GULAG Operation

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GULAG Operation (translated from a news article on "Desant na GULAG") was a German military operation in which German and Soviet anti-communist troops were to create an anti-Soviet resistance movement in Siberia during World War II, by liberating and conscripting prisoners of the Soviet GULAG system.


The plan was designed in mid-1942 by Soviet POWs in German captivity in the Hammelburg POW camp, primarily by an NKVD officer, Brigade Commander Ivan Georgievich Bessonov,[1][2] and a Red Army officer, Colonel Mikhael Meandrov.[3] The plan, part of the German efforts to create anti-communist resistance behind Soviet lines, called for a naval and air invasion of Siberia by allied German and anti-Soviet Red Army forces, targeting the GULAG penal system camps, recruiting more anti-Soviet forces from the prisoners, and thus opening a second front in the war between Nazi Germany and Soviet Union.[1][2][3]

The plan was analysed and tentatively approved by the Reich Security Head Office (RSHA) and steps were taken towards implementing it.[1] About 150 Soviet POWs were conscripted into the units that were to be used in the operation: two assault groups of 50-55 people each, the group of the radio operators consisting of 20-25 people and the support (medical) female group of 20 people.[3]

The plan called for the creation of insurgent activity in the extensive region from the Northern Dvina River to the Yenisey and from the extreme north to the Trans-Siberian Railway. The region of the planned actions was divided into three operational zones: Northern (right shore of the flow of northern Dvina), central (near the Pechora River) and eastern (from the Ob River to the Yenisey).[3] Landing force members had to seize the GULAGS, free and arm the prisoners and deportees and move with them in the general direction of the south.[1][2]


On 2 June 1943, a first group of 12 former Soviet POWs, trained by the Germans, were dropped by air transport in the Komi Republic. They were dressed as fake NKVD troops. On 9 June, the group was however detected (two killed, rest taken prisoner) by real NKVD troops.[1][2][3]


Soon after this failure, the Germans decided to abandon the operation. The anti-communist group that Bessonov founded in the POW camp was disbanded, and he himself was transferred to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp.[1][3]

Some of Bessonov's organisation members were employed in other German anti-Soviet operations, without any notable successes. Bessonov and Meandrov survived the war to be executed by the Soviet authorities after being transferred to their custody.[2][3]

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  1. ^ a b c d e f Parrish, 2004, p.44
  2. ^ a b c d e Parrish, 1996, p.160
  3. ^ a b c d e f g (in Russian) Melenberg, Aleksandr (1 March 2004). "Desant na GULAG". Novaya Gazeta (in Russian). 

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