“It's cool here, like in a movie…” Russian opposition members describe their life in prison

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“It's cool here, like in a movie…” Russian opposition members describe their life in prison
“It's cool here, like in a movie…” Russian opposition members describe their life in prison
18 August, 15:49SocietyPhoto: Соцсети
The most famous prisoners of Russian correctional institutions share their impressions of places of deprivation of liberty on social networks.

As you know, today in "places not so remote", as it has been customary for almost 200 years to call Russian correctional institutions, or rather, prisons and camps, since they have never corrected anyone, at least two well-known oppositionists are being held - Alexei Navalny and Ilya Yashin (recognized as a foreign agent in the Russian Federation). Moreover, the first is already serving a term in a strict regime colony, and the second is still awaiting trial in the Butyrka detention center on charges of disseminating knowingly unreliable information about the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation based on political hatred. It is curious that both of them keep prison diaries, and, probably, through lawyers, they transfer these records to the will for publication on social networks. Recall that about a decade and a half ago, a similar, very detailed and interesting diary was kept by the famous Russian businessman Alexei Kozlov, and his then wife, journalist Olga Romanova (recognized as a foreign agent in the Russian Federation), published it on her blog. What has changed during this time in the domestic penitentiary system? Yes, in fact - nothing. In general, little has changed in it, not only for years or decades, but also for centuries.

Red and black (but not Stendhal)

For example, Russian prisons and camps are still divided into red and black. In the first, former officials, law enforcement officers and security forces are mostly serving their sentences, who are dangerous to be placed next to those for whom, until recently, they were the main enemies. Order in the “red zones” is maintained by the administration, while in the “black zones”, which make up the majority, everything is secretly controlled by the convicts themselves, or rather “thieves in law”, and the administration only makes sure that they do not become too fierce.

This division into "black" and "red" prisons and zones has been preserved for at least a century! Moreover, curiously, the “black” thrives in the center of the capital - in the very Butyrka in which Yashin sits - with all its wild primitive customs and inhuman orders. However, in some places, probably, the red ones are even worse.

Here, by the way, is what Yashin himself writes about this: “I spent almost a month in the Kaptnensky SIZO-7. But on Sunday the team came "to the stage", and I was met by the legendary Butyrka prison. What an interesting place this is! Oak gates, ancient walls; every brick here is steeped in history. A real Russian prison with its own unique flavor.

Moving here from Kapotnya, where the "red" regime is strictly observed, you feel a strong contrast. A "black" flag flies over Butyrka, and its own orders operate in its corps.

In SIZO-7, after lights out, life stops. One of my cellmates went to the punishment cell for getting out of bed at night and making tea for himself. In Butyrka, after dark, life is just beginning. "Roads" run between the huts: a rope communication system connecting the windows of the cells. The exchange of information takes place instantly. The seniors in the corps give instructions and "introduce to the course"; prisoners make entries in the house book, fixing the movement of people around the prison; the prisoners find acquaintances, exchange "babies", sweets, cigarettes, learn the news. "Roads" work like a social network ... "

One prisoner prison union

However, in the strict regime colony of Alexei Navalny, the situation is even worse, however, he does not lose heart and even managed to create a trade union there! It is a unique organization in its own way. First, there are no real trade unions in Russia, even in the wild. And secondly, so far there is only one person in the Promzona trade union - and that is Navalny himself. And yet. The first fruits of his work are already tangible. Here is what its creator writes:

“Well, the union is a voluntary matter. I don't force anyone. My trade union will also protect the rights of those workers who have not joined it.

But so far, for each of my “trade unions”, someone standing nearby - even a prisoner, even a cop - hastily adds “from one person”.

OK. One man union. It's not bad too. Better than no union at all.

There are about 600,000 people in Russia now. The vast majority of them work. And this is completely slavish, almost free labor in terrible conditions.

Yes, most employees are criminals (although many are innocent), but they must atone for their crime under the law. And work by the rules.

Do you know what my monthly salary is? 5173 rubles 04 kopecks.

And that's a HUGE salary. I'm not kidding. The rest of my team gets much less.

How can we do without the union? We need a union.

And it's already making a huge difference. Promzona has a huge victory. We defeated the stools. If you sit at the sewing machine for 7-8 hours a day, believe me, this is important.

According to working conditions, the workplace of a seamstress should be equipped with a swivel chair with an adjustable back. In reality, all convicts-seamstresses sit on stools. Mine was 42 cm high. It is unbearable, really torment, and after a couple of years it guarantees a serious back disease.

Without scandals and noise, our glorious trade union entered into a constructive dialogue with the employer - the prison system. I (with the help of FBK lawyers, of course) proved legally that we should have chairs with a back.

At first, this caused confusion. Zeke must suffer. Then they even began to lie that we were not sitting on stools, but on chairs with a back (thought of it, right?), And then - ta-da! - chairs with a back were brought into the workshop, and the damned stools were taken away.

Constructive work! Everyone is happy (well, almost)

Now one of the tasks of the “Industrial Zone” is to just as calmly and constructively achieve the replacement of stools with chairs with a back throughout the entire zone, then in the region, then for all seamstresses in the zones of Russia.

In general, if life gave me a lemon in the form of a prison term, then it is necessary to turn it into lemonade of at least some useful activity for society.

I will write about the adventures of our prisoner trade union. Here are the news. Hello to all unions, working people and blue collar workers. Long live the solidarity of the working people!”

Butyrka begging cats

While Navalny organizes the trade union movement, Yashin acquaints his readers with curious everyday details of life in Butyrka:

“Butyrka has its own currency — cigarettes. For a pack of "Parliament" you can get a good pillow or a plate of cottage cheese for breakfast. For four packs - a new soft mattress. Almost everyone smokes, and in most cells there is thick tobacco smog.

The prison is overcrowded and teeming with people; "overload" is about a thousand people. In large huts, 20 beds are shared by 30 prisoners. I ended up in a small cell of the special block: here, four prisoners are crowded on nine square meters. Some time ago, the prosecutor's office decided to restore order and began to check Butyrka, in connection with complaints about the conditions of detention. On the eve of the prosecutors' visit, several hundred prisoners were promptly scattered around other Moscow detention centers. As soon as the check was over, everyone was returned back.

Well, the most amazing thing in Butyrka prison is the cats. There are many of them here, and they feel like the real owners of the institution. Quietly walk along the corridors; lie on the trunks of prisoners awaiting distribution at the collection point; begging for food with a completely deadpan look.

If the attendant leaves a feeder open in your cell, then the cats can freely jump into it and come to visit you.

Imagine my surprise when, waking up in the morning, I found a purring lump in my legs. He stretched, asked to scratch his ear and went to the table, wondering what we have for breakfast today ... "

As you can see, even in such inhuman conditions there are such lovely outlets. Readers of Yashin's texts actively comment on them:

Besides, there is a great library here. My closest friend since his school years innocently spent 2.5 years here. True, waste paper is rolled along the length of the cart, and good books go "along the road."

- And I was in the perestroika years in Butyrka with a Japanese film crew. Through the 'peephole' I saw cells with people sitting, saw how huge cauldrons of porridge (balanda?) were being transported down the corridor, and much more... How were we allowed in there? Long negotiations, permission from the Ministry of Internal Affairs + cash contribution. The wonderful times of perestroika inspired so much hope. But all the same, there was a feeling of some kind of hopelessness in Butyrka. What strength of mind must be possessed in order to write such a text from there, as if a person is just making a report.

Detention center of the 21st century

But Alexei Navalny has already suffered in earnest for his organizational zeal:

“I am an icon of conscious consumption.

In my cell there is only a mug and a book. A spoon and a plate are given at the time of the meal. And even my prison clothes were taken away, giving out temporary ones. Now I have huge white letters on my back: ShIZO.

Hello everyone from the punishment cell.

A real union fight is never easy, let alone a union in prison. The path from the paper on the creation of a trade union to ShIZO (detention center) turned out to be even closer than I thought.

The Kremlin wants to see its Gulag composed of silent slaves. And here I am, instead of begging for pardon, I unite someone and demand compliance with some laws.

Therefore, I was summoned from the barracks to the commission, where they announced that the video recordings show that I, being in the industrial zone, regularly unbutton the top button of my robe (it’s just a few sizes too small for me).

This, of course, characterizes me as a notorious incorrigible villain. Therefore, it was decided to place me in a punishment cell.

I must admit that it's a good irony. Oh, did you get the workers in the zone to replace wooden stools with chairs on the back? Well, then you yourself will sit on an iron bench, ha ha.

So far for 3 days, but - joyfully added acting. boss - in mid-September I have a meeting with relatives, which is due to me once every 4 months. Visits are prohibited for those held in the ShIZO, so if I “do not reconsider my attitude”, then the detention center will become my permanent residence

It is unclear what attitude I should reconsider. To slave labor?

ShIZO is the most severe punishment in the legal prison hierarchy. However, in illegal too - they torture and kill most often here.

It is believed that it is impossible to keep more than 15 days in a ShIZO, but this rule is easily bypassed. They keep them for 15 days, release them and imprison them again for 15 days.

It's set up like this. Concrete kennel 2.5x3 meters. Most often it is unbearable there, because it is cold and damp. Water on the floor. I have a beach option - very hot and almost no air.

The window is tiny, because of the thickness of the walls, the air does not go - even the web does not move. There is no ventilation. At night you lie and feel like a fish on the shore. An iron bunk is fastened to the wall, like on a train. Only the lever that lowers it is outside.

At 5 am, they take away your mattress and pillow (this is called “soft inventory”) and raise your bunk. At 9 pm the bunk is lowered again and the mattress is returned. Iron table, iron bench, sink, hole in the floor. There are two chambers under the ceiling.

Dates are forbidden, letters are forbidden, transmissions are forbidden. The only place in the prison where even smoking is prohibited. Paper and pen are given for 1 hour 15 minutes a day.

Walk - an hour in the same chamber, but with a piece of the sky. All the time searches and hands behind his back. In general, cool, and like in the movies. Well, nothing, it can be worse.

Here I am sitting now on an iron bench at an iron table. I will finish this post and write instructions for prisoners about their rights in the workplace until the paper is taken away. The rights of the commission: it seems I am incorrigible.

The book I'm reading is 21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Harari. The perfect combination of content and surroundings...”

So, nothing has changed here either. It is in England that "smart prisons" are being built, fully designed "with the latest intelligent technologies to reduce crime and protect the population." As Novye Izvestia has already reported:

“Innovations there include embedded electronic devices in cameras, including laptops and tablets. The use of electronic devices in UK correctional facilities is not new, with about 10 prisons already using the practice. But in the new prison, all tablets and laptops will be connected to a secure prison intranet that Google is helping to develop. This means that prisoners will not be able to have unsupervised access to the Internet, but they will be able to make an appointment with a prison doctor via a computer, apply for library books, find information about finding housing or work after release, etc. More than 20 online seminars will be available to prisoners, including coding courses, as well as workshops and classes, so as not to waste time behind bars in vain ... "

In Russia, everything is the same. As one commentator writes:

- Now I'm re-reading "The Steep Route" by Evgenia Ginzburg. When I read it in the late 90s and early 2000s, I thought that such a horror could not happen again. Now I'm re-reading it and still don't quite understand what I'm looking for - either hope for another revival of the country, or confirmation of the impossibility of resisting evil of this magnitude.

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