Probably, from the very moment when some people began to deprive other people of their freedom, those who were deprived had the idea of escaping. Of course, those who ended up in the GULAG had a dream of escaping. The history of the GULAG contains many stories about real and fictional escapes, since escape was always not only a developed plan, but above all a dream. Every prisoner was dreaming of freedom, at least a few days outside of the camp, without the bullying of the security, overwork, hunger, cold and without thoughts about the time that needs to be served. It didn’t matter whether it was 10 years or one year, but the condition of a person was such that it became unbearable to endure even one day in the camp. So, people tried to escape, risking being executed or receiving a huge new sentence.

The political fugitives rarely tried to escape, but considerably and, of course, with the help of local residents who sympathized with them. Usually, the caught ones were shown to prisoners as an example that it is impossible to escape.

Anatoly Zhigulin writes that in Kolyma, corpses lay at the checkpoint for many days. If political prisoners escaped, the convoy was punished and charged «with negligence» and given sentences, according to rumors, equal to those of the fugitives.

The history of the Gulag shows that despite the conditions of the Far North, barbed wire, guard towers, the restricted zone, the presence of patrols around, the absence of roads and, in general, the complete absence of a chance for a successful escape, people still decided to take the chance.

For example, almost all escape attempts in Kolyma ended up tragically. It was possible to try to escape only in a few spring-summer months. The only road was the very famous Kolyma highway, on which every 50 to 100 kilometers there were checkpoints with document inspection. It was possible to get from Kolyma to the “mainland” only by boat from Nagaevo Bay or by plane.

There were no other roads. Everything was complicated by the fact that the local indigenous people actively participated in the capture of the fugitives – the authorities rewarded them with alcohol, flour and tea. Even if fugitives were not alive. It was enough to present a severed head or at least a fugitive’s hand. In Kolyma, 250 rubles were paid for the right hand.

However, the convicts still tried to escape, and not a single camp completely ruled out the opportunity to do so. For many years, there was a story that was kept by generations of Kolyma residents about a prisoner, a major of tank forces, almost a Hero of the Soviet Union, who gathered a group of former front-line soldiers, traveled all over Kolyma to Chukotka and crossed the Bering Strait to reach Alaska. There was no confirmation of this story, but there were others.

For example, it was believed that it was impossible to leave Solovki due to the remoteness of the camp. However, back in 1925, Sozerko Malsagov, an Ingush by nationality, a participant in the First World War and St. George Cavalier, escaped from Solovki and published a book in the West in which he told the truth about the content of prisoners in the Solovetsky camp. Malsagov fled in a group of four, led by the captain of the dragoon regiment of the personal guard of His Imperial Majesty Yuri Bezsonov.

Another documented story is when three former navy officers managed to cross by boat. They landed on the mainland and went west to the Finnish border. The authorities thought that the fugitives drowned, and the search was stopped. The brave guys reached Finland and sensational photographs appeared in Western magazines.

Oleg Vasilyevich Volkov, translator, polyglot, writer, spent his first term back in Solovki. Then – the second… He escaped. He walked along the tundra… He was betrayed in the Ural and returned to the camp. He wrote his book about it – «Immersion in Darkness».

Archimandrite Theodosius (in the world Almazov Konstantin Zakharyevich), was born on May 21, 1870 in the Smolensk area in the family of a priest. In 1927 he was sentenced to 3 years in camps and served his term in Solovki. In 1930, he escaped from the settlement and crossed the border of the USSR. He was in exile in Romania and Bulgaria. He lived in the monastery of St. Cyric. Wrote the book «My memories (Notes of a Solovetsky prisoner).»

There were many successful escapes, the vast majority were criminals. Their chances of success were greater than those of the political ones, it was easier for them to join the underworld and find refuge. The political ones did not have enough connections in the free world, they were searched for and chased incomparably more actively. Most of the fugitives were men, but there were also women. Perhaps the most amazing story about the escape from the Gulag is described in the memoirs of Slavomir Ravich «The Long Way». He was arrested after the Soviet invasion in Poland and sent to a camp in Siberia. From there he escaped with the help of the camp commander’s wife with six other prisoners, one of whom was an American. On the way, they took a young deported Polish woman, crossed the border of the USSR, through Mongolia, got into the Gobi Desert, Tibet, Himalayas and ended up in India. Five of them died on the way, but three survived. There are some doubts about the complete authenticity of this story, maybe something was wrong. However, for the vast majority who never dared to escape, such a story, just a thought of escaping, was an important psychological support. Because the escape was one of the most obvious forms of opposition to the regime.