In this new section of our website we shall be helping people write letters of support to political prisoners and prisoners of conscience in places of detention in Russia.
Letters of support from the outside world mean a great deal to these prisoners. For example, Grigory Pasko said that after being recognised in 2002 as a prisoner of consсience by Amnesty International he received many postcards from all over the world. He and his cellmates covered the walls of their prison cell with the cards – a prison substitute for seasonal decorations around Christmas and New Year. Prisoner of conscience Konstantin Kotov on his release spoke about how important it was for him to receive letters while in prison.
We shall provide information about political prisoners / prisoners of conscience using the definitions of political prisoner used by Memorial, itself based on the definition developed by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) in PACE Resolution #1900 (2012), and the definition of prisoner of conscience used by Amnesty International (the organisation is currently reviewing its use of the term following the reinstatement of Aleksei Navalny as a prisoner of conscience).
In practical terms, letters to prisoners in Russia need to be written in Russian only. There are two main options on how to send a letter to a prisoner in Russia:
- Via the official, state-run online service FSIN-pismo (‘Federal Penitentiary Service-letter’) for which a Russian bank card is required to pay for the service and no foreign cards are accepted. By law letters must be in Russian.
- Via regular mail with the name and address of the recipient written in Russian on the envelope.
Strictly speaking, prisoners are formally allowed to receive letters written in foreign languages. However, the censorship process will take longer because of the need for translation. Here a great deal will depend on the individual censor – who might not want to be bothered spending time on translation at all. For this reason it is better to send a letter written in Russian – there are more chances it will get through!
How ‘Write to Russia’ will work:
- every week we shall publish information about one selected political prisoner / prisoner of conscience, with information about how to write to them.
- if you wish to choose another political prisoner / prisoner of conscience to whom to write, you can find many via our website by doing a search for ‘political prisoner’ or ‘prisoner of conscience’. Other sources of information include the websites of Memorial, OVD-Info, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.
- send us by email a letter written by you to the prisoner at: firstname.lastname@example.org
- we translate the letter
- we shall either, depending on your request, (a) mail the translated letter on your behalf to the prisoner or (b) return the letter to you for posting in an envelope with an address written in Russian.
- if you prefer to sign your letter using a pseudonym that is up to you.
- currently postage for a letter to Russia from the UK is £2.20 ($2.73; €2.52). We would ask you to make a donation to support this work. The easiest way might be via PayPal [the address is: email@example.com]. For more options about donating to support our work please see here: How to donate. Of course you are welcome to donate more than the sum required for the letter.
For further information we also suggest you visit the excellent site of the Russian-Canadian Democratic Alliance which has a great deal of information about how to send letters to Russian political prisoners.
Our email again: firstname.lastname@example.org
We look forward to hearing from you!