Who makes you a trustee in prison

"I should break you by all means"

After it had been unclear for a long time where the convicted Alexej Navalny was taken, it is now clear: He is in custody in the penal colony IK-2, also known as the Pokrovskaya colony. This penal camp in Vladimir Oblast, just under 100 kilometers from Moscow, is considered particularly tough.

There are repeated reports of torture in Russian camps and prisons. Now the editors of MediazonaExcerpts from a 60-page letter written by inmate Iwan Fomin. In it he reports on systematic torture and sexual violence in the penal colony IK-6 in Melechowo, Vladimir Oblast.

The letter is explosive not only because of the drastic torture described, but also because Fomin claims that the head of the colony Roman Saakjan wanted him to give up his lawyer. Saakjan became head of IK-6 in January 2020 and previously served in IK-2 - where Alexej Navalny is currently in custody.

Navalny himself only had one at the beginning of the week Instagram-Post confirms his current whereabouts. In it he writes that he has not yet experienced any violence, but “due to the tense posture of the convicts, who are afraid to turn their heads, I like to believe the stories that here in IK-2 until recently people with wooden hammers were beaten almost to death ”. He calls his new home “our friendly concentration camp”.

Iwan Fomin, on the other hand, comes from Uzbekistan, he was arrested in 2014; he converted to Islam a few years earlier and is accused of belonging to a terrorist organization. As his lawyer said, Fomin turned on Mediazonato defend against the terrorism allegations. Mediazona devotes numerous reports and analyzes to the Russian penal system. The online medium was founded by the Pussy Riot activists Nadja Tolokonnikowa and Maria Aljochina after their imprisonment in the camp.

decoder brings an excerpt from the sometimes extremely drastic descriptions of Fomin.


I'm coming to the camp in Vladimir Oblast, in the village of Melechowo. The camp administration and the whole gang of inmates - the room elders Savkhozy and their helpers, the so-called Dnewalnye - are very happy about my arrival. There are seven or eight men, all 100 kilo giants, like from a picture book. I am immediately picked out of the crowd, separated from the others and yelled at; then we have to stand against the wall. Hands on the wall, head and look down. One of them yells right in my ear: “Fomin! First name, patronymic? Born where? ”Then they abuse me with vulgar words and want to know my Muslim name. I say: “Umar.” When they hear this, they are offended, saying that I have “betrayed my beliefs” and that “people like me must be killed”. They take away my bag with the books, there are a few: English books and the Koran, a prayer book, various classics. After the felting, they take us to the quarantine station for two weeks.

We have to sit on stools, we have to sit bolt upright with our backs arched. Five Dnewalnye and one Sawchos, the boss of them, are guarding us. My head is shaved off, I have to sign something - I don't know what, I'm not allowed to read what exactly I'm signing. Then I have to memorize the names of all the administrative staff. Then they take one of us with them and lead him out through the “kitchen” - that is, through the guard or duty room next door - from there we hear moans and noises, as if someone were hitting the wall. This is how it goes every evening. The first comes back with torn prison pants, hobbling, and sits down again. Then they get the next one.

We hear moans and noises as if someone were hitting the wall. This is how it goes every evening

For the first five days I am not called, just yelled at every day. In the morning before morning exercise, Sawchos Roma Novikow says to me: "Soon I'll f *** you." I keep myself straight and remain silent. He says that to me every day, just like the Dnewalnye - me as the only one of the 20 or so men.

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Also, every day they ask, “Are you converting to Christianity?” I say no. On the sixth day of the quarantine, they put me in a shed without cameras. Sawchos Roma Novikow says to me: "Today is your last chance to stand in front of the Petuschatnik [strange barracks for abused prisoners, the so-called Petuchi - dec]. ”Otherwise I would ***** go there and clean toilets like a slave or work in the garbage dump like the other Petuchi. He describes how they would rape me, tie my feet and hands behind my back, I would lie there while they spank the soles of my feet and ass. If I didn't obey afterwards, they would rape me with a broomstick, first from behind and then into my mouth. If I still weren't broken, they'd fetch a petuch with a hard-on, he'd get excited about me, but before that they'd tie me to the table, without pants, my legs apart, almost doing the splits. I would be on this table, leaning forward and legs apart, hands cuffed to the table legs, and someone would be on my back. And then Petuch would fuck me in the ass with his hard cock. The Sawchos tell me everything in detail. Says they broke it just like that. No one has ever got away unbroken, and it will stay that way. He says he is a Russian national patriot, not a Christian, but Orthodox, and that he is and always will be an enemy of Islam.

I reply: "Then you better kill me, break all my bones." He says there is "only one way out" - and throws me a box of razor blades. He says: "The investigators have released you, I should break you by all means, the order comes from outside." And then: "I'll be back in 30 to 40 minutes and hope that the entire ceiling will be splashed with your blood , but if you're still alive, they'll sew you up and bring you back to our quarantine. ”He says that he wouldn't give me a second chance, that he ***** [raped] myself, that would be him ****** [no matter]. He laughs, walks away, and leaves me alone with the razor blades.

Better kill me then, break all my bones

I sit there and think for a long time. I can't lay a hand on myself, I can't because of mortal sin. I see my mother pounding on the camp gates, streaming in tears. When he comes back, I say: “Good, I agree. I accept the orthodox faith, not the Christian one. "

Two days passed. I sit on my stool and do the namas [the Muslim prayer] while seated. But the camera gives me away. You call him and I'll be picked up in the evening. He says, “You son of a bitch lied to me.” They start punching and kicking me, then the Dnewalny takes me away. He says: "Now we f ***** you."

I tell him: “You are wrong. I did sports, on the stool, balance exercises, and counted the time. I was cold and I wanted to warm myself up that way. "He believes me:" If you are cold, go into the kitchen and ask the Dnewalny for tea. "

They're fetching a man, his surname is Myshkin, I think. First they hit him in the stomach with their fists, then they throw him on the floor, tie his ankles together with tape and his wrists behind his back. One of them stands on his knee and bends his arms back. Roma, the sawchos of the quarantine, says: "Now we're going to give him hot feet". You start beating him with a club, the club is extremely hard: a heavy, thick piece of plastic pipe, with a tiny hole in the middle - I've never seen pipes like this. They hit him on the soles of his feet with this pipe and then on the ass. Then they get a broomstick with dried shit stuck to it. This Sawchos Roma Nowikow pulls his ass cheeks apart, spits into the opening and pushes the broomstick in the back. Then he pulls it out again and holds it under Myshkin's nose. Asks: “What do you smell?” - “Shit.” Then he sticks the manure-smeared part into his mouth as far as it will go. Then they fetch the Tatars (I don't remember his name), whom they call "Mongol". They do the same with that. Myshkin force them to make a statement, the Mongols also force them to make a statement - about a crime committed by others, by some kind of dealer. So they show me what they do to people. They forgive me and make me the Dnewalny's assistant.

We finally come to the lower quarantine - block number seven, where all [newcomers] go. On the very first day, the Sawchos and the Dnewalny take me to a storage room. Nobody says anything, I stand there and don't know what they want from me. Then the sawchos from block seven, Renat Kurban, says: “Someone will be brought here in a moment and will sit down on this chair. You stand behind him. ”Bolshoi [Eng. the great - dec] and Bely [Ger. the White - dec] bring in a Russian, I don't remember his name. He sits down quietly on the chair, they ask him questions, he answers. Then Kurban gives us a sign, we throw him on the ground and tie his ankles with a white rope. Then we pull his pants down and hit the soles of his feet and his ass with the same pipe, but not for long, like 10 or 15 minutes. The sawchos asks what he was doing outside. I don't remember what he answered, but he offers his services - insert plastic windows (in the colony). Then they get two more men and do the same to them.

Two days later they make me Dnewalny: Roma Novikov, the Sawchos in the upper quarantine, picks me up and we go to the investigator's office together - at the time, that was Captain Mikhail Lvovich Stepanov. He says I am her husband now, he will help me and then "everything will be fine". He says I have to help Sawchos Kurban with everything: hit people and ****** [rape] if necessary. I have no choice but to obey him. That was in June 2018.

When I got a visit from my lawyer Shamil [Meshiyev], I was called to the camp office and asked why a lawyer came to me and what I would tell him. I reply that he only came about my criminal case. Then I have to promise that I won't say anything about the camp, only that everything is fine and I'm fine. This is the only way I can speak to my lawyer, the conversations are recorded.

Then Roma Novikov brings us a guy from block five, or rather two: a Tadzhiken and an Armenian. The two argued about something and started a fight. They take the Armenian to the company chamber, there we are waiting: me, Bolshoi, Bely and Sawchos Kurban. He has to sit on the chair, we stand behind it. The sawchos asks him about the fight, the conversation lasts about five minutes. Then Kurban gives us a sign with his look, we throw him to the ground, tie his hands and feet, Bely sits down on his back, bends his tied arms back and pulls his pants down. I step on the rope with which his feet are tied together, Bolshoi hits him on the soles of his feet with the club, first one, then the other, and beats his whole bum softly. Loud music is turned up, Roma Novikov comes over, sits down and smokes one while we hit the other. I try a couple of times but I miss the soles of my feet. So the other two take turns, I'm just holding him because he's screaming and calling for his mother. Then the head Sawchos comes in - something like the warehouse boss, his name is Tocha - and hits him on the chest, where the lungs are. The Armenian cries, begs for mercy in tears, says that he has understood everything. When he gets up afterwards, his butt is huge. Even when he took off his pants he was purple and three times as tall as normal, and the soles of the feet were already swollen. Three days later, the Armenian is still unable to walk, he is prescribed bed rest: his feet continue to swell, and water collects under his skin.

According to Ivan Fomin's letter, the Armenian convict later succumbs to the consequences of the beatings.

In July 2018, the Novaya Gazeta of the death of 33-year-old Gor Owakimjan, who was serving his sentence in the IK-6 colony in Melechowo. The records state that he died of double pneumonia in the hospital, but the victim's family claim there were signs of torture on his body. The regional broadcaster Zebra TV reports that the prison doctors are being investigated for negligent homicide due to failure to provide assistance (paragraph 2, Article 109 of the Criminal Code).

I can't stay there anymore but I don't know how to run away, all the time I worry about how to get out of there. I'm under constant surveillance, a Dnewalny accompanies me to the payphone, I can't speak in his presence.

One day I am called to see camp manager Roman Saakowitsch Saakjan. I sit down opposite him, he says: “Tell me.” I tell a lot, including how we killed the Armenian. He says, “I know. You have been of great help to us, the prison authorities. And the FSB. ”“ And now, ”he then says,“ write a statement that you will not have a lawyer, I got a call that you would be picked up in three or four days. You are under my personal protection. You don't have to worry about Article 205, I guarantee you that. "

I said: "***** again, Roman Saakowitsch, I will not write a waiver." He: "You are crazy! Didn't you listen I say we sit down and discuss here why they lied to you. ”I reply:“ You understand, I don't want to be in custody, and under Article 205 there is no early release anyway. ”And he:“ You are really crazy! Now write that down. For your sake. Don't you know who I am? ”. I say I heard about it. He: “Complaints are being written against me all the time, but I don't care. I'm not afraid, I have broad shoulders. ”And then:“ Listen to me, my dear, you could get lost in this immeasurably large country. ”I'll try again:“ At least let me have him [the lawyer] see. "He then:" Better to think about the safety of your relatives. "

On that day, Ivan Fomin no longer gets to see his lawyer Shamil Meshiev, but he does not sign the waiver. Fomin wants to defend himself against the terrorism allegations, which is exactly why he has attacked Mediazona agile, says his lawyer Meshiev. Fomin is currently in Serpukhov City No. 3 Detention Center. His case has been taken over by the Naro-Fominsk investigative committee.

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“Suddenly a needle pierces your nail with full force and penetrates your finger. For five seconds the consciousness does not understand what has happened. [...] Only after five seconds does a wave of pain roll over you: Wow, look, your finger is threaded onto the needle. That's why you can't pull your hand out. Very easily. Maybe you can just sit there with your finger for five minutes, but that's all. You have to keep sewing. Are you the first to step your finger through? Do you want a plaster? Where from? You are here in the camp, little one. "1

So remembered the art activist Nadeshda Tolokonnikova from the punk band Pussy Riot to work in the penal camp. The sentencing of three members of the band to two years imprisonment for being in Moscow Christ the Savior Cathedral Performing a punk prayer sparked outrage and compassion around the world. This had to do not only with the political background against which the verdict was given, but also with the conditions of the camp detention itself. The reports of the "prominent prisoners" made many people suddenly aware that the penal system for women in today's Russia cannot be compared with a prison stay in the usual sense, but means being taken to remote camp complexes, far away from family and friends. Everyday life in the camp is characterized by hard work, hardship and adversity.

Part of the dossier

Life in a forced community, in front of everyone / Photo from the series “Otdelenije” by Elena Anosova

The specific (premodern) unity of exile and imprisonment has a long tradition in Russia.It goes back to the early 17th century, has survived several system changes and has taken deep cultural roots.

Despite certain reforms and easing of the penal system that began after the fall of the Soviet Union, some features of the Gulags received, a comprehensive prison camp system that emerged during the Stalin era. This legacy shapes the penal system to this day. This includes above all the special geography of the camp, preferably on the periphery, and the associated detachment of the offenders from their familiar surroundings, their complete isolation from society.

Exile plus imprisonment

This gnosis is linked by

Women are much more likely to experience the double burden of exile plus imprisonment than male delinquents. Because only a small part of the approximately 750 Russian penal camps are women's camps, and it is precisely these camps that are consistently located on the periphery (for example in Mordovia, the Komi Republic or in Siberia). As a result, significantly more women than men have to be detained far from their hometowns.

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After long, grueling journeys in special railway wagons at the remote destination, they can receive six short (four hours) and four long (three days) visits to relatives per year. However, many relatives cannot afford the time-consuming and costly trips. Female prisoners are less likely to benefit because husbands in particular are less inclined to mitigate their prison term through visits and to wait together for release. Many divorce quickly without having exhausted the existing contact options (calls, letters, parcels).2 As a result, women are much more likely than men to cope not only with the loss of freedom, but also with the pain of being abandoned.

Betrayal of femininity

Women are only a small minority of all offenders. Overall, the proportion of female prisoners is now less than a tenth of the entire prison population. Nevertheless, the number of crimes committed by women has risen steadily since the end of the Soviet Union. The spectrum has also expanded: in addition to classic crimes such as theft, there are now illegal banking transactions, fraud and credit offenses, hooliganism and drug-related crime.3

There is also an increasing penetration of women into the area of ​​violent crimes, from break-ins and robberies to homicides. The profile of women who have committed criminal offenses in Russia is thus in line with that of western industrial societies and is by no means exceptional. However, women who have committed criminal offenses are subject to an even stronger stigmatization within Russian society than male offenders, as they are accused of betraying their femininity and deliberately breaking with culturally determined gender roles in addition to violating the law.

Life in front of everyone

In addition to being transported to distant camp complexes, many women are traumatized by the collectivism practiced there: It begins with uniform institutional clothing (dark skirts and wide jackets, white headscarves), which unifies the individual women into an indistinguishable mass. Life in forced community in front of everyone, means to spend the night in overcrowded sleeping barracks, in double bunk beds standing close together. The name tags attached there contain information about the criminal law paragraph, the date of arrival and discharge. The communal washrooms and toilets have no doors, so there is no intimacy.

There are only public rooms in the women's prison camps and therefore no privacy whatsoever. One could be of some sort social imprisonment speak, which is exacerbated by the harassment of the supervisory staff and the informal system among the prisoners.4 This type of prison is justified with the aim of Rehabilitation, i.e. practicing socially accepted social behavior.

While psychological support for prisoners, further training and leisure activities as well as probation assistance after their release play a role in the idea of ​​rehabilitation in Germany, in the Russian case it is primarily a question of socially compliant behavior with concrete expectations of a woman, of her femininity and domesticity, to promote. Beauty and housewife competitions are held on a regular basis. The room decor in the prison camp - frilled curtains and potted flowers - is also intended to remind the residents of their future tasks in a patriarchal society on a daily basis. The main aim of the stay in the camp is to re-feminize the female prisoners.

Single punishment cell as luxury

For some women, a lack of privacy, along with isolation, is the worst detention experience. On the other hand, strategies of inner withdrawal (reading, television, mental isolation during working hours) or the conscious search for places and times of solitude help. In order to be able to be to themselves for at least a few days, some women dare to deliberately break rules. So they are put in a single punishment cell for a certain period of time. For this luxury even stricter conditions of detention are accepted.

Relationships with other inmates can under certain circumstances create more well-being, possibly even closeness. Although penal camps are not exactly seen as trust-building institutions, there are not only functional but also emotional relationships among women. The spectrum ranges from friendships and networks to so-called “play families or substitute families” to covert same-sex love relationships (which are forbidden and punished).5

Worked (this mostly includes sewing work for army or police purposes, the production of work clothes and the painting of Matryoshkas and eating is also done collectively, by department. According to legal regulations, the working day should not last longer than eight hours. But Tolokonnikova reported from her camp in Mordovia in 2013 that they had to work 16 to 17 hours a day in order to meet the production standard. In practice, it was forced labor, for which she received a monthly wage of 29 rubles (less than one euro at the time). Her brigade produced 150 police uniforms every day, the norm had been increased by 50 from one day to the next (again not in accordance with the regulations). If the requirements were not met, the entire brigade faced severe penalties.6

Uncertainty and impositions of freedom

When the prison term is over, the most difficult phase follows for many women: the transition from everyday life in the camp with its fixed rules and subculture to freedom, which is associated with uncertainty and unreasonable demands. There is a threat of a deep fall into the so-called Discharge hole. There is no state aid. If so, all that remains is the support of family and friends. The few existing civil rights organizations around the movement Russian Sidyashchaya (InmatesRus) or the organization founded by Nadeshda Tolokonnikowa and Maria Alyochina Sona prawa (German The zone of the right) take care of, among other things, help for women who have been laid off. But since the social rejection is noticeable,7 Those who have just been released quickly fall back into old habits and soon end up in the camp again.

For further reading:
Pallot, Judith / Piacentini, Laura (2012): Gender, Geography, and Punishment: The Experience of Women in Carceral Russia, Oxford
Pallot, Judith (2015): The Gulag as the Crucible of Russia's 21st-Century System of Punishment, in: Kritika: Explorations in Russian and Eurasian History 16 (3), pp. 681-710
Pallot, Judith / Katz, Elena (2017): Waiting at the Prison Gate: Women, Identity, and the Russian Penal System, London, New York

1. Tolokonnikowa, Nadja (2016): Instructions for a Revolution, Munich
2. Pallot, Judith (2008): Continuities in Penal Russia: Space and Gender in Post-Soviet Geography of Punishment, in: Lahusen, Thomas / Solomon, Peter H. Jr. (Eds.): What is Soviet Now? Identities, Legacies, Memories, Berlin, p. 253; this. (2015): The Topography of the Spatial Continuity of Penality and the Legacy of the Gulag in Twentieth and Twenty-First Century Russia, in: Laboratorium 7 (1), p. 100
3. Katz, Elena / Pallot, Judith (2010): From Femme Normale to Femme Criminelle in Russia: Against the Past or Towards the Future, in: New Zealand Slavonic Journal 44, pp. 123-125
4. Moran, Dominique / Pallot, Judith / Piacentini, Laura (2009): Lipstick, lace, and longing: constructions of femininity inside a Russian prison, in: Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 27, p. 714; this. (2013): Privacy in penal space: Women’s imprisonment in Russia. In: Geoforum 47, pp. 141-142; Al’pern, Ljudmila (2004): Son i jav ’ženskoj tjur'my, St. Petersburg, p. 25; Zekovnet.ru: Ženščina v tjur'me
5. Omelchenko, Elena (2016): Gender, Sexuality, and Intimacy in a Women’s Penal Colony in Russia, in: Russian Sociological Review 15 (4), pp. 86-89
6. See the letter from Nadeshda Tolokonnikowa from the camp: Lenta.ru: "Vy teper 'vsegda budete nakazany"
7. See also the article on mothers who have committed criminal offenses, who are met with social rejection and refusal to help after discharge, which makes their reintegration into society very difficult, if not impossible: “And for society they are no longer human. No, not second-class people, but simply not people ": dekoder.org:" Many of the mothers and children never see each other again "

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