Kolyma

   The forced labor camps in the Kolyma River region of eastern Siberia were the most frightening islands of the gulag archipelago. Beginning in the early 1930s, tens of thousands of imprisoned peasants and political prisoners were transported to the Kolyma camps to mine gold. Under a group named Dalstroi, a Russian acronym for Far Northern Construction Trust, the Kolyma camps were run by experienced Chekists like Ivan Nikishov. The Kolyma camps produced hundreds of tons of gold.
   The capital of the Kolyma area, the port city of Magadan, was icebound several months a year. The weather in the Kolyma area is severe, with winter temperatures frequently below –40 degrees. Prisoners were often transported to the region by ship, and thousands perished on the voyages. The Kolyma camps had the reputation as the Auschwitz of the gulag empire. The death rate was very high: one study found that al-most 500,000 died of hunger, overwork, or execution in 1935–1953. There are very few memoirs of those who mined gold and timbered in these camps, because few survived imprisonment. APolish survivor of the Kolyma camps summed up the experience with the Russian proverb chelokek cheloveku volk (man is wolf to man).

Historical dictionary of Russian and Soviet Intelligence. . 2014.

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