The Bitch Wars or Suka Wars ( _ru. Сучьи войны or in singular: Сучья война) occurred within the
Sovietlabor camp system between 1945and around the death of Joseph Stalinin 1953.
The Russian word "suka" (literally, "
bitch") has a general negative connotation. In Russian criminal argot, it specifically refers to a person from the criminal world who has cooperated with law enforcement or the government, or "went bitch" ("ссучился"). Known "suki" would have a miserable life in prisons. Within the Russian prison system, there was a history and social structure that had existed since the Tsarist Russian era. One of the important tenets of the system was that members would not serve or collaborate with the Tsarist and later Soviet government. This rule encompassed any kind of collaboration, not only "snitching" or "ratting". [ Varlam Shalamov, "Essays on Criminal World", "Bitch War" ( [http://www.tyurem.net/books/shalamov/ocherki/005.htm Shalamov's essay online] ru icon) 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 ] [A. V. Kuchinsky "Prison Encyclopedia", (Кучинский А.В. - Тюремная энциклопедия, [http://www.e-lib.info/book.php?id=112100186&p=7 a fragment online] ru icon)]
World War IIprogressed, Joseph Stalin made an offer to many prisoners that in exchange for their military service they would be granted a pardon at the end of the war. After the end of the war, most former criminals eventually returned to their criminal activities and promptly found their way back to prisons and labor camps. The veterans who returned to prison were declared "sukas" and placed on the bottom 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.
This, along with the sukas' involvement in the Soviet military, started an internal prison war between the military veterans and the leaders of the Russian criminal underground, or "
Thieves in Law." Many prisoners were killed in the Bitch Wars. Prison authorities turned a blind eye, since prisoner deaths would serve to reduce the overall prison population.
Despite the government's belief that Wars would weaken the prison world, it instead created such a turmoil that labor and prison camps became often marked as black - where the traditional thieves' law ruled, and red - controlled by sukas, forcing prison authorities to segregate new arrivals at the very start of their term. Bitch Wars never technically ended, since a number of criminal groups defected from the traditional thieves' hierarchy and joined sukas, beefing up their ranks. However, when the influx of convicts decreased after 1953, the warfare became bottled down in the new segregated system, with the two worlds still fiercely opposing each other.
These wars are said to have transformed the old criminal organizations, corroding the old criminal ethic of non-collaboration with government officials.
*Александр Сидоров (2005) "Воры против сук. Подлинная история воровского братства, 1941-1991", ISBN 5-699-09276-5
Anton Antonov-Ovseenko, "Enemy of the people", Moscow. Intellekt, 1996, Section [http://www.sakharov-center.ru/asfcd/auth/auth_pages.xtmpl?Key=14106&page=137 "Bitch War"] , text online at the Sakharov Centerwebsite
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