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Notes from prison. A day in the life of a Petropavlovsk colony inmate

Kazakhstan, 17.04.2015


Waking up early in the morning, breaking sleep. Three minutes after the order to get up, the inmates stand in a long row; in order according to height. The first absurd commands are given: put on your cap, take off your cap, put it on, correct it… The orders are intended to suppress resistance to silent protest. As Kozlov writes: all is done following this formula: no one even tries to react because it would be to no avail anyway. Then, everyone walks briskly to the yard. From the second floor, the inmates go down steep, icy steps. It is 06:07 in the morning. The newcomers to the colony, Kozlov in this particular case, are put in the middle. They go down the slippery ice trying to hold an icy handrail. A scream is heard from the back: Watch out! It is soon clear what is meant: One step is missing, there is a hole in which Kozlov's leg is trapped. A moment later, the oppositionist falls onto those preceding him. 'A smile appears on the inmates' faces - they knew it would happen, I was not the first one,' Kozlov writes.


The temperature can be as low as minus thirty degrees Celsius, it is hard to breathe. The snow is knee-high. Shouting, the deputy supervisor announces the start of the morning warm-up exercise. It is to be accompanied by regular counting: one, two, three, four... Shouting in the frosty conditions, the inmates are becoming short of breath. As Kozlov notes, in the merciless climate of Petropavlovsk, the counting alone is exhausting. After 10 minutes, the warm-up exercise ends. The group takes the same steps back up.


This is how Vladimir Kozlov begins his account of the days spent in the colony in Petropavlovsk, a Kazakh city in the north of the country, very close to the border with Russia. The colony is infamous and the conditions there are tough. Kozlov's notes, published by the independent portal Respublika, are excerpts from a book about his experiences in the Kazakh penitentiary system. Kozlov's memoirs describe routine activities undertaken by inmatesof the colony. The oppositionist describes how everyone follows even the most absurd of orders, without uttering a word of objection. At the same time, he reconstructs, in detail, a day in the life of an inmate. Apart from the mandatory warm-ups, he writes about the morning routine, prison duties such as removing snow, modest meals and incessant searches of the inmates' beds. The descriptions of everyday life serve as a criticism of the prison system yet; Kozlov maintains his sense of reasonable detachment. He jokes ironically that after two winters in Siberia, he is familiar with every possible type of snow: dry, wet, muddy, pure, dirty, autumn-winter-spring or last year's snow. The book is not short of grim humour of which Kafka would not be ashamed. Kozlov writes, for instance, how important it is to move stools from beneath tables in complete silence otherwise breakfast would never start, and the inmates will have to keep following orders from their superiors: put the stools in and take them out with endless repetition. In Kozlov's opinion, all the orders as well as daily routine as a whole are intended solely to humiliate the inmates. There is no concept of respect for the law in the colony, and the procedures are in stark contrast to the international standards for the treatment of convicts. The oppositionist devotes a lot of space to reflecting on the automatism with which his fellow inmates perform the orders: 'A picture of inmates overtaken by inertia and soulless system that would not accept any objection', 'Suppression and humiliation - these are the main aims of the penitentiary regimes of Kazakh colonies,' Respublika editors commented on the excerpts of Kozlov's book about his time in Petropavlovsk.


Source: respublika-kaz.info


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