Stalin’s Communist Gulags Produced The ‘Cannibal Island Tragedy’

May 1933 – 6,000 political prisoners are sent to one of Stalin’s gulags, the small isolated Nazino Island in western Siberia. These unfortunate souls were left with nothing but flour to exist on, any who tried to escape were shot by guards surrounding the small land structure. Within only weeks, 4,000 of the prisoners died […]

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May 1933 – 6,000 political prisoners are sent to one of Stalin’s gulags, the small isolated Nazino Island in western Siberia. These unfortunate souls were left with nothing but flour to exist on, any who tried to escape were shot by guards surrounding the small land structure.

Within only weeks, 4,000 of the prisoners died or were no longer accounted for. The situation grew worse by the day, outbreaks of violence, and cannibalism were common.

One survivor recalls lives with the scars to show for the time spent on “Cannibal Island”. She walks around without calves, they were cut off and eaten by those left with no choice, but to eat human flesh to survive one of Stalin’s worst gulags.

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The Nazino Tragedy

The events surrounding the death sentence given to 6,000 prisoners sent to the Nazino Island, “Cannibal Island”, were not fully known until 1988.

Head of the communist gulag system Genrikh Yagoda, proposed a plan to Joseph Stalin as part of the dekulakinazation policy to deport wealthy land owners, “kulaks”. The idea was to forcibly resettle these “harmful elements” to new areas to create “special settlements”.

This plan resulted in the mass deportation of many to these areas in Siberia. The targets of this policy were merchants and enemies of the Stalinist regime across the board.

One woman recalled the effects of the Nazino Tragedy on her physical form as a lasting souvenir to her nightmare.

“Once a woman from the Island of Death was brought to our house,” Feofila Bylina, a resident of the village of Nazino on the north bank of the Ob, recalled in an oral history in 1989. “She was being taken to another camp…. The woman was taken into the back room to spend the night and I saw that her calves had been cut off. I asked and she said, ‘They did that to me on the Island of Death – cut them off and cooked them.’ All the meat on her calves was cut away.

Stalin ultimately rejected the plan and chaos ensued for the poor souls trapped on “Cannibal Island”.

Nazino Island Map.

Since many of the prisoners sent to the island were city-dwelling merchants, they had little to no chance to survive the bare elements of the new landscape they found themselves in.

This is one reason why cannibalism was resorted to within a short period, within weeks. The survivors formed gangs to control scarce resources on the island. Murder over food and shelter became frequent.

Adding to the chaos the guards themselves began to murder and loot, even killing for the sole purpose of cannibalism.

Stalinism and communism leave an eternal legacy of mass death, political repression, and cannibalism.

References

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