Naftaly Frenkel : biography
Naftaly Aronovich Frenkel ; (1883 Haifa – 1960 Moscow) was a Russian businessman and member of the Soviet secret police. Frenkel is best known for his role in the organisation of work in the Gulag, starting from the forced labor camp of the Solovetsky Islands, which is recognised as one of the earliest sites of the Gulag. __TOC__
In 1923 he was arrested for "illegally crossing borders", a label which covered smuggling as well as being a merchant who was too successful for the Soviet Union to tolerate.Anne Applebaum, Gulag A History of the Soviet Camps, Penguin Books, London, 2004, p. 52 He was sentenced to 10 years' hard labor on Solovetsky.Frenkel's prisoner registration card, Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace, Stanford, CA, St Petersburg Memorial Collection The Solovetsky Islands, in the White Sea, came to be known as the "first camp of the Gulag".Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago, New York, 1973, vol. II, pp. 25-70 Together the islands were known as 'northern camps of special purpose': Severnye lagerya osobogo naznacheniya or SLON.Anne Applebaum, Gulag A History of the Soviet Camps, Penguin Books, London, 2004, p. 42 In Russian slon means 'elephant'. "The name was to become a source of humour, of irony and of menace."ibid.
White Sea-Baltic Canal
High-level approval of Frenkel's methods quickly led to the duplication of his system around the country and then Frenkel was named chief of construction on the White Sea-Baltic Canal, the first major project of the Stalin-era Gulag and an extremely high post for a former prisoner.Jakobson, Michael, Origins of the Gulag: The Soviet Prison Camp System, 1917-1934, Lexington, KY, 1993 Frenkel managed the daily work on the White Sea-Baltic Canal from November 1931 until its completion.Okhotin, N.G., and Roginsky, A.B., eds., Sistema ispravitelno-trudovykh lagerei v SSSR, 1923-1960: spravochnik, Moscow, 1998 He used the same methods as he had in SLON as well as many of the same prisoner-slaves who were brought to the canal works from the Solovetsky camp.Figes, Orlando, The Whisperers, Allen Lane, London, 2007, p. 114
Before his early release was granted, Frenkel had organised and then managed the Ekonomicheskaya kommercheskaya chast, the Economic-Commercial Department of SLON, through which he tried to make the Solovetsky camps not merely self-supporting in accordance with the concentration camp decrees but profitable with the result that they began to take work away from other state undertakings: an element of competition remained in the Soviet Union in the 1920s and Frenkel took advantage of this. With Frenkel running its Economic-Commercial Department, SLON had already outbid a civilian forestry undertaking and had won the right to fell 130,000 cubic metres of wood in Karelia.ibid. SLON had also become a shareholder in the Karelian Communal Bank, and was tendering for the construction of a road from Kem to the far northern city of Ukhta.
From the outset the Karelian local authorities had been unnerved by all of this activity, not least as they had initially opposed the creation of the camp altogether.Baron, Nick, Conflict and Complicity: The Expansion of the Karelian Gulag, 1923-1933, Cahiers du Monde russe, 42/2-4, April–December 2001, pp. 615-48 The authorities' complaints grew louder as time went by: at a meeting to discuss SLON's expansion, local authorities complained about the unfair access which SLON had to cheap labour which would put ordinary foresters out of work; at a subsequent meeting of the Karelian Council of People's Commissars (being the government of the Karelian Republic) in February 1926 SLON was attacked for overcharging for the Kem to Ukhta road with the following summing up by an indignant Comrade Yuzhnev:
"It has become clear [that] SLON is a kommersant, a merchant with large, grabbing hands, and that its basic goal is to make profits."National Archives of the Republic of Karelia, 690/3/(17/148)
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