Anna Karpova: The Unstable Prisoner, the Exclusion Zone, and Infinity

Alexei Gaskarov and Anna Karpova. Photo courtesy of Anna Karpova and PRI
Alexei Gaskarov and Anna Karpova. Photo courtesy of Anna Karpova and PRI

Anna Karpova
The Unstable Prisoner, the Exclusion Zone, and Infinity
Snob.ru
June 18, 2016

“Gaskarov has had reprimands both at the pretrial detention facility and the penal colony. There have been commendations, too. He works hard, studies well, and runs economics seminars for the inmates. But now he gets reprimands, then he gets commendations He is unstable somehow, unstable.”

Lieutenant Colonel Plaksin (I now always pay attention to such things) stared at the table. He was trying to explain to the judge why the wardens of the penal colony were opposed to paroling my husband.

I remember how I was invited to the studios of TV Rain the day the second wave of Bolotnaya Square defendants was sentenced to talk about we would do next. I put on a brave face and said the heck with the sentence. We would get everyone out on parole. But who knew Plaksin would be staring at the table?

There really is an outstanding reprimand in convict Gaskarov’s personal file: for not greeting an employee of the prison administration. When the judge was reading out the report on this terrible incident, I got goosebumps myself. Was this the man I had married?!

In short, the request for parole was denied.

The handful of people to whom the Bolotnaya Square case still matters send us rays of supports and remind us that, in the worst circumstances, we have a little less than four and a half months to wait.  They assure me the time can be done “standing on one leg.” It is nothing compared to the three years already served.

But that is not how it works.

Maybe I have been playing Fallout 3 (a video game about life on earth after a nuclear war) way too much, but I will say this. The trials and hearings, the pretrial detention facilities, and the penal colonies are like exclusion zones, places with elevated radiation levels that (I will tell you a secret) poison and destroy the individual. The more time you spend there, the worse the consequences are. Everyone involved in the process is irradiated. The prisoner and his family have it the worst of all, of course. Friends, acquaintances, and sympathizers are also affected, albeit on a lesser scale. The impact of the “radiation” does not end when the sentence ends.

The radiation sickness caused by the Russian penitentiary system can manifest itself in very different ways. For example, when it is quite hard to admit your absolute helplessness before court and prison functionaries, you might think there was “that one piece of paper” that could have fixed everything, but you fools did not bother about it. The thought eats into your brains and prevents you from working, sleeping, and communicating with each other. Worst of all, you look for someone to blame. Who messed up? The lawyer? The prisoner? His wife? His parents? The incident then comes up in every stressful situation, most likely, after release as well. The gulf between what prisoners have gone through and what their families went through fighting on the outside can be bridged only by the most patient and wisest. The former will never fully understand what it was like for the latter, and vice versa.

Each week spent there, behind the penal colony’s dilapidated fence, means the risk of sustaining all the major injuries and traumas that will make themselves felt in the most unexpected situations for a long time to come. Not to mention the fact that if you suddenly have the most ordinary appendicitis on the inside, you are probably a goner.

When I am asked whether everything is okay, whether there have been problems at the penal colony, it is enough for everyone to hear that my husband has not been transferred to maxim security, and that neither the wardens nor the inmates have been messing with him, but that amounts to only ten percent of possible problems. The other ninety percent have to do with how inmates and their families digest what has happened to their lives. And it not the done thing to talk about it, but an additional four and a half months feel like an infinity and keep on poisoning the lives of those who wait.

This means there is no “only” when we are talking about the remainder of a prison sentence. And it means we must fight for every month of freedom, even for a single month. By the way, that is how it is going to be with us.

Translated by the Russian Reader

Alexei Gaskarov Denied Parole

Alexei Gaskarov on Bolotnaya Square, Moscow, May 6, 2012
Alexei Gaskarov on Bolotnaya Square, Moscow, May 6, 2012

Alexei Gaskarov Denied Parole
Grani.ru
June 17, 2016

Novomoskovsk City Court in Tula Region has denied Bolotnaya Square case convict Alexei Gaskarov’s request of parole, Gaskarov’s wife Anna Karpova [sicreported on Snob.ru.

“Novomoskovsk City Court Judge Irina Sapronova turned down the request. The spokesman for the penal colony also testified against the request, because Gaskarov had been reprimanded for not greeting a penal colony employee in March,” wrote Karpova.

According to Karpova, the penal colony gave Gaskarov a negative character report. The report noted that the convict had been issued two disciplinary reprimands in solitary confinement and two in the colony for violating the daily routine and not greeting wardens.

And yet the report states that Gaskarov has not violated the internal code of conduct or the terms of his sentence, has been working at the colony and taking part in social activities, has qualified as an electrician, and has been studying to be a welder. Gaskarov has received two commendations for hard work and good behavior. He is polite with the wardens, neat, has a positive effect on new inmates, attends events, and has no outstanding writs of enforcement, the report states.

Gaskarov was arrested in late April 2013. On August 18, 2014, Judge Natalia Susina of the Zamoskvorechye District Court in Moscow sentenced the activist to three and a half years in a medium-security penitentiary facility under Criminal Code Articles 212 (involvement in rioting) and 318.1 (use of non-threatening violence against a state official).

Gaskarov was found guilty of tugging police officer Pavel Bulychev’s arm and police officer Igor Ibatulin’s leg. Gaskarov claimed he tugged Bulychev’s arm to break a police chain that was causing the crowd to stampede. He attempted to pull Ibatulina away from a detainee lying on the ground.

Gaskarov himself was severely beaten at Bolotnaya Square on May 6, 2012, sustaining lacerations to his head. And yet the Russian Investigative Committee refused to file criminal charges in response to his complaint.

On November 27, 2014, a panel of judges at the Moscow City Court (with Tatyana Dodonova acting as reporting judge) left the antifascist’s verdict unchanged.

On June 24, 2015, Novomoskovsk City Court Judge Elena Gorlatova denied Gaskarov parole, citing an outstanding reprimand he received while still in custody at Pretrial Detention Facility No. 5 in Moscow.

Alexei Gaskarov was born in 1985 in Zhukovsky, Moscow Region. A graduate of the Government Finance Academy, he worked at the Institute of Sociology of the Russian Academy of Sciences. In 2010, he was arrested and charged during an investigation of the campaign to defend the Khimki Forest but was acquitted the same year.

Translated by the Russian Reader. No thanks to anyone for letting one of Russia’s finest young men rot in prison for the crime of acting like a decent human being in a horrible situation deliberately provoked by the police. Photo courtesy of bolotnoedelo.info. Read my previous reports on Alexei Gaskarov’s case and the futile efforts to free him.

Yesterday Was an Especially Good Day in Russia

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Sergey Abashin
August 25, 2015
Facebook

Today’s news is impressive even compared to the usual madhouse. The ruble has “stabilized” at just under seventy to the dollar. Vasilyeva, a minister’s lover who stole millions, was released “for good behavior” almost immediately after being sentenced [in May of this year], while the filmmaker Sentsov, who stole nothing and killed no one, was sentenced to twenty years in prison for “terrorism.” Rospotrebnadzor [The Federal Service for Supervision of Consumer Rights Protection and Human Well-Being], which has now replaced the chief sanitary inspector, has banned imported washing products in order to “protect consumers.” And someone else tried to block access to Wikipedia, because it contained “extremism” or something of the sort. The symptoms are clear.

Sergey Abashin is British Petroleum Professor of Migration Studies at the European University in Saint Petersburg. His most recent book is Sovetskii kishlak: Mezhdu kolonializmom i modernizatsiei [The Soviet Central Asian village: between colonialism and modernization], Moscow: Novoe literaturnoe obozrenie, 2015. Translated and annotated by the Russian Reader. Photo of Bruce Willis and Russian flag wavers courtesy of Google Images.