The Камера: The Chamber (The Soviet Union’s Secret Poison Laboratory)

The Камера: The Chamber

The Soviet Union’s Secret Poison Laboratory



During the 20th century, the infamous Soviet Union was running one of the most cruel human experimentation facilities in the world. This facility, also know as “Laboratory No. 12”, was developed in 1921 to produce deadly untraceable poisons. Political prisoners from the Gulags, corrective labor camps across Russia were used as test candidates for various types of poisons such as mustard gas, ricin, digitoxin, curare and others (Volodarsky). The poisons would be put into their food, injected, and ingested in the form of a powder or liquid. Various “test subjects”, or humans of different ages and sizes were used for the experiments (Greene). Investigations revealed the horrors the prisoners went through. One report describes how a strong, healthy young man was put on test with a poison. He ran to his cell, blood pouring from his eyes and banged on the door with his hands and feet. He shoved his hand down his throat in an attempt to stop the pain in his stomach but eventually just lay on the floor, weakened. He then died. Prisoners that would survive would nursed back up for another run or simply shot (Scott).


The Soviet Union’s secret service, the KGB frequently captured, murdered and assassinated people that spoke out against the regime. The goal eventually became clear, the KGB needed new ways to kill people without having anything leading back to them. This is where The Камера came in. The laboratory’s main purpose was to develop a poison that would be odorless, tasteless and undetectable during an autopsy (Greene). A poison that wouldn’t leave any traces would mean the Soviet Union could strategically target and take out certain people for the benefit of the regime. And it worked, over the next years, until the fall of the Soviet Union, several cases of murdered politicians surfaced, with no evidence or traceable cause of death. The research was highly valued by Joseph Stalin. He acknowledged the chief of the laboratory with a medical doctorate and gave him the Stalin Prize for his tests (Volodarsky).


The numerous sinister and haphazard experiments conducted on prisoners were highly unethical as the test subjects did not give consent to the experimentation. Most important is the fact that killing a human being is generally illegal in most cases. Testing ways of killing on prisoners is in no way ethical. Reports revealed that the researchers found it not appropriate to test the poisons on animals because the “exact results on humans were therefore hard to predict”. Lavrenti Beria, Stalin’s feared security chief was asked why it was hard to predict results on humans and with a smile she replied, “Who’s stopping you from experimenting on humans?” Additionally, it was published that prisoners would be given their “medicine” in their cells and then watched by the researchers through windows (Scott). It is evident that the prisoners were not aware of the danger and pain they were exposed to.


Testing poison or any form of substance that has the purpose of killing is in a way illegal and definitely not ethical. A benefit of this research, even if it might not seem beneficial to us in any way, would be that we could make significant progress within our knowledge of deadly substances to potentially create cures and anti-poisons. The problem is that no one would be willing to put their life at risk to find out if an anti-poison would work. Therefore the most realistic solution to make the investigation ethical would be to create human-like cell structures that can simulate the effects of certain poisons and anti-poisons on the human body. There would still be some uncertainty in the results of the experiment but it would be to the most part ethical because no harm would be done to a living organism against their will.

Works Cited


Greene, Jes. “The Kamera: The Soviet Union’s Secret Poison Laboratory.”

           Modern Notion. 6 January 2016. Web. 19 April 2016.


Scott, Carey. “Poisons Tested on Stalin’s Prisoners.” Paul Bogdanor.

          15 October 1995. Web. 19 April 2016.


Volodarsky, Boris. “The KGB’s Poison Factory.” The Wall Street Journal.

         7 April 2005. Web. 19 April 2016.

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