Bitch Wars

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Bitch Wars
Date1945 - 1953
LocationSoviet gulag
Belligerents

Second World War veteran prisoners ("bitches," Russian: "suka")


Prison officials
Thieves in Law prisoners
Casualties and losses
Many Many

The Bitch Wars or Suka Wars (Russian: Сучьи войны, translit. Suchyi voyny or in singular: Russian: Сучья война, translit. Suchya voyna) occurred within the Soviet labor-camp system between 1945 and around the death of Joseph Stalin in 1953. The Russian word suka ("сука", literally "bitch") has a different negative connotation than its English equivalent. In Russian criminal argot, it specifically refers to a person from the criminal world who had cooperated with law enforcement or with the government, or one who had "made one's self a bitch" (Russian: ссучился, translit. ssuchilsya). Within the Soviet prison-system a historical social structure had existed since the Russian Tsarist era. One of the important tenets of the system decreed that members would not serve or collaborate with the Tsarist (or later with the Soviet) government. This rule encompassed any kind of collaboration, not only "snitching" or "ratting".[1][2]

As the Second World War progressed, Joseph Stalin made an offer to many prisoners that in exchange for their military service they would be granted a pardon or a reduction of their prison-term at the end of the war. After the war ended, many such servicemen returned to prisons and labor camps, and were declared suki and placed on the lower end of the prisoner hierarchy. As a result, they sought to survive through collaboration with prison officials, and in return got some of the better jobs within the prison.[3]

This class distinction, along with the suki involvement and experience in the Soviet military, led to an internal prison war between the military veterans and the leaders of the Russian criminal underground, or "Thieves in Law". Many prisoners died in the Bitch Wars. Prison authorities turned a blind eye, since prisoner deaths reduced the overall prison population (and also reduced the number of possible criminals who might return to the streets).

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Varlam Shalamov, Essays on Criminal World, "Bitch War" (Shalamov's essay online (in Russian)) in: Varlam Shalamov (1998) "Complete Works" (Варлам Шаламов. Собрание сочинений в четырех томах), vol. 2, printed by publishers Vagrius and Khudozhestvennaya Literatura, ISBN 5-280-03163-1, ISBN 5-280-03162-3
  2. ^ A. V. Kuchinsky Prison Encyclopedia, (Кучинский А.В. - Тюремная энциклопедия, a fragment online Archived 2008-04-24 at the Wayback Machine. (in Russian))
  3. ^ Varlam Shalamov, Essays on Criminal World, "Bitch War" (Shalamov's essay online (in Russian)) in: Varlam Shalamov (1998) "Complete Works" (Варлам Шаламов. Собрание сочинений в четырех томах), vol. 2, printed by publishers Vagrius and Khudozhestvennaya Literatura, ISBN 5-280-03163-1, ISBN 5-280-03162-3

Further reading[edit]

  • Александр Сидоров (2005) "Воры против сук. Подлинная история воровского братства, 1941-1991", ISBN 5-699-09276-5

External links[edit]