Solovki, the Special Purpose Solovetsky Camp, was the first permanent concentration camp of the Soviet regime. (Its Russian acronym SLON spelled “Elephant”.)

Solovetsky Islands (map).png

Set up in 1923 on a group of islands in the White Sea, it began with a mixed population of criminals and left-wing political opponents of the Bolsheviks (Anarchists, Socialist Revolutionaries). Its shifting purpose and the changing nature of the Soviet regime can easily be traced by comparing lists of prisoners during three distinct periods.

The 1920s

In the 1920s many of those sent to Solovki were released back into society, but often then arrested and imprisoned (or exiled) a second time.

The First Five-Year Plan, 1928-1932

At first himself a prisoner on Solovki, Naftaly Frenkel became a leading cadre in the security services during the First Five-Year Plan.

The mass shooting on Solovki in 1929 described by Dmitry Likhachov (a key episode in Marina Goldovskaya’s 1987 film The Solovki Regime) was a harbinger of the harshening regime.

The mid-to late 1930s

Many of those on Solovki later in the 1930s fell victim to Stalin’s Great Terror and were shot, either in autumn 1937 at Sandarmokh or on Solovki in February 1938.

Re-classified as a high-security prison in 1936 (becoming STON or “groan”), Solovki was closed in 1939.

Solovetsky Monastery, 2013