Grave of Wolfgang Eshke, Yur-Shor, Vorkuta

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Grave of Wolfgang Eshke

There is a place called Yur-Shor about ten kilometres from the center of Vorkuta at arctic Russia. Only thing is, there is no village, no mikrorayon – nothing. Sole indication that people lived (and died) there at some point are the scattered remnants of a former Soviet Gulag camp and a lonely graveyard in the middle of desolate tundra. Yur-Shor cemetery has few official monuments to the prisoners who died during the rebellion of the nearby camp at the beginning of 1950s. Apart from that, there is bunch of half rotten wooden crosses to mark the mass graves. The crosses look utterly deserted in the featureless wastelandscape, especially as some have lost their cross-beams or plainly fallen down to the permafrost ground. Vorkuta held prisoners from different countries, and after the World War II many German POW’s were placed there to do forced labour in the mines. This victim, Wolfgang Eshke, was most likely a German. He died at 1953, far away from home.

Memorial Cemetery, Vostochny, Inta

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Memorial Cemetery

In the small village of Vostochny, there is nothing left – not even inhabitants. The old settlement near Inta at arctic Russia was home to many former Gulag prisoners who built their new lives there when the nearby camp was closed at 1950s. After the collapse of the Soviet Union the economy plummeted and the brick factory, lifeline of the village, was shut down. Everybody left, some to Inta, some south to Kotlas and even to Moscow. The old graveyard of Vostochny, which actually has one of the first memorials ever erected to Gulag prisoners and which is officially titled memorial cemetery, was also abandoned. Now the headstones are rusty, and nature & stray dogs have taken over the memory.

Execution Site, Mariinsk, Siberia

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Execution Site

Apart from the memorial cemeteries, there are hundreds of nameless places where Gulag prisoners were executed all around Russia and other former Soviet countries. This inconspicuous tract of forest some ten kilometres from the small city of Mariinsk in Siberia is one of them. At 1930s and 1940s, when Siblag camp was operating nearby in an red-brick prison, condemned prisoners were brough here and shot to death. It’s not known what the officials did with the bodies, as only few of them were later found from the area. Nowadays the site is some 100 metres from the local road, and on the roadside there is a small plaque with a poem, and a solemn stone monument. Names of the perished prisoners are mostly unknown, and there is nothing on the site itself to tell its tragic story.