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Gulag,system of forced-labor prison camps in the USSR, from the Russian acronym [GULag] for the Main Directorate of Corrective Labor Camps, a department of the Soviet secret policesecret police,
policing organization operating in secrecy for the political purposes of its government, often with terroristic procedures. The Nature of a Secret Police
..... Click the link for more information. (originally the Cheka; subsequently the GPU, OGPU, NKVD, MVD, and finally the KGB). The Gulag was first established under Vladimir LeninLenin, Vladimir Ilyich
, 1870–1924, Russian revolutionary, the founder of Bolshevism and the major force behind the Revolution of Oct., 1917. Early Life
..... Click the link for more information. during the early Bolshevik years (c.1920). The vast penal network, which ultimately included 476 camp complexes, functioned throughout Russia, many in the wastes of Siberia and the Soviet Far East. The system reached its peak after 1928 under Joseph StalinStalin, Joseph Vissarionovich
, 1879–1953, Soviet Communist leader and head of the USSR from the death of V. I. Lenin (1924) until his own death, b. Gori, Georgia.
..... Click the link for more information. , who used it to maintain the Soviet state by keeping its populace in a state of terror. Gulag deaths of both political prisoners and common criminals from overwork, starvation, and other forms of maltreatment are estimated to have been in the millions during Stalin's years in power.
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 campconcentration camp,
a detention site outside the normal prison system created for military or political purposes to confine, terrorize, and, in some cases, kill civilians.
..... Click the link for more information. system used during World War II, especially as Nazi death factories. The Soviet system was publicized in the writings of Aleksandr SolzhenitsynSolzhenitsyn, Aleksandr Isayevich
, 1918–2008, Russian writer widely regarded as one of the greatest and most influential authors of the 20th cent., b. Kislovodsk.
Solzhenitsyn grew up in Rostov-na-Donu, where he studied physics and mathematics at Rostov State Univ.
..... Click the link for more information. , particularly in his book The Gulag Archipelago (1973, tr. 1974). Millions were released from the Gulag under Nikita KhrushchevKhrushchev, Nikita Sergeyevich
, 1894–1971, Soviet Communist leader, premier of the USSR (1958–64), and first secretary of the Communist party of the Soviet Union (1953–64).
..... Click the link for more information. , and the system was finally abolished by Mikhail GorbachevGorbachev, Mikhail Sergeyevich
, 1931–, Soviet political leader. Born in the agricultural region of Stavropol, Gorbachev studied law at Moscow State Univ., where in 1953 he married a philosophy student, Raisa Maksimovna Titorenko (1932?–99).
..... Click the link for more information. .
See A. Shifrin, The First Guidebook to Prisons and Concentration Camps of the Soviet Union (tr. 1980), A. Applebaum, Gulag: A History (2003) and Gulag Voices (2011) ; N. Adler, The Gulag Survivor (2004); F. V. Mochulsky, Gulag Boss (tr. 2010); A. Solzhenitsyn, ed., Voices from the Gulag (tr. 2010).