The Dead Road – research

The virtual tour of the Gulag camp, panoramic photographs and 3D models of camps used in Gulag Online are the result of three Czech expeditions (2009, 2011, 2013) mapping in the most remote parts of Siberia the remnants of correctional labour camps along the so-called Dead Road – the transpolar railway built by Gulag prisoners between 1947 and 1953. It was to join, at a distance of almost 1,500 kilometres, the cities of Salekhard and Igarka and was designated Gulag Construction no. 501 and 503. An estimated 100,000 prisoners in dozens of camps worked on it. Thanks to the extreme remoteness and desolation of the Northern Siberia region, many of these camps have been preserved to this day. The entire construction was abandoned soon after Stalin’s death in March 1953.

We have mapped a total of 15 abandoned camps (find an overview of them here) in various stages of decay – from virtually burnt out or unrecognisable remnants overgrown in the taiga to very well preserved camps that local hunters or fishermen have not yet managed to take apart.

In August 2009 we organised our first expedition to section no. 503. The starting point was Igarka, from where we travelled by motorboat to the abandoned town of Yermakovo on the Yenisei.

From there we travelled around 20 kilometres along the former railway embankment, mapping three camps as we went. For more information about Expedition 2009 visit our website.

In March 2011 we travelled along the entire 350-kilometre section between the towns of Nadym and Salekhard (section no. 501). We used a snow transporter to drive along the so-called winter highway (frozen and modified tundra, lakes and swamps), which follows the route of the railway laid. During this trip we documented four abandoned railway camps. More information about Expedition 2011 are available on our website.

In September 2013 we again set off for section 503 and in the space of three weeks mapped eight camps along the section Bolshaya BludnayaYanov Stan – Turukhan River.

At the end of the expedition we travelled along the Yenisei River to the Barabanicha labour camp, which we had previously visited in 2009. In view of the fact that it is the best preserved camp on the entire documented part of the abandoned railway, we spent three days there, gathering the majority of panoramic photographs and materials used in the 3D tour. Take a look at expedition diary and visit expedition website on our website.


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