The remainder fall right into a broad class referred to as merely the “males,” acquiescing to the gang leaders, refraining from cooperating with the guards and avoiding the abuse suffered by these on the backside of the pecking order. A system of rituals retains the hierarchy intact. Males, for instance, by no means share silverware with the degraded.

Some former political prisoners handle to discover a place within the system. Mr. Margolin, who was imprisoned in 2014 for his function in antigovernment protests, stated he efficiently sought assist from prison “authorities” to defend himself from an aggressive fellow inmate. The assistance was forthcoming, he stated, partly as a result of he was convicted for attacking a police officer at a protest.

“That was extremely valued,” he stated.

Oleg G. Sentsov, a Ukrainian filmmaker who served 5 years in Russian jails and a Siberian penal colony earlier than being freed in a prisoner swap with Ukraine, stated in a phone interview that inmates at his high-security jail camp, largely murderers, revered him.

“They weren’t psychos,” Mr. Sentsov stated of the killers amongst whom he slept. Most have been in for home violence. “They obtained drunk, perhaps, and killed their wives with axes. However in jail, it’s totally different. It’s seen in a different way.”

Mr. Navalny, he stated, would do all proper as a result of “he’s courageous,” he added. “I didn’t have issues with the inmates, and I don’t assume he’ll, both.”

Mikhail B. Kodorkovsky, a former oil magnate and as soon as Russia’s richest man, who served a decade in jail after financing the political opposition, was stabbed within the face by a fellow inmate wielding a do-it-yourself knife. He suffered solely a slight wound. The attacker stated he had tried to poke out an eye fixed.

Nonetheless, Mr. Khodorkovsky stated in a phone interview, inmates have been usually not hostile to him as a political prisoner, and a few stated, “You’re in for fact.”