How Russia’s white supremacists are trying build their own prison brotherhood

The Man

Former Staff
Jul 2011
What the Aryan heart wants

A rough dichotomy divides Russia’s prisons between “red” colonies (where the wardens are in direct control) and “black” colonies (where crime bosses and prison administrators collaborate according to informal agreements). This system apparently emerged in the 1930s, when criminals in the Soviet Union’s suddenly booming prison population organized an apolitical resistance campaign against the guards and administrators. The leaders of this movement called themselves guardians of Russia’s pre-revolutionary criminal traditions.

Human rights activists told Meduza that there are few prisons in Russia today that are purely “red” or “black.” More often, the administrators and crime bosses reach some kind of agreement about what orders the inmates will actually obey. Proper blatnye (“thieves”) are effectively unofficial prison administrators. Referring to themselves as “the black suit,” they’re usually professional criminals and recidivists. In prison, they don’t work, they perform no official duties, and they administer the obshchak (“common fund”), collected from the other inmates.

Inmates who cooperate openly with prison administrators are known as “reds” and kozly (“assholes”). The term “red suit” describes those who violate the thieves’ informal rules. Usually, these people work as groundskeepers, janitors, and in other administrative jobs, they don’t contribute to the obshchak, and sometimes they even live in separate barracks (for their own safety). In “red” zones, kozly enjoy certain exemptions granted by prison administrators.

There are other informal prisoner castes, as well. For example, there are muzhiki (“the guys”) — the ordinary (and most numerous) group of inmates who work and don’t participate in any power sharing. And there are petukhi(“the bitches”) — the most powerless caste in Russia’s prison population. These men typically wash the toilets and clean the prison cells, and other inmates are forbidden from even touching them or taking anything from their hands. These people are also called opushchennye (“the downcasts”), and they’re often subjected to homosexual violence.

Whether they become “red” or “black,” prisoners typically don’t choose their own “suit,” though men convicted of sexual assault are automatic petukhi. Artem and his dozen confederates were another story, however. They considered themselves neither “black” nor “red.” He says they lived by their own rules, “by honor and according to the conscience of a Russian National Socialist.” “I didn’t work with the administration, I didn’t squeal, I tried to stick up for Russians (even if they were in the wrong), and I didn’t drink tea [with the North Caucasians]. But I could still give them my phone to make calls, or borrow theirs,” Artem explains. “Cooperating with them was allowed in principle. The main thing was not to betray our ideas.”

Artem became convinced that nationalist groups should create their own “prison suit” — a white one. He says people in his group used to argue a lot (for example, about sharing tea with the North Caucasians or talking to officers from the Federal Penitentiary Service), but they managed to settle these conflicts by coming up with the “white suit” ideology, and sharing what was basically its charter on social media. For instance, they drafted the following passage: “Once you’re in prison, fear nothing. [...] Be firm in your convictions and live with dignity, as the Aryan heart wants.”

Artem says the “white suit” idea got its start about 10 years ago, and one of its founders was the nationalist and Slavic neo-pagan David Bashelutskov, who in October 2010 was sentenced to nine years in prison for murdering 10 people, trying to kill another five, and detonating four bombs. Behind bars, Bashelutskov became blatnyi (“a thief”) and started building a support system between the other far-right inmates.

According to Artem, the “white suit” is less a formal organization than a brotherhood. Its main purpose is to establish support and mutual assistance between right-wing political prisoners. “Political” here is the operative word: members say the group is open only to “prisoners of conscience” and “POWs” in the fight against the “occupation government and the consequences of its actions.” For Artem, these “prisoners of conscience” are men locked away because of their convictions, but sentenced for crimes related to illegal drugs (he says any narcotics found on his gang members are always planted by the authorities), guns, or posts on social media. The “prisoners of war” are imprisoned for more concrete actions: arson, bombs, and murders. Artem includes himself in this latter group, proclaiming that the “Russian movement” is waging a “liberation struggle against the authorities.”

When the “white suit” concept emerged in the early 2010s, Artem’s confederates started compiling databases of fellow far-right inmates, listing their prisons, their sentences, and any information about them, like whether a prisoner or his family needed any assistance. One of these databases — the now defunct Geriu Voli (“Heroes of Liberty”) — was co-founded by Evgeny Khasis, who helped form the Neo-Nazi group “BORN.” In 2011, Khasis was sentenced to 18 years in prison for his role in the murder of lawyer Stanislav Markelov and journalist Anastasia Baburova.

Another man who calls himself a member of the “white suit” is 27-year-old Denis, who learned about the group roughly four years ago. In 2008, Denis was sentenced to 12 years in prison for what he says were “crimes of Nationalist Socialist convictions: extremism, separatism, and terrorism.” He’s still serving his sentence today, but Meduza managed to speak to him through the messenger app Telegram. Denis says the “white suit” community has helped him out more than once materially, but what he values most is its fraternity, which has allowed him to establish contact with comrades at his prison and organize them into a small group. “We’ve created our own ‘suit’: neither red nor black, but white,” the inmate explains. “Of course, it’s all unofficial. Nobody recognizes us and nobody is going to recognize us, but we hold to our own ideology.”

Word of the “white suit” has traveled beyond the prisons, as well. Maria Muradova, a researcher at the “Sova” information and analysis center, has spent the past three years tracking the activities of far-right and nationalist reactionaries in Russia. “They are actively raising money,” she says. “In groups on Vkontakte, they regularly upload screenshots from Sberbank apps confirming money transfers.”

Artem says the activities of the “white suit” aren’t limited to fundraising, and members sometimes work with inmates from other prison suits to resolve certain issues. For example, he says one of his gang’s members once sided with the administration when the “blacks” at his prison rebelled against the “reds.” The man ended up in the prison hospital, and members of the “black suit” planned to infiltrate the infirmary and kill him. “We found out about it,” Artem says, “and we went to the crime bosses at that prison and asked them to leave our man alone.”

While Artem was behind bars, incidentally, the “white suit” provided him with almost no additional money or groceries, but he says there are no hard feelings. “We’re not fighting for wire transfers or to line our pockets, but for our beliefs and for our freedom,” he explains. He says it was more valuable to him to be in communication with his comrades, including one of the men who brutally murdered chess grandmaster Sergey Nikolaev.

Together, they drank tea, celebrated important far-right holidays (like July 25, International Day of Solidarity With Prisoners of Conscience), exchanged literature, pooled their money for “tossed” phones, and shared advice about what to do in a tight spot.

Artem says the purpose of the “white suit” isn’t to push around the non-Russian inmates, but some people still need to be taught a lesson, he warns. “One time, these two guys showed up. They were in for rape,” Artem recalls. “We knew the other non-Russians would find them and say they were innocent and that the cops staged everything. So we got to them first, beat them to hell, and put them on a path to the petukhi, cleaning shitters.”

Artem refuses to say how many people belong to the “white suit” in Russia today. He told Meduza that he doesn’t want to cause problems for his associates, and he admits that it’s hard to know the exact number. The movement’s backbone, he says, comprises a few dozen people who are responsible for expanding the group’s network of contacts. They communicate in encrypted chats, asking each other to do things like pool money to help “a gang member.” “Even some of the inmates chip in,” Artem explains. “And the younger guys need to give this some thought: Is it right when inmates have to help other inmates financially? It should be guys on the outside doing this. Personally, I don’t like it, and I’m trying to pitch in a bit more money.”

On Vkontakte, there are at least three groups with the name “White Suit,” and two of them have been blocked in Russia. Artem says these communities have real connections to the movement, but his associates cut off ties to one of them, when its creators sided with the Chistilshchiki (“the Cleaners”) in 2015. Artem and his people felt that this gang’s activity — murdering homeless people — had nothing to do with the ideological struggle for Ancient Rus. Artem says he wants Russian nationalists to focus on “serious” endeavors and fight against today’s state officials. He says the movement’s enemies include Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, Ingush head Yunus-bek Yevkurov, and State Duma deputies Vitaly Milonov and Irina Yarovaya.

I spoke to and corresponded with several former and current inmates who consider themselves to be members of the “white suit.” None of these men specified the movement’s goals, but most of them mentioned the “Aryan Brotherhood” as a model and inspiration. This group of white supremacists formed in American penitentiaries in the 1960s, and evolved over the next three decades into a complex organization with roughly 15,000 members, both in and outside the U.S. prison system. Members of the “Brotherhood” terrorized and organized the murders of guards and fellow inmates, taking almost complete control over the black market at many penitentiaries. In 2002, several of the group’s leaders were convicted of killing 32 people and sentenced to life in prison. Some of these men, incidentally, were already serving life sentences.

“We’ve still got a long way to go before we catch up to the ‘Aryan Brotherhood,’” Artem says. “But you can’t say it’s out of reach. The world is changing, and that goes for life in prison, too.”
Much more: Rise of a skinhead How Russia’s white supremacists are trying build their own prison brotherhood — Meduza

It's true, lots of Russian skinheads and neo Nazis have ended up behind bars in recent years, due to crackdowns before the Sochi Olympics; around Ukraine; and before the World Cup too; etc.

Among them are famous personalities, big figures, like Nikolai Korolyov

leader of the white supremacist Orthodox Christian nationalist gang ''Spas'' (''Saviour'') responsible for much violence against Muslims and other ethnic minorities, including possibly hundreds of beating, stabbing, shooting attacks, firebombings of buildings housing Central Asian migrant workers in Moscow and St. Petersburg, a grenade attack on a Muslim halal shop in St. Petersburg which killed a woman and injured 3 other people; and the August 2006 bombing of Moscow's Cherkizovsky Market, where 13 people, mainly Muslim and other minority shopkeepers and employees, were killed and another four dozen wounded
In his book ''White Honor'', which Korolyov wrote at PC35, where he is still residing on a life sentence for organizing the market bombing, and which, illegally printed and also circulated through internet and social media, became a Bible for Russian skinheads and Neo Nazis similar in prominence only to Hitler's own ''Mein Kaumpf'', Korolyov expressed regret that a white Slavic woman from Belarus, a ''sister'', who also worked at the market, was caught up and killed in the blasts...

Maksim Martsinkevich aka "Tesak" ("Machete")

head of the Format 18 (F18) neo-Nazi gang which terrorized minorities in Moscow for years before his first arrest in 2009 and was known for gruesome execution videos

In this one, those two unfortunate young Muslim men, one an immigrant from Uzbekistan, the other a minority citizen from Dagestan, in Russian North Caucasus, had their heads sawed off by men shouting "Glory to Russia!"

This is why F18 was labelled in the media as "White al Qaeda"...

After his first short prison stint, Martsinkevich reorganized his group under the name "Occupy Pedofilyai", they were now, supposedly, vigilante pedophile hunters; in practice, they violently harassed, kidnapped, and tortured mostly innocent LGBT people; including plenty ethnic minorities too, like this gay lad from Central Asia, who was eventually tortured to death by them

This kind of crap eventually got Martsinkevich back into prison, when the authorities could no longer tolerate the mayhem his group engaged in on the streets.

Inside the prison system, the skinheads are at a disadvantage.

On one side, there are the so-called Jamaat, Muslim gangs comprised mainly of guys from Northern Caucasus (some also accept Central Asians; others look down on them)

The Muslims are known to target skinheads and neo-Nazis in their prison camps, for revenge for what they did to their brothers before, on the outside. In the terminology mentioned in the article (white, red, black jackets), the Jamaat guys are often known as the "green jacket" in the prison system.

On the other side, you have what the article refers to as blatnye (also known as bratva, etc), the mostly Slavic mafia groups (but also including Georgian, Armenian, and other ex-Soviet "brothers" too)

The blatnye are actually often in conflict with the Jamaats, who, in many cases, try to defy them and refuse to live by their rules in the prison.

Last year, in fact, Georgian mafia boss Ruslan Gegechkori aka "Shlyapa" ("The Hat", because he apparently likes to wear hats, when out in the free world lol)

even organized an alliance of blatnye and skinheads in his camp in West Siberia to attack Muslim inmates together, and trash their prayer room, because couple of them (Chechens) earlier disrespected him in the mess hall. In the ensuing violence, at least one inmate, a Chechen, was killed; and dozens injured, including a couple guards, while breaking that mess up...

That said, this is rare, for blatnye and skins to work or fight together. The mob bosses, especially the Slav ones, see the skinhead gangs as more of an unwelcome competition, if anything. Most don't like them, also because they (the Nazis) also tend to be pagans; while the mafia is strongly Orthodox Christian haha

So, they can and do face intimidation and, often enough, even violence, from that side too.

I recall recently reading the story of these two guys

One at left - a neo-Nazi, convicted of multiple violent incidents against Central Asian immigrants in Moscow; the one at right, himself from Uzbekistan, doing time for burglary or something, not sure. Long story short, both of them were outcasts in their prison colony, caught between A Slavic bratva on one side and a Chechen gang on the other, each of whom did not like either of them. They survived together like that, for months and years, watching each other's back 24/7, the guy who once beat the hell out of those like his new mate on the streets; now - best friends. In that one's case, by the time they both got out, it actually led him to renounce most of his Nazi beliefs :D

Few are that lucky though.

So, of course, they are forming own groups, especially with the avilable leadership of guys like Korolyov and Martsinkevich. Hence the "white jacket" is being born... We shall see where this leads... Nowhere good, I am sure.

Honestly, I don't give a shit what all these scumbags do inside the prison camps.

What concerns me much more, is that the far right, neo-Nazi ideas are once against, on the outside, proliferating among young people

Russia is heading back to my era, early 2000s, with this shit... :(

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