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UK Economic and Social Research Council

Mapping the Gulag
Russia's prison system from the 1930s to the present

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The maps on this site are organised at a series of descending spatial scales from macro level down to micro and historically for the period 1931-1960 and 2005.

Series 1 - 3 relate to the period 1931-1960. At the national scale the site includes maps of the distribution of the main administrations of the gulag for the USSR and Russian Republic (Series 1), and estimates of average prisoner population for a series of consecutive periods (Series 2). Using new data, we have been able to map the distribution of the sub-division or otdeleniye of the camp administrations in a series of oblasts - Perm', Magadan, Chukhotka, Sverdlovsk, Chelyabinsk - in 1952 (Series 3).

We have provided two overlay maps, of the distribution of permafrost and the average January temperature to show the geographical environment, in which penal institutions have been located at various times.

Series 4-6 relate to the current penal system in the middle of the 2000s. At the national scale are maps of the distribution of different types of penal institutions in the Russian Federation in 2005 and a map of our estimates of prisoner numbers per by region (Series 4). At the next scale down, we have included maps of penal institutions in a selection of individual regions (series 5). We use these to show the differences in distribution and density of colonies between regions. We have included regions in the 'penal peripheries' such as Perm krai, Sverdlovsk oblast', and Krasnodar krai with high prisoner numbers, and regions in European Russia where the density of penal institutions is lower, and Moscow City and oblast.

At the very lowest spatial scale we present an example of the internal organization of penal colonies that we have visited, based on our field drawings and those we have come across during our historical research (Series 6).

What we don't do here is provide an interactive function that will enable users to identify or locate individual penal institutions. To do this, please see for the Soviet period and for the present day.

This mapping project is ongoing and what we have placed on the web will be expanded and corrected as we are able to access more information. We should be grateful for feedback and information about other sources from users of this site.

Please send any comments to

Map Index

Series 1 - The distribution of camps (lagerya) in USSR
Series 2 - The distribution of prisoners in the GULAG
Series 3 - Camp sub-divisions / otdeleniya in a selection of regions, 1952
Series 4
Series 5
Series 6