Romanian prisoners of war in the Soviet Union

By the end of World War II the number of Romanian prisoners of war in the Soviet Union was significant, about 140,000 of them having been taken prisoner even after August 23, 1944, the date when Romania switched its alliance from the Axis Powers to the Allies.

These prisoners of war worked in various labor camps. Some were originally from Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina, which were occupied by the Soviet Union in 1940, some were from Romania proper.

For example, 6,730 Romanians worked in the Spassky camp of Karlag, in Karaganda Oblast, Kazakh SSR,[1] in Vorkuta, in Norilsk, and in other places. Spassky camp nr. 99 was established in July 1941, and was the largest POW camp in the region. While most of those prisoners were German and Japanese, over 8,000 of them were Romanian POWs.[2] Over 1,100 of those Romanian prisoners died at Spassky camp, due to the harsh conditions there.[2]

Some Romanian prisoners volunteered to fight for the Soviets; they went on to form the Tudor Vladimirescu Division under Nicolae Cambrea in October 1943, but it did not go into action until after King Michael's Coup led Romania to join the Allies. In April 1945 a second division, the Horia, Cloșca și Crișan Division led by Mihail Lascăr, was created, a mixture of prisoners and Romanian communist volunteers, but the war ended before it saw combat.

An April 1946 report to Vyacheslav Molotov (see the wikisource reference) stated that in 1945, 61,662 Romanian POWs were repatriated, 20,411 took part in forming Romanian volunteer divisions, and about 50,000 more remained in labor camps. The last Romanian POW were freed in 1956. Some were arrested again by Communist Romanian authorities on their arrival in Romania "for waging war on the Soviet Union", and sent to Sighet prison.[2]

On September 9, 2003, a granite monument was inaugurated at the Spassky camp cemetery by then-Romanian President Ion Iliescu.[3] It bears the inscription "In memoriam. To those over 900 Romanian prisoners of war who died in Stalinist camps in central Kazakhstan in 19411950."[4]


  1. Frank Gordon, ”Latvians and Jews between Germany and Russia", Memento, Stockholm, 1990 ISBN 91-87114-08-9, page 81 (in Swedish and English)
  2. 1 2 3 (Romanian) Alexandra Olivotto, "Prizonieri români in Kazahstan" (Romanian prisoners in Kazakhstan), Cotidianul, April 14, 2006
  3. (Romanian) "Istorie şi Destin - Prezenţa Românilor în Kazahstan" (History and destiny - Romanian presence in Kazakhstan), Observatorul, Toronto, January 15, 2007
  4. (Romanian) Vasile Soare, "Prizonierii militari şi civili români detinuţi in lagărele de concentrare staliniste de pe teritoriul regiunii Karaganda, Kazahstan, in perioada 1941-1950", The Epoch Times, March 14, 2006

Further reading

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