Head of the Organising Committee
Sanna Turoma
sanna.turoma [at] helsinki.fi

Conference Coordinator
Kaarina Aitamurto
kaarina.aitamurto [at] helsinki.fi

Conference Secretary
Maarit Elo-Valente
maarit.elo-valente [at] helsinki.fi

Conference Intern
Miikka Piiroinen
miikka.piiroinen [at] helsinki.fi

Conference e-mail:
fcree-aleksconf [at] helsinki.fi

The Aleksanteri Institute

Unioninkatu 33 (P.O. Box 42)
00014 University of Helsinki
phone +358-(0)50-3565 802

aleksanteri [at] helsinki.fi


Past Aleksanteri Conferences

Larisa Kangaspuro (University of Helsinki, Finland)

Ira Jänis-Isokangas (Aleksanteri Institute, University of Helsinki, Finland)

Igor Sutyagin (Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies, UK)

Miglena Dikova-Milanova (Ghent University, Belgium)

Panel abstract: Legal Reforms and Criminal Culture in the Russian and Soviet Society

The role of crime in society and its culture has always reflected the relations between the individual and the state. From the second half of 19th century Russia followed the European discussion on crime and punishment. It provoked criminologists and other legal experts to call for judicial and prison reforms, which continued in the first decades of Soviet power. The core idea of these reforms was to highlight the role of education in the one hand, and the isolation of harmful elements on the other hand. In spite of these reforms, the criminal and prison culture changed little.

It is worth noticing that criminal inmates - unlike political prisoners at the same camps - were dubbed ""socially close"" (i.e. allies) in the Stalin's time. Such the approach created some unavoidable obstacle in fighting criminal subculture in labor camps and correctional colonies as colony administration had to rely upon criminals. Preferences to servile criminal inmates were the price administration paid to their servants. This process has gained new momentum during the post-Soviet period in Russian prison.

This panel discusses how much the criminal culture reflected the Russian and early Soviet culture in general, and how the modernization projects conducted by the state actually penetrated in to the prison culture? These questions are examined by the four cases.

1. Larisa Kangaspuro: Mutual Influence of Official and Criminal Culture in Pre-Revolutionary Russia - Взаимовлияние официальной и уголовной культуры в дореволюционной России

Russia tried to keep pace with international prison developments, but the efficiency of their realization across the country was questionable. However, in the late 19th century the state enlightened and gave some basic education to prisoners in the Russian Empire. This paper explores in the same time the interconnection of Russian literature and prison. How criminals has become the heroes in the Russian society. Why the prison subculture has become an alternative culture in Russia.

2. Ira Jänis-Isokangas: Hooligans Speak Bolshevik - Хулиганы говорят по-большевистски

he second case discusses how the people, who were accused of hooliganism in the mid-1920s, perceived the concept of hooliganism. The Soviet state campaigned against alcoholism and hooliganism and conducted large studies, which tried to solve the problem of hooliganism by learning who the hooligans were and how they understood their crime. This case study explores these investigations by looking at the language and concepts the hooligans used.

3. Igor Sutyagin: The Phenomenon of Intra-Prison Corruption in Russia - Феномен внутри тюремной коррупции в России

Dissolution of ideological socialist factors gave road to mercantile interests thus opening opportunities for the more straightforward corruption of prison administration officials by criminally oriented inmates. At the same time, the unwritten rules of criminal sub-society are being influenced by the criminals' closer collaboration with prison administrations - thus collaboration-generated 'corruption' being the dual-way process.

4. Miglena Dikova-Milanova: Sentencing the Poet and the Swindler: Osip Mandelstam and Andrey Rubanov - Приговор поэту и мошеннику: Осип Мандельштам и Андрей Рубанов

The aim of prison punishment is to bring balance into the social structure. The guilty (the criminal) is brought to justice and removed from the flow of ordinary life for a period of time. The desired ethical consequences of the punishment is to protect the rest of society from the dangers of criminal acts. The ethical repercussions of jail punishment for the ones sentenced is to reform their views on right and wrong, on social values and on wrongful action in general. The ideal picture of crime and retribution ends with the moral rebirth of the criminal. However, things can go horribly wrong if the committed crime is the way of life and being of one individual or of an entire group of people. In this latter case, the sentencing becomes a prelude to a postponed unjust execution. While Andrey Rubanov in contemporary Russia clearly identifies his actions as criminal in nature, the poet Osip Mandelstam in Stalin's Soviet Union is fighting a hopeless battle for his life. The poet had not purposively broken a single criminal law. What are the ethical lessons to be learned from the juridical motions for imprisoning a swindler and for sentencing a poet?