September 06, 2023

Navalny, Lexiconvict


Navalny, Lexiconvict
Protest signs reading "#FreeNavalny." Liza Poor, Unsplash.

The Russian Supreme Court rejected Alexei Navalny's lawsuit contesting a ban on using prison slang within the Melekhovo penal institution, where he's imprisoned. Navalny risked solitary confinement for using the vernacular.

Navalny's request for a list of prohibited terms was denied by prison authorities, leading to his highlighting an inconsistency: Despite widespread use of the same jargon within the facility, only he has faced repercussions. Initially, Federal Penitentiary Service officials denied the existence of such a list, but later admitted to a classified USSR document from 1983, prompting Navalny to take legal action.

In a Kovrov district court hearing, Navalny revealed that he faced the threat of solitary confinement for using terms such as balanda (referring to prison gruel), shkonka (a cell bunk), krysha (slang for protection), and zek (inmate).

Navalny highlighted the absurdity of prison slang restrictions by describing a hypothetical scenario of a Supreme Court justice stepping out of a sauna and exclaiming, “What a pleasure!” Technically, using the word kayf (pleasure) would be a prison violation since it is on the Ministry of Justice's list as slang for drug use. He argued that the word has become a part of everyday Russian even aside from drug-related connotations. Navalny also pointed out that terms like sledak (investigator) and terpila (victim), once associated with criminals, have now become accepted jargon in professional settings.

Supreme Court Justice Kirillov dismissed Navalny's lawsuit to reconsider the ban on prison slang, affirming that the prohibition on using terms from the "criminal environment" will remain unchanged.

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