суббота, 4 сентября 2010 г.

On prison resistance in Russia

"Russian prisons are amongst the most rebellious in the world" "Still long way to go for anarchists for a concentrated effort to reach out and support the prison protests"

Until 2001, Russia was world leader on number of prisoners per capita, and since then it has been second only to USA. Prisons reflect the general trends in the society, and as Russia is heading for more control and stricter governance, prisoner population is again growing, after a short period of leniency in terms of probation and amnesties. Currently prison population in Russia is more than 700 000. Economic exploitation of the prisoner population is little developed, in contrary lack of meaningful work is more of a problem - so the current growth in the population is not due to pressure of capital but due to pressure of the state.

Russian prisons are amongst the most rebellious in the world. Resistance is maintained by the "Blatnoy" prisoner subculture, which refuses any cooperation with the authorities. "Blatnoy" culture was formed gradually, some elements date back to times before October revolution, but peak of it was last phase of the Soviet Union from 1960's onwards. Since then, its position has weakened - this partly due to repressive measures by authorities since 1980's onwards, but first of all due to the fact that wild capitalism has also made it to the prisons, and now often money matters more than tradition.

But differently from many former East Block countries, culture with its complicated rules is still alive, just as the complicated prison caste structure, on top of which are "Vory v Zakone", "legalized thiefs" - kings of the underworld who still get nominated in a crowning ceremony.

Prison culture also heavily influences the mainstream culture, which is very understandable in a country where such a huge part of male adult population has spent some time in remand or in prison. "Blatnyak", a form of pop music dealing with topics of criminal and prison life is as popular as ever, and many expressions of prison slang have become so commonplace that they have become indispensable parts of Russian language. Even some of the Putin's famous catchphrases contain prison slang - for example when he said that "he will flush Chechens down from the toilet", he used a prison slang word for toilet.

Authorities are doing their best to root out the "blatnoy" norms in prison. Prison population is divided to four castes - "blatnoy" (blacks), "lads" (greys), "goats" (reds or activists) and "roosters" (sky blues). "Lads" are the mainstream prison population, "goats" are snitches and other prisoners who actively cooper¬ate with the authorities and "roosters" are passive homosexuals, and people who have committed serious violations against blatnoy norms (such as failed to pay their card or drug debts).

Prisons are divided to two groups - in "black prisons" blatnoy are setting the order of the day, whereas "red" prisons are under control of either administration or the "goats". In "black" prisons life is relatively neat, drugs and booze flow freely and administration often does not even dare to visit barracks. In "red" prisons life is quite a hell for everyone except the "reds". Many prison protests may be explained in context of the power struggle between "blacks" and "reds".

Most latest explosion took place in Tuesday 23rd or September, in hard regime prison number 6 of the Samara region, which has a prison population of around two thousands. This was a notorious "red" prison, from which human rights organisations often received complaints - it was known to be ruled by despotism of "goats", who were out of control even for the administration. Finally rest of the prisoner popula¬tion could not take it any¬more, thus around half past eight in the evening more than 100 prisoners attacked activists. In half hours riot spread to all of the colony, control points were attacked and sent to fire and "activists" were beaten up, eight towers got destroyed, as well as vegetable stock and building of old prison headquarters, where recently "prisoners self-activity circles" were located. These circles are maintained by "activists", blatnoy culture bans "blacks" from participating to them, just as it bans doing any work inside prison.

When firemen arrived prisoners quit rioting and returned to barracks voluntarily. 31 prisoners and 3 staff were wounded, 25 of them were hospitalized with burns, blunt and stab wounds. Next day it was found out that one prisoner had burned to death during riot. Yet there is no information about amount of prisoners charged for rioting, however 74 prisoners were immediately railroaded to other prisons.

Even more massive fight between "blacks" and "reds" took place 4 years ago, 29th of August 2004 in Novokuybyshevskaya prison of hard regime number 3 in Samara region, one thousand people participated to fight during which one prisoner was killed and 5 seriously wounded. Rioting stopped when prosecutor's office arrived and promised to gather complaints of the prisoners. Eventually prison administration was given warnings, and organisers of the riot were slapped with an additional sentence between 18 and 23 years.

Some other notable protests during last few years:

- 4th of September 2006 in remand prison Chagino three prisoners took 15 hostages, including chief of the prison. They demanded new courts.Special forces stormed prison, and organiser of the action was eventually given a life sentence.

- 11th of April 2007 50 prisoners rioted in village of Vinzili in Tyumen region. Prison special forces curbed riots, eventually 13 rioters were given from 2 to 10 additional years.

- 20th of September 2007 in "Kresty" remand prison of St. Petersburg 17 prisoners beat up 2 guards and burned a signal tower. "Typhoon" special forces curbed riots, mainstream media did not wrote about sentences given to participators of the riots.

- 17th of October 2007 50 juvenile prisoners attempted to escape from Kirovgardskiy colony number 2, they attacked guards and burned down school, trade school and a arracks. Guards opened fire and eventually two prisoners and one guard died. 40 juve nile participators of the riot were charged, but main stream media did not wrote about the sentences.

- 25th of October 2007 in St. Petersburg prison of general regime number 5 ("Metallostroy") 50 prisoners were protesting against beating of their fel-iow prisoners by attacking staff and burning down a bar¬racks. Guards defended themselves and killed one prisoner. Again mainstream media did not reported about sentences of the rioters.

However vast majority of the protests in Russian prison are non-violent - either hungerstrikes or self-mutilation (such as eating blades or other sharp things or cutting body parts with them). Reasons why prisoners usually prefer non-violent protests are rather obvious - for non-violent protests you are likely to get heavily beaten up, loose all your privileges, sent to another prison and never to get amnesty or parole before your full time is done, but at least you will not receive 20 additional years. Non-violent protests are often coordinated simultaneously in many prisons, and they may have several thousand participators. But general tendency is towards crushing any protests by a heavy hand, which is most likely the reason why we may heard more and more often about prisoners turning to desperate means.

In http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kOmCdMcZz80 you may see a video of prison special forces humiliating and beating up prisoners after a protest in a prison in Yekaterinburg - footage is from year 2006 and was leaked to "Movement for Human Rights". Unfortunately, prisoners are almost completely alone in their struggle. There are a number of human rights organisations, such as "Movement for Human Rights"

Unfortunately, prisoners are almost completely alone in their struggle. There are a number of human rights organisations, such as "Movement for Human Rights" working heavily on problems in the prisons, they have even been accused of covering mafia and being funded by it. But human rights organisations have a special understanding of their role - they under¬stand their mission as "neutral" monitoring of the violations, they never take any stand in regards of the protests. Work of human rights organisation is of great help what comes to spreading information and providing legal support for prisoners, however they may never announce their direct support for any given protest.

Besides of these, no any other movement or organisation is dealing with the prison issues. When many National-Bolsheviks were imprisoned in remand prison in Moscow, they attempted to organise a hunger strike demanding their release, but in order to gain sympathy from rest of the prison population they also added some general demands benefiting all prisoners. However when everyone in cells where striking Nazbols were kept was beaten up, "Legalised thiefs" ordered Nazbols to stop their protest. Currently Nazbols seem to be only interested to support political prisoners. Thus the militant resistance in prison is contrasted with a total silence and vacuum outside.

In anarchist circles one may often meet rather naive and idealizing views of the blatnoy culture, however there have been little efforts to reach out to the prison, with exception of one action few years ago in cooperation with FrontAIDS to support prisoners demanding access to medicine against HIV. As more and more anarchists and antifascists are landing to Russian prisons, anarchist movement is getting more concerned about the prison issue. However it is still long way to go for a concentrated effort to reach out and support the prison protests. As for Anarchist Black Cross groups (currently there are two active, one in Moscow and another in St.Petersburg), they are too busy working with prisoners of the movement, and it is not very likely that they will have chance to support prisoner protests in general for now.

Комментариев нет:

Отправить комментарий