24 March 2011
Russia: Notorious Butyrja Jail Now Opens Synagogue
Since the doors of the Butyrka Jail opened in 1879 it’s won the reputation as one of the cruelest and most brutal of institutions. Now in a twist, and a first, the notorious remand center is opening the doors of a Synagogue on March 24, for the large number of Jewish inmates.
While many look back at Butyria’s checked history, its been in more modern times that the jail has been questioned over it’s service.
In 1995 the Government was criticized when a fire injured 7 inmates, after the jail was acknowledged to be housing as many as 7000 people, twice the number it should have been.
Just two years ago, in 2009, leader of the Moscow branch of the outlawed National Bolshevik party, Roman Popkov,
won compensation from the government for being detained illegally for two years at Butyria and described the living conditions as torture.
20 people are squeezed into rooms with prison guards regularly searching the blocks destroying the few belongings of the prisoners, he reported.
Yet no-one can deny that it is it’s history as a jail in which political prisoners were dumped that has tarnished the center.
Over the years the monarchy, under Peter I to Catherine II that opposition leaders were thrown in jail. In 1863 an uprising in Poland against the rule of Russia saw activists thrown into Butyrka.
As time moved towards the Russian revolution once again the jail was used to repress insurgencies. Prominent Bolsheviks found themselves thrown into the institution where conditions were known as cramped, cold and damp.
Today it’s been announced that in collaboration with the Russian Federation Of Jewish Communities the jail will offer inmates the change to attend the Synagogue and Jewish education.
In a recent survey at least 20 of the inmates identified themselves as Jewish and interested in meeting with a Rabbi.
Across Russia three prisons now have built a Synagogue, but this is a first for remand prisoners, those who are awaiting trial.
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