Solovki Islands (Facts)

Solovetsky Monastery / Special Prison / Concentration vs Labor Camp

#Solovetsky Islands #GULAG Archipelago

The #Solovki special camp was established in 1923 on the Solovetsky Islands in the White Sea as a remote place of detention, primarily intended for those who was against Bolshevik regime. The process of transitioning from a monastery to a concentration camp began in the fall of 1922. All wooden buildings were burnt, and many of the monks were murdered. Some of them were sent to forced labor camps.  Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn called Solovki the “mother of the GULAG”. His world-famous book The Gulag Archipelago describes the history of the creation of labor camps in Soviet Russia. The book shows the details of the prisoner’s daily life. The workers entered those camps through the schools of the Ministry of Internal Affairs or through military registration and enlistment offices. The convicts ended up in those camps as a result of their arrests. Most of the them were intelligent people who, in one way or another, expressed disagreement with the government politic. Writers, poets, dramaturgs, musicians, scientists and just ordinary Christians have been sentenced for many (10-20) years and even for life.

In 1939, the prison camp was closed. The buildings were utilized for a naval base and cadet corpus. One of its famous students was the author of “The Demonic Forces” Valentin Pikul. 

Christian prisoners were forced to sing Internazionale, kneeling for hours in the harsh winter weather outside. If one could no longer physically sustain singing, the soldiers could kill the other two.

The Solovetsky Monastery founded in the 15th century.

“Ostrov” (Island) is a 2006 film drama directed by Pavel Lungin

During World War II, the sailor Anatoly and his captain Tikhon were captured by the Germans when they boarded their barge and tugboat with coal. A German officer offered Anatoly the choice to be shot or to shoot Tikhon instead. Terrified of dying, Anatoly killed his friend Tikhon. The Germans blew up the ship with Anatoly but God granted him life. He was found by Russian Orthodox monks on the shore. He converted to become a monk. For thirty years, he tried to cope with his self-condemnation. Over those long years he had acquired the gifts of prophecy and healing. People of different regions sailed to the island. While healing others, Anatoly remained in a perpetual state of repentance. He often sailed to an uninhabited island where he prayed for forgiveness. One day he met a man who brought his daughter to the monastery. The man took his daughter to numerous doctors but none of them were helpful. She was possessed by a demon and Anatoly exorcised it. The visitor turned out to be Tikhon. He testified that Anatoly only wounded him in the arm. Tikhon forgave Anatoly.

When better to visit the Archipelago

From June to October you can get to the archipelago by boat. The rest of the time, the islands are reached only by air, due to the solid ice covering the White Sea. The most popular time to visit Solovki is from mid-July to early August. At this time, all excursions and locations are available, you can swim in small lakes inside the island. But there are crowds of tourists and many mosquitoes.I would recommend traveling in late summer or early fall. The weather is not bad at this time. However, there are a lot of berries and mushrooms in the woods. You can experience a walk barefoot on the moss, but swimming is likely to be cold. The last excursion to the cape, where you could see belugas – white whales is carried out on August 15.

In winter or early spring, you can see the northern lights, ride the snowmobiles and do the winter fishing. Tours are carried out only by prior request – you must contact the bureau to reserve at least three days before the trip. The average temperature in winter is −10 ° C.

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