Russia’s Return to Gulag Economics – Center for European Policy Analysis

by | Jan 27, 2023 | Financial

Under the growing pressures of war, the Russian military-industrial complex is experiencing acute shortages in manpower. With so many workers mobilized and with casualties rising (now estimated to be “significantly, well over” 100,000), the authorities are beginning to look at another, time-honored source of cheap labor — the prison population. 

Convicts have rarely been so sought after in Russia, at least since Stalin’s time. The notorious Wagner mercenary group, a Kremlin-authorized private army, has already been recruiting convicted criminals with the offer of get-out-of-jail-free cards for those able to survive six months on the Ukrainian frontlines. 

Those dubious about Wagner’s deal will now be steered towards the manufacture of tanks and other weaponry.  

Russian demand for industrial workers has increased dramatically since the war in Ukraine started, and there is apparently no other way to satisfy it.  

It’s hardly a secret that the country has been experiencing a shortage of locksmiths, welders, and turners for a very long time. And now Russia just doesn’t have enough workers to manufacture missiles and tanks for Putin’s war in Ukraine. 

Uralvagonzavod, the largest tank manufacturer in the country, failed to hire enough workers, even the unskilled, and has no choice but to use convicts to fill the gap. Hundreds of prisoners from a penal colony in the Sverdlovsk region will soon be sent to Uralvagonzavod.  

According to the Russian government, the shortage of workers in the military-industrial complex will soon reach 400,000 people, including 120,000 professionals with higher education.  Given that the industry employs two million workers and engineers, this is a very significant number. To begin with, factories …

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