What is "Zek" in the Russian Prison System

What does the word "zek" mean?

The word “zek” is a slang word used in the Russian prison system to refer to inmates or prisoners. Zek is derived from the word zaklyuchennyi which translates to “incarcerated” or “one who is behind bars.” It is used as a term of endearment, particularly among prisoners, to describe an inmate as a companion.

Who is a zek in prison?

In Russian prisons, a zek is a prisoner who is respected by his fellow inmates and guards. This respect is earned through a certain level of dedication and commitment to the prison system, whether it be through abiding by the rules or making an effort to help out the other prisoners. Zeks are known to have a certain sense of honor and they are expected to take responsibility and look out for their fellow inmates.

Where did the word "zek" come from?

The origins of the word “zek” are somewhat uncertain. Some believe it originates from the Soviet gulag system where inmates were referred to as “zeks”. Others think that it might have derived from the Cossack term for “prisoner”. It is also possible that the word has its roots in the Yiddish word “tsike” which means “prisoner”.

Why in prison?

In the Russian prison system, there are a variety of different inmates. Individuals can be sentenced to prison for a variety of crimes, ranging from minor offenses to serious, violent crimes. Inmates often come from all walks of life, including the poor, the rich, the educated, and the uneducated.

What does black mean in prison?

In the "black" zones, to which the IK-14 Amur is informally attributed, the so-called "blatnaya" keep order. They are guided by criminal ideology and orders of thieves in law, who put their representatives – “watchers” and “polozhentsy” in prisons and camps. They collect money in a common pool and make sure that inmates in penal isolators and barbed wire enclosures always have cigarettes and tea.

What is the name of the most important person in prison?

Black or "blatnye" prisoners, authorities, and influentials are the highest caste in the prison hierarchy. They are usually professional criminals. They often wield real power in prison or in the zone. There are many requirements for those who seek the status of a "black". For example, "black" could not be a convict who served in the army, worked as a waiter, taxi driver or other service staff (so-called "holdees"), although in recent years some of these requirements have been softened or even abolished. "Blacks" usually do not work in the zone; where it is allowed, a "black" must not occupy any official position (otherwise he automatically becomes a "goat").

"Blacks" have the right to dispose of the "common fund" - to allocate money for bribes or for "heat". They are obliged to care for the supply of the zone by illegal channels of products, tea, alcohol, etc., to resolve disputes between prisoners in terms of unwritten criminal "laws" and "concepts" (under these laws, "correct" prisoners in case of conflicts can only appeal to the blacks and under no circumstances - to the administration of the places of imprisonment). Resolving the problem "by concept", the accuser makes a "claim", "justifies" it, and the accused "answers". A "black" in such a situation acts as a "world judge" and determines the reasonableness of the "claim" and "request", and also makes a decision on the need for punishment of the perpetrator and what it will be. For an unjustly made decision, the "black" can also be asked.

The "blacks" themselves, as a rule, do not call themselves "blacks", but "arrestants", "homeless", "travelers", "vagabonds", etc. If a person tries to pass himself off as a "black" but is not one, he can be punished for this up to lowering or causing disability.

What are women prisoners called?

Women who are imprisoned are referred to as “zekshitsa” in Russian. While there is some variation in the treatment of women inmates, they do generally experience harsher conditions than male inmates. Women are often placed in cells with multiple other inmates, leading to overcrowding and lack of privacy. Women are also less likely to receive medical attention and there is a higher rate of violence against female inmates.

When is Zek Day?

Zek Day is an annual event held in Russia to commemorate the lives of those who were imprisoned in the Soviet Gulag system. The event is held on the first Sunday of December, and is a day to remember the lives of those who were victims of the oppressive Soviet regime. There are activities and events held in cities and towns throughout Russia to honor those who were imprisoned and to raise awareness of the injustice and suffering experienced in Soviet prisons.

The word “zek” is a powerful and meaningful term for those who have experienced imprisonment in the Russian prison system. It is a term of endearment and respect for those who are incarcerated and serves as a reminder of the harsh conditions and injustices faced by prisoners in the Russian prison system. Zek Day is an important reminder of the lives that were lost and the suffering endured in the Soviet gulag system, and serves as a reminder of the importance of respect and dignity for all individuals, regardless of their circumstances.


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