Zek

by David M Skipton, Posted: 2007-10-23 Samovar Email the Link to this Exhibit


Exhibit Categories: Prison and CampsRSFSR and USSR


Zek

Topic Summary:

No sociological, historical, demographic or cultural history of Russia can be attempted without taking into account the profound influence the slave-labor camps and prisons have had on her development. Russia was called "the prison house of nations" during the Imperial period; it became even more so during the Soviet period, a development Solzhenitsyn called the GULAG Archipelago. Much of the Soviet north, Siberia, the Far East and Central Asia was "settled" and exploited using slave labor and mass deportations. Zeks were compelled to build a large number of major construction projects with far-reaching consequences: the Belomor and Moscow-Volga Canals, the Baikal-Amur (BAM) Railroad, the double-tracking of the Trans-Siberian Railroad, the cities of Noril'sk and Magadan, and on and on.

Historians estimate that 11% of any generation in the Soviet population was sent to forced labor in the camps, exile, or to execution. One out of every four or five Russian citizens alive today have themselves either "sat" in prisons or camps, are now incarcerated, or have a relative who "sat." Russian prisons today are one of the world's great incubators for multiple-drug-resistant tuberculosis and AIDS, threatening not only the rest of Russian society but the world as well.