The Vorkuta Corrective Labor Camp (Russian: Воркути́нский исправи́тельно-трудово́й ла́герь, tr. Vorkutínsky ispravítel'no-trudovóy láger'), commonly known as the Vorkuta Gulag or Vorkutlag (Воркутлаг), was a major GULAG labor camp of the Soviet Union located in Vorkuta from 1932 to 1962.
The Vorkuta Gulag was one of the largest camps in the GULAG system with 73,000 prisoners at its peak in 1951, containing Soviet and foreign prisoners including prisoners of war, dissidents, political prisoners, "enemies of the state" and common criminals who were used as forced labor in the coal mining works. The Vorkuta Gulag was the site of the Vorkuta uprising in July 1953.
The Vorkuta Gulag was established by Soviet authorities in 1932, on a site in the basin of the Pechora River, located within the Komi ASSR of the Russian SFSR (present-day Komi Republic, Russia), approximately 1,900 kilometres (1,200 mi) from Moscow and 160 kilometres (99 mi) above the Arctic Circle. The city of Vorkuta was established to support the camp, which was constructed to exploit the resources of the Pechora Coal Basin, the second largest coal basin in the Soviet Union. There were approximately 132 sub-camps in the Vorkuta Gulag system during the height of its use in the Soviet prison system. From 1939, Polish prisoners were held at Vorkuta following the Occupation of Poland until the German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941. Vorkuta was then also used to hold German prisoners of war captured on the Eastern Front in World War II as well as criminals, Soviet citizens and those from Soviet-allied countries deemed to be dissidents and enemies of the state during the Soviet era.
The Vorkuta uprising occurred at the Vorkuta Gulag in July 1953, when inmates at various camps who were forced to work in the region's coal mines went on strike. The uprising, beginning as a mostly passive walkout, escalated into a strike involving 18,000 inmates across the Vorkuta camp system and lasted for approximately two weeks. On 1 August, the Vorkuta Gulag's camp chief Derevyanko ordered troops to fire at the strikers, resulting in the deaths of at least 53 workers, although estimates vary.
The Vorkuta camp was liquidated by order of the USSR Ministry of Internal Affairs and eventually closed in 1962, but large numbers of Soviet citizens who were former prisoners remained living in Vorkuta, originally due to their former status as enemies of the state, then as a result of their poor financial situation. Memorial, a Russian human rights organization that focuses on recording and publicising the human rights violations of the Soviet Union's totalitarianism, estimates that of the 40,000 people collecting state pensions in the Vorkuta area, 32,000 are former gulag inmates or their descendants.
- Valentín González (1904-1983): Spanish Communist commander during the Spanish Civil War - Escaped.
- Dr Med. Horst Rocholl (1908-2004): Held at the camp 1942 -1953 Captured at Stalingrad.
- Der Nister (1884-1950): Influential Yiddish writer.
- Anton Kaindl: The commander of Nazi Germany's Sachsenhausen concentration camp between 1942 and 1945, who died at Vorkuta prison-camp in 1948.
- Jaan Kross (1920-2007): An Estonian writer.
- Jānis Mendriks (1907–1953): A Latvian Catholic priest.
- Nikolay Punin (1888–1953): A Russian art scholar, curator and writer.
- Günter Stempel (1908-1981): An East German politician and a member of the country's Liberal Democratic Party.
- Georgy Safarov (1891-1942): Bolshevik revolutionary, member of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union - Executed.
- Eric Pleasants (1913-1998): British soldier of the Waffen-SS British Free Corps.
- Revolt Pimenov: A Russian mathematician and a historian, also a Soviet dissident, and later, a post-Soviet politician.
- Mikhail Molostvov: A Russian dissident of the Soviet Union who later became a post-Soviet politician and a statesman.
- Eino Prykä (1919–1953): shot in Vorkuta uprising
- Shlomo Dykman (1917-1965): A Jewish-Polish translator and classical scholar.
- Cecilia Klein “Cilka” (1926-2004): Jewish survivor of Auschwitz- Birkenau. A novel based on her experience of the gulag was written by Heather Morris, titled “Cilka’s Journey.”
- Zoya Voskresenskaya, the chief of the Special Section of Vorkuta prison-camp, who served between 1955 and 1956.
In popular culture
- "Return from Workuta", track n. 3 of the album 1978 Gli Dei Se Ne Vanno, Gli Arrabbiati Restano! (1978) by the Italian progressive rock, jazz fusion, electronic, experimental group Area - International POPular Group, most commonly known as Area or AreA. The song is vocal and instrumental only and is accompanied by a text written by the singer Demetrio Stratos depicting portraits of people returning from the work camp.
- "Red Snow", the second segment of the twenty-first episode of the first season (1985–86) of the television series The Twilight Zone, features Vorkuta as the sanctuary of a vampire community.
- In the 2010 video game Call of Duty: Black Ops the player, an American named Alex Mason, is imprisoned at Vorkuta from 1961 to 1963, after being captured in Cuba during the Bay of Pigs invasion, and participates in a prisoner uprising along with his ally Viktor Reznov.
- In 2012 the Black metal/Noise music band Gulaggh released the Concept album Vorkuta, which centers the Life and pain in the Gulag Vorkuta.
- In 2015 Hawk Moth (Yöperhonen, WSOY 2015) Bly Finnish author Katja Kettu
- Memorial website(in Russian)
- Robert Conquest, Paul Hollander: Political violence: belief, behavior, and legitimation p.55, Palgrave Macmillan;(2008) ISBN 978-0-230-60646-3
- Fariselli, Patrizio (2018-10-07). "1978, gli dei se ne vanno gli arrabbiati restano". Patrizio Fariselli (in Italian). Retrieved 2021-02-12.
- Williams, Raymond (12 January 2014). "Vorkuta for Victory: What Black Ops Got So Right". Venture Beat. Retrieved 8 June 2019.
- Vorkuta by GULAGGH
- Barenberg, Alan (2014). Gulag Town, Company Town: Forced Labor and Its Legacy in Vorkuta. Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0-300-20682-1.