The Topography of Incarceration: The Spatial Continuity of Penality and the Legacy of the Gulag in Twentieth- and Twenty-First-Century Russia

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Judith Pallot


The aim of this article is to show how the penal estate inherited from the Soviet Union has reproduced specific penal experiences in the Russian Federation. The first part describes the evolution and current geographical structure of the penal estate showing how in the years immediately after Joseph Stalin’s death distinctive carceral regions became embedded in the Russian landscape. The second part discusses how this distinctive geography has become associated with a specific punishment form, “in exile imprisonment,” that merges incarceration with expulsion to the peripheries. In the final section it explores various ways that sending prisoners long distances to serve their sentences may be understood as punitive, adding to the familiar pains of imprisonment discussed by penal sociologists. The research on which this article is based emerges from two research projects conducted by the author among prisoners and their families during the past ten years. In English, extended summary in Russian.


Carceral Geography, Gulag, Transportation, Penality, Exile

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