Soviet labour camps (Gulags) were located far from inhabited areas.
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Interior of a barrack
The Gulag was the government agency that operated the main Sovietforced labour camp system. Forced labour camps had already existed in the Russian Empire, but they became harsher and more widespread in the 1930s, due to measures taken by Stalin. The aim of these labour camps was to neutralise enemies of the system, intimidate the population and provide a cheap labour force.
Most of the camps were located far from populated areas; the most infamous of them being in Siberia. Enemies of the system (both Russian and foreign), prisoners of war and other so-called ‘subversive elements’ were deported to the camps.
Inmates were forced to do hard manual labour, mostly in mines, or on road or railway construction, for 10-12 hours a day.
Living conditions, housing and health care were appalling, and made even worse by weather conditions and the cruelty of the guards. According to authentic sources, about 20 million people lost their lives in the labour camps.
One of the best known prisoners of the Gulag system was Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, a trained mathematics teacher, who wrote books about the labour camps after his release. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature for his works.
After Stalin’s death in 1953, the system became somewhat less harsh, but it was only in 1960 that the Gulag was officially wound up. However, the political intimidation of the Soviet Union’s population continued.