Russia is a vast nation, with huge expanses of undeveloped land in parts of the country that are generally considered to be difficult or impossible to cultivate.  Soviet leaders were not unaware of the possible untapped potential this uninhabited land presented, so in 1933, Genrikh Yagoda, the head of the Russian secret police and Matvei Berman, head of the Gulag or Soviet labor camp system, devised a plan to establish settlements throughout Siberia and Kazakhstan.

The Soviet Union began with the forced relocation of kulaks, which was a class of farming peasants that lost favor with the Soviet regime for failing to hand over their harvests to local government officials.  These farmers met extremely limited success on the lands they were forced to occupy, due in large part to drought and their methods of share cropping.  The limitations, however, did not dissuade the Soviet regime from continuing to expel those they deemed unworthy of inclusion in proper Soviet society.

In the Spring of 1933, Soviet troops, under the direction of Yagoda and Berman, began rounding up “socially harmful elements” in Moscow and Leningrad.  Some of these citizens were petty criminals, but most were merchants or traders.  Some were chosen simply because they did not appear to fit the idealized image of a communist citizen.  Arrests were primarily due to failing to acquire or present domestic travel passports, even when arrested within the communities they resided in.  Deportees were processed and transported within two days of their arrest, not allowed to communicate with anyone, and could give their loved ones no notice of their expulsion.

Between March and July of 1933, it was reported that more than 90,000 Soviet citizens were deported to other locations in the Soviet Union from the Moscow and Leningrad areas.  The vast majority of these deportees were transferred from the Tomsk transit camp to farms elsewhere, but more than 6,000 that were given the label “outdated elements” were sent instead to Nazino Island, a small and isolated patch of land in Western Siberia where the Ob and Nazina Rivers meet.