The Gulag Archipelago (The Soviet forced labor camp system)
Gulag is an acronym for the Russian term “Glavnoye Upravleniye ispravitelno-trudovyh Lagerey”, or “Chief Administration of Corrective Labour Camps”, the bureaucratic name of the governing board of the Soviet labor camp system, and by metonymy, the camp system itself. The book’s original Russian title is The Gulag Archipelago, the rhyme supporting the underlying metaphor deployed throughout the work. The word archipelago compares the labor camps system across the Soviet Union with a vast “chain of islands,” known only to those who were fated to visit them.
The camp system united 53 camp administrations with thousands of camp departments, 425 сorrective labor colonies, and more than 2,000 special commandants’ offices. In total, the Gulag included over 30,000 places of detention.
On January 1, 1939, almost 1.99 million prisoners were held in the camps, colonies, and prisons of the Gulag, and by 1950 the number of prisoners had increased to 2.5 million people.
After Stalin died in 1953, approximately 1,200,000 people were released.