Mudyug or "Death Island"
An island north of Arkhangelsk in north-western Russia
that once was home to a British concentration camp
. Yes, you read it right.
It is not very widely known these days that both Britain
intervened in Russia after the latter's 1917 October Revolution had led to a quick peace treaty with Germany
and the Central Powers that ended WW1
for Russia. That in turn freed up German troops that could then be sent as reinforcements to the Western Front – see e.g. the Somme & Verdun
The Western Allies were thus keen to reopen the eastern front and sent expedition troops to Russia, where they sided with “the Whites” in the post-revolution civil war against the Bolsheviks. It became known as the Allied Intervention.
Well over ten thousand troops from France
were sent to Arkhangelsk (known to them as “Archangel”) in August 1918. There they began a campaign against the Bolsheviks, and in the process arrested hundreds of “troublemakers”, often quite at random (lacking the knowledge of the inner-Russian conflict and the exact nature of the different factions).
Soon the regular prisons were too small and a large camp was set up on a remote island in the Dvina Bay north of Arkhangelsk, under British command. Of the ca. 1000 people incarcerated there, almost a third did not survive. Hence the place became informally known as “Death Island”.
But in the long run, the British had made the wrong choice siding with the Whites, and before long the Allied troops were withdrawn in 1920. And so the nascent Soviet Union
gained the upper hand.
During the Soviet era, a memorial monument and museum was established on “Death Island” to commemorate the Allied Intervention and especially for propagandistic denunciation of the Whites (even though “the Reds” also committed atrocities, of course). After the dissolution of the USSR
, the island and the camp became almost forgotten and were largely abandoned.
However, you can take a boat from Arkhangelsk to Mudyug and explore the old wooden barracks with bunk beds, the crumbling monument, and remnants of the museum.
I have not personally done this yet, and in fact only found out about the existence of this place after my long fieldwork trip to Russia
in the summer of 2017. But here's an illuminating report
with some photos (external link, opens in a new window)
off the east coast of Dvina Bay, some 25 miles (40 km) north of the city of Arkhangelsk, northern Russia
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