Translation: Evgeniya Khasis on Tolokonnikova’s Prison Letter

A letter from Yevgenia Khasis, a nationalist and convicted accomplice to murder, and fellow colony inmate of Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, published in Komsomolskaya Pravda, 28 September 2013.

Evgeniya Khasis’ Letter: Tolokno’s Passions

I met Nadezhda about a year ago when she arrived at the colony to serve the sentence handed down to her by the court. Despite the differences between our ideological views, I wanted to become acquainted, and there were reasons for my doing so. Firstly, it is difficult to find a person here who is familiar with the socio-political conditions of our society, and even more so with its features in terms of “sovereign democracy”. I have long been isolated from this activity, and it was interesting to hear the news, to hear an opinion, including the opinion of someone with left-liberal views. Secondly, it was interesting to delve into the specifics and methods of the opposition struggle. It was interesting to hear the motives and the goals of the so-called punk prayer that had rocked the entire country. But not only did I have questions to put to her: I for my part was not against her satisfying her curiosity about me, believing that she and her sympathizers had every right to do so.

Living in different prison sections, we used to meet in the convict recreation areas – in the library or in the convicts’ “club”. I invited her into the temple with the rights of an assistant bell-ringer. I shan’t forget how our conversation followed the regular channel of intelligent small talk and debate. In those matters where we could not reach agreement, we agreed on our own default position, each remaining convinced of her point of view. Knowing of the women prisoners’ attitude towards her through the way they gossiped and gossiped about her, and after reading the news reports, where there were details of that moment that had moved her away from perverted pornographic “events” and had turned her into a “star” because of a “punk prayer” in the Christ the Saviour Cathedral, I asked Nadia in a comradely fashion whether she had had conflicts within her prison team. I was truly worried that the public hostility and condemnation of her would spill over into the prison colony and that there would be tension between her and the prisoners. However, Nadezhda assured me that she was doing well, that there was no conflict and that she felt that there were was nothing negative in the way she was being treated by any of the prisoners or by the administration.

After her parole judgment, Nadia suddenly began making claims that her rights were being violated, that the administration was prejudiced towards her, that the prison regulations were poorly observed and so on. She defended her actions by saying that she considered it right and proper to use her incarceration as a means of discrediting the government, that the role of the opposition dictated that she should adopt such behaviour and that the more any dispute or information concerning the establishment was blown up out of proportion, which establishment is part of the overall state system, then the faster we should be able to shake the foundations of the existing power structure and overthrow the incumbent president. My views are no less at odds with hers: I do not like the state very much, but the way I see changes in the reform of the political system is that they should lead to the establishment and strengthening of democratic institutions and mechanisms. I do not share her opinion as regards subversive activities and those aimed at the undermining, disruption and destruction of the existing mechanisms for carrying out the operation of our state. I do not want revolutions, victims and the collapse of the country. I can see how destroying, not reforming, might result in the burial beneath the ruins of the state of thousands of people, citizens, the people – our people, the nation, the country that I love.

Nadia said she needed an uprising, and I believe that the consequences of a “rebellion for the sake of someone’s public relations and for another political provocation” cannot be justified or allowed. The prisoners who may be affected by these actions are real people: they are not Internet accounts; they are not fantasies made up by dreamer bloggers: waiting for them are their elderly mothers, their young children, parents and friends. They want to go home; they want to quietly serve their sentences in normal conditions, but not in terms of endless inspections, provocation and blown up scandals that lead to nothing. These are ordinary women; they do not want to be part of the opposition movement and porn art. That is their right. It is unacceptable calling upon them to do so or, even worse, forcing them to do this by means of provocations, statements, complaints, and threats to prosecute on trumped up charges. It is a political game, and as a result each will inevitably be taken as personally responsible. At that time we were unable to agree. Nadia stood her ground: “The worse the better”; I spit on the victim; I spit at the truth; the end justifies the means: a change of political power. We stopped talking to each other.

And here is the latest way in which Nadia has stepped out of line: she made-up charges concerning threats to her life, ostensibly from other prisoners. What for? In order to prolong her finest hour in the media? I have no reason for supporting the colony administration: I am a convicted person who has repeatedly banged her fist on the administrative tables. I have been an offender against the prison regime, sitting in solitary confinement; I am a freedom-loving nationalist and a stubborn person of a type that nobody has ever seen here before. I have my own opinion and my own position, which I have a right to have – no less than Tolokonnikova has. That now works on Nadia mostly as though it were a mockery of the way she imagines human rights. She imagines herself as a saviour and defender of the rights of convicts. So Nadia launched her attack: salvation through public relations that nobody had asked for.

If the Internet is now full of the myth that we have here a Gulag in which humans are sacrificed and against which Nadia has rebelled (Oh, how clever of her! Oh, how brave!), the reality is that Nadia is securely accommodated in a separate room with a heater, a fridge, a TV, a radio and other amenities; Nadia does not care what’s going on behind the door of her “suites” with the rest of the prisoners that have not attracted the attention of the world media. Nadia accuses people that refute her words about the threats and who did not, together with the administration, approve of her words; Nadia has written about 10 persons amongst the convicts alone who have allegedly been threatening her with murder, slaughter, and physical punishment in the event of non-compliance with the administrative demands. She wrote a statement about people whom others are waiting for back home; she wrote about people who, myself included, face at best disciplinary action. A price is going to paid for your public relations, Nadia. That’s the way things are done in Russia.

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