The Norillag was a gulag labor camp, located in Norilsk, Krasnoyarsk Krai, Russia, a town in the Taimyr Peninsula on the coast of the Arctic Ocean, close to the mouth of the Enisei River. Inmates of the Norillag worked 12-hour days, in temperatures as low as negative 50 degrees Celsius during the winter. They worked in mines, brickyards, cement plants, and in the base camps, as well as on road and railroad construction.
Since assuming the role of General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in 1985, Mikhail Gorbachev pushed for a program of economic openness and political restructuring, prompting resistance and suspicion from hard-line members of the Communist Party. Russia had declared its sovereignty in June 1990, beginning a period of constitutional reform. By the early 90’s, the Soviet Union, with Gorbachev as the first executive ‘President’, was in economic and political crisis.