Students will describe prisoners’ experiences in the Russian Gulag camps.
Students will identify reasons/motives for imprisonment.
Students will compare and contrast real life experiences with fictional character experiences of the Gulags.
Over 14 million prisoners passed through the Russian labor prison camps known as the Gulags between 1929 and 1953, located in the Taiga forest in Siberia. Some of the main work activities of the prisoners were logging and construction jobs. Over one and a half million people perished in the labor camps during this time due to the harsh treatment, and some historians would argue this estimate to be too low. Although many people imprisoned were political prisoners, many were interred for crimes such as theft, absences from work, anti-government speech and various anti-revolutionary actions during the Stalinist era. Half of the political prisoners were sent without trial, and those who did receive a trial were often treated unfairly by the judicial system. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s classic work, “One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich” provides a vivid description of a fictional character’s experience in the camps. His work also identifies distinguishing factors of the Gulag camps and provides a realistic personification of their history.