Lessons from Net wars: letters from Mordovia

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova’s prison letters documenting abuse and exploitation of her fellow inmates by the labor camp administration were met with vicious ridicule in the comments section. This is not what one would expect from the Guardian crowd. One can be cynical enough to believe Pussy Riot were deliberately seeking imprisonment as a self-promotion strategy, but Nadezhda’s letters were not about her own plight but about Russia’s labor camp system.

For anyone who could read Russian, a search through prison-related sites/forums like zekov.net and gulagu.net would have provided first-hand accounts supporting Nadezhda’s testimony. Svetlana Bakhmina, a Yukos lawyer imprisoned in the same labor camp as Nadezhda in 2006-9, said the younger woman’s story was consistent with her own experience. Alexey Navalny, not a PR supporter, identified the owner of the private company that benefited most from the imprisoned women’s slave labor as a Duma deputy. Ilya Shablinskiy, a member of the presidential human rights council, also conceded after visiting the labor camp that Nadezhda’s claims were well grounded.

But none of that mattered to the hostile commenters. They kept repeating the same lies and irrelevancies, “they deserved it,” “stupid cows,” “it’s worse at Guantanamo,” “try this and St. Paul and see,” “Charlie Gilmour got 16 months for swinging from the Cenotaph” and so on.

I don’t know if any of those people were paid Putin shills or merely authority-loving Russians, or insular lefties suffering from extreme Americophobia. Whoever they may have been, Charlie Gilmour was not sentenced to 16 months for swinging from the Cenotaph while stoned – the judge made that clear. It was hardly a mitigating circumstance of course, but what landed him in prison was throwing a waste bin at a royal convoy and jumping on one of the cars. Charlie was freed after four months.

Moreover, Pussy Riot did not disrupt a church service. In theory, disrupting a church service. In 1998, Peter Tatchell interrupted a sermon by the Archbishop of Canterbury and got on the pulpit to preach his own – and was fined £18.60 under a 1860 statute. In theory, he could have been sentenced to prison, but then in theory, Pussy Riot could have received seven years in a labor camp.


  1. Is there a Russian equivalent of China’s 50 cent party?

    Personally, I don’t bother much with Guardianista and Torygrapher commenters nowadays. Taking such extremists seriously was one of the mistakes I made on my old blog. Don’t feed the trolls. On the whole, the British blogosphere is not very representative of actual politics in the UK. For example, I’ve never met a Libertarian in real life. At the other end of the spectrum, left-wing British blogs seem to spend an inordinate amount of time arguing with tiny Trotskyite cult parties. I’d guess about 0.01% of Britons have even heard the names of such outfits. The only online commentariat with a substantial political party to represent their views are “Daily Mail” readers, who have Nigel Farage and UKIP.

  2. I wonder, how many of the defenders of the Nadya in the West are know about her earlier “performances”?
    “Fuck for the bear-cub’s heir”.

    To me, she is a “spoiler figure”. She and the whole “Voina”/”Pussy riot” troupe were used to marginalize protest movement. Are you against Putin? Good, you are with the Tolokno.

    • Anyone familiar with Pussy Riot’s story must have heard, at least, about Voyna’s performances. It’s still hard to see how that is relevant to Nadezhda’s letters from prison.

  3. Why wouldn’t they just have Pussy Riot cunts killed? Why allow them to parasite from all this publicity? Why is the state in Russia so sheepish and meek? Kill the bitches.

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