Concentration camps were sites of enforced isolation where the Soviet regime sentenced citizens who were considered politically and socially dangerous or undesirable. Unlike prisons, concentration camps were initially designed to function as temporary sites of imprisonment where people were sent on special orders. In most cases, concentration camp prisoners were also sentenced to forced labor.
The first Soviet concentration camps were founded at the beginning of the Civil War. At first the Cheka (Chrezvychaynaya komissiya, Emergency Committee) was responsible for organizing the establishment and management of concentration camps, but gradually the NKVD (Narodnyy Komissariat Vnutrennikh Del, The People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs) and the Head Department of the Sites of Imprisonment (GUMZ, Glavnoye upravleniye mestami zaklyucheniya) assumed control.