The first cluster of forced labor camps was located on the White Sea, north of the Arctic Circle. The camps were centered on Solovetsky Island, which had been a Russian Orthodox Church monastery before the 1917 Revolution. The Solovetsky camps, known as Northern Camps of Special Designation (SLON), were established to punish political dissidents. Prisoners included clergy, corrupt businesspeople, rich peasants, and former tsarist soldiers and civil servants. The camps had a brutal reputation: many prisoners were executed, and many starved or were worked to death. Attempted escapes were punished by mass shootings, according to one of the few survivors of the camps. The camps at first had only a relatively minor economic function, but they later became a model for the gulag empire that played a historic role in Joseph Stalin’s era of terror.
   See also Belomor Canal; Frenkel, Naftalii.

Historical dictionary of Russian and Soviet Intelligence. . 2014.

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