During the war and years before, the Main Administration of Corrective Labor Camps also known as the GULAC held millions of prisoners. Gulag’s were the main punishing system for the Soviet Union. They held all different types of people including rapists, murders, thieves, political prisoners and many innocent men and women convicted for petty smaller crimes. Gulag’s weren’t prisons but were labor camps that forced prisoners to work excruciating hours, in horrific climate conditions and unbearable labor intensive jobs.
This all changed after the war. “One of the key elements of “destalinization” was the release of prisoners from camps administered by the GULAG”. On March 27, 1953 Stalin’s first post action granted amnesty by the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR which freed a variety of different prisoners. “The edict covered persons sentenced for up to five years, those convicted of economic and military crimes regardless of their terms of imprisonment, women with children under 10 years of age or who were pregnant, juveniles up to age 18, men over 55 years of age and women over 50 years of age, and convicts suffering from incurable diseases.” Within three months of the amnesty decree over 1.5 million prisoners were released. The decree also stated that crime has decreased and that there “is no longer necessary to retain in places of custody persons who have committed offenses representing no great danger to the state”. The part that is most shocking is although some men and women were in gulag’s for legitimate reasons others were in for crimes as innocent as arriving late to work three times or telling a joke about the communist party.
Once freed, prisoners had an extremely hard time integrating into the soviet society. The torture and pain these prisoners faced in the gulag’s could not just be forgotten. Men, women and children saw punishment and physical mistreatment that most people could not image. This made it difficult to forget andwe4e forgive the government and adapt back into society. “Though many went on to live peaceful lives, they stood as living testament to the injustices of the state. Survivors had seen the worst that life could offer, instilling some with an unquenchable courage and need to speak forthrightly.” Afterwards some were brave to tell their stories through books, poetry and songs.