The situation in Ukraine remains unclear. The authorities aren't yet planning to declare a state of emergency, yet the "revolution" keeps widening in the country as hundreds of thousands of people are taking to the streets. There're many international visitors in Kyiv, which will host (if things don't turn too sour) the OSCE's annual Ministerial Conference later this week. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has already dropped plans to attend the event over Ukraine's intent to come back under Vladimir Putin's wing.
Nobody knows what will become of this mess, but President Yanukovych's initial actions suppressing demonstrations are worrisome and have some commentators bracing for the worst. If the government takes control with an iron fist, expect news stories of absurd trials and prison sentences for Ukrainian activists.
In the summer of 1997, Andrew Kudin found himself in a Ukrainian prison. An innocent man and a philosopher by training, he chronicled his experience and produced a short manual, How To Survive in Prison (available on Amazon) to tell the world the secrets of not only survival, but of how to preserve your human dignity behind bars. Ukraine may be different now, but the centuries-old fears are ingrained in the Russian psyche. Kudin's book has 16 chapters, and here's a summary of his key advice on prison survival, his 16 lessons.
1. Be ready: we're all pawns in this game, and the police may come knocking on your door at 2 AM.
2. On interrogation: promise anything.
3. On pre-trial detention: a time to make friends.
4. Learn the slang: there's no standing above the crowd.
5. The cell resembles a bathroom. Get used to it.
6. The guards are dumb, but don't be pushing their buttons. It's Tricky!
7. Keep your cool when the investigators come visit.
8. On jail healthcare: say hello to your nurse, she wanna draw some blood!
9. Exercise regularly.
10. On prison food: I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream.
11. Hit the joint's library and keep reading. No matter what.
12. On cellmates: don't argue, don't be afraid, don't ask for anything. Be as independent as you can.
13. Prisoners' favorite pastime? Challenging you to a game of cards, dominoes, chess, dice, etc.
14. Who NEEDS to Get Lucky?
15. On religion: God helps those who help themselves.
16. Final advice: the real prison still awaits you outside.
It's all going to be alright in the end, says Andrew Kudin, now a free man. He went through hell and back and produced a classic of underground literature for the Russian-speaking world. It's available in English now and makes a great holiday present. The author suggests throwing the book in the fireplace: he no longer needs it and hopes that nobody else will find use for his advice and observations.
An age-old Russian proverb reads, "Don't count out a prison cell, a begging bowl may come as well." Even Chekhov referenced it in his uber depressing Ward No. 6. The post-Soviet folk is all too familiar with poverty and incarceration, and is very tired of both.