Butugychag Corrective Labor Camp (Russian: исправи́тельно-трудово́й ла́герь, Бутугычаг) was a part of the bigger Berlag, a subdivision of GULAG. The camp existed during 1945–1955 in the Kolyma region of North-Eastern Russia (later Magadan Oblast). The camp is mostly known for its deadly uranium mines. It is mentioned by some Russian historians such as Zhores and Roy Medvedev. It is one of a small number of camps where prisoners mined uranium, the truth of which has only recently been recovered.
In local folklore, the area is known as the Death Valley. This name was given to the area by the nomadic tribes that domesticated and raised deer in the area. As they traveled along the Detrin River, they stumbled upon a huge field filled with human skulls and bones. Soon after, their deer became ill with a mysterious disease; the first symptom was loss of fur on their legs, followed by lack of energy and refusal to walk. Mechanically, this name was passed on to Beria's camps of the 14th department of GULAG.
The settlement has only recently come to light, and is not even listed among the abandoned camps as though it never existed. The remains of the camp can still be found about 55 km (34 mi) north of Ust-Omchug near the Tenkin highway. There are two abandoned settlements in the area located near each other (10 kilometres): Butugychag was the camp itself where prisoners were kept, and Lower Butugychag, which housed the servicemen of the local electric substation. In 1955 when the camp was shut down, Lower Butugychag was abandoned and its population was moved to Ust-Omchug.
Located nearby (8 kilometres) is an abandoned chicken farm, which was left uncompleted and under construction due to the high concentration of radiation.
All the roads to the area have deteriorated, making it difficult to find the settlement and, thus, to reach it. The only practical way to get to the area is by a cross-country vehicle or by air transportation.
The camp's main activity was the mining of various types of ore, including tin, gold, and uranium. The camp also contained a top secret research-medical facility where a series of experiments were conducted on camp inmates. Witnesses of the camp state that the camp took the life of some 380,000 people in the 10 years of its existence, but whole Berlag have not more than 31500 in some time at 45 subdivisions. Most notable about the camp is the fact that uranium mining was conducted here manually without any protective gear whatsoever. The average miner's life span lasted only months here. To this day the radiation in the area is above normal. The administration of the Tenkinsky District installed warning signs around the area as a precaution for the trespassers.
Doors on adit. Bar locks the doors from the outside.
- "БЕРЕГОВОЙ ЛАГЕРЬ(Берлаг, Особый лагерь № 5, Особлаг № 5, Особлаг Дальстроя)" [Beregovoy lager(Berlag, Special camp №5)].
- A radioactive chicken farm, Novaya gazeta (Russian)
- "Долина Смерти. Обвинение СССР в опытах над людьми" [Valley of the death. Accusations of human experiments against USSR]. GULAG News. Retrieved 2015-02-09.
- A uranium mine on the Kolyma River
- The ruins of a uranium mining Russian prison camp
- Anatoliy Zhygulin, survivor-poet, writes about the camp (in Russian)
- Walkthrough overview of the camp in 2008 by Vysokyi Val correspondent (in Ukrainian)
- Historical and geographical sites of Kolyma region overview (in Ukrainian)
- Mentioning of Butugychag
- Valley of Death by gulag.ipvnews.org/
- Picture of Butugychag