Solidarité Ukraine
INED Éditions. Archives Sonores, Mémoires européennes du Goulag

European Memories

of the Gulag


Food rations

Food rations

The food distributed to labour camp prisoners depended on the amount of work each prisoner could do and was divided into rations (camp slang, kotel, “pot”).

By NKVD Order 00943, 14 August 1939, “On the introduction of new standards of nutrition and clothing rations for prisoners in the correctional labour camps and colonies of the NKVD of the USSR”, Pot 1, for those who fell behind production quotas and the disabled, would comprise 600g rye bread, 100g kasha (buckwheat porridge), 500g potatoes and vegetables, 128g fish, 30g meat, 10g sugar and 20g salt.

Pot 2, for those who fulfilled production quotas, comprised 1,200g rye bread, 60g wheat, 130g kasha, 600g potatoes and vegetables, 158g fish, 30g meat, 13g sugar and 20g salt. For Stakhanovites, those who exceeded the quotas, were added 200g bread, 50g wheat, 150g potatoes and vegetables, 34g fish and 150g meat.

The same order carefully specified the rations for the ill, transit prisoners, minors, pregnant women and nursing mothers. The punishment ration was 400g bread, 35g kasha, 400g potatoes and vegetables and 75g fish.

In our witnesses’ stories and all the written memoirs, Pot 1 consisted of a portion of soup twice a day and 400g bread; Pot 2 contained another 300g bread. No one remembers ever receiving any meat or sugar.

Those who were sent to punishment blocks and solitary confinement only remember getting bread and water.

As a result of extensive corruption at all levels of administration in the camps and colonies, and because foodstuffs were some of the most valuable commodities in that world, it is easy to understand that the meat, sugar and vegetables, which under the Order were supposed to be distributed to the prisoners in small quantities, were reserved exclusively for the administration and the pridurki, trusties who worked inside the camp.