According to official figures, during the construction of Belomor, the White Sea Canal, 2.24% of the prisoners in the BelBaltlag camp complex died in 1931 (1,438 persons), 2.03% died in 1932 (2,010 persons) and in 1933, due to famine in the USSR and the rapidly approaching deadline to finish the project, 10.56% of the prison workforce died (8,870 persons).
Seventy years later, in August 2003, Yury DMITRIEV discovered a large burial ground of BelBaltlag prisoners near the 8th lock on the White Sea Canal. The following year volunteers under his direction cleared the area and found more than 800 graves.
Solovki, the Special Purpose Solovetsky Camp, was the first permanent concentration camp of the Soviet regime. (Its Russian acronym SLON spelled “Elephant”.)
Set up in 1923 on a group of islands in the White Sea, it began with a mixed population of left-wing political opponents of the Bolsheviks (Anarchists, Socialist Revolutionaries) and criminals. Its purpose and the changing nature of the Soviet regime can be easily seen by comparing lists of its prisoners over three distinct periods.
“Over the years of his work Yury Dmitriev became not only a splendid field researcher. He also became unique and unsurpassed as a kind of harvester of archives,” Alexander Daniel (Memorial). This led to entirely unique results. You know the phrase that everyone always quotes, that line of Akhmatova’s Requiem – “I’d like to call you all by name”, well – he alone actually did it!