Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Estonian Forced Laborers in Arkhangelsk Oblast

During the first Soviet occupation of Estonia in 1940-1941, the RKKA (Workers' and Peasants' Red Army) forcibly conscripted some 40,000 Estonian men in clear violation of international law. These men were then formed into work columns and sent to various areas of the USSR for forced labor. The Soviet government employed them on the construction of air fields and roads and the felling of trees as well as other work. Memento has compiled a list of 4,586 Estonians sent to work in forced labor columns in Arkhangelsk during this time. It is estimated that a total of 9,000 Estonians worked in forced labor detachments in the region in the fall of 1941. By February 1942, a total of 7,135 Estonians worked in the Port of Arkhangelsk. Another 4,000 Estonians worked in Kotlas in the lumber industry at this time. Material conditions for these men were very poor. They lacked proper winter clothing and food. Hunger and dysentery were both common among the labor columns. In total over 17,000 Estonians worked in Arkhangelsk Oblast at some point during WWII before being moved to the front, being demobilized, or dying. The lack of winter clothing and proper food constituted the main reasons for demobilization as invalids and death among the mobilized Estonians.

Source: T.F. Mel'nik, "Arkhangel'skaia oblast v 1940-e gody, kak region po ispol'zovaniiu prinuditel'nogo truda poliakov, estontsev, karelo-finnov, nemtsev," in A.A. German, (ed.), Nachal'nyi period Velikoi Otechestvennoi voiny i deportatsiia rossiiskikh nemtsev : vzgliady i otsenki cherez 70 let (Moscow: MSNK-Press, 2011),  pp. 562-582.

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