ONLINE: Ethnic and Religious Identities in Russian Prisons: A Case Study of Uzbek Transnational Prisoners – Isthmus
UW Center Conference for Russia, Eastern Europe and Central Asia (CREECA).
press release: Russia has become one of the world’s main migratory poles after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The vast majority of migrant workers come to Russia from Central Asian countries. These migratory processes have led to a drastic increase in the number of transnational Central Asian prisoners in Russian prisons. Given the arbitrary application of the law, the precariousness and uncertainties associated with employment in the underground economy, a considerable number of migrants from the Center end up in Russian prisons. However, despite the strong presence of transnational Central Asian inmates in Russian prisons, we know relatively little about how these processes affected the geometry of power within prisons, altering the relationship between the prison administration and the prisoners. prisoners, as well as between traditional Russian prison subcultures and transnational Muslim prisoners.
With these considerations in mind, Professor Urinboyev’s presentation will examine how the arrival of large numbers of transnational Muslim prisoners shapes traditional hierarchies and power relations in Russian prisons. He will argue that large-scale migration processes have transformed Russian penal institutions into a legally plural environment where it is possible to glean patterns of coexistence and confrontation between various formal rules and informal subcultures: (a) colony regime , what are the official regulations and day-to-day management practices at the institutional level, (b) the traditional prison subculture, known as the thieves’ law, (c) the Muslim subculture based on Sharia, and (d) the sub -cultures based on ethnic solidarity standards. In doing so, this article challenges the widely held view among Russian criminologists and Western historians that penal institutions in Russia have traditionally been ethnically – (racially) and religiously blind. The presentation will be based on the author’s extensive ethnographic fieldwork in Moscow, Russia, and Fergana, Uzbekistan, conducted between January 2014 and September 2020.
About the speaker: Rustamjon Urinboyev is Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology of Law at Lund University and Principal Investigator in the ERC-funded “Gulag Echoes” project at the Aleksanteri Institute at the University of Helsinki. Rustamjon works at the intersection of sociology of law and ethnography, studying migration, corruption, governance, and penal institutions in the context of Russia and Central Asia.
His current research focuses on (a) migration, the underground economy and informal legal orders in hybrid political regimes, (b) corruption, informality and legal pluralism in Uzbekistan, and (c) informal hierarchies, religious orders and ethnic identities in Russian. penitentiary establishments. He is the author of Migration and Hybrid Political Regimes: Navigating the Legal Landscape in Russia (2020), published by University of California Press.