The Equator Artists Group are now working on to obtain materials from the former Soviet Union – Gulag (Kolyma camps). The Gulag was the government agency that administered the main Soviet forced labor camp systems during the Stalin era, from the 1930s until the 1950s.
While the camps housed a wide range of convicts, from petty criminals to political prisoners, large numbers were convicted by simplified procedures, such as NKVD troikas and other instruments of extrajudicial punishment (the NKVD was the Soviet secret police). About 14 million people were in the Gulag labor camps from 1929 to 1953 (the estimates for the period 1918-1929 are even more difficult to be calculated). A further 6–7 million were deported and exiled to remote areas of the USSR, and 4–5 million passed through labor colonies, plus 3.5 million already in, or sent to, ‘labor settlements’.
Life in the camp was dominated by countless directives and prohibitions. The conditions were oppressive and life-threatening. On their arrival, the inmates frequently found themselves in provisional camps or had to build them themselves. Isolated from society and subjected to inhumane conditions, they now lived a life consisting of heavy labour and a constant struggle for survival. The new arrivals had to find their places within the inmate hierarchy, which was usually ruled by criminal prisoners. A rigid schedule governed the daily routine. Early wake-up call, agonizing roll calls every morning and evening, often at inconceivably low temperatures, and strength-sapping marches to the place of work. Gruelling working hours were the rule, alleviated by only a few short breaks. A day of rest was a rarity.