From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
As a penal labour camp
In the early decades of the Soviet Union (especially the 1930s and 1940s), the earlier katorga system of penal labour camps was replaced by a new one that was controlled by the GULAG state agency. According to semi-official Soviet estimates that were not made public in Soviet times, from 1929 to 1953 more than 14 million people passed through these camps and prisons, many of which were in Siberia. A further seven to eight million were internally deported to remote areas of the Soviet Union (including entire nationalities in several cases). 516,841 prisoners died in camps from 1941 to 1943 due to food shortages caused by World War II. At other periods, mortality was comparatively lower. The size, scope, and scale of the GULAG slave labour camps remains a subject of much research and debate. Many Gulag camps were positioned in extremely remote areas of northeastern Siberia. The best known clusters are Sevvostlag (The North-East Camps) along the Kolyma River and Norillag near Norilsk, where 69,000 prisoners were kept in 1952. Major industrial cities of Northern Siberia, such as Norilsk and Magadan, were originally camps built by prisoners and run by ex-prisoners.