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Alexey Navalny: ‘Russia’s prison system is just like the Soviet Gulag, only with a chapel in every zone’
Alexey Navalny, the imprisoned opposition politician serving a sentence in Russia’s Vladimir Region, writes that he is struck by the memoirs of Anatoly Marchenko, a Soviet-era dissident whose experience of the Gulag mirrors Navalny’s own life in the penal colony.
Anatoly Marchenko died in 1986, after a 117-day hunger strike in support of political prisoners in Russia.
Navalny’s plight of being repeatedly confined in a penal cell matches Marchenko’s description of a Soviet-era practice: to get around the 15-day limit on punishing an inmate in the ShIZO, the penal colony would let him out for just one day, only to send him back for another 15-day round of penal confinement.
“All the tactics match up,” Navalny writes. “On every page, I’m astonished not so much by the similarities between the two systems, but by a sense that this is the very same system.”
In his seven months in the penal colony, Navalny was permitted just one phone call, one parcel from the outside, and not one visit from a family member. He believes this to be consistent with the Soviet practice of punishing inmates by depriving them of visits.
The Russian penal system is not interested in reforming the convicts, Navalny writes. Instead, the system is geared towards dehumanizing the incarcerated, abusing them, and exploiting them as suits the unlawful interests of the regime.
“Russia’s prison system is just like the Soviet Gulag, only with a chapel in every zone. This system isn’t amenable to any reform,” Navalny concludes.
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