Russian Gulag

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorHigh School, 11th grade November 2001

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One Day In The Life of Ivan Denisovich tells of one man's experience in the terrifying man-made hell- The Russian Gulag. The Gulag system was a network of forced labor camps that consisted of over four hundred prisons and held millions of inmates. It first begun in 1919, but did not flourish until the 1930's, when Stalin used it with extreme regularity. The system didn't end until the mid-1950s, and during this time it imprisoned millions of the political prisoners and criminals of the Soviet Union.

Besides criminals such as murderers and thieves, the prisoners that were sentenced to spend time in these camps were those who did not subscribe to Stalin's political, religious, or economic teachings. People sent to the Gulag included German and other Axis prisoners of war, members of ethnic groups suspected of disloyalty, Soviet soldiers and other citizens who had been taken prisoner or used as slave laborers by the Germans during the war, suspected traitors, and many utterly innocent people who were hapless victims of Stalin's purges.

Men were taken from the beds, arrested in the streets, taken from their loved ones, and other told why.

Stalin used the vast amount of prisoners to his advantage. Turning them into virtual slave laborers, prisoners completed huge architectural projects including the White Sea-Baltic canal, The Moscow-Volga Canal, railroad lines, numerous hydroelectirc stations, and hundreds of roads and industrial complexes. They were also used in the extraction of coal, copper, and gold from dangerous mines and in the lumbering industries of the vast Siberian forests. Stalin constantly increased the number of projects, which increased the need for more prisoners from the Gulag.

The camps were secretive and the conditions were extremely harsh. Prisoners received inadequate food rations and insufficient clothing, which made it extremely difficult...

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