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Prison Alphabet


Prison Alphabet is a 13-part series by Russian filmmaker Andrey Silvestrov that takes viewers inside the walls of Russia’s vast penitentiary system, one of the world’s largest. Forty ex-inmates, ranging from political prisoners to officials and thieves, detail their varied experiences behind bars.

Interviewees include Russian opposition politician Aleksei Navalny's younger brother, Oleg Navalny; Pussy Riot musician Maria Alyokhina; former Yukos oil company executive Vladimir Pereverzin; civil activist Konstantin Kotov; and Uzbek political prisoner Bakhrom Khamroyev.

The 13 episodes evoke the Russian penal system's corruption and brutality, but also reveal its informal code of behavior and its nearly 500,000 inmates' defiant insistence on survival.

Prison vocabulary and customs have permeated ordinary Russian life. To illustrate that connection, each episode is centered around one prison word and introduces viewers to prison slang.

Beginning May 28, 2021, the series will run for six weeks on TV, YouTube, and Current Time’s websites. A feature-length documentary film based on Prison Alphabet is expected in 2022.

Prison Alphabet illustration by Andrei Mitenev
Prison Alphabet illustration by Andrei Mitenev

Schedule: Watch the program on YouTube (at 6:30 p.m., Moscow time, on May 28, 2021) or on satellite TV on Fridays at 10 p.m., Moscow time, from May 28 until July 16, 2021.

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Watch Episode 1: A - Arrest (Subtitled)

About The Filmmaker

Andrey Silvestrov
Andrey Silvestrov

Andrey Silvestrov is a Russian film director, producer, actor, and artist who works at the nexus of independent cinematography and modern art. He has co-directed with Russian artist Yuri Leiderman (Birmingham Ornament) and director Pavel Labazov (Volga - Volga) He has produced the movies of filmmaker Oleg Mavromatti (No Place Here for Fools, A Monkey, Ostrich, and Grave) and of director Svetlana Baskova (For Marx).