SS Dzhurma

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  • 1921: Brielle
  • 1935: Djurma (also known as Dzhurma)
Port of registry:
Builder: New Waterway, Schiedam[1]
Launched: 31 December 1920[1]
Completed: April 1921[1]
Fate: scrapped 1970[1]
General characteristics
Type: cargo ship
Length: 122.7 m (402 ft 7 in) (pp)[1]
Beam: 17.8 m (58 ft 5 in)[1]
Depth: 34 ft 7 in (10.54 m)[3]
Decks: 3
Propulsion: 1 x triple-expansion steam engine[1]
Speed: 10.5 knots (19.4 km/h)[1]
Capacity: 6,908 GRT[3]

SS Djurma[note 1] (Russian: «Джу́рма», IPA: [ˈdʑurmə]) was a Soviet steamship, occasionally used for transporting prisoners within the Gulag system. Because of an alleged 1933–34 incident wherein 12,000 prisoners were said to have died, it became the most famous ship of the Dalstroy prison fleet.[5] The ship was built in the Netherlands in 1921 as the SS Brielle. When the ship was sold to the Soviet Union in 1935, it was registered under the spelling Djurma, in accordance with the Protocol of Third Soviet-American Session regarding maritime shipping dated to the first half of 1974. The ship's name has been most commonly transliterated as Dzhurma since 1974.

Джурма is not a Russian word, rather meaning "light path", "bright path" or "shining path" (Russian: "светлый путь") in the Evenki language.[6]

Career under the Netherlands flag[edit]

SS Brielle was launched on 31 December 1920 at the New Waterway shipyard in Schiedam in the Netherlands. The cargo ship was 122.7 metres (402 ft 7 in) long (pp) and was 17.8 metres (58 ft 5 in) abeam. The 6,908-gross-register-ton ship was powered by a single triple-expansion steam engine that could move it at speeds of up to 10.5 knots (19.4 km/h).[1] After its completion in April 1921, it was delivered to the Royal Netherlands Steamship Company (Dutch: Koninklijke Nederlandse Stoomboot-Maatschappij or KNSM).[1] The ship was operated by Verenigde Nederlandsche Scheepvaartmaatschappij (VNS), founded by a Dutch consortium (that included KNSM) after the end of World War I.[2] The ship was eventually absorbed into the Royal Netherlands Steamship Company, one of the consortium members.[2]

The ship sailed under the Dutch flag out of Amsterdam for most of the next 14 years.[3]

During the Great Depression, the ship was taken out of service and laid up. When its owners faced financial pressures to sell the ship, it was purchased by the "Dalstroy" in 1935.[2]

Career under the Soviet Union flag[edit]

From April 1935 to September 1945[edit]

In April and May 1935, the Soviet Union purchased ships in the Netherlands for the sea fleet of "Dalstroy". Eduard Berzin arrived in Amsterdam to see and check two purchased steamers Brielle and Almelo, which were renamed «Джурма» и «Яго́да» (later renamed «Дальстрой»), and to hasten the purchase of the third ship Batoe, which was renamed «Кулу».[7][8][9] «Ягода» was a sister ship of «Джурма» and «Ягода» was the first purchased ship. «Кулу» was another class ship and was also purchased in 1935.[10] The third ship was transferred to the Soviet flag under the name Djurma and registered with a home port of Nogaevo.[4] Djurma or Dzhurma translates as "shining path" in the language of the Evenks from the Kolyma region.[2]

The ship «Яго́да» was the first of three purchased ex-Holland ships, which arrived in Nagayevo port on September 26, 1935. After the visit of Novorossiysk port, «Джурма» and «Кулу» arrived in Nagayevo port in October 1935. The first Soviet captain of the ship «Джурма» was N.A. Finyakin.[7][11][12]

Author Martin Bollinger reports that during the ship's Soviet career there is ample evidence that Dzhurma was used on Gulag routes between 1936 and 1950.[2] As a part of the Dalstroy fleet, the ships «Ягода» (later renamed «Дальстрой»), «Кулу», «Джурма» transported prisoners from Vladivostok, endpoint of the Transsiberian railway, across the Sea of Okhotsk to Kolyma via Nagayevo port, which was the port of Magadan city. Travel time to Magadan was about 6 to 14 days; trips to the Arctic were seasonal as during the winter the sea froze over. A steamer would make about ten trips a year.[5] Conditions were horrendous, and many people did not survive the trip.[5][13]

When the steamer Джурма or Кулу entered Nagayev Bay and signaled the arrival, everybody in the city knew that a new stage of prisoners had arrived, with up to 7,000 people in the holds. A column of ragged, hungry, wearied people, who had undergone night interrogations, were led from the shore to the "transitka" (the local name of transit camp), under the escort of submachine gunners with dogs. From here stages of prisoners went to camps in Kolyma.[13]

A former captain of Djurma, who became a captain of the ship Dalstroi, was arrested in Magadan on November 6, 1937 when he was 43 years old. After six months of inquiry, he confessed to espionage in favor of Japan and was shot. Many members of Dalstroi's ship's crew were shot also, so that "the traces were swept up".[14]

During 1937, the ship Djurma had 8 voyages to Nagayevo port and carried out 13,216 passengers and 42,442 tons of cargo.[14]

As a rule, marine navigation for the port in Nagaev Bay began in May and ended in December or earlier. In 1938, navigation was opened on May 18, when ships «Djurma» and «Dalstroi» (ex. «Ягода») wintered in Nagaev Bay sailed to Vladivostok, and ship «Кулу» sailed from Vladivostok to Bagaev Bayto. 1938 navigation was completed on 22 December in the ice from the Cape of Chirikov to the berthing piers of the port were shot more powerful "Dalstroy". The winter transactions with a powerful tug or icebreaker assistance was not carried out in the Nagaev Bay until 1919 year.[15]

On August 27, 1939, a fire occurred in hold No 2 of the steamer Djurma, which proceeded from Vladivostok to Nagayev Bay with a stage of prisoners. According to some sources, the burning of fuels and lubricants was caused by the prisoners, who wanted the ship to be diverted to the nearest port for repairs, and to escape from there.[16] The Soviet newspaper «Советская Колыма» (English: «Soviet Kolyma») wrote on September 29, 1939:

«... The steam ship arrived in Nagayevo with minimal loss of cargo. As per Order No 933 of the Chief Administration of the "Dalstroy" dated September 23, 1939, the gratitude for the shown courage, bravery and discipline was announced to all crew members of the ship».[16][17][18]

There was no information about causes of the fire or any victims. According to the some testimonies, dozens of prisoners died.[16]

With the entry of the United States into World War II, the ship arrived for repairs at Seattle on January 31, 1942 under the Lend-Lease program.[19] In addition to prisoner transport, it was also used to haul matériel across the Pacific, calling at the U.S. ports of San Francisco, Seattle and Portland, Oregon about a dozen times.[2]

Cold War period[edit]

As per Josef Stalin's order and the resolution of SNK number 2358 dated September 14, 1945, the 126th light infantry corps, which was included in the Far Eastern Military District, received the task "to build on the Chukotka Peninsula defensive outposts to cover the main naval bases on the coast of the Gulf of Anadyr and Provideniya Bay, to provide land their antilanding defense." On September 2, 1945, 12 days after the surrender of Japan, Josef Stalin made his most important strategic decision: to strengthen the foothold in Chukotka, where recently the Soviet Union had friendly contacts with the United States under the lend-lease agreement. 10,000 soldiers and officers were brought to Providence Bay. "Dalstroy"'s steamer Djurma was one of the ships, which carried the 126th light infantry corps from Vladivostok to Providence Bay in September 1945. This replacement of Soviet military troops mentioned as commencement of the Cold War in September 1945.[20]

After 1950, the ship appears to have been used only for the carrying of cargo.

Due to the liquidation of "Dalstroi" in 1953, all ships of this company were transferred to Far East Shipping Company. The ship «Джурма» was decommissioned in 1967.[21] She was removed from Lloyd's Register of Shipping in 1968 to allow a ship of the same name to be built in Poland.[2] The ship was scrapped in 1970.[1]

Famous passengers of this ship[edit]


Alleged 1933–34 incident[edit]

In an account by David Dallin and Boris Nicolaevsky in their 1947 book Forced Labor in Soviet Russia, it was suggested that in the winter of 1933–34 the Dzhurma, ferrying 12,000 prisoners to Ambarchik, got trapped in the Arctic ice and was unable to move on until the spring.[5] The story alleged that all prisoners died from frost and starvation with later versions indicating that surviving crew members may have resorted to cannibalism to survive. The story was propagated and widely accepted.[25][26][27] If true, this would have been among the worst ship disasters of all time.

In his book Stalin's Slave Ships, Martin Bollinger examined the evidence and found that the Dzhurma did not enter service in the Dalstroi until 1935 and was not big enough to hold 12,000 prisoners.[5] Bollinger estimated that the ship, if overcrowded, would be able to hold up to 6,500 prisoners. In addition, there are no accounts that this ship, which was not strengthened for Arctic travel, made the journey north through the Bering Strait to Ambarchik. Thus the alleged event has been proven not to be true. He suggested this could possibly be the case of a mistaken identity involving the cargo ship Khabarovsk that, if it had been carrying passengers had already had opportunity to deposit them at Ambarchik, and was trapped by ice when returning from Ambarchik in the 1933–34 winter.[5][note 3]

Shining path[edit]

As per Soviet Union ideology, Soviet people used "shining path" to see "shining future" and to built "shining life".

The Soviet musical-comedy film Shining path was filmed in 1940.

The old ship Djurma was decommissioned in 1967. The premier of the film The Head of Chukotka (1966–67) by Vladimir Valutsky and V. Viktorov was in the USSR on 17 of April, 1967. In this film the main hero says about "shining life", to see beginning of the film.


  • Bollinger, Martin J. (2003). Stalin's Slave Ships: Kolyma, the Gulag Fleet, and the Role of the West. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN 978-0-275-98100-6. OCLC 52258338.
  • Rossi, Jacques (1989). The Gulag Handbook: An Encyclopedia Dictionary of Soviet Penitentiary Institutions and Terms Related to the Forced Labor Camps. New York: Paragon House. ISBN 978-1-55778-024-9. OCLC 18350327.
  • Tolstoy, Nikolai (1981). Stalin's Secret War. London: J. Cape. ISBN 978-0-224-01665-0. OCLC 7830477.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ This ship never had name Dzhurma during her life. The name Dzhuma could be mentioned after 1974 as per Protocol of Third Soviet-American Session regarding maritime shipping dated first part of 1974 about translation of Russian names of persons, ships, organisations, e.t.c. But this ship was scrapped in 1970. Seems, this article has to be renamed SS Djurma.
  2. ^ Our transit camp was replenished with new people, which arrived with the next echelon. Then we were transported to Nakhodka Bay, on the ship «Джурма», and we sailed to Magadan (А. В. Горбатов «Годы и войны»).
  3. ^ Often after the loss of a vessel, other new or purchased the ship was commissioned under the same name. It is Soviet reality, when some persons refreshed in own memory the same and the Soviet official sources say, that it had not place. But it is earlier to say, that this incident with 12,000 people had place. The history of this ship, or two ships, has not investigated properly still.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "Brielle/Djurma (5091121)". Miramar Ship Index. Retrieved 29 January 2009.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Bollinger, pp. 88–90.
  3. ^ a b c d Lloyd's Register of Shipping. Register of Ships (1935–36 ed.). London: Lloyd's Register of Shipping. Scan of page "Bre–Bri" (pdf) hosted at Plimsoll Ship Data. Retrieved 29 January 2009.
  4. ^ a b Lloyd's Register of Shipping. Register of Ships (1945–46 ed.). London: Lloyd's Register of Shipping. Scan of page "Div–Dok" (pdf) hosted at Plimsoll Ship Data. Retrieved 29 January 2009.
  5. ^ a b c d e f Bollinger, p. 65ff.
  6. ^ Фатхиева Татьяна. География русской славы >> "Джурма".
  7. ^ a b Глущенко Александр Григорьевич: "Колымский хронограф. Часть 1. 1648–1941 гг." >> 1935 год.
  8. ^ Бессмертный Е.Д.: "Повесть о людях." – М., 1970. – pages: 215–216.
  9. ^ ГАМО, ф. р-23сч, оп. 1, д. 14, л. 47; Волков Г. Магадан: самое трудное десятилетие, 1929–1939 : очерк / Г. Волков, Т. Смолина // На Севере Дальнем. – 1989. – № 1. – С. 222; Козлов А. В душных трюмах пароходов // Колыма. – 1991. – № 11. – С. 31
  10. ^ КОЛЫМА.RU >> 80 лет назад (1935) в порт Нагаево прибыл пароход «Ягода» (позднее «Дальстрой», капитан Н. Вильчек).
  11. ^ Колыма. – 1936. – № 4. – page 129.
  13. ^ a b Author Наталья Кузьмина: Дальстрой. Материалы серии "Сталинска Колыма: город и люди". Dated 14.07.2011.
  14. ^ a b Стоял позади Парфенон, лежал впереди Магадан.
  15. ^ Моя Родина - Магадан. >> Сталинский караван.
  16. ^ a b c КОЛЫМА.RU >> Article: "27 августа 1939 года в трюме № 2 следующего из Владивостока в бух. Нагаева с этапом заключённых парохода «Джурма» возник пожар." Dated 27.08.2016.
  17. ^ Глущенко Александр Григорьевич: "Колымский хронограф. Часть 1. 1648–1941 гг." >> 1939 год.
  18. ^ ГАМО, ф. р-23сч, оп. 1, д. 52, л. 94.
  19. ^ Tim Tzouliadis (2008). The Forsaken. The Penguin Press (2008). p. 208. ISBN 978-1-59420-168-4.
  20. ^ «Холодная война» на берегах Тихого океана (English: «Cold War» at the coast of Pacific Ocean)
  21. ^ FESCO >> О группе >> Джурма (1) (Бриелле).
  22. ^ It was one of the happy, quite happy voyages of the ship Djurma. We were lucky. There was no any incident happened with us (Евгения Гинзубрг «Крутой маршрут»).
  23. ^ Евгения Гинзбург: "Крутой маршрут", Часть II. Глава четвёртая: Пароход «Джурма».
  24. ^ The white steam ship with the poetic name Джурма was at the berth(Георгий Жжёнов «Этап» Archived 2010-05-26 at the Wayback Machine).
  25. ^ Tolstoy, p. 16.
  26. ^ Rossi, p. 103.
  27. ^ Forbes, Steve (3 February 2003). "Forbes: Fact and Comment" (book review of Koba the Dread: Laughter and the Twenty Million by Martin Amis). Retrieved 24 January 2009., February 3, 2003 access date January 24, 2009

External links[edit]


Other ships Джурма[edit]