To many Westerners the name evokes a popular misconception that Siberian settlers are exiles or forced laborers. It is true that Siberia became a place of exile during the early 1700s, but most Siberian settlers have been free migrants. Between 1885 and 1914, 4 million Slavic peasants sought refuge in Siberia.
Under the rule of the Russian tsars, over a million prisoners were “exiled” to forced labor camps in Siberia. After the Russian Revolution the prison camps were closed down. However, they were later reopened by Joseph Stalin who got rid of people who opposed him by sending them off to what became known as Glavnoye Upravleniye Lagerei – or “gulags”.
Gulag, or Main Directorate for Corrective Labor Camps, whose camps were located mainly in remote regions of Siberia and the Far North (most camps were located in Taiga), made significant contributions to the Soviet economy. Gulag’s manpower constructed canals, railroad line, numerous hydroelectric stations, and strategic roads.
Conditions in the camps were extremely harsh. It was a black spot of the history, but shouldn’t stay in anybody’s mind, because there are no Gulag system nowadays.