POLITICAL PRISONER STATUS
The concept of Soviet political prisoner status was first formulated by political prisoners Kronid Lubarsky and Oleksy MURZHENKO who passed their idea to the outside world from the Mordovian political labour camps in March 1974. The status was drawn up in parallel in both the Mordovian and Perm political labour camps.
Although at the beginning of the 1950s following a number of uprisings in the labour camps, in particular demanding an end to internal camp terror from criminal inmates, the authorities had separated “those convicted for particularly dangerous state crimes”, they did not recognize them as political prisoners. In the middle of the 1970s prisoners of conscience launched a long, exhausting and truly heroic struggle for Political Prisoner Status, demanding that forced labour and mandatory production norms be abolished; that fair wages be established; that restrictions on correspondence and visits be removed; that medical services be improved; that the opportunity for creative work be ensured, and so forth. Since the authorities reacted to the plan for Status drawn up in 1975 with the active participation of the “prisoner’s general” Viacheslav CHORNOVIL, and the leader of the National United Party of Armenia Paruyr Airikyan merely with additional repressive measures, from 1976 prisoners of conscience began moving towards it through deeds not words, by striking, declaring hunger strikes on account of being denied visits, ripping off their name tags, refusing to wear camp uniform (the famous “kholodovka – which sounds like the word for hunger strike, but is from “cold”, since they sat in punishment cells in just their underwear). This also led to more repression. Some prisoners spent about half their sentence in punishment cells [kartser]. PKT [prison-type cells] or on prison regime while maintaining hunger strikes (for example, V. CHORNOVIL, V. LISOVY, V. STUS and Z. POPADYUK).