'Isle of Terror'

Concentration camp for Russians on Mudyug Island

05.12.2022//The beginning of the 20th century has mercilessly crippled the Russian North. Foreign intervention, which began immediately after the Great October Revolution, brought fire, death and bitterness to the former province of Arkhangelsk. The foreign soldiers, together with the White Guards, left many 'memorial signs' after them, one of which was the concentration camp on Mudyug Island. Today you can get there and see exactly what methods were used to kill the young Soviet state.

In Dvinskaya Bay, one of the largest in the White Sea, the Mudyugsky Island, better known as simply Mudyug, is located. The island is about 60 km away from Arkhangelsk. On 23 August 1918, during the foreign intervention, a concentration camp for opponents of the occupation authorities was established on Mudyug. This is the only concentration camp from the times of First World War, the buildings of which have survived to this day. The living conditions behind two rows of barbed wire were absolutely unbearable. The barracks were overcrowded, with the 14-person cells often housing over 60 detainees. Their rations comprised 200 g of hard tack, 175 g of canned food, and 42 g of rice per day. Subsisting on that, prisoners had to work hard, and those falling from exhaustion were buttstroked by the guards to make them stand up and carry on.

Protests would earn prisoners sole confinement in a hole 3 m deep, 9 steps wide, and 14 steps long. For those down there, daily rations were reduced to two crackers and water; there was no heating, and many froze to death. Even in the barracks, a handful of people would die of hypothermia every night. By June 1919, about 100 crosses had been erected on Mudyug, many of those topping mass graves.

In June 1919, Mudyug, popularly known as Death Island, was handed over to the government of the Northern Province and used as an exile prison for those suspected of communist ties. The conditions became even worse, and cruel torture was the norm. The Soviet writer Pavel Rasskazov himself went through the Mudyug concentration camp. In his book, Prisoner's Notes, he wrote the following: 'These barbarians did not immediately deprive us of life but created conditions in which it was impossible to live. They are humane, they don't kill people and if people die "on their own," it's not their fault. This was the policy and psychology of our executioners.' On 15 September 1919, the desperate prisoners staged an uprising: 53 people managed to escape and reach the mainland. After that, the prison was transferred to Yokanga on the Kola Peninsula. In 1928, an obelisk in memory of the intervention victims, 17.5 m high, was erected on Mudyug. In 1958, a new monument made of granite, concrete, and cast iron, 24.5 m high, appeared in the southern part of the island.

The main camp buildings on the island still stand to this day: a barracks, a cellar, and towers with barbed wire fences. Today, Mudyug has become a spot of untouched nature. Beluga whales come to its shores; its lakes are rich in navaga, whitefish, bream, zander, smelt, flounder, ide, and pike. In pine forests, countless berries and mushrooms ripen during the high season. Arkhangelsk travel agencies and excursion bureaus take tourists to the 'Isle of Terror' throughout the warm season. The programme lasts all day, taking guests on a boat ride to admire the beauty of northern nature and then exploring the island's sad and bloody history.

In summer, you can get to Mudyug by water from Arkhangelsk. In winter, you will have to drive from Arkhangelsk to the village of Patrakeyevka in the Primorsky district, and then proceed on the snow road to Mudyug.

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