About Smyth

My name is Kitson Smyth and I use they/them pronouns. I’m from Manhattan and The Bronx. I have four siblings and four parents, and my extended family is scattered across the U.S., Argentina, and England. I am a Spanish and English double minor. I work for the Offices of LGBTQ Services and Residence Life and Housing. I’m a Spanish TA and tutor. I love dogs, reading, and cooking at home.

Fantastic Diseases and Where to Find Them


The easiest way to find a fantastic disease in Russia is to do a search of its prisons. Through unsustainable practices such as the failure to continue treatment of highly communicable diseases, such as tuberculosis, once an inmate has been released from prison, tuberculosis has spread in places where it can be easily treated.[1] In order for health in Russian prisons to improve, measures must be taken to ameliorate the inadequate living conditions that spread communicable diseases.[2]  The World Health Organization (WHO) created the Health in Prisons Programme (HIPP) in 1995 to fix the major issues of prison healthcare in Europe and create a more sustainable prison health care system. [3] Hopefully, with programs like these in place, Russia will develop a solution to the health care issues that have plagued its society for decades.   Continue reading

Pussy Riot Member Moved without Family’s Knowledge

The jailed member of Pussy Riot, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova was moved to a Siberian prison during an almost month-long period while her family was unaware of her whereabouts. Russian prison authorities moved Tolokonnikova after a highly publicized hunger strike over a distance of several thousand miles without telling her family  where she was being moved. Movement of prisoners often takes this long because the trains that transport the prisoners stop many times in different prisons throughout Russia. Russian authorities also are not legally required to say where a prisoner is being moved until after a transfer has taken place.

Today it was confirmed that after 24 days without contact with her family, Tolokonnikova was moved to a prison in the region where she once lived with her mother, Krasnoyarsk. Her husband initially believed Tolokonnikova was being moved to the town of Nizhny Ingash, which is 185 miles away from Krasnoyarsk. Tolokonnikova is currently in the hospital for convicts in Krasnoyarsk instead of the prison, being treated in a tuberculosis hospital. While she does not have tuberculosis, she is being treated for the hunger strike complications.

Is it ethical to move prisoners without notifying their families? What would the American reaction be if something like this happened to a prisoner in the United States?





From Russia with LGBT Love

This past summer, President Vladimir V. Putin passed a law that banned “propaganda on nontraditional sexual relationships” officially meant to protect children but known to be an anti-LGBT law. The New York Times asked Russians to send in their stories of being LGBT in Russia and several of those stories were published yesterday. The New York Times received over 400 stories from Russians and Russian-Americans and published 9 accounts from LGBT Russians of different ages, genders, and socioeconomic backgrounds. Many of the accounts said that the psychological affects on their lives the law has caused has led many to strongly consider leaving the country. Many of the younger Russians spoke of the importance of the Internet in finding other LGBT individuals in Russia and feeling less isolated.

A few of the accounts spoke of coming out to friends and family and the mixed reactions; some positive and supportive, others homophobic. One account from a gay man in a relationship spoke of a false marriage with a lesbian friend in order to hide their true relationships with other people of the same sex. One woman said she and her partner had decided to wait to have children given the political climate. One account spoke of St. Petersburg becoming less tolerant.

Given all this negative press about the new law and the upcoming Sochi Olympics, is it likely more LGBT Russians will have no alternative but to leave their country if the political climate doesn’t improve? What can the US and other countries do to show their support of LGBT individuals around the world?

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/07/world/europe/stories-of-being-gay-in-russia.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1&

Tuberculosis and Health Care

Here is my first draft for my project on tuberculosis in Russian prisons. This draft focuses on public health in Russia and the rate of communicable diseases such as tuberculosis from the 1940s until present day. This draft will eventually be a part of my final project as an overall summary of health care and disease control in Russian history.

Here is the link: http://goo.gl/1LajGZ

Secret Speech

We’ve talked about Khrushchev’s contradicting opinions of Stalin while he was the Party First Secretary and later Chairmen of the USSR, but his “Secret Speech” seems to finally put to rest his true opinion on Stalin’s dictatorship. The speech was known as such because it was read in a session without discussion and was not reported in the Soviet press. However, the Communist world knew of its existence and the claims within- that Stalin’s “Cult of Personality” was responsible of crimes such as the Terror of the later 1930s to the deportation of nationalities in the early 1940s- shocked and led many Western Communists to abandon Communism altogether. Not only did this speech reveal how Khrushchev truly felt about Stalin’s dictatorship and his desire to create a more Leninist society but also consolidated his authority over other Stalinist Party members.

Khrushchev’s speech argued that Stalin’s role in the Party was completely the opposite of the spirit of Marxism-Leninism, thus blaming for the various crimes in the past three decades. He also claimed Lenin recognized Stalin’s negative qualities which made him a poor leader as early as 1922. He spoke of Stalin’s continuous violence and suspicious nature as leading reasons why the Soviet Union suffered such great losses during the war without necessary preparation. His final message is of the abolishment of the “cult of the individual” in favor of the unity of the Party. Ultimately, he is condemning the small role Leninism has played within the government and the atrocities committed under the name of Marxism-Leninism and Stalin.

Charges Reduced in Greenpeace Case

Yesterday, Russian investigators reduced the charges against the crew members of the Greenpeace ship who held a protest against exploitation of natural resources at an oil rig in the Arctic Ocean from piracy to hooliganism.  Piracy charges could have resulted in a prison sentence of 15 years while the penalty for hooliganism is 7 years. Russia’s Investigative Committee has presumably lowered these charges in order to avoid any more diplomatic confrontation over the fate of the crew members, who hail from over 18 nations. Members of Greenpeace Russia believe that even the charges of hooliganism should be dropped, as it was a peaceful protest.

After the protest on September 19th, the ship was towed to Murmansk, where everyone on board was charged with piracy and denied bail. President Putin remarked a month ago that piracy was not an appropriate charge but agreed that Russia’s border guards had the right to cut the scaling cables of the activists and fire warning shots. These remarks made have helped reduce the charges, but why not earlier? Why are possible charges of violence against authorities being mentioned if none of the crew members nor activists were armed or resisted upon arrest?

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/24/world/europe/russia-reduces-charges-against-greenpeace-activists.html

Tuberculosis in Russian Prisons

While researching articles and websites for this project, I found a common theme of the health care system in Russia and how it’s changed over the years for better or for worse. My sources agree that the ’80s and ’90s were a particularly bleak time for Russia’s health care system, especially in Russian prisons were infirmaries were smaller and more crowded than public hospitals and larger centers for spreading diseases. Several of the other sources also discuss the problem of drug resistant tuberculosis and how Russia’s high recidivism rates contribute to the issue of multi drug resistant tuberculosis in prisons.

In my research, I have found both the CDC and WHO websites very informational because basic facts and detailed statistics are available in the many reports on tuberculosis both institutions have released. Also, because my topic is so recent (tuberculosis first became a serious problem  in prisons in the 1990s), most of the articles and websites I found will be of more use than the books, which are older and focus more on Russian health care in general.

I found Evernote helpful for taking in-class notes but the formatting was easily corrupted when transferring files from the iPad to my computer and vice versa. I haven’t used Dropbox enough yet to form an opinion on its pros and cons, but hopefully it will be more useful in classsourcing our projects.

Here’s a link to my bibliography: http://goo.gl/mIpldK

Meteorite in Lake Chebarkul

Yesterday a meteorite was dredged from Lake Chebarkul, in the Southern Urals region, about 900 miles east of Moscow. The meteorite, which is believed to be a chunk of the Chelyabinsk meteor from the meteor shower last February due to the dents in its structure which are similar to the Chelyabinsk meteors. The rock is 5 feet long and weighs approximately 1,255 pounds but upon weighing the rock, it broke into 3 pieces. According to the BBC website and the meteorite curator at the London Natural History Museum, the rock has the markings and “thick melted crust” of a meteorite.

The lake itself is bordered on other sides by towns, Chebarkul and Chelyabinsk. Several small islands on the lake are used as sanatoria. Is it dangerous to live and have rest or vacation homes on a lake where meteorites have been known to land? Should measures be taken to observe the sky more carefully for further meteor showers?



source: http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2013/10/16/235486934/divers-dredge-up-a-half-ton-chunk-of-russian-meteorite

Pussy Riot

Much has been made of the arrest of the Pussy Riot band member Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and her hunger strike in prison. She was convicted of “religious hatred inspired hooliganism” in August of 2012 after performing at the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow and sentenced to 2 years at a women’s penal colony.

Most recently, Tolokonnikova was in the news during her nine-day hunger strike. While she was hospitalized on the tenth day and given a food IV drip, a letter that she wrote appeared online on September 23rd explaining the inhospitable conditions that led to her hunger strike. She described the food as having very little nutritional value and the 16 hour work days to be exhausting. Shortly thereafter, the Commission of the Human Rights Council visited to inspect the colony. In a report released by the HRC a year after she was jailed noted the improvement in the plumbing services in the prison but still recommended that Tolokonnikova  be moved to another unit with less work and medically examined.

Now it appears as though this hunger strike was organized from the outside by members of the HRC and Tolokonnikova’s husband,  Pyotr Verzilov. According to members of the HRC, not only was the hunger strike organized not by Tolokonnikova, but the visit to the penal colony by the HRC was also planned. These members argue that Verzilov and other organizers of the hunger strike treated Tolokonnikova. While the details are hazy, hopefully more will be forthcoming. In the meantime, we can wonder: is it ethical to organize a prison hunger strike if one is not participating in the strike itself? Did the organizers and more importantly, Tolokonnikova’s husband, know the conditions Tolokonnikova was enduring before they planned the strike?