ISSN 2330-717X

Notorious Political Prison Of Tsarist And Soviet Pasts Resumes Operations – OpEd


No one familiar with the travails of the victims of tsarist and Soviet oppression will have forgotten the name of perhaps the most notorious political prison outside of Moscow, Vladimir Central, through whose cells passed thousands of prisoners on their way to exile, the GULAG and all too often death.

Among those who passed through its gates were émigré Vasily Shulgin, Ukrainian Greek Catholic leader Kliment Sheptytsky (who died there), pre-1940 Lithuanian Prime Minister Antas Merkis and his family, and even Stalin’s son Vasily, the New Chronicle of Current Events reports (

And even after Stalin’s death, it was used as a place of confinement for political prisoners like Vladimir Bukovsky, Sergey Grigoryants, Yuly Daniel, Kronid Lyubarksy, Natan Sharansky and many others. But in 1978, all “the politicals” were transferred to the Chistopol prison; and many thought Vladimir Central’s notoriety was a matter of history.

But now as Vladimir Putin restores so many things from an evil past, the Kremlin leader has arranged for Vladimir Central to resume its role as a major political prison. Among political prisoners now confined there, the New Chronicle of Current events says, is Nikolay Karpyuk, a Ukrainian condemned to prison by a Russian court.

With Karpyuk’s incarceration there, the human rights monitoring group observes, this history “is beginning again and thus symbolizes the restoration of one of the most traditional braces [Putin’s term for what holds Russia together] of the repressive political regime.”

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Paul Goble

Paul Goble is a longtime specialist on ethnic and religious questions in Eurasia. Most recently, he was director of research and publications at the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy. Earlier, he served as vice dean for the social sciences and humanities at Audentes University in Tallinn and a senior research associate at the EuroCollege of the University of Tartu in Estonia. He has served in various capacities in the U.S. State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency and the International Broadcasting Bureau as well as at the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Mr. Goble maintains the Window on Eurasia blog and can be contacted directly at [email protected] .

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