Irkutsk was a city of two minds. It was a modern Soviet city and a quixotic collection of old wooden houses amid colorful onion domes. A vast public space was taken up by the park where Lenin Prospect met Karl Marx Square. Pedestrians moved with deliberation through drifts of snow, and even the ponies in the park leaned into the cold.
…the prisoners in their cells were watchful and silent, turning as a group like fish in an aquarium. It was the sweat of bodies and the funk of stale cigarettes, the rotting smell of addicts and the fruity, ever-present bouquet of human waste and buzz of flies that made life sad. It was the triumph of hopelessness.