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Podcast: Letters From The Gulag

With a powerful letter from prison, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova continues a venerable Russian tradition.
Slavery-like conditions. Workdays that stretch from dawn until midnight. Sleep deprivation, beatings, torture, and even death threats.

These are some of the conditions that prisoners in Penal Colony No. 14 in Russia's republic of Mordovia are enduring, according to an open letter that jailed Pussy Riot member Nadezhda Tolokonnikova sent to Russia's Human Rights ombudsman.

Letters from prison have a long and storied history of carrying emotional power and moral weight in Russia -- and Tolokonnikova's is no exception. It has garnered sympathetic responses from some unexpected quarters, including some Orthodox clergy and a leading pro-Kremlin newspaper.

In the latest "Power Vertical Podcast," we discuss Tolokonnikova's letter, its resonance, and what the reaction to it might signify.

Joining me on the podcast are co-host Kirill Kobrin, editor of the history and sociology magazine "Neprikosnovenniye Zapas," and Sean Guillory of the University of Pittsburgh's Center for Russian and Eastern European Studies, author of "Sean's Russia Blog."


Power Vertical Podcast -- September 27, 2013
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About This Blog

The Power Vertical
The Power Vertical

The Power Vertical is a blog written especially for Russia wonks and obsessive Kremlin watchers by Brian Whitmore. It offers Brian's personal take on emerging and developing trends in Russian politics, shining a spotlight on the high-stakes power struggles, machinations, and clashing interests that shape Kremlin policy today. Check out The Power Vertical Facebook page or


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