Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Tajik Jail Rising Sparks Fears that Similar Prison Revolts Will Spread to Russia

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 21 – The rising and bloody suppression of a prison revolt by Islamist radicals in Tajikistan two days ago ( is sparking fears in Russia that its jails and camps are likely to be the sites of similar clashes in the near future.

            Russian officials responsible for its penal system have good reasons for such fears: First, there are far more Islamists in Russian prisons than there are in Tajik ones and they have already established green zones in many places, sectors of prison life where the Muslims are in control (

            Second, Moscow banned Muslim parties far earlier than Dushanbe and has thus contributed to the radicalization of the Islamic community in many parts of the country who do not have the outlet for legal political participation that existed until 2015 in Tajikistan (

            And third, as reporting on the Tajik rising suggests, ISIS now plans to use such risings to demonstrate its continued relevance now that it has lost whatever territory in controlled in Syria. It would thus be entirely reasonable to expect that it would seek to provoke risings in Russian prisons.

            URA news agency journalists Sergey Makeyev and Mikhail Bely say that fears of that course of events are spreading not only among jailors but also among prisoners who fear that they may become victims of clashes between the Islamists and the penal institution authorities (

            They cite the conclusions of Mikhail Orsky, the author of Confession of a Russian Gangster, a novel which focuses on the Russian prison system.  According to him, Russian jailors have failed to pay enough attention to the rise of Islamist groups in Russian prisons and have allowed dangerous concentrations of prisoners from Central Asia and the North Caucasus.

            Orsky says that the prison administration has to recognize that ordinary criminals are far less of a threat to the system than are the Islamists; but to date, he continues, they’ve allowed the latter to beat up on the former, in the hopes that by divide-and-rule tactics, the jailors can keep control.  That isn’t working now if it ever did.

            Makeyev and Bely also spoke with Sergey Yefimov, a lawyer.  He says that the origin of the disorders in Tajikistan is “a serious signal” for Russia and suggests that it cannot be excluded that similar revolts are being planned for prisons and camps in the Russian Federation, something jailors need to take preventive actions against. 

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