Lessons of the Recent Past: From Tuberculosis to COVID-19 in Russia’s Prisons

BY JUDITH PALLOT, PI “GULAGECHOES”

In a new article in Riddle, an online journal on Russian affairs, project PI Judith Pallot compares how the current pandemic is unfolding in Russian prisons to past epidemics in recent Russian history. The publication is available in Russian and in English. It is also partly reproduced on the project blog.

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Fieldwork trip to Estonia

At the end of July, Project Director Judith Pallot and Postdoctoral Researcher Dr Olga Zeveleva launched fieldwork in Estonia. They spent time in Tallinn and in Jõhvi (Ida-Viru County in north-eastern Estonia), conducting pilot interviews with people who have been to Estonian and Soviet prisons between the 1960s and today, as well as focus groups and interviews with people who work on prisoner adaptation after release. The fieldwork was based predominantly at the New Generation rehabilitation centre in Jõhvi, thanks to Vadim Jerjomenko and Yury Mysnik, who run the center. Judith and Olga also visited the Patarei Prison in Tallinn, which was closed in 2002, and went to see Viru Vangla in Ida-Viru County, where fieldwork will hopefully continue in the future among current prisoners. This work would not have been possible without the help of Avo Üprus.

The fieldwork conducted during this trip has laid the foundations for further research in Estonia, which will focus mainly on interviews with former prisoners and prisoners, with special attention to linguistic and ethnic dimensions of prisoners’ experiences in the Soviet prison system, in the prison system of Estonia before the major recent prison reform, and in the newly reformed Estonian prison system. Work in Estonia will continue in autumn 2020.

The Veil of Secrecy: How did the Soviet government quell epidemics in prisons?

BY DR. MIKHAIL NAKONECHNYI

In a new blog post, historian Dr Mikhail Nakonechnyi discusses the Soviet legacies that still plague Russia’s contemporary penitentiary services. He analyses the secretiveness of penal system officials, and compares how the USSR handled epidemics with how Russia is handling the current COVID-19 pandemic. He shows that current practices of secrecy about epidemiological data resemble not the Stalinist GULAG era, but rather Soviet prisons of the 1920s. Continue reading “The Veil of Secrecy: How did the Soviet government quell epidemics in prisons?”

Muslim prisoners in Russia during the COVID-19 pandemic

BY DR. RUSTAMJON URINBOYEV

In a new blog post on prisons during the pandemic, Dr. Rustamjon Urinboyev turns to the experiences of Muslim prisoners in contemporary Russia. Drawing on his extensive fieldwork among migrants from Uzbekistan who have served prison sentences in the Russian Federation, he analyses the everyday practices of these transnational prisoners and their prison communities, and explains how these practices have changed since the onset of coronavirus-related lockdowns.

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Streamed discussion event: “COVID-19 in Russia and Eurasia”, 11 June 2020

Please join our discussion event “COVID-19 in Russia and Eurasia”, which will be open to the public through online streaming from the University of Helsinki Think Corner on 11 June 2020 at 14.00-15.30.  Olga Zeveleva will join University of Helsinki researchers Margarita Zavadskaya and Sherzod Eraliev to take a look at how the COVID-19 crisis has affected politics, the economy, and punishment in Russia and Eurasia over the past several months. Mikhail Nakonechnyi will chair the discussion.  Audiences are invited to join the discussion via Twitter and send in their comments and questions using hashtag #coronainrussia. You can read more about the event here. A YouTube video of the full event is available here.

Prisons and the typhus/typhoid epidemic of 1908-1910: How the Russian Imperial penal system contained the outbreak

BY DR. MIKHAIL NAKONECHNYI

In a new blog post on the history of pandemics in prisons, Dr. Mikhail Nakonechnyi takes an in-depth look at the typhus and typhoid outbreak in the Russian Empire in 1908-1910. He analyses the range of measures the government employed to contain the epidemic, and compares these historical events with COVID-19 in present-day Russian prisons.

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Prisons and the cholera epidemic of 1892-1893: How the Russian Imperial penal system contained the outbreak

BY DR. MIKHAIL NAKONECHNYI

In a new series of posts, historian Mikhail Nakonechnyi, Postdoctoral Researcher on the Gulag Echoes project, takes a look at how epidemics were contained in the prisons of the Russian Empire. The first of his two posts analyses the Cholera epidemic of 1892-1893. You can read the second post here. Continue reading “Prisons and the cholera epidemic of 1892-1893: How the Russian Imperial penal system contained the outbreak”