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Title: Katorga  
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Aleksander Sochaczewski's painting depicting the applying of shackles in the Siberian katorga camps.

Katorga (Russian: ка́торга; IPA: ; from medieval Greek: katergon, κάτεργον, "galley") was a system of penal labor in the Russian Empire.[1] Prisoners were sent to remote penal colonies in vast uninhabited areas of Siberia and Russian Far East where voluntary settlers and workers were never available in sufficient numbers. The prisoners had to perform forced labor under harsh conditions.


  • History 1
  • Notable katorgas 2
  • Famous katorga convicts 3
    • Russian 3.1
    • Polish 3.2
    • Ukrainian 3.3
  • Soviet times 4
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • Further reading 7
  • External links 8


Prisoners at an Amur Cart Road camp, between 1908 and 1913.

Katorga, a category of punishment within the judicial system of the Russian Empire, had many of the features associated with labor-camp imprisonment: confinement, simplified facilities (as opposed to prisons), and forced labor, usually involving hard, unskilled or semi-skilled work.

Katorga camps were established in the 17th century in underpopulated areas of Siberia and the Russian Far East - regions that had few towns or food sources. Despite the isolated conditions, a few prisoners successfully escaped to populated areas. From these times, Siberia gained its fearful connotation of punishment, which was further enhanced by the Soviet GULAG system.

After the change in Russian Sybiraks ("Siberians"). Some of them remained there, forming a Polish minority in Siberia.

The most common occupations in katorga camps were mining and timber work. A notable example involved the construction of the Amur Cart Road (Амурская колесная дорога), praised as a success in the organisation of penal labor.

In 1891 Peter Kropotkin, while aide de camp to the governor of Transbaikalia in the 1860s, was appointed to inspect the state of the prison system in the area; he later described his findings in his book In Russian and French Prisons (1887).

Notable katorgas

  • Nerchinsk katorga (Нерчинская каторга)
  • Akatuy katorga (Акатуйская каторга)
  • Algacha katorga (Алгачинская каторга)
  • Kara katorga (Карийская каторга)
  • Maltsev katorga (Мальцевская каторга)
  • Zerentuy katorga (Зерентуйская каторга)
  • Sakhalin katorga (Сахалинская каторга)

Famous katorga convicts



Farewell to Europe, by Aleksander Sochaczewski


Soviet times

After the Gulag labor camps.

In 1943 the "[2]

See also


  1. ^ Russian History, Bucknell University, 2008.
  2. ^ "ГУЛАГ: общие сведения | Репрессии и пенитенциарная система в СССР" [Gulag: general information | Repression and the prison system in the USSR]. Archived from the original on 2009-04-19. 
  • P.Kropotkin, In Russian and French Prisons, London: Ward and Downey; 1887.

Further reading

  • Daly, Jonathan W. Autocracy under Siege: Security Police and Opposition in Russia, 1866–1905 (1998).

External links

  • P.Kropotkin: In Russian and French Prisons
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