Gulag and Laogai: Ideology, economics and the dynamics of space and scale


1 May 2013


Volume 1 – Number 3

How to cite

Sanne Deckwitz



The main purpose of this article is to start a conversation about comparing the Communist forced labour camps in the Soviet Union and China: gulag and laogai. More specifically, this article deals with the ideological and economic functions that the gulag and the laogai had within Soviet and Chinese society at large. Other than giving priority to ideological considerations on the one hand or economic interests on the other, a more flexible understanding of these components is put forward. Finally, this article will show how both functions related to the dynamics of space and scale, particularly concerning the localization of the camps, conflicting interests of central and local authorities, and social relations between prisoners and non-prisoners.


Gulag, Laogai, Labour, Camp, Communism