The city as showpiece: Arctic camp, Arctic city: The Gulag and the construction of Vorkuta

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

Abstract

Today, Vorkuta is remembered as one of the most notorious camps in the Soviet Gulag. Established at the beginning of the 1930s as a tiny, remote outpost on the banks of the Vorkuta River, by the late 1930s and early 1940s it had become one of the fastest growing and deadliest prison camp complexes in the Soviet Union. Driven by a seemingly limitless supply of prisoners and a boundless hunger for coal during wartime and postwar reconstruction, the Vorkutinskii lager’ (“Vorkuta camp,” better known as Vorkutlag) and its twin Rechnoi lager’ (“river camp,” better known as Rechlag) saw approximately half a million prisoners pass through their gates by the middle of the 1950s. The Vorkuta camp complex held those considered to be the Soviet Union’s most dangerous criminals in some of the most brutal conditions in the Gulag. Even according to the Gulag’s own records, which tended to underestimate mortality, at least 20,000 prisoners died there between 1942 and 1954 (Barenberg 2014, p. 270). Memoirs of the prisoners who passed through the Vorkuta camp complex attest to the daily struggle for survival that prisoners endured (e.g., Scholmer 1955; Roeder 1958).

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe City in Russian Culture
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Pages121-139
Number of pages19
ISBN (Electronic)9781351388030
ISBN (Print)9781138310230
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2018

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