Norilsk uprising

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The Norilsk uprising was a major strike by Gulag inmates in Gorlag, a special camp mostly for political prisoners, and later in the two camps of Norillag [ITL], Norilsk, USSR, now Russia, in the summer of 1953, shortly after Joseph Stalin's death. About 70% of inmates were Ukrainians, many of whom had been sentenced to the so-called "Bandera Standard", 25 years. It was the first major revolt within the Gulag system in 1953-1954,[1] although earlier numerous cases of unrest in Gulag camps are known. It was led by Pavel Frenkiel in 1 camp, by Boris Shamaev in 3-d camp, by Yevhen Hrytsyak in 4-th camp, by Pavel Filnev in 5-th camp and by Lesya Zelenska in 6-th camp[2][3][4] .


From May 26–August 4, 1953, the inmates of the Gorlag-Main camp went on strike, which lasted 69 days. This was the longest uprising in the history of the Gulag. According to Soviet archives, there were up to 16,378 inmates on strike at the same time. It is significant that the uprising took place before the arrest of Lavrentiy Beria and its suppression coincided with news of his arrest. The preconditions for the uprising can be seen as the following: the arrival of waves of prisoners to the Gorlag, who had participated in the uprisings of 1952, the death of Stalin on March 5, 1953 and the fact that the amnesty that followed his death only applied to (non-political) criminals and convicts with short prison terms, the percentage of which was very low in Gorlag. There were two camp systems in vicinity of Norilsk. The majority of inmates in special camp Gorlag had been convicted for political crimes. The majority of prisoners in Norillag belonged to non-political criminals, so called bytoviki. The uprising was provoked by the shooting of several prisoners on the orders of the camp administration. All categories of inmates took part in the uprising, with the leading roles played by former military men and participants of national liberation movements of western Ukraine, Georgia and the Baltics.

The inmates did not have any weapons, although initially during the inquest it was suggested by the Ministry of Internal Affairs to classify the uprising as "an anti-Soviet armed counter-revolutionary uprising". (Eventually the Soviet court used the term "mass insubordination of the inmates to the camp administration".) The action was not simply a strike: actions included a wide spectrum of nonviolent forms of protest within the Soviet law: meetings, letters to government, hunger strikes. For this reason, the term "Uprising of the Spirit"[5] was suggested, as a form of nonviolent protest against the Gulag system.

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  1. ^ William D. Pederson, "Norilsk Uprising of 1953," Modern Encyclopedia of Russian and Soviet History (Gulf Breeze, Florida: Academic International Press, 1976) Vol. 25
  2. ^ Leader Of 1953 Soviet Gulag Uprising Dies In Ukraine At 90
  3. ^ Макарова А. Б., Норильское восстание // "Воля", журнал узников тоталитарных систем 1993, № 1, с. 68-108 [1]
  4. ^ № 117-187 Волнения заключенных Горного лагеря (24 мая - 7 июля 1953 г.) // История Сталинского ГУЛАГа. Восстания, бунты и забастовки заключенных. Т. 6. М.: РОССПЭН. С. 320-413.
  5. ^ Makarova, Alla. Norilsk uprising. Volya. A Journal of prisoners of totalitarian systems. 1993. # 1. p. 68-104. (Russian)

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