Lidia Pădureac: The Gulag was used to destroy people’s uprightness

The Soviet system used the Gulag to gain economic advantage at the expense of forced labor of millions of people. In addition, the Gulag was used to destroy people who posed a potential danger to the system, but also to induce a state of fear in society, doctor in history Lidia Pădureac stated in a public debate hosted by IPN News Agency. According to the historian, the Soviet system turned the people at camps into slaves, who were assigned the most terrible work and forced to live in inhumane conditions.

Lidia Pădureac, the vice-rector of “Alecu Russo” Balti State University, said that there is no exact figure of the people who passed through the Soviet Gulag or of those who lost their lives in extermination camps through labor. In the Moldovan Soviet Socialist Republic alone, 52,000 people experienced the horror of the Gulag.

“Solzhenitsyn’s works note that about 40 million people from the Soviet Union passed through the Gulag. But an exact figure does not exist. In official documents presented when the Soviet Union fell apart, the figure was 10 million people. There are official figures showing that in 1939-1941, 1.8 million prisoners died. In 1930, when the Politburo decided to dig the White Sea-Baltic Canal, the so-called Belomorkanal, labor was needed - more than 120,000 people. These were found in camps. If we refer to Kolyma, where gold was mined, there were people from camps. People were also used to cut down forests. If we refer to the Moldavian SSR, 52,000 people deported from the MSSR worked for several years gratis in favor of the Soviet state,” said the doctor of history.

According to her, the Soviet system, by creating forced labor camps, aimed to gain economic advantages, using free labor of millions of people, and also pursued ideological and social purposes. Through the Gulag, the Soviet system destroyed its potential political opponents by instilling fear in people.

“Through the Gulag, the Soviet state achieved several objectives, such as destroying categories of people who could potentially be considered class enemies, but also sending a warning message to everyone else, destroying people’s uprightness, inhibiting dignity. The Soviet state used the Gulag in all regards. If we refer to the period of World War II, over a million people from the Gulag were sent as cannon fodder to the front. In 1939, when Beria replaced Yezhov as head of the NKVD, although it was mentioned that the Gulag is used economically, we see that neither the political nor the social aspect disappeared,” explained Lidia Pădureac.

She noted that thousands of Bessarabians died in the Soviet Gulag, and those who returned home gave frightening testimonies. The victims of the Soviet regime were forced to live and work in inhumane conditions.

“We remember the deportation waves of 1941, when over 14,000 Bessarabians were deported to Siberia. Then the heads of families, the men, were separated from other family members and taken to extermination camps. A large part of them did not survive. Children, women were taken to sparsely populated places. They had to find a place to stay if the administration did not offer them spaces. The first winter was horrible and many people froze to death. The children did not have clothing or shoes. Women went to cut down trees and suffered from hand frostbite. These cases shock. Subsequently, in 1949, over 35,000 Bessarabians were deported. In 1951, about 2600 people were deported. In total, 52,000 Bessarabians were deported during these three waves of deportation,” said Lidia Pădureac.

The public debate entitled “The GULAG phenomenon: genesis, manifestation, lessons” was the 28th installment of IPN’s project “Impact of the Past on Confidence and Peace Building Processes” which is supported by the Hanns Seidel Foundation of Germany.

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