Meal time at an intake center for accused criminals south of Moscow. The facility was so crowded that inmates had to eat and sleep in shifts. (Reuters) <br />“We have been happily borne—or perhaps have unhappily dragged our weary way—down the long and crooked streets of our lives, past all kinds of walls and fences made of rotting wood, rammed earth, brick, concrete, iron railings,” Russian dissident, former political prisoner and Nobel laureate Alexander Solzhenitsyn writes in the opening pages of The Gulag Archipelago. ”We have never given a thought to what lies behind them. We have never tried to penetrate them with our vision or our understanding. But there is where the Gulag country begins, right next to us, two yards away from us.” (via Inside Russia’s Prison System - Armin Rosen - The Atlantic)
Today’s Russian prisons, home to over 830,000 prisoners and 560 out of every 100,000 Russians as of 2010 [just for contrast, the US has a prison population of about 2,200,000 and 715 out of ~ as of 2012], are, by most accounts, a vast improvement over the the notorious prison-camp system of the Stalin era. But Solzhenitsyn’s account remains haunting when looking behind the walls and fences of contemporary Russia’s prison camps, some of which are located deep in the sparse and cold Siberian wilderness. Below, a short look at what’s there — and at what the Pussy Riot defendants could be in for.