Balzekas Museum's Hope & Spirit series page and resources to remain online indefinitelyHope & Spirit web page will remain indefinitely on the museum's web site as a resource for visitors, educators, and students who wish to learn more about Soviet deportations to Siberia.
History of Soviet Deportations from Lithuania
From 1940 to 1953, more than 132,000 Lithuanians were deported to remote areas of the USSR including Siberia, the Arctic Circle zone and Central Asia. More than 70 percent of the deportees were women and children. By the end of the deportations, some 30,000 Lithuanians had died as a result of slave work and starvation. Another 50,000 never returned to Lithuania. During this same period, another 200,000 people were thrown into prisons. More than 150,000 were sent to Gulags, the name for USSR network of concentration camps, situated mostly in Siberia. [GULag is the abbreviation for Chief Administration of Corrective Labor Camps and Colonies, Гла́вное управле́ние исправи́тельно-трудовы́х лагере́й и коло́ний in Russian.]
The first mass deportation began the night of June 14, 1941, after the Soviet Union invaded Lithuania in World War II. Thousands of unsuspecting people were awakened from their sleep and ordered to leave their homes immediately. Most failed to take anything with them. Crammed into cattle cars, women, the elderly and children were sent to remote villages where they were required to do hard labor; the heads of families were sent to remote prisons and camps, as far north as the Arctic Circle and as far east as the Bering Sea. In that first week, more than 18,000 Lithuanian people were deported. The number would have been even greater had the war between Germany and Russia not started on June 22, 1944. Deportations resumed at the end of World War II, when Lithuania was again occupied by the Soviet Red Army and continued until Stalin's death. The Gulag prison system continued to operate until the fall of the Soviet empire. Many prisoners of conscience, who objected to Soviet human rights violations, were sentenced to terms in Soviet prisons together with common criminals.
Hope & Spirit Events
Below is a summary of the events that comprised the Hope & Spirit series on Soviet deportations from Lithuania to Siberia and other remote regions of the former Soviet Union. The series opened on June 18, 2011. Initially the series was scheduled to end in the fall of 2011. Due to its popularity, series organizers decided to extended the series through the end of April, 2012. Speakers, exhibits, performances, and other events on the subject of deportations were added.
The Gulag tradition continues today
Report surface of North Korean forced labor camps on Russian soil
Currently North Korea maintains forced labor camps on its own territory (The National Post, April, 2012) and in Russia. A 2011 US US Embassy report on human trafficking in Russia states: "There are reports of many men and women from North Korea subjected to conditions of forced labor in the logging industry in the Russian Far East." More than 150,000 political prisoners are incarcerated in North Korean Gulags, according to recent (4/2012) articles in the Economist and the Catholic Online. The existence of North Korean forced labor camps on Russian soil is corroborated in a Vice.tv documentary by reporter Shane Smith: "Siberian Slaves: Sneaking into North Korea's Secret Russian Labor Camp" (Caution: Language in this video may not be suitable for all audiences.)