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Stalin’s prisoners, or “lagerniks” as they were commonly called, referred to the frozen land of Kolyma as a planet, although it physically remained part of Mother Earth. This vast piece of Arctic and sub-Arctic territory, with its undefined political and geographical borders, was located in the furthest North-East corner of Siberia.
Kolyma differed from the remaining Asian land mass in so many ways that it could be considered, metaphorically at least, as an entity unto itself. The remoteness and isolation, the severity of the climate, and the harsh living conditions made this frozen hell stand apart from the rest of Siberia.
The people of the Soviet Union feared Kolyma more than any other region of the Gulag Empire. “Kolyma znaczit smert” was the common phrase whispered at the time, and translates, without loss, to “Kolyma means death.”