A few years later, the same thing happened to the members of the rock group Pussy Riot. These feminists criticized Putin’s policies and protested against his reelection in 2012. In the same year, the three women were sentenced to two years in prison in a concentration camp, sparking international protests.
“But an amnesty law released the Busy Rayot women after a year,” says Jansen. “This had something to do with the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.” The band members demanded a boycott of the event.
The Russian penal colonies are reminiscent of the Gulag, as the criminal camp system was called in Soviet times. Their long and sinister history began around 1930. During Stalin’s rule, and until his death in 1953, an estimated 18 million people were sent to the camps. About one in ten prisoners do not survive.
Officially, the camps had an ideal goal, says Jansen. “The convicts have been re-educated to be exemplary citizens.” But in reality, atrocities occurred, such as inmates being forced to cut down trees in the biting cold of Siberia. The atrocities became known around the world in the 1970s thanks to the book The Gulag Archipelago Van Alexander Solzgensen.
Although Gulag was formally dissolved in 1960, many similarities still exist with the current Punitive Colonies. Chief among these elements, according to critics, is that the code of conduct within the camps has not been radically modernized since the Soviet era. Much corruption and exploitation will happen with impunity.
This photo was confirmed in 2013 by a member of Pussy Riot, who described in an open letter her first meeting with the directors of the Mordovia penal colony. Someone told her, “You have to realize that when it comes to politics, I’m a Stalinist.” Another added, “We have here gained stronger spirits than yours.”