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Pussy Riot members face tough life in penal colony

October 15, 2012 • Entertainment


In this photo taken Nov. 30, 2011, imprisoned women wait to be escorted for work at a women’s prison outside the city of Orel, central Russia. Two members of the punk band Pussy Riot will serve their sentence in a penal colony far from Moscow that is like what a former inmate describes as a “nasty Girl Scout camp.” Although Russia’s prison system is a far cry from Stalin’s gulag, the principle remains the same: to isolate people from their families and wear them down through “corrective labor,” which for women usually means hunching over a sewing machine. Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova will have to quickly learn the inner laws of prison life, survive the dire food and medical care, and risk reprisal from inmates either offended by their “punk prayer” against President Vladimir Putin or ordered to pressure them by higher authorities. (AP Photo/Yuri Tutov)

MOSCOW (AP) — It’s a far cry from Stalin’s gulag, but the guiding principle of the Russian penal colony — the destination of two members of punk band Pussy Riot — remains the same: isolate inmates and wear them down through “corrective labor.”

Maria Alekhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova will have to quickly learn the inner laws of prison life, survive the dire food and medical care, and risk bullying from inmates either offended by their “punk prayer” against President Vladimir Putin or under orders to pressure them.

“Everyone knows the rule: Trust no one, never fear and never forgive,” said Svetlana Bakhmina, a lawyer who spent three years in a penal colony. “You are in no-man’s land. Nobody will help you. You have to think about everything you say and do to remain a person.”

Alekhina, 24, Tolokonnikova, 22, and Yekaterina Samutsevich, 30, were convicted of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred for an impromptu performance in Moscow’s main cathedral as Putin headed into an election that handed him a third term as Russia’s president. The women insisted their Login to read more

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