Norilsk Uprising


May 25, 2022

The Norilsk Uprising was an uprising of political prisoners at the Norilsk Concentration Camp, which lasted from May 26 to August 4, 1953.

The situation in the camps after Stalin's death

After Stalin's death in March 1953, political prisoners hoped to ease the extremely harsh camp conditions, but political prisoners were not amnestied. More than 70% of political prisoners were Ukrainians, whose detention regime was the harshest. Many were sentenced by the Moscow authorities to the so-called "Bandera standard" - 25 years in prison. After vain hopes of a retrial, the secret centers of Ukrainian political prisoners, which had appeared in every Soviet concentration camp since the end of 1947, began to raise political prisoners in riots, some of which escalated into real uprisings. The history of the Gulag knows the three largest of them - Norilsk and Vorkuta in 1953 and Kangaroo in 1954. It was they who radically changed the Gulag system, forcing the Moscow leadership to reform it.

"Gorlag" - Norilsk group of concentration camps

The Norilsk group of concentration camps of the USSR was located in the Taimyr (now Dolgano-Nenets) district of the Krasnoyarsk Territory of Russia. All the industrial enterprises of this district were subordinated to the Norilsk administration of the camps, of which there were about 40. In the Norilsk area alone, the total number of prisoners was at least 50,000. The prisoners worked in a mine, coal mines, brick and copper plants, a chloro-cobalt plant № 25, a woodworking plant (DOK), and built the city of Norilsk. The beginning of the Norilsk Uprising Preconditions for the uprising were the arrival in Gorlag of stages with prisoners who already had experience in the 1952 riots, as well as Stalin's death (March 5, 1953) and the fact that the amnesty extended only to criminals and short-term prisoners , the percentage of which in Gorlag was small. Many prisoners were political. At the same time, sources note that the demonstration itself was provoked by the camp administration (shootings in residential areas, murders guarded by prisoners), presumably intentionally - in order to identify and isolate the most active campers. On May 25, 1953, prisoners Zhigailov and Sofronik were killed by camp guards.