The Happiest Guy in a Russian Gulag

August 12, 2013 | Marina Galperina

Photographer Max Avdeev took these shots in the  maximum-security Russian penal colony K-28 in northern Arkhangelsk, near the Arctic Circle where the outdoor temperature is a crisp -31ºF. The prison’s got history, harking back to the gulags of the ’30s.

These are beautiful, beautiful photos. It’s almost distracting. The shitty photos of the prison colony where Pussy Riot activists were imprisoned don’t look so good.

Particularly that photo above isn’t your typical Russian prison fare. What’s that guy smiling? As Julia Ioffe of the New Republic: “This inmate was allowed to keep his mustache after proving that it was a part of his family heritage dating back to the 16th century.”