A sharashka (шара́шка, ʂɐˈraʂkə; sometimes sharaga, sharazhka), formally called особое конструкторское бюро, ОКБ and similar terms, were secret research and development laboratories operating from 1930 to the 1950s within the Soviet Gulag labor camp system, as well as in other facilies under the supervision of the Soviet secret service. Etymologically, the word sharashka derives from a Russian slang expression sharashkina kontora, ("Sharashka's office"), which in its turn comes from the criminal argot term sharaga (шарага) for a band of thieves, hoodlums, etc.) an ironic, derogatory term to denote a poorly-organized, impromptu, or bluffing organization.
The scientists and engineers at a sharashka were prisoners picked by the Soviet government from various camps and prisons and assigned to work on scientific and technological problems for the state. Living conditions were usually much better than in an average taiga camp, mostly because of the absence of hard labor.
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