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Inside One of Russia’s most Notorious Jails

RT’s Konstantin Rozhkov tours Kresty — one of Russia’s most famous prisons with a long and sinister history — and explores how this notorious correctional facility has changed over the years.

For more than a century, the largest prison facility in Europe has held Russia’s most notorious and violent criminals. For decades, the Kresty prison’s darkest parts have been hidden from the public eye. Yet, the whole ambience of the place sends shivers down your spine.

The Kresty prison was built at the end of the 19th century. It was the most advanced facility in Russia because of its iconic architecture. The cross-shape of the two main buildings gave the prison its unofficial name — Kresty (or the Crosses) — and made it easy for guards to monitor and access every corner of the jail before CCTV cameras were invented.

The Kresty prison served as a pre-detention facility for most of its history. However, in Soviet times, there was also a dedicated wing for those found guilty of the most violent crimes like multiple murders and rapes.

Old solitary confinement cells widely used during Stalin’s rule in the 1930s and ’40s are a third the size of a normal cell. Moreover, it’s impossible to fully stretch your arms or lean back because the walls are cold and sharp. Spending days or even weeks in a cell, just standing or sitting — lying down during the daytime is forbidden — could drive even a stable person crazy.

The modern building of the Kresty looks nothing like the old one and can easily be mistaken for a hostel or a student dorm. So what does an inmate’s life look like today?