Stalin had strong opinions about the perfect Russian people, much like Hitler did with Germans. The Russian dictator wanted his citizens to be a strong and admirable people, so much so that his obsession with attaining a perfect population of humans spurred him to do the unthinkable to his own people.
It was 1933 when Stalin gathered 6,114 people, referred to only as “outdated elements,” and shipped them off to an obscure, uninhabitable island in Western Siberia. These undesirable citizens included the handicapped, the unemployed and the very poor. They simply did not fit Stalin’s plan for a utopian mother Russia.
The journey for these people was hard. After being deported, they were put in boats which floated down the river to Nazino Island. By the time they reached their destination, 27 people had already died.
Part of Stalin’s plan was for these 6,000+ people to settle the Siberian tundra to which they’d been banished. This land was already a part of Russia, but it was completely uninhabited due to the harsh and unforgiving climate. Eventually, Stalin hoped to resettle 2,000,000 Russians on Nazino Island.
On the island, these doomed and abandoned people had no access to food and basic supplies for survival. The only thing they were given to eat by the guards was flour, which they mixed with river water to drink. It immediately gave them dysentery.
On the first night in their new home, 295 more people died.
Guards were set up to monitor the ‘progress’ of the surviving Russians. If anyone was seen attempting to escape the island, they were immediately shot. Despite the surveillance, many did attempt to flee on makeshift rafts. Most of these people froze to death or they drowned.
Witness accounts include tales of cannabalism, to which many turned out of sheer desperation. Sometimes, the stronger men would pretend to set up a raft so as to escape the island only to lure the weaker ones over. They would then kill and eat them.
Guards arrested people on charges of cannibalism, but this didn’t deter the survivors from doing the same, just to survive.
One historian, Nicolas Werth, managed to write an account of what he saw on the island in a book called
“People were dying everywhere; they were killing each other…. On the island there was a guard named Kostia Venikov, a young fellow. He was courting a pretty girl who had been sent there. He protected her. One day he had to be away for a while, and he told one of his comrades, “Take care of her,” but with all the people there the comrade couldn’t do much…. People caught the girl, tied her to a poplar tree, cut off her breasts, her muscles, everything they could eat, everything, everything…. They were hungry, they had to eat. When Kostia came back, she was still alive. He tried to save her, but she had lost too much blood.”
Despite the failure of his grandiose plan to expand settlements along Navino island and beyond, Stalin sent another 1,200 people to Nazino Island. Almost immediately, the newcomers were attacked and eaten by the people who’d by now fully taken up cannibalism.
In 1988 details about the Nazino Affair began to leak to the general public, due to the work of the Memorial Society, a Russian historical and civil rights society. The Soviets had, unfortunately, destroyed most of the documents about Stalin’s plan and the horrible events that took place on Nazino Island.
It wasn’t until 2002 that a proper report was issued from the Russians, which also included the estimate that over 4,000 people had died ton Cannibal Island.
Now you know where the idea of shipping unruly people off to Siberia comes from.