Kotlas (Russian: Ко́тлас) is a town in the southeast of Arkhangelsk Oblast, Russia, situated at the confluence of the Northern Dvina and Vychegda Rivers. Population: 60,562 (2010 Census); 60,647 (2002 Census); 68,021 (1989 Census).
Kotlas is the third largest town of Arkhangelsk Oblast in terms of population (behind Arkhangelsk and Severodvinsk) and is an important transport hub.
The place was probably inhabited from ancient times, but was only granted official town status by the Provisional Government of Russia on June 16, 1917, when it was a part of Vologda Governorate. In 1918, the area was transferred to the newly formed Northern Dvina Governorate, and in 1924 the uyezds were abolished in favor of the new divisions, the districts (raions). Kotlassky District was formed on June 25, 1924. In 1929, Northern Dvina Governorate was merged into Northern Krai, which in 1936 was transformed into Northern Oblast. In 1937, Northern Oblast was split into Arkhangelsk Oblast and Vologda Oblast. Kotlassky District remained in Arkhangelsk Oblast ever since.
During the 1930s, Kotlas became a place to which kulaks were deported and made to work in the forestry industry. It was managed by the Kotlaslag division of Gulag. Later, it hosted all possible categories of people repressed during the Stalin era. A significant population of Poles existed in the area, with whole Polish villages resettled here in 1920s and 1930s.
Labor camps existed within the territory of the city until 1953. Besides logging and paper industry, the occupation of inmates were plant, housing, bridge, and railroad construction. Most of camps were unguarded barrack settlements. In addition, Kotlas was a major transit point for deportees transferred further to the north and east, since it was a railroad terminus. There is a Kotlas branch of the Sovest (Conscience) organization, which seeks to preserve the memory of those times and seek compensation for victims.
The further development of Kotlas is due to the construction of Pechora Railway. Already from 1899 Kotlas was connected by a railway line with Vyatka (currently Kirov), which was heavily used for the cargo transport of goods to and from the Northern Dvina River. In 1940, the construction of the railroad connecting Konosha (on the railway stretch between Moscow and Arkhangelsk) to Vorkuta started. The railroad was needed to transport coal, timber, and later oil from the Komi Republic. The headquarters of this railroad were opened in Kotlas. In the same year, Kotlas became a separate administrative unit. In December 1941, the road was completed, and from 1942, the regular service started. Kotlas thus became an important transport hub. The headquarters of the Pechora Railway were located in Kotlas until 1959, when the railway was merged into the Northern Railway.