Forced labor camps in the territory of Moscow Governorate in 1919–1922: work and...

Forced labor camps in the territory of Moscow Governorate in 1919–1922: work and everyday life

Il'ya V. Udovenko
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The article is devoted to the study of concentration camps and forced labor camps in the territory of Moscow Governorate in the period between 1918 and 1922. The main sources of the study are reports on the activities of the camps, materials of inspections, statistical data on the number and composition of prisoners, correspondence of the camp chiefs with the Cheka, the NKVD of the RSFSR, and the Chief Administration of Forced Labor. After the decree of the Council of People’s Commissars “On the Red Terror” had been issued, the concentration camps began to appear in the RSFSR officially. These camps were created for several purposes at once. On the one hand, they were places of concentration of a large number of POWs of the Civil War. On the other hand, the Bolsheviks used the camps as a psychological way to intimidate their opponents. Among the first prisoners of such camps were hostages, who could be innocent ordinary people: relatives of the White Army members, residents of front-line territories, etc. Moreover, class opponents of the Soviet power were placed in these camps: representatives of the nobility and officers who chose to surrender as well as landowners, merchants, petty bourgeois, or clergy by birth, etc. By 1921, the system of Soviet camps had grown quite significantly and included 122 camps. Due to its good transport development, the Moscow region played a special role of a distribution center for prisoners in those years. In Moscow itself, there were nine camps, which are very well known now. In addition to them, there were nine more camps in Moscow Governorate, which have not been comprehensively researched so far. Initially, the camps of Moscow Governorate were used for reducing the load on the concentration camps of the capital. However, in 1920, many of them took a very clear direction towards production. Prisoners of the camps situated in Moscow Governorate supplied the capital with firewood, worked at brick factories, took part in the construction of the Kashira Power Plant, the “firstling” of the State Commission for Electrification of Russia (GOELRO). In 1919, a truly unique social experiment was performed in Moscow Governorate, which was the country’s first camp for children and adolescents in Zvenigorod under the name Detskii gorodok [Children’s Town]. In many ways, it was the production potential of the concentration camps of Moscow Governorate that greatly contributed to the further development of the use of prisoners’ forced labor in the country.
Il'ya V. Udovenko
Senior Researcher
Gulag History Museum, Moscow, Russia
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concentration camps, forced labor camps, Red Terror, Civil War, Polish–Soviet War, Chief Administration of Forced Labor (GUPR) of the NKVD, Moscow Governorate, counter-revolutionary crimes, repression
For citation:
Udovenko, I.V. “Forced labor camps in the territory of Moscow Governorate in 1919–1922: work and everyday life.” Historia Provinciae – the Journal of Regional History, vol. 6, no. 4 (2022): 1117–60,

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