Putin’s Prison State

The Dish

Masha Gessen profiles Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina, of Pussy Riot, in their new role as prisoners’ rights activists:

“I was worried that no one would be interested in prisoners’ rights,” Tolokonnikova says. “I thought this might be just something Masha and I want to work on because we have experienced it.” But prison is an object of almost universal fear and interest in Russia. The country has one of the world’s highest percentages of its population behind bars—not as high as the United States, but a key difference is that in Russia the risk of landing in prison cuts across class lines. No one knows the exact figures, but human rights advocates estimate that more than 15,000 and possibly more than 100,000 of Russia’s roughly 700,000 inmates are entrepreneurs sent to jail by competitors or extortionists. And then there are the political prisoners, a population that is growing despite recent high-profile pardons…

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