One of the themes we discussed with General Moroz from the Federal Penitentiary Service and Moskalkova was huge numbers of Muslims in the Moscow prisons. Around 40 % are people from Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Caucasian countries. While the orthodox rituals and priests are organised at the more or less acceptable level, Muslims have nothing but the things they have organised themselves. 

In all three prisons where I have been, which is Vodnik, Lefortovo and Matrosskaia Tishina, the ratio is about 40 % of the Muslims and almost 60 % of the orthodox. Of course, there are representatives of some other confessions, for instance, Jews, Buddhists, let alone Catholics, Protestants and even Mormons I have met on my prison trips. For instance, Manashirov read the Torah regularly and adhered to the shabbes strictly; he even did not let me do any work. I often read the Torah aloud as there were no other books. I and Roma Manashirov liked that. It turned out it fully corresponded to the Old Covenant, except for different names.

I would say two more reasons why the state must treat the conditions of the Muslims in prisons and prison settlements more carefully. 

First of all, the Islamists’ intensity of emotions is way too strong, and they are more radical and consistent. Many of them treat the Sharia law as the only law they recognise. The situation has also been deteriorated by the fact that the law enforcement officers have started to imprison numerous supporters of not only the Koran, but also Sunnah of Mohammad for terrorism. According to them, most of the prisoners accused of terrorism have never planned terrorist attacks, and even if they ever mentioned fighting in Syria, they did that only to impress their companions and boast. Nevertheless, there are actually lots of combatants from the CIS countries and Russia fighting for the Islamists in Syria. In prison, there are moderate Muslims who are deprived of a chance to talk to an imam, adhere to the traditional religious rituals; as a result, they are influenced by jihadist terror groups. This way, the government’s policy itself creates the environment encouraging growth of new ultra-radical Islamists. The powers of blatnoys (members of the Russian criminal underworld) and the green (that is how Muslims are called in prisons) are approximately equal nowadays. The authority often changes in prison by being transferred from the supporters of criminal traditions to the Jamaat and vice versa; it sometimes happens at the background of massacre. Law enforcement officers often provoke conflicts between these two groups themselves by applying the ancient Roman principle: “divide and rule”.

Secondly, in all the Moscow prisons I know, almost all underbosses and mafia enforcers are Muslims. For the last few years, the top ranks have been held by the Chechen and Ingush diaspora followed by the prisoners from Dagestan, Azerbaijan, Kabardino Balkariya and Tatarstan, despite the fact that most barons of crime are Georgian, Armenian, Russian and Kurds. Underbosses and mafia enforcers are appointed by barons of crime who are not in prison, and I cannot understand this paradox, but I must give proper respect to the Nakh, who are pretty good at it. 

I asked an officer of the Federal Penitentiary Service about this paradox today, and he answered that anything could be done for money... I guess the answer is too primitive and does not expose the core of this situation in full. 

Underbosses must adhere to the laws of the criminal world this way or another, but they are inconsistent with the Islam traditions. 

As I have already written, I was held in special units where I could hardly talk to underbosses. I would be very interested in talking to unofficial leaders. They evidently have an explanation for this combination.

Let me remind that Ilias from Ingushetia is a mafia enforcer in Matrosskaia Tishina, Zelimkhan from Chechnya is an underboss in the large special unit, Talekh from Azerbaijan is an underboss in the sixth special unit, tramp Idrag from Azerbaijan is Ilias and Talekh’s mate in cell 135, and allegedly Circassian Zurab controls the hospital. In Butyrka, a mafia enforcer is Akhmed from Ingushetia; in Vodnik, it is Bashir from Ingushetia, also preceded by Maga from Ingushetia. Before Ilias, a mafia enforcer in Matrosskaia Tishina was Surrogatnyi Sura from Dagestan (Avar or Dargin according to different sources), who was released right in the court room although he had been accused of crimes under several Articles.

The one before him, Anzor, was a well-respected mafia enforcer. The prisoners started to respect him even more after he had settled the conflict between a Chechen and a Russian held in that prison. On hearing them both, Anzor took a decision in favour of the Russian, and when the Chechen started scolding him aggressively for not supporting the Nokhchi (the way the Chechen’s call themselves) whatever the circumstances, Anzor slapped him. I should say that application of physical force is not welcome in prison, and such right is solely given to the people of certain rank, in the light form only. Barons of crime, tramps and those striving must not even use offensive language.

At the turn of the XX century, the tsar Russia started introducing self-management of prisoners, which was declared the law of the Russian Empire. The self-management was ruled by the criminal leaders: tramps and ivans, who had efficient cooperation with senior executives and procured discipline and order. A tramp was elected by universal voting, and his dismissal by the head of the prison could result in the prisoners’ riot.

The present-day mafia enforcers have not appeared out of the blue and are continuation of the old prison traditions. A chief (a mafia enforcer) was elected in each cell (it is still the same). The authors of the instructions of those times wrote, “Chiefs are elected from among the experienced, smart and strong-willed people who can influence the thugs, talk to them and understand their needs.”

Thus, Feliks Dzierżyński was elected a chief in Varshavskaia Prison, Aleksandrovskii and Orlovskii Tsentral several times. Moisei Uritskii was an underboss in Lukiianovskaia Prison in Kyiv while Mikhail Kalinin was elected a chief in Kresty Prison in Saint Petersburg. However, we must give credit to the leaders of the criminal world because underbosses in Russian central prisons were classic criminals, and the senior executives did not regard political prisons with favour.



Eva Merkavecha has also given an interview to the OKA-INFO, where she criticised all those who had ordered my criminal case, in a direct and harsh manner. I admire this young slim woman who has such a strong will and faces the risk of trouble because of such serious accusations of the top-rank officials. It was worth getting into prison for the sake of Eva’s appreciation. It is a high privilege, and I am definitely proud to hear such opinion of myself from the person who knows what the Russian prisons are like best of all, and has written the most popular and objectives articles about this horror more than others. 

“This story has had numerous violations from the very start. We have been trying to see justice done all these months. Shestun is a good example of how the government treats us,” said Eva. “Everyone knew about those violations, about Shestun’s right to run for the election, and Ella Pamfilova claimed there must be no obstacles. Mikhail Fedotov came to him, but, instead of getting to meet a notary, Shestun was transferred to Lefortovo so that the notary could not get to him. It means that neither Pamfilova’s nor Fedotov’s words were of any help. The law enforcement authorities said, ‘You will not run for the election!’ And that was how it happened despite the words and actions of the people who are supposed to be responsible for the legal nature of the election. It laid Shestun low. He was really worried because he believed in his constitutional rights. Another thing that made him suffer a lot was inability to see his children. In fact, it is very difficult to beat such a man down, but when it comes to children, to no chances of seeing them, it lays even the strongest ones low. He says he dreamt of having one more daughter, but this dream is probably not going to come true. I was trying to persuade him that he still had the time to be a father again... I sometimes noticed how scepticism about the future and the feeling of hopelessness flooded him! It is definitely sad. The man tried to expose the people in power who had committed the crime, but in the end he found himself behind the bars. It seemed to me that Shestun’s address to the President would give him protection,” Eva continued. “But it happened the other way round, and the terrible thing is that it happens like that in our country. The man who exposes somebody suffers from prosecution himself. Let’s be honest, this is terrible. It is incredibly sad. Our government can surprise with their violence or unexpected mercy. There have been situations when something changed, and people were released. I wish Aleksandr Shestun were that fortunate exception. Moreover, the crime he has been accused of is an economic offence while Lefortovo is home to national-scale criminals. There have never been districts heads there as they are two minor for such detention centre... Such practically fake cases like the one of Shestun do no credit to our law enforcement system. As our famous lawyer Genri Reznik said once, there are saboteurs in the country. These are the ones instituting criminal proceedings people do not understand. I think, Shestun has fallen victim to such saboteurs.”

I was unexpectedly pleased to hear numerous flattering opinions of me from the people I knew when I was free and total strangers.

“The man has obviously risked it all, and his YouTube video is a desperate act of courage,” claimed director Iurii Bykov. “However, as far as I understand, he has a family, five children. I am single, have not children, but I still feel scared when I sometimes can’t help expressing some opinions in the social media, which are not to be compared with what he did. It seems the man pursues a doubtful path. What can I say? We are glorifying the insanity of the brave.”

Natalia Gramolina, the Deputy Director for Science at Vasilii Polenov’s Museum House, with whom I had communicated a lot, said to the media that she knew I was an exceptionally good man,

“Shestun attended our reserve museum many times and left an impression of a smart, lively and interested man. We often discussed different themes, and I liked his opinions and views and his activity in Serpukhov District. When I found out that he had been arrested, I thought how I could help. I decided to be a bailsman so that his detention would be substituted with home arrest, if possible.” 

Vladimir Ivanov, the Honorary President of the Aviation Sport Federation of Russia, also supported me in public,

“Yes, I personally awarded him a medal of the World Air Sports Federation for his contribution into development and popularisation of the aviation sports. It is history now, but many sportsmen both from Russia and abroad are still happy to recollect the world helicopter and air plane championships that were held in Serpukhov District. It was possible because Shestun had agreed to hold the championships. He always paid a lot of attention to development of air sports. Also, the administration of Serpukhov District helped us organise the flight training for the students from the Regional Pokryshkin Boarding School for more than ten years. I was really sorry to find our he was in such a complicated situation. I hope everything will be fine in the end.”


I spoke to my defender Viktor Kamaldinov the day before yesterday. Neither of the detention centres has such spacious and light attorney offices with large windows and high-quality furniture, clean and almost always unoccupied. Defenders come here to Matrosskaia Tishina almost every day, the same way they used to in Vodnik. So, some of the windows of the investigative offices overlook ordinary Matrosskaia Tishina Street, and some of them overlook the prison yard.

Active shouting starting suddenly: toss in this cell, toss in that cell. After I had come back into my pink cell 726 following the meeting with Vitia, I heard an increasing roaring sound similar to waves in the storm, getting more and more intense. In the course of time, the noise made by hitting iron items against the bars (I guess they were using bowls) and wild yelling seemed similar to an earthquake. The prison walls seemed to be shaking violently. My cell mates Andrei and Ruslan looked out of the window and clicked their tongue surprise, 

“We have not seen anything like that in six months we have been here!”

In 10 or 15 minutes, everything calmed down. However, in half an hour, the second wave followed like tsunami, even more powerful than the first one. It seemed that the thick walls built in the tsar times would break into dust, and the furious prisoners would flood the internal yard of Matrosskaia Tishina, grabbing anything heavy they can get. Then I really felt that such consolidated protest was not likely to happen without the organising force, spontaneously. I think if the prisoners had actually broken free from their cells, wardens and guards would hardly use their weapons in response. Their salaries are low, the corporate spirit is weak, and there are many other reasons. 

Toss, i.e. the total search, is usually conducted by prison guards from other detention centres and the Directorate of the Federal Penitentiary Service in Moscow. They say lots of things were seized that day, even from Ilias’s cell No. 135. It is common knowledge that in all minimum-security prisons and cells have mobile telephones and other forbidden items sold by wardens themselves. It is eternal business: sell it at a triple price, take it away and start over.

There are telephone booths in any prison in the world, you can call without any restrictions. Many countries even allow cell phones and Internet.

Why is it forbidden to use a microwave oven in our detention centre, and why do prisoners have to suffer with an electric water heater, the only heating device possible? They manage to turn an electric water heater into an electric stove, which is of course taken away. Why on earth are prisoners not allowed to wear a watch? Especially when you can see the time on TV, at a blood glucose meter, a blood pressure monitor or even a fridge. Why can’t we have an iron? In court, the accused look like scare crows against the background of prosecutors and investigators in well-ironed clothes. How can you dry you washed clothes if you are not allowed to have a rope in the cell? When there is a toss, they take away plastic hangers, shelves, carbon paper, even a TV or a fridge if there is too much food in it, extension cords and fans. All of it makes the prisoners, who are often held in inhumane conditions because of the lack of the budget funds, furious because even the things they buy themselves are taken away.




Светлана Астраханцева
Нам выпало время, когда белое становится черным, а черное – белым…
Григорий Михнов-Вайтенко
Пример Шестуна – это пример в истории, я бы сказал. Чаще всего такой человек предпочитает тихо и незаметно, извините за выражение, отползти в угол, и очень редко, когда вступает на путь правдорубца.
Людмила Улицкая
Понимание и попытка разрешения "мусорной" проблемы вызвали конфликт Шестуна с властью. Не просто с властью, а с самым сердцем нашей власти - с ФСБ. Люди должны встать на защиту Александра Шестуна. И к этому я призываю.

Записки Шестуна