What is the Norillag?

What is the Norillag?

Norillag (the Norilsk reform labour camp) was an industrial construction camp. It was founded in 1935 for the extraction of non-ferrous metals, mainly copper and nickel.

A metallurgical combine, the town of Norilsk, an inland port and a seaport in Dudinka (lower reaches of the River Yenissey), a railroad line from Dudinka to Norilsk, the mines of Kayerkan and many others originate from the forced labour of the Norillag prisoners in the tundra of the Taimyr peninsula, behind the polar circle .

Beginning of the fifties there were about 30 camp sections within the Norillag. The camp shut down in 1956, when the majority of prisoners was set free.

In public consciousness one figure is quoted too high: as if more than a million prisoners had gone through the Norilsk camps. However, this is not the case: they were no more than half-a-million, more likely about 400.000. Among them the so-called "bytoviki", harmless every-day crooks, (many of which were not guilty of anything at all) and true criminals. The number of political prisoners obviously did not exceed 300.000 (including the Gorlag inmates).

Norillag from its geographic side - that is not only Norilsk with Dudinka and Kayerkan: this also includes the 8th l/o (camp section) in Krasnoyarsk, the camp in Podtyossovo, the agricultural camps (subordinate economic sector) in Kureyka, in Atamanovo near Krasnoyarsk and further to the South, as far as Shushensk.