Skip navigation
× You have 2 more free articles available this month. Subscribe today.

Russian Prisoners Revolting

Russian prisoners gave up after a riot in the Dnepropetrovsk prison in the USSR's Ukraine. The surrender took place on June 19, ending a rebellion that left the prison in smoking ruins and four prisoners dead. Of the four dead, one hanged himself, another overdosed on drugs from the prison's hospital, a third was shot by prison guards, and the fourth died of injuries sustained during the June 13th takeover.

Authorities said the prisoners released their hostages unharmed but did not say how many had been held captive or who they were. The prisoners left behind a demolished and smoldering prison, with a yard bloodied by the slaughter of pigs for a final feast. On the eve of their surrender, the men slaughtered and roasted 100 pigs from the kitchen and downed them with gallons of vodka.

The Soviet news agency, Tass, said the uprising caused an estimated $4.8 million in damages. Authorities also said it was the worst prison riot in Ukrainian history.

The prisoners had rioted for improved conditions. Families of the prisoners stood guard outside the facility during the riot. One woman likened the prison to a pigpen. "There are cockroaches a big as horses and there are lice in the prison cells," she said.

The problem appears to be nationwide, not unlike the series of riots across the U.S. during the 1950's that led to experiments with rehabilitation model (now largely discredited).

Interior Ministry spokesman Dmitry Seleznev said in Moscow the uprising was the latest in a series of protests over poor conditions at Soviet penal institutions.

Seleznev said a year ago there was an outbreak of hostage taking in prison and labor camps, followed by strikes in special labor treatment camps for alcoholics. A month ago, he said there was a peaceful protest against overcrowding and poor conditions at a prison in Khabarovsk.

And by early June 18 in Chelyabinsk in the Urals, 900 miles east of Moscow, hundreds of heavily armed troops had suppressed another prison takeover by 1,000 inmates, killing one prisoner and wounding several others to regain control. "It's kind of like an epidemic," Seleznev said of the revolts.

Although conditions in Soviet prisons are believed to be quite harsh, the London-based human rights group Amnesty International said prison conditions have somewhat improved recently.

As a digital subscriber to Prison Legal News, you can access full text and downloads for this and other premium content.

Subscribe today

Already a subscriber? Login