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Social Networking Nizhny Tagil

Nikolai Usatykh, serving 22 years in Arkhangelsk (or is he just 22 years old?)

Twitter may be all the rage here in the United States, but social networking over the World Wide Web has just jumped over a 15-ft. fence and, barely missing a few coils of barbed wire, landed in the middle of Russia’s brutal penal system. These scary-looking, chronically underfed, TB-infected criminals may be serving twenty to life, but that doesn’t mean they can’t have one.  With the democratizing power of Internet technology, even the most downtrodden have a voice!

Now, you don’t want to know how they snuck these photos out of their cells or what they did to smuggle the cameras in. Main thing is that once you get an account at, you’ll be able to “friend” your favorite zek and start a friendship that will last a decade, at least. Some are somber and introspective, others pretty and simple-minded, while a few, like Dima Khrulyov below, are born with a natural gift with words and philosophy. But don’t expect quick replies to your private messages; it might be a few months or a year or more before you hear back from your new buddy. Sure, they don’t call them Gulags anymore, but visitation hour is still a 72-hour train ride away.


April 21st, 2009 | Comments (12)