What Was Life Like In Russian Gulags? The Horrors, Explained

By | July 21, 2020

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A system of forced labor, the Soviet gulags were a scene of atrocities. (Getty Images)

Beginning under the leadership of dictator Vladimir Lenin, the Soviet Union established a forced labor camp system that soon earned a reputation for brutality, injustice, and horrendous conditions. Throughout the Cold War, however, the Soviet gulags (as they were called) presented a sugarcoated facade to the rest of the world. It wasn't until later that we learned about the real atrocities of the gulags.

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Joseph Stalin. (Unknown photographer/Wikimedia Commons)

Under Stalin

Joseph Stalin took over as leader of the Soviet Union in 1924 Lenin's death and immediately went to work expanding the gulag system. Under his regime, anyone deemed an enemy of the state or even a potential enemy, as well as their friends and family, was sent to a gulag. Often, entire family units were sent together.