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Dalstroy[1] (Russian: Дальстро́й, IPA: [dɐlʲˈstroj]), also known as Far North Construction Trust,[2] was an organization set up in 1931 by the Soviet NKVD (the predecessor of the KGB) in order to manage road construction and the mining of gold in the Magadan-Chukotka region of the Russian Far East, now known as Kolyma. Initially it was established as State Trust for Road and Industrial Construction in the Upper Kolyma Area.[3] After the 1952 reorganization it was known as Main Directorate of Camps and Construction of the Far North.[4]

Dalstroy oversaw the development and mining of the area using forced labor (slave labor). Over the years, Dalstroy created some 80 Gulag camps across the Kolyma region. As a result of a number of decisions, the total area covered by Dalstroy grew to three million square kilometers by 1951. The town of Magadan was the base for these activities.


Scope of activitiesEdit

Prisoners at the Dalstroy[5]
Year Number Year Number
1932 11,100 1944 84,716
1934 29,659 1945 93,542
1935 36,313 1946 73,060
1936 48,740 1947 93,322
1937 70,414 1948 106,893
1938 90,741 1949 108,685
1939 138,170 1950 153,317
1940 190,309 1951 182,958
1941 187,976 1952 199,726
1942 177,775 1953 175,078
1943 107,775
Figures for 1 January for each year.
Figure for 1932 for December

The Dalstroy region is often referred to[by whom?] as "Kolyma", as it centered largely on gold-mining in the upper reaches of the Kolyma River.

Dalstroy administered basically all aspects of the region: territorial administration, economic activities, and labor camps.

The administration of Dalstroy grew increasingly complex over the years, not only as a result of various geographical centers but also with the establishment of separate units to provide geological surveying, motorized transport, management of secondary economies, road administration, steamship navigation on the River Koyma, and port and terminal management.[6][page needed]

In his book Red Arctic, John McCannon explains how Dalstroy initially relied on Glavsevmorput or GUSMP (Russian acronym for Main Administration of the Northern Sea Route, a Soviet agency for exploiting resources across the far north) for coordination of supplies and transport. Glavsevmorput managed railway traffic to Vladivostok and shipping from there to Magadan. Over the years, however, as Dalstroy grew more powerful, its director Eduard Berzin obtained ships of his own so as[citation needed] to have more freedom of action. By 1938 Glavsevmorput had lost much of its political support, leaving Dalstroy firmly in control.

Ships of the DalstroyEdit

An account of the many ships used over the years to transport prisoners across the Sea of Okhotsk to Magadan as well as to the Arctic port of Ambarchik is given by Martin Bollinger in his book Stalin's Slave Ships.[7] Among the Dalstroy fleet were the following ships:[7]

In addition, several ships of the Far East State Sea Shipping Company were used at times to transport prisoners to various locations operated by Dalstroy. Examples include SS Nevastroi, SS Dneprostroi, SS Shaturstroi, SS Syasstroi, SS KIM, and SS Kiev.

Dalstroy leadersEdit

In the words of prisoner Ayyub Baghirov, "The entire administration of the Dalstroy - economic, administrative, physical and political - was in the hands of one person who was invested with many rights and privileges."[8]

The officials in charge of Dalstroy were:


After Joseph Stalin's death in 1953, the reorganization of the Dalstroy basically split its functions into three parts. The administration of labor camps was reorganized into USVITL (North-East Corrective Labor-Force Administration) of Gulag. The administration of the territory and local Communist Party of the Soviet Union apparatus were subordinated to the newly created Magadan Oblast and other adjacent territorial subdivisions. Dalstroy remained a purely economic enterprise.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Also romanized Dalstroi.
  2. ^ Russian: Гла́вное управле́ние строи́тельства Да́льнего Се́вера; acronym: ГУСДС.
  3. ^ Russian: Государственный трест по дорожному и промышленному строительству в районе Верхней Колымы — Дальстрой
  4. ^ Russian: ГУ лагерей и строительства Дальнего Севера.
  5. ^ (in Russian) Dalstroy prisoners Archived December 9, 2006, at the Wayback Machine.
  6. ^ (in Russian) Историческая хроника Магаданской области: События и факты, (Historical Chronicle of the Magadan Region) 1917–1972, Magadan, 1975
  7. ^ a b Bollinger, Martin J., Stalin’s slave ships: Kolyma, the Gulag fleet, and the role of the West, Praeger, 2003, ISBN 0-275-98100-2
  8. ^ Ayyub Baghirov - The Bitter Days of Kolyma from Azerbaijan International, Spring 2006. Retrieved 6 February 2007
  9. ^ Petrenko Ivan Grigorevich, Major-General, (1904 – 1950) (NKVD), Biography from the site. Retrieved 14 February 2007.
  10. ^ (in Russian) История Дальстроя (History of Dalstroy) from the website Archived December 9, 2006, at the Wayback Machine.. Retrieved 14 February 2007.