former prisoners have testified.5 The percentage of prisoners capable only of light physical work (or less) dispatched to Norilsk was small, particularly since such prisoners accounted for one-third of the Gulag population in 1942.6 The selection of relatively healthy prisoners, however, was not the only reason for Norilsk's low mortality rate. Personal testimonies of former Norillag prisoners confirm that, although living conditions at Norillag were harsh and food sources meager, these conditions were still somewhat better than at other labor camps.
Camps in the Gulag used a standard system, introduced in 1935, for prisoner record keeping.7 Prisoners were divided into Group A prisoners, who worked in production or construction; Group B prisoners, who occupied administrative-managerial and support jobs; Group C and D prisoners, who were not working because of illness, transit, quarantine, solitary confinement, or work refusal. Camp administrators aimed to limit Group C and D workers and raise the proportion of actively working prisoners. In Norilsk, Group A workers constituted more than 80 percent of all prisoners as compared with the Gulag average of 70 to 75 percent in the 1940s, while the share of nonworking prisoners did not exceed 10 percent.
Another indicator of Norilsk's priority status was its widespread use of free workers. In 1941, a total of 3,734 free workers and 16,532 prisoners worked at the Norilsk plant, or a ratio of approximately 1:5; by 1949 this ratio had decreased to 1:2.1 (20,930 free
5. See, for example S. S. Torvin, "Vospominaniya" in the Archives of the Moscow Memorial Scholarly Information and Educational Center (hereafter Moscow Memorial Archives), 2.2.92: l. 90; N. Semakin (reminiscences; untitled). Ibid., 2.3.58; I. Assanov, "Zhizn' i Sudba Mitrofana Petrovicha Rubeko," in Norilsky Memorial, No. 4, October 1998, p. 11.
7. Directive No. 664871 of the director of the Gulag, March 11, 1935. See A. I. Kokurin, N. V. Petrov, and Yu. Morukov. "GULAG: Struktura i Kadry" in Svobodnaya Mysl', 1999, No. 9, pp. 116-117.
Coercion versus Motivation 81
Coercion versus Motivation 81
-■- Prisoners (group A)—actual -•- Free workers (group A)—actual
Figure 5.3 The Integrated Plant's Labor Resources—Number of Free Workers and Group A Prisoners (Production Workers) (Average Annual Totals)
Sources: GARF 8361.1.10: 11; 11: 11, 27, 32; 40: 26; 56: 44-45; 71: 30; 95: 109; 101: 124-125; 125:158; 143: 54; 155:145; 174:102.
workers and 44,897 prisoners), as shown in Figure 5.3. In 1936 free workers numbered 223 compared with 4,552 prisoners in all sectors (including workers in all groups), and in 1937, free workers numbered 384 compared with 8,658 prisoners.8 The increase in free workers during subsequent years in Norilsk resulted mostly from the release of prisoners—a process that followed different paths. During the 1940s prisoners were commonly assigned to the plant even after they had nominally completed their sentences. Many released prisoners, especially political ones, were sent to a "special settlement" as exiles with internal passports that often barred them even from leaving the city limits of Norilsk. There were instances, for example, where a prisoner, shortly before his term ended, was
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