An inmate in Russia is selling NFT art to support his family and fellow inmates

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An inmate in Russia is selling NFT art to support his family and fellow inmates By Hannah perez

Under the pseudonym ‘Papasweeds’, artist Pavel Skazkin sells designs on NFT that portray his experience within the Russian prison system.


The growing trend and speculation around non-fungible tokens (NFTs) may offer novel ways to support worthy causes.

A few days ago we reviewed the initiative of a teenager who is raising funds through the sale of drawings on NFT for the conservation of beluga whales. This week, in a slightly more dramatic story, an inmate in Russia told CoinDesk how he leverages digital art craze to support his family and fellow inmates from prison.

Digital art from prison

Pavel Skazkin, a 31-year-old Russian inmate, has chosen to create surreal digital art from his cell to sell in NFT format. He is inspired by life in prison and takes advantage of artistic creation as a way of catharting his own experience within the Russian prison system.

The father of three children, Skazkin is dedicating a percentage of the sales to support his family and another percentage to help other inmates in situations similar to his own. In a telephone interview, Skazkin told CoinDesk who has pledged to donate a third of the proceeds from his NFT sales to Russia Behind Bars, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping inmates and their families.

I know how difficult it is to be in prison and wait for a relative to come out. I’d like to help.

Hall of Shame”Is the title of the NFT work by the Russian artist shown above. The digital piece is a hand-drawn illustration that portrays Skazkin’s sentencing experience before the Russian court, as detailed by himself on the platform Foundation. At the time of publishing, the work is priced at 0.99 ETH, about $ 4,700 USD.

Every sentence that is said in the courtroom feels like a death sentence. Years of your life are taken from you in a moment. I felt like a helpless and vulnerable child.

The history of ‘Papasweeds’

The recluse sells his works on the NFT market under the nickname ‘Papasweeds’, which is a play on words that collects your criminal charges and personal history.

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According to Skazkin himself, a Russian court sentenced him to six years in prison for the crime of drug trafficking after being caught by local police carrying a package of marijuana and ecstasy. The prosecutor had initially asked for a 10-year sentence.

At that time, the 27-year-old Russian citizen was transferred to a prison near the city of Bryansk that prohibits communications and electronic devices. That prison, also known for being one of the most cruel correctional facilities in Russia, where cases of torture of its prisoners have been reported, as noted. CoinDesk citing local media.

Prior to his incarceration, he worked as a web designer, although not very successful, and had ended up working for an illegal market on the dark web; which ultimately leads to prison. In this regard, the artist is sincere about his criminal charges, and admits that “ended up in prison for the right reason“, Although he considers that his sentence was too harsh.

In this context, he explained that his stage name is an acronym for dad” and weeds“, Although he has also included some of the idea behindkosyak “, a word that in Russian slang refers to a big mistake or a mess, but is the same term for a joint.

Doing catharsis with NFT

Fortunately, three years after serving half his sentence in that correctional facility, Skazkin managed to litigate and win a lighter punishment; even without having a lawyer to defend him. “I studied in the prison library, I read the laws”, He assured.

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Following the court’s verdict, the Russian He was transferred to a less strict prison where he is allowed to go to work in a nearby city and use devices connected to the Internet.. This is how he managed to enter the bustling world of NFTs.

Due to his experience with the dark web markets, Skazkin was already familiar with the concept of cryptocurrencies when he arrived in jail. In fact he had bought his first bitcoins in 2017; However, the notion of NFTs was completely new and from the first prison there was really little news about the crypto space in print newspapers and on television.

Skazkin reminded CoinDesk that the first time you heard about NFTs was at the beginning of the year, when I was reading the magazine Popular Mechanics and saw a story about the famous NFT Nyan cat Based on memes, what do I know? sold for a staggering 300 ETH, currently close to USD $ 590,000. He said that at that time he had decided to create his own collectible when he got the internet.

I was like, what are these NFTs? Okay, I know what cryptocurrency is, I had a bitcoin wallet, but this is also about drawing.

The inmate began to draw his first designs from the first correctional facility. Then, from the second penitentiary center, he began to sell his pieces in the form of NFTs through Hic et Nunc, a little known NFT market on the net Tezos. Experience with digital art would allow you to discover a new way to reflect on your experience, while giving you a new sense of purpose. These sales allowed him to begin to generate a monetary income in addition to his salary as a prisoner of USD $ 140 per month.

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A way to fight for human causes

Skazkin’s NFT artworks soon began to gain attention within the collecting community in Russia. Before long, the digital art dealer Ilya Orlov proposed to the artist support with the project. Orlov is helping Skazkin finance his minting of NFT in Ethereum, something that can be costly due to the high operating fees of that network.

Furthermore, he believes that the artistic prospects for the ‘Papasweeds’ pieces are huge, he told CoinDesk. “In the West, people value and respect Russia’s pain and suffering, hence Dostoyevsky’s popularity. I told [Skazkin], [cuando] free yourself, we apply for a visa for the United States and we will make you an exhibition in New York ”.

The first thing we have to change [en Rusia] are the prisons“Added Orlov, calling attention to torture in the country’s prisons. For her part, Olga Romanova, director of the non-profit organization Russia Behind Bars, who corroborated Skazkin’s story, also commented on the need to support projects of this type.

I can’t say I understand digital art. But I understand that the people who got in trouble […]they continue to grow and try to support their families, as well as other prisoners. This does not happen very often and deserves attention and support.

This is not the first Russian initiative in NFT that seeks to fight for human rights causes. A few months ago, a group of NFT artists released a collection of digital art in support of the Russian media Meduza, which was censored by local authorities. Also the Russian artist Nadya Tolokonnikova, co-founder of the band Pussy Riot, launched this year a collection of NFT as a way to fight against gender violence experienced by women in Eastern Europe.

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Article versioned by Hannah Estefanía Pérez / DailyBitcoin

Image from Unsplash

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