In 1940, with the beginning of the Soviet occupation, citizens of Latvia were subjected to Communist terror. In the USSR such terror had reigned already since 1917. It intensified during the reign of Stalin. The terror was aimed at various sectors of the population. People were accused of being enemies of workers and the state, or of being spies. They were executed, imprisoned, incarcerated in camps, as well as deported in large numbers.

The General Administration of the Forced Labour Camps of the Ministry of the Interior was responsible for the incarceration system. Over time the abbreviation of its name in Russian – GULAG – became the common name for the entire Soviet repressive system. This included arrests, interrogation, separation of families, transport in unheated railroad wagons, hard labour in conditions of near starvation and cold in forced labour camps and in forced resettlement. Even women, the aged and the newborn were subjected to such conditions, and many died.

After the death of the dictator J. Stalin in 1953, there was a gradual reduction in the number of forced labour camps and forced resettlements. Gradually political prisoners and deportees were set free. Nevertheless, incarceration camps for political prisoners continued into the 1970s and 1980s for those who opposed the Soviet regime or who espoused differing viewpoints.

The GULAG system ended with the closure in 1992 of the incarceration camp for political prisoners in Perm. The GULAG system had lasted for the entire existence of the USSR and had forcibly taken about 20 million people, among them 200,000 inhabitants of Latvia.