“The channel of bones is a myth”. What price was constructed waterway Moscow-Volga?

The first locking channel Moscow-Volga. July 15, 1937 © /

Georgii Zel ma

/ RIA Novosti

80 years ago, in 1937, for the movement of passenger and cargo vessels opened the canal Moscow — Volga, now the Moscow canal.

First, in April, the bottom gate of lock No. 1 on the Volga to the sound of the orchestra became the flagship of the Volga flotilla ship “Joseph Stalin”. The scale of the unprecedented scale of the project, which was carried out in just 5 years, reflected in the slogan: “the Way the gates were blocked, the weight of the polysi them tons. Somewhere clicked a button and move in from all sides!”

Gate 11 gateways, as well as the whole complex system of hydraulic engineering constructions of the imagination. Along the 128-kilometre-long channel with a depth of 5.5 m were constructed on 8 hydroelectric power stations, 7 dams, 5 pump stations, several reservoirs, built the great bridges and the cyclopean monuments. The slogan “Make the Volga river flowing past the Kremlin!” was invented to “correct the error of nature” and connect Moscow with major water artery. From other channels of the world this is different from the technical solution: the channel was not made by gravity, and operating on electric power (water from the Volga rises to the capital with the help of powerful pumps). Today, the channel gives Moscow more than 60% of all water and remains the shortest route from the mother see to the Upper Volga, is available for any river vessels. It turns Moscow into a “port of five seas”.

The construction of the channel Moscow-Volga. Photo: still from the film

Two corpses on the meter?

However, the question is — at what price were committed by the labor feat of the Soviet people, remains open. “Eyewitnesses” draw terrible pictures of the time: thousands of dirty, exhausted workers, who were floundering at the bottom of the pits to the waist in mud, rain or cold, and died from exhaustion: “the Dead were stacked in the trolley — “Grabarka” and taken away… Closer to night stretched from the channel the whole caravans “of grabaron” with the corpses dressed in torn underwear bottom… People were thrown into the burial grounds at random, one to another, like cattle…”. And the average life of a digger at a construction site, said to have been little more than a month.

There is evidence that particularly unruly prisoners, the NKVD shot on the Northern outskirts of the town of Dmitrov. How many more lives was just? Put the number up to 250 thousand. In the proof a quote from Solzhenitsyn: “it is said, during the winter of 1931 to 1932, died about 100 thousand people. It’s on the Belomorstroy, and the channel Moscow — Volga was built twice as long compared to the Belomorsko-Baltic channel, and you can imagine how many of our compatriots are buried on the banks of this channel”. Stalin’s “tariff” on the channel Moscow — Volga, — the conclusion, — 2 thousand for each kilometer water route, i.e., at the two dead bodies on the meter. Figuratively speaking, the ships sail to Moscow on human bones.

“But the fact that the NKVD Dmitlag was reminded of the other Islands of the “GULAG Archipelago”, — told the correspondent of “AIF” , writer and publicist Anatoly Salutsky, author of the recently published book “Canal Moscow — Volga 80 years. The truth about Dmitlage NKVD first hand“. — At Moscow was in a much different, and gossip about the fact that channel built on the bones of prisoners is a myth, pure fiction. In my book reflected the truth, which was told to me directly by the builders of the canal. At night were taken on carts hundreds of thousands of corpses in the surrounding woods…”.

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“This book was written 40 years ago — continues Salutsky. — In connection with the 40th anniversary of the channel Politizdat offered me a “deep develop” the subject. At that time, was still alive, many participants in the building and I managed to record their stories. But in the official review said: “In the manuscript pays great attention to participation in the construction of prisoners, which is totally ending”. One reviewer wrote: “it is Necessary to exclude from the manuscript of prisoners. I would like to see a wonderful creation of the Soviet people — the channel named after Moscow without this part“. After the word “detail” I realized that I would not cooperate with Politizdat, I’m not going to redo the book, and refused its publication. But it is curious that when in the early 1990s I was offered a book to one of the magazines I have received in response to the angry letter about what I say, trying to varnish the reality and do not reflect the horrors of the Gulag construction projects. The manuscript went back to the table, and only today it was her time…”.

“Enthusiasts were not”

How all was actually? The decision on the construction of the channel Moscow — Volga to them. I. V. Stalin, was adopted on 15 June 1931 at the Plenum of the Central Committee of the CPSU(b). And a year later left the order about the formation of the Dmitrov corrective-labour camps (Dmitlag) for the use of prison labor. Dmitlag OGPU-NKVD lasted more than 5 years. The channel became the main project of the 2nd five-year plan, and the camp — one of the biggest branches of the Gulag.

Management Dmitlaga, located in Borisoglebsk monastery. Photo: Public Domain

In Dmitlag prisoners arrived on stage from across the country. The guard was transferred to Solovki. The composition of the prisoners was variegated: the victims of the “decree on the ears”, people sentenced for property and economic crimes, speculation, etc. — “bytoviki”, criminals, repeat offenders, “counterrevolutionaries”, political. But all of them became known as a tolerant term “kamalamani”, under which prisoners Dmitlaga and went down in history.

The number of bonded builders reached 200 thousand, and another Called the big figure of 1 million 200 thousand (1 January 1933) — given the fact that a lot of people “in search of romance” supposedly voluntarily came on the scene and took a civilian. “So many people were not even required scale of such projects, — said Anatoly Salutsky. — Dmitlag just didn’t contain them. Enthusiasts there was not only a civilian worked as experts at the invitation — repair plant, in laboratories or managers. But the channel was a little.”

The construction of the sixth gateway on the channel Moscow-Volga. Photo: RIA Novosti/ Ivan Shagin

The first time the excavation work is conducted manually — with the help of Kyle, stretchers, shovels, and wheelbarrows, which are called “Marias”, horse-drawn vehicles-“Hraparak”. The pits were so many people taking the ground that the management had to resort to using controllers just as busy urban intersections. Then replace the “Marias” came the first domestic dump trucks and excavators. Construction of the century became the ground where the run in the new equipment — excavators, mine hoists, cement mixers, trucks, jetting etc. And the amount transferred to construction of the soil exceeded 150 million cubic meters!

In Dmitlage, as in other camps of the NKVD, was a system of rewards and punishments: if a prisoner has fulfilled the norm received his ration and earnings, and if not — sat on the water and the penalty rate of 300 g of bread (regular daily intake consisted of 800 grams of bread and 400 grams of soup). Was the scheme of “tests”: for surplus production reduced sentence.

The leader over the water

The system of forced labour called “reformation”, and to make it more effective, the administration of the camp did not forget about the comprehensive development of the personality of prisoners. The club Dmitlaga held celebrations and meetings, acted library, cinema, a theater and brass bands. Was not forgotten and sports sections of the camp society “Dynamo”. They say the prisoners — builders channel even participated in sports parades on red square.

Amateur orchestra in the construction of the channel Moscow-Volga. 1933 Photo: RIA Novosti/ Georgiy Petrusov

“Dmitlag was open, not secret organization to produce more than 10 periodicals, including Newspapers “the Reformation” and “Moscow — Volgostroy” magazine “On storm tracks,” says Salutsky. — Repeatedly visited the construction site and Maxim Gorky. The camp newspaper printed his welcome letter to the gathering of drummers-“tridtsatimetrovy” (those who were exiled by the 35th article — hooliganism, theft, robbery): “it’s Time for you guys to understand that stealing now, these days, stealing from the state… the sooner you realize this the better you will be… Your job, you bury the damn past — with all my heart I wish you as soon as possible to survive the present and save your strength for the construction of the future… Bitter”.

The architects of the channel remembered and lovely decorating hydrotechnical and other installations of a variety of works of art — sculptures, reliefs, murals and emblems with images of heroes of the era. And in August 1935 the construction site, visited the people’s Commissar of internal Affairs Genrikh Yagoda, who, accompanied by the chief building Lazar Kogan, chief Dmitlaga Seeds Ferina and chief engineer Sergei Zhuk personally chose the location at the entrance to the canal from the Volga to install a granite monument of Lenin and Stalin. A giant sculpture with a height of 26 m (with pedestal) and a weight of 450 and 540 t was supposed to be put on the opposite sides of the outport.

The Chairman of the Moscow region Executive Committee Nikolai Filatov; 1-St Secretary of the Moscow gorkom and obkom the CPSU(b) Nikita Khrushchev and the people’s Commissar of internal Affairs Genrikh Yagoda (right to left) inspect the construction of the channel Moscow-Volga. 1935 Photo: RIA Novosti

In contrast to the monument of Lenin, whose head is built of granite blocks, Stalin’s head was a monolith, carved out of the rock. To lift a machine weighing 22 tonnes to a height, it took a powerful lift. “Team under the leadership of the stonemason Jacob Bulkin “produced stone processing on the proposed layout,” says the Salutsky. But to hoist the last 3-ton upper unit was very difficult. It required almost manually to roll a long log footbridge, and God forbid, happens a misfire.” Fortunately for those who are engaged in this work, all ended well.

The monument of Stalin appeared in the frames of the film “Volga-Volga”, because the film was shot directly on the canal. But then these episodes were cut. And in 1961 decided to remove the monument itself. First on the neck of the sculpture threw a rope and tried to pin her tractors. But the major Foundation for the pedestal stand, and Stalin did not collapse, but only tilted and hanging over the water. Then the statue was destroyed by the explosion. According to legend, the head father of the nation slipped from her shoulders and fell into the canal. And still its wreckage as if resting on the bottom. Lenin statue towers over the canal and now.

Monument to Lenin at the Ivankovo dam on the confluence of the Moscow canal and the Volga river. Photo: RIA Novosti/ Alexander Goryachev

Arrests under orchestras

14 Jun 1936 finished Perervinsky waterworks came Stalin himself. During the inspection the gateway for the first time began to fill with water. In a lock chamber includes two paddle steamer — the “Memory of Kirov” and “the Dynamo”. And on July 30 the channel was completed the finishing work. “In aviation Day tens of thousands of Muscovites marched through the new tunnel to the Tushino airfield, which hosted the air show, says Salutsky. — People have witnessed an unprecedented spectacle: the car was a water channel, where we had to go the ships; above the channel ran the railroad bridge, which was speeding locomotives; and over the bridge hovered the aircraft.

During the may holidays of 1937, the capital was the first to come of the Volga boats. Passengers were builders. The court stayed all marinas everywhere meetings were held. On ships incessantly blaring loudspeakers on the decks dancing, and with the side walls of the gateway were thrown hundreds of bouquets. On the masts fluttered a festive flags.

Joseph Stalin on the construction of the channel Moscow-Volga. April 22, 1937 Photo: still from the film

Right on schedule on 2 may, the flotilla was moored at the Khimki river station. But not all passengers, stranded on ships at the Great Volga river, reached Moscow. At each pier, some people were raised on Board of a ship and quietly led off with a someone from the managerial staff of the construction. Know knew again there were arrests. But the scenario has not been canceled. Was a Sunny spring day. Brass bands Played…”

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Under the bravura music began mass arrests among the leadership of the building. A group of 218 people, headed by Verinym accused of working for foreign intelligence, creating a counter-revolutionary terrorist organization and preparing a coup by prisoners. According to investigators, the top Dmitlaga was going to seize the Kremlin. Soon, a part of the camp authorities and the prisoners associated with it, were shot at Butovo. All in All, from 14 September 1932 to 31 January 1938 at the construction of the canal officially recorded the death of 22 842 people. In fact, every tenth of the inmates, or 2% of the camp contingent.

See also: From Moscow to Moscow. River travel — the new city route

A lot or a little? “Everyone I spoke 40 years ago, claimed that most of these people died of disease and occupational injury, — says Anatoly Salutsky. — At the construction site was laid 3 million cubic metres of concrete, so often there were occasions when people not observing safety, just fell in liquid concrete and died. The conditions of life on the canal was not Paradise, but concluded there is still not shot. In 1937 was arrested on technical managers of construction, and the camp administration of the NKVD. By the way, on the construction of the canal grew experts, who then created a “Shield of the Motherland” — mine for the first ballistic missiles and laid the Foundation of our nuclear industry.”

And a couple of numbers. Over 80 years on the canal. Moscow was 2.1 million locking, 136 billion cubic meters of water received from the Volga to the capital. Economically, the project itself is in any case justified. And the debate about its price, expressed in human lives will probably not subside ever.

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