheme was adapted into the infamous concentration camp system used during World War II, especially as Nazi death factories. The Soviet system was publicized in the writings of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, particularly in his book The Gulag Archipelago (1973, tr. 1974). Millions were released from the Gulag under Nikita Khrushchev, and the system was finally abolished by Mikhail Gorbachev.
See A. Shifrin, The First Guidebook to Prisons and Concentration Camps of the Soviet Union (tr. 1980), A. Applebaum, Gulag: A History (2003).
System of Soviet labour camps and prisons that from the 1920s to the mid-1950s housed millions of political prisoners and criminals. The term (an abbreviation of the Russian words for Chief Administration of Corrective Labour Camps) was largely unknown in the West until the 1973 publication of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's Gulag Archipelago. The Gulag consisted of hundreds of camps, under the control of the secret police, where prisoners felled timber, worked in the mines, or laboured on construction projects. At least 10percnt died each year from harsh working conditions, inadequate food, and summary executions. The Gulag reached its height in the years of collectivization of Soviet agriculture (1929–32), during Joseph Stalin's purges (1936–38), and immediately after World War II, shrinking only after Stalin's death in 1953. An estimated 15–30 million Russians died in the camps.
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