The Fortress Prison of St. Petersburg
(1842 - 1921) ~ Russian Father of Anarcho-Communism : As anarchism's most important philosophers he was in great demand as a writer and contributed to the journals edited by Benjamin Tucker (Liberty), Albert Parsons (Alarm) and Johann Most (Freiheit). Tucker praised Kropotkin's publication as "the most scholarly anarchist journal in existence." (From : Spartacus Educational Bio.)
• "The communes of the next revolution will proclaim and establish their independence by direct socialist revolutionary action, abolishing private property. When the revolutionary situation ripens, which may happen any day, and governments are swept away by the people, when the middle-class camp, which only exists by state protection, is thus thrown into disorder, the insurgent people will not wait until some new government decrees, in its marvelous wisdom, a few economic reforms." (From : "The Commune of Paris," by Peter Kropotkin, Freedo....)
• "...the strength of Anarchy lies precisely in that it understands all human faculties and all passions, and ignores none..." (From : "The Conquest of Bread," by Peter Kropotkin, 1906.)
• "...let us remember that if exasperation often drives men to revolt, it is always hope, the hope of victory, which makes revolutions." (From : "The Spirit of Revolution," by Peter Kropotkin, fi....)
The Fortress Prison of St. Petersburg
I Find, in the Contemporary Review for February last, a paper by Mr. Lansdell on 'A Russian Prison,' containing a description of the State prison at the St. Petersburg fortress of St. Peter and St. Paul. This description being, in my opinion, too incomplete to convey a correct idea about the real conditions of prison life in the Russian fortress, and being intended, moreover, to cast a doubt upon other trustworthy information about such parts of the fortress as were not visited by Mr. Lansdell, I desire to give some supplementary information about the fortress which I know from my own experience. At the same time I would avail myself of this opportunity for answering, documents in hand, several questions addressed to me by Mr. Lansdell in the same paper, in connection with Russian prisons generally, and with my opinion about his book, Through Siberia. By giving publicity to new facts and testimonies, let me thus complete the information I have given about our penal institutions, in a paper on Russian prisons published in this Review for January last.
Without entering in this last paper into useless polemics with Mr. Lansdell, and by merely bringing before my English readers a few authentic facts, I tried to give an idea about the real state of the case. These statements of mine Mr. Lansdell does not contradict. He even seems not to take notice of the horrible facts which I have divulged, and which represent the Russian prisons in quite another light than his own account of them. When I say, for instance, that the St. Petersburg House of Detention - which is quoted by Mr. Lansdell as a sample of 'what Russia cando' - was recognized by the Commission under State-Secretary Groth as a building that must be rebuilt anew to be rendered inhabitable, notwithstanding the fabulous sums of money it has cost (see the summary of the official report given in the Golos for the 24th of January, 1881); when I mention the wholesale stealing which was discovered in the same prison in 1881; when I recall the disgraceful treatment of political prisoners in this 'model prison' by General Trepoff— treatment which was condemned, so to say, even by a Russian Court, during the trial of Vera Zassoulitch—Mr. Lansdell turns a deaf ear to all this, and does not say if the St. Petersburg House of Detention still 'may be supposed to represent the very beau-ideal of what a House of Detention ought to be.' When I give, further, the narrative of an inmate of a central prison, published in Russia (under the responsibility of the Conservative editor, M. Eug. Markoff) and the reliability of which was recognized at once by all St. Petersburg newspapers; when I describe how the jailer of this central prison flogs his inmates, and how his successor gives free play to his own fists, Mr. Lansdell does not say if he still believes that in Russian prisons 'justice and mercy go hand in hand'—he likes better not to touch these subjects—but he asks me several questions about other things. Well, I am ready to answer his questions, but my reply will only confirm what I have said before.
Mr. Lansdell asks me, first, what I meant when I wrote: 'In the space of fourteen hours, indeed, he breakfasted, he dined, he traveled over forty miles, and he visited the three chief jails of Siberia: at Tobolsk, at Alexandrovsky Zavod, and at Kara.' I simply meant to say that, whilst crossing the continent at the speed of a Siberian courier who outstrips the post, Mr. Lansdell devoted less than fourteen hours to the study of the three chief penal establishments of Siberia. In fact, it appears from his own book (chapters v. ix. xxi. xxxvi. and xxxvii.), that he spent a couple of hours in visiting the Tobolsk prison, two hours at Alexandrovsky Zavod, and less than ten hours in visiting the prisons of Kara, as in the space of one day he had not only to visit the jails, but also to travel between the different prisons scattered over a space of nearly twenty miles, and to experience the well-known Siberian hospitality in the shape of breakfasts and dinners (fully described in his book). As to the second day of his stay at Kara, during which day he had to visit the prisons of Lower Kara, it proved to be the name-day of the Superintendent of the works, Colonel Kononovitch, and in the evening Mr. Lansdell was bound to take the steamer at Ust-Kara, so that 'when we came to the first prison,' he writes, 'where the officer was standing ready to receive us, I was afraid we should not have time, and that our staying might involve the missing of our steamer. I therefore begged that we might push on, which we did, to Ust-Kara.' In fact, I would not have mentioned this 'less than fourteen hours' knowledge' of the chief centers of penal servitude in Siberia, if it were not necessary to reduce to its true value the following affirmation of Mr. Lansdell (vol. ii. page 5): 'I think it only right to say that I have visited Russian Houses of Detention from the White Sea in the north to the Black Sea and Persian frontier in the south, and from Warsaw in the west to the Pacific in the east.' The truth is that Mr. Lansdell has cast a hasty glance on what the authorities were willing to show him; that he has not seen a single central prison; and that had he visited every prison in Russia in the way he visited these, he would remain as ignorant as he is now about the real conditions of prison-life in Russia.
Still, I said, if Mr. Lansdell were able 'to appreciate the relative value of the information he obtained in the course of his official scamper through the Siberian prisons,' and 'especially if he had taken notice of existing Russian literature on the subject,' his book might have been a valuable one. To this Mr. Lansdell answers:—
Yet there is a fair sprinkling on my list of 120 works 'consulted or referred to,' of Russian authors, and of those whom I have called the 'vindictive class of writers' (some of them escaped or released convicts), who, trading upon the credulity and ignorance of the public, have retailed and garnished accounts of horrible severities, which they never profess to have witnessed, nor attempt to support by adequate testimony. One of these was Alexander Herzen, who wrote My Exile to Siberia, though he never went there, but only as far as Perm, where one of the prisons is situated of which Prince Kropotkin complains so bitterly.
It is true that at the end of Mr. Lansdell's book there is a list of 120 works 'consulted or referred to' (that is, quoted by the authors whose works he has consulted). I find even in this list Daniel Defoe's Life and Adventures of Robinson Crusoe. But the 'fair sprinkling of Russian names' (if we exclude the authors who deal with Church matters, or merely with geography, as MM. Venukoff and Prjevalsky) must be reduced to the following:—(1) M. Andreoli's paper on Polish Exiles in 1863-1867, which appeared in the Revue Moderne, and Mr. Lansdell contradicts it without knowing anything about the sad story of Polish exile but what he has learned from occasional conversations during his hasty travel (I hope to publish soon an episode of Polish exile of which I was an eye-witness, and which, I am afraid, will rather confirm M. Andreoli's revelations); (2) Dostoevsky's Buried Alive, dealing with seclusion in the Omsk fortress, thirty-five years ago; (3) Piotrovsky's romantic Escape from Siberia, thirty-eight years ago; (4) Baron Rozen's Memoirs, dealing with the Decembrists, fifty-five years ago; and (5) Herzen's My Exile to Siberia, telling his sojourn in exile at Perm, nearly forty years ago. But, of course, I do not find in this list either M. Maximoffs Siberia and Hard Labor, which is the result of serious studies made in Siberia, with the authorization of Government; nor the results of M. Nikitin's many years' official inquiry into the state of our prisons; nor the Siberian stryapchiy (or Procureur) M. Mishlo's papers on the Prisons submitted to his own control in Siberia; nor M. Yadrintseffs Prison and Exile; nor any of the official reports I have mentioned in my paper on our prisons; not even M. Mouravioff's papers on prisons, published by M. Katkoff in his arch-conservative review. In short, none of the works which contain any information about the present state of Russian prisons. This ignorance of books which contain reliable information about our prisons is the more remarkable, as none of the just-mentioned authors belong to the 'vindictive class of writers who vilify the land of their punishment,' but they all were, and several are, officials in the service of the Government.
Let us see now if these authors are not more in accordance with the 'vindictive writers' than with Mr. Lansdells testimony. The chief lock-up for prisoners waiting for trial at St. Petersburg, the so-called Litovskiy Zamok, appears as follows under the pen of M. Nikitin:—
It contains 103 rooms for 801 inmates. . . . The rooms are dreadfully dirty; even on the staircase you feel the smell which suffocates you. 'The black holes produce a dreadful impression (potryasayushcheie vpechatlenie); they are almost absolutely deprived of light; the way to them leads through dark labyrinths, and in the holes themselves all is wet: there is nothing but the rotten floor and the wet walls. A man coming from the free air runs away asphyxiated. . . . Specialists say that the most healthy man surely will die, if he be kept there for three or four weeks. The prisoners who were kept there for some time went out quite attenuated; several could hardly stay on their feet. Only a few prisoners of the less important categories are allowed to work. The others remain with crossed hands for months and years.' When M. Nikitin asked for accounts about the money brought to prisoners by their kinsfolk, or earned by themselves, he met with an absolute refusal from the highest and lowest authorities.—Nikitin, on the St. Petersburg Prisons.
The same author writes about the prisons at the police-stations of the capital:—
In the rooms of common people the dirt is dreadful; they sleep on naked wooden platforms, and half of them sleep beneath the platforms on the floor. Each prison has its black holes; they are very small holes, where rain and snow enter freely. There is nothing but the floor to sleep upon; the walls and the floor are quite wet. The privileged prisoners who are kept in cells fall soon into melancholy; several are very near to insanity. . . . No books are given in the common rooms, excepting religious ones, which are taken for making cigarettes out of them.— Police Prisons at St. Petersburg.
M. Katkoff's review, the Russkiy Vyestnik, does not give a better idea of Russian prisons. After having given a description of the police-stations, the author, M. Mouravioff, says that the ostrog is not better; it is usually an old, dirty building, or a collection of such buildings enclosed by a wall. It is not better inside: moisture, dirt, overcrowding, and intolerable smell, such is the type of all ostrogs in the capitals and in provincial towns.
The dress is of two different kinds; the old and insufficient dress which is usually worn by the prisoners, and another which is distributed when the prison is to be shown to some visitor; but usually it is kept in the store-house.. . . No schools, no libraries. . . . The depots for convicts are still worse. .. . Let us stop before one of the rooms. It is a spacious room with platforms along the walls and narrow passages between. Hundreds of women and children are collected here. It is the so-called family-room, for the families of the convicts. In this dreadful atmosphere you see children of all ages in the greatest misery. No dress of the Crown is allowed to them, and therefore their bodies are covered with rugs—with dirty bribes of rugs torn to pieces, which can shelter neither from cold nor from wet; and with these rugs they will be sent for their journey to Siberia.—Russkiy Vyestnik, 1878.
M. Yadrintseff—the same whom Mr. Lansdell quotes in the Contemporary Review—writes as follows about the Siberian prisons which Mr. Lansdell imagines himself to know after the hasty visits he has paid to them. I condense the description:—
Almost in every ottrog there is a nearly underground corridor, which has the moisture and smell of a grave; in this corridor are the cells for the more important prisoners waiting for their trial. These cells are half underground. The floor is always wet and rotten. Mold and fungi cover the walls. Water is continually oozing from beneath the floor. A small painted window makes the cell always completely dark. The men are kept there in irons. There is no bed-stead, no bed; the prisoners are lying on the floor, which is covered with worms and myriads of fleas; and for bed they have rotten straw, for covering their poor overcloth, torn to pieces. The moist and cold air makes you shiver even amid the summer. The sentry runs away to breathe fresh air.
And in such cells the prisoners spent several years, waiting for their trial! These prisoners, even the most healthy of them, easily become insane. 'I remember hearing once in the night horrible cries,' says one of the prisoners in his memoirs; 'it was a coloss who was becoming insane.'
And so on, and so on. I could fill pages with like descriptions. Was Mr. Lansdell shown all this? If not, was I not right in saying that he ought to take notice of the existing Russian literature on the subject? And will Mr. Lansdell still maintain that he has taken notice of it?
As to Herzen's work, Mr. Lansdell's reply deserves a few words more. I have quoted, in my paper on Russian Prisons, a description of the Perm prison, which was written two years ago, that is, in 1881, by an inmate of the prison. It was published by Professor Stasulevitch in so scrupulously managed a paper as the Poryadok was; it was reproduced by all newspapers, and was contradicted by nobody; even the usual official denial did not appear. What does Mr. Lansdell oppose to this recent testimony? He writes that he has consulted the memoirs of Alexander Herzen, who was at Perm, 'where one of the prisons is situated of which Prince Kropotkin complains so bitterly.' But Herzen was settled at Perm forty years ago; he never was there in a prison, and, as far as I remember, he does not even speak at all about the prisons at Perm. Shall I suppose that Mr. Lansdell knows nothing of Herzen's work but its title?
As to the title, Mr. Lansdell accuses Herzen again and again of having published a book on his exile to Siberia without having been there. In the preface to his book, Through Siberia, he writes:—
My specialty in Siberia was the visitation of its prisons and penal institutions, considered, however, not so much from an economic or administrative, as from a philanthropic and religious point of view. Much has been written about them that is unsatisfactory, and some things that are absolutely false. One author has published 'My Exile to Siberia' who never went there.
The truth is that Herzen never wrote about the prisons and penal institutions of Siberia, and no work upon Siberia. He wrote his memoirs under the title Past and Reflections (Byloye i Dumy), one chapter of which, dealing with his incarceration at St. Petersburg and exile to Perm, was entitled 'Prison and Exile' ('Tyurma i Ssylka.') It is probably this chapter which was translated into English; and if the English publisher thought proper to give it the title of My Exile to Siberia, I suppose that Herzen had nothing to do with that. The French, German, and Italian translations of the same work are simply entitled Prison and Exile. In any case, Herzen's Memoirs, forty years old, have nothing to do with Siberia, and still less with the Perm prisons of our time; and that is precisely the subject which interests us.1
I flatter myself with the hope that Mr. Lansdell, who has done so much to spread this injurious accusation, will do at least as much to give publicity to the refutation.
I must frankly say that it is with a great feeling of regret that I follow him over such ground. But, as I still cherish the hope that this kind of polemics is rather due to the malice of his official informants than to his own taste for it, I shall continue to discharge myself of this unpleasant business.
I wrote that the chief of the Kara penal colony, Colonel Kononovitch, who managed it so honestly, was dismissed from his duties as soon as the St. Petersburg authorities discovered (in the way I mentioned) that he was 'too mild.' Mr. Lansdell recognizes also that Colonel Kononovitch was recalled from Kara; but his dismissal, he says, was not a dismissal but a promotion. Truly, I do not see that. He belonged to the staff of the Governor-General; he was sent to Kara to take the important place of commandant of the penal colony, and, when it was discovered that he was 'too mild,' the order came from St. Petersburg to recall him to the Staff. I do not see the promotion. As to General Pedashenko, who was President of the Council of the Chief Government of Eastern Siberia, when be refused to confirm a shameful sentence of death pronounced upon the political prisoner Schedrin, he was nominated (Mr. Lansdell says) Governor of the province of Yeniseisk, which is part of the Governor-Generalship of Eastern Siberia; and without doubt he never will receive again the place of General Governor of Eastern Siberia which he occupied provisionally. Surely that is not a promotion. But even if Kononovitch were promoted to a higher charge in Siberia, it would prove nothing. It is well known that the number of trustworthy men in the Siberian administration is limited, and not in proportion to the number of places where trustworthy men are wanted. It may therefore be that the Governor-General of Eastern Siberia has already found for M. Kononovitch some place where he could be useful without coming into contact with political prisoners. This new post may even be a promotion. General Kukel, for instance, was recalled in 1863 from his post of Governor of Transbaikalia for having allowed our dying poet Mikhailoff to spend his last few months of life under some better conditions than convicted murderers (I know this intimately, as I was his aide-de-camp at that time). But after some months of disgrace and mize en disponabilité, he became again chief of the staff of the Governor-General, as there was nobody to occupy this office so well as he could. This change might be considered a promotion. But, promotion or dismissal, the fact is that, as soon as an honest man is at the head of a penal institution, and as soon as it is learned at St. Petersburg that some Siberian officer is merely humane in his relations with political prisoners (even in the way Colonel Kononovitch was—that is, keeping strictly and severely to the law), 'he is immediately dismissed from his post, and another is put in his place who receives the order to keep the prisoners 'in urchin-gloves' (v yéjovykh rukavitsakh). Such was the case with Colonel Kononovitch, with General Pedashenko, with the late General Kukel, in Siberia, with Mr. Heard in Russia, and with so many others. As to the consequences of such 'promotions,' I have told them. The political prisoners at Kara were submitted to such a treatment (contrary to the law), that two preferred to commit suicide rather than suffer more from the arbitrariness of M. Kononovitch's successor. Semenovsky shot himself on the 1st of January, 1881, and Rodin poisoned himself with matches on the 17th of January.
I wrote further that the chief prison of St. Petersburg, the Litovskiy Zamok (of which I have just given an idea by quoting a few lines from M. Nikitin's description), is an 'old-fashioned, damp, and dark building, which should be simply leveled to the ground.' 'To this proceeding,' Mr. Lansdell says, ' I would not utter a word of protest.' He admits, too, that I 'perhaps justly' 'find a good deal of fault with this prison.' Well, I am glad to hear that Mr. Lansdell finds a good deal of fault with one Russian prison; but I regret that, though he visited the Litovskiy Zamok, he did not describe in his book the chief prison of the Russian capital (sic); his readers would then know what to expect from provincial prisons.
Still, by way of saying a good word even of the Litovskiy Zamok, Mr. Lansdell (referring to another part of my paper, where I mentioned MM. Kononovitch, Pedashenko, and Heard's dismissal, and concluded that in Russia 'to devote oneself to any educational work, or to convict population, is inevitably to incur dismissal or disgrace') remarks that 'it was in this very Litovskiy Zamok' that he met with 'a lady interesting herself in the education and temporal welfare of prisoners' who gladly accepted books for them. I hardly need observe that a lady's being allowed to distribute books, clothes, and food to destitute prisoners has nothing to do with the systematic removal by our Government of men like MM. Heard or Kononovitch, and with the filling of our prison administration with rascals like those I have described. But even this example could not be worse chosen. There were two ladies at St. Petersburg, both engaged in this charitable work: an elder lady, and a younger one, the wife of a general occupying a high position at St. Petersburg. The high position of both had opened to them the doors of prisons. Neither interfered with political matters; both are perfectly known as mere philanthropists; neither transgressed the right they had obtained of visiting prisoners, common and political, for charitable purposes. But in 1877 the younger lady was requested by the Government to leave St. Petersburg and to refresh herself, far from her family, at some watering-place in Germany. I hope this 'disgrace' is removed now; but still it is characteristic that the only example quoted by Mr. Lansdell had such an end. I hope he will understand the feeling of delicacy which prevents one from entering on more details about the lady in question; and I merely remark, therefore, that, if the Russian Government really patronized those who are interested in the educational and temporal welfare of prisoners, the discussion would not have taken the narrow limits it has now taken. We should see hundreds of ladies carrying on the same philanthropic business; we should see M. Heard at the head of a series of colonies for young prisoners; the scarcity of books would not have been such as it is described by Mr. Lansdell, and—I should not have written what I wrote.
As to the overcrowding of Russian prisons, Mr. Lansdell doubts whether they were so overcrowded as I said in my paper. I cannot better answer than by producing a few quotations from the materials I have at hand before me in my cell:—
The Tomsk depót (writes the correspondent of the Siberian Gazette) is over-crowded. To the 1,520 people we had, 700 new ones are arrived, and so the prison which was built for 900 people contains 2,220. . . . There are 207 on the sick-list. (Siberian Gazette and Moscow Telegraph,August 28,1881.) At Samara:— 'The average number of inmates in our prisons, on the first of each month for this year, was 1,147; the aggregate cubical capacity of all our prisons being for 659 inmates.' (Golos, May 13,1882.)
At Nijniy-Novgorod:— 'The prison, built for 300 men, contained during the navigation as much as 700, sometimes 800 prisoners.' (Official report mentioned, by the Golos, March 1882.)
In Poland :— 'Each place in the prisons of Poland is occupied by four prisoners instead of one. It is proposed to build a number of new prisons;' they are not built up to this time. (Moscow Telegraph, November 1881.)
Shall I fill one page or more with like quotations, or, better, see what is said by official persons entrusted with the supervision of prisons?—
M. Mouravioff, a collaborator of M. Katkoff's review, in an elaborate paper on Russian prisons (written precisely in the spirit that the admirers of the Russian Government like), says :— 'Almost all our prisons contain one-and-n-half to twice the number of prisoners for which they were built' (Prisons and the Prison Question; Russkiy Vyestnik, 1878.)
The Siberian stryapchiy, M. Mishlo, writes about the Siberian prisons which were under his own control:— 'The jailer brought me to the rooms. Everywhere dirtiness, overcrowding, wetness, want of air and light. After having visited the rooms, I entered into the hospital. As soon as I entered the first room, I was involuntarily thrown back by the inconceivable smell. . . . The cabinets were luxurious apartments in comparison with the hospital. . . . Everywhere the number of prisoners is thrice the number permitted by the law. At V. (Verkhneudinsk), for instance, the ostrog is built for 240 inmates, and usually contains 800.' (Otechest venuyia Ziapiski, 1881.) With regard to Verkhneudinsk the proportion was the same when I made the inquiry as to the prisons of Transbaikalia in 1862.
Finally, we know from official figures that the aggregate number of prisoners throughout Russia in Europe exceeds the capacity of the lock-ups in the proportion of nearly three to two (70,488, instead of 54,253); and it is a secret to nobody that in many prisons, especially in the East, the number of prisoners is very often twice the number allowed by the law. If such is the overcrowding now, everybody will easily conceive what it was in 1861, when the inquiry mentioned in my previous paper (page 31) was made. At that time the prisoners were not transported, either by rail or in barges; they made the whole journey from Astrakhan and Odessa to Nerchinsk on foot; and the overcrowding along the whole 'Vladinisrka' (route to Siberia), during the breaking up of ice and the freezing of rivers, was really dreadful, as also the mortality. We see, however, that, as the number of prisoners increases with the increase of population, things are not much better now.
It was precisely to such an overcrowding, together with a phenomenal dirtiness, that the famous typhus-epidemic at the Kieff prison was due. It may have been imported by Turkish prisoners, as the authorities said, but it took its dreadful proportions from the overcrowding and dirt. 'Buildings erected for 550 inmates contained twice this number,' says the Golos correspondent in a letter dated the 30th of October, 1880; and he adds, 'the professors of the University who visited the prison, arrived, as is known, at the conclusion that overcrowding was the chief cause of the epidemic.' The circular of the Chief Direction of Prisons, to which I alluded in my paper, confirms, in its first paragraph, the exactitude of this conclusion. No wonder that, after a partial evacuation of the prison, there were still 200 typhus-sick out of 750 inmates. No wonder also that the mortality at Kharkoff assumed the proportion (200 out of 500) attributed to it by the priest of the prison in a sermon which was reproduced in the local Eparchial Gazette—a paper appearing under the supervision of the Archbishop.
I think that I have thus answered all questions of my critics with regard to prisons in Russia. It is obvious that all the documents could not be inserted in one review-article. But I hope that my readers will see that each of the facts I bring forward is supported by reliable testimony. As to prisons and exile in Siberia, they will be dealt with in another paper.
I come now to the fortress of St. Peter and St. Paul, where Mr. Lansdell was admitted to look through inspecting holes into the cells of the Troubetskoy bastion and to enter an empty cell, and where I was kept for nearly two years.
The system of Mr. Lansdell in dealing with this subject is really very strange. He mentions first what a friend of his (a person of high 'intelligence and probity,' who 'moves in high circles at St. Petersburg') said about prisoners in the fortress. They were fed, he said, 'with salt herrings and given no water to drink, so that they became half mad with thirst;' this 'business was only stopped by Count Schouvaloff;' but his friend 'still thinks that drugs are sometimes given to prisoners to make them frantic, in the hope that during their excitement they may be led to confess.' Then he describes his own visit to the fortress, and how he 'peeped breathlessly,' after having 'duly prepared his nerves to see how this arch-offender is treated.' And as he sees nothing but a man lying at this moment on his bed, or a lady reading at her table, he discharges his bad temper against the 'exaggerated and vindictive expressions of released prisoners' who 'vilify the land of their punishment,' &c. I really do not see how the 'vindictive' writers could be rendered responsible for the opinions of Mr. Lansdell's friends, who probably gather their information from the high circles where they move, and have sufficient intelligence to discriminate for themselves between mere fables and reality.
As to 'vindictive writers' who are accused of exaggerations, there is only one who has written about the Troubetskoy bastion, and this one seems to be quite unknown to Mr. Lansdell— I mean Pavlovsky, who published in the Paris Temps (in 1878, I think) a description of his imprisonment in the fortress, with a preface by Tourgueneff, whose name is a sufficient guarantee of the absolute trustworthiness of Pavlovsky's description. Mr. Lansdell's diatribes against 'exaggerated and vindictive expressions' of released prisoners are, therefore, mere flowers of polemics. As to myself, I have mentioned the Troubetskoy bastion in the following lines: 'But for the greater activity and life of the place (the House of Detention), I should have regretted, all dark and dripping as it was, my casemate in the fortress of Peter and Paul—a true grave, where the prisoner for two, three, five, or ten years hears no human voice and sees no human being excepting two or three jailers, deaf and mute when addressed by the prisoner.' And we shall just see if these lines are not absolutely true.
I must remark at once that the idyllic description given in the Contemporary Review of the life in the Courtine of Catherine the Second has nothing to do with political prisoners. The comrades of Netchaieff were the last who were kept there in 1870, and since that time the Courtine has been completely rebuilt. The prisoners confined there now are not 'chiefly, I believe,' but exclusively officers condemned to arrest in a fortress for disciplinary offenses.
As to the inmates of the Troubetskoy bastion, Mr. Lansdell omits to mention the most essential circumstance with regard to them, which circumstance would throw quite another light on his description; namely, that the prisoners he has seen in the Troubetskoy bastion are not convicts; they are people awaiting for years the day when they will be brought before a judge. There may be one or two occasional exceptions to this rule; some condemned prisoner may be kept there for a few months after his condemnation, either for some supplementary information, or for some special cause; but, as a rule, the inmates of the Troubetskoy bastion are prisoners waiting for their trial. Half of them even will not be brought before a court, as it will be discovered after one or two years of inquiries, that there are no charges sufficient to bring them before a court, even before a packed court pronouncing its sentences in absolute secrecy. In all civilized countries the men who are not yet condemned are treated as innocent; they are never put in irons. But what does it matter to Mr. Lansdell? He exclaims: 'He (the prisoner not yet judged) was not in irons (!); he appeared to be in good health, and showed not the least tendency to insanity.' The clemency of the Russian Czar becomes thus obvious, and all that was written about the treatment of prisoners in Russia is false! Mr. Lansdell saw no insane in the Troubetskoy bastion, and therefore all that was written about the frequent cases of insanity in the fortress is exaggerated. No wonder that the Uperiod and the Will of the People accurately published the names of those who became insane and were transferred to lunatic asylums!
But let us look into the cells of the Troubetskoy bastion. It is true that they are large, each of them being a vaulted casemate destined to shelter a big fortress gun. They measure eleven paces (about twenty-five feet) on the diagonal, and so I could regularly walk every day seven versts (about five miles) in my cell, until my strength was broken down by the long imprisonment.
There is not much light in them. The window, which is an embrasure, is nearly of the same size as the windows in other prisons. But the cells occupy the interior enclosure of the bastion (that is, the reduct), and the high wall of the bastion faces the windows of the cells at a distance of fifteen to twenty feet. Besides, the walls of the reduct, which have to resist shells, are nearly five feet thick, and the light is intercepted by a double frame with small apertures, and by an iron grating. Finally, everybody knows that the St. Petersburg sky is anything but bright. Dark they are;2 still, it was in such a cell— the brightest of the whole building—that, I wrote my two volumes on the Glacial Period, and, taking advantage of brighter summer days, I prepared there the maps that accompany the work and made drawings. The lower story is very dark, even in summer. The outer wall intercepts all the light, and I remember that even during bright days writing was very difficult. In fact, it was possible only when the sun's rays were reflected by the upper part of both walls. All the northern face of the reduct is very dark in both stories.
The floor of the cells is covered with a painted felt, and the walls are double, so to say; that is, they are covered also with a felt, and, at a distance of five inches from the wall, there is an iron-wire net, covered with a rough linen and with yellow painted paper. This arrangement is made to prevent the prisoners from speaking with one another by means of taps on the wall. The silence in these felt-covered cells is that of a grave. I am just now in a cell. But the exterior life and the life of the prison reaches one by thousands of sounds and words exchanged here and there. Although in a cell I still feel myself a part of the world. The fortress is a grave. You never hear a sound, excepting that of a sentry continually creeping like a hunter from one door to another, to look through the 'Judas' into the cells. You are never alone, as an eye is continually kept upon you, and still you are always alone. If you address a word to the warder who brings you your dress for walking in the yard, if you ask him what is the weather, he never answers. The only human being with whom I exchanged a few words every morning was the Colonel who came to write down what I wanted to buy—tobacco or paper. But he never dared to enter into any conversation, as himself was always surveyed by some of the warders. The absolute silence is interrupted only by the bells of the clock which play every quarter of an hour a Gospodi ponrilui, each hour the canticle Kol slaven nash Gospod v Sionye, and each twelve hours a God save the Czar in addition to all this. The cacophony of the discordant bells is horrible during rapid changes of temperature, and I do not wonder that nervous persons consider these bells as one of the plagues of the fortress.
The cells are heated by means of large stoves from the corridor outside, and the temperature in the cells is kept exceedingly high, in order to prevent moisture from appearing on the walls. To keep such a temperature, the stoves are shut up very soon, with burning coals, so that the prisoner is usually asphyxiated with oxide of carbon. Like all Russians, I was accustomed to keep a high temperature, of 61 to 64° Fahrenheit, in my room. But I could not support the high temperature of the fortress, and still less the asphyxiating gases; and, after a long struggle, I obtained the concession that the stoves should not be shut up very hot. I was warned that the walls would be immediately covered with moisture; and, indeed, they soon were dripping in the corners of the vault; even the painted paper of the front wall was as wet as if water were continually poured on it. But, as there was no choice but between dripping walls and exhaustion by a bath-like temperature, I chose the former, not without some inconvenience for the lungs, and not without acquiring rheumatism. I afterwards learned that several of my friends who were kept in the same bastion expressed the firm conviction that some mephitic gas was sent into their cells. This rumor is widely spread, and has also reached Mr. Lansdell; and it is the more remarkable as nobody has expressed the suspicion of having been poisoned otherwise; for instance, by means of the food. I think that what I have just said explains the origin of this rumor; in order to keep the stoves very hot for twenty-four hours, they are shut up very soon, and so the prisoners are asphyxiated every day, to some extent, by oxide of carbon. Such was, at least, my explanation of the suffocation which I experienced nearly every day, followed by a complete prostration and debility. I did not notice it after I had succeeded, by ceaseless efforts, in getting the hot-air conduit leading into my cell shut up altogether.
The food, when General Korsakoff was Commandant of the fortress, was good; not so substantial as Mr. Lansdell says, but very well cooked; afterwards it became much worse. No provisions from without are allowed, not even fruits—nothing but the calatchi (white bread) which compassionate merchants distribute in the prisons at Christmas and Easter—an old Russian custom existing until now. Our friends could bring us only books. Those who had no friends were compelled to read over and over again the same books of the fortress library, which contains the odd volumes left there by several generations since 1826. As to breathing fresh air, it is obvious that it could not be allowed to the amount mentioned by Mr. Lansdell. During the first year of my confinement I walked half-an-hour or forty minutes every day; but during the second year, as we were nearly sixty on the bastion, and as there is but one yard for walking, and the darkness, under the sixtieth degree of latitude, comes at 4 P.M. in the winter, we walked but twenty minutes every other day in the summer, and twenty minutes twice a week during the winter. I must add also that, owing to the heavy white smoke discharged by the chimney of the Mint which dominates the yard, this walk was completely poisoned during the east winds. I could not support on such occasions the continual coughing of the soldiers, exposed all the day to these gases, and asked to be brought back to my cell.
But all these are mere details, and none of us complained much about them. We know perfectly well that a prison is a prison, and that the Russian Government was never gentle with those who attempted to shake off its iron rule. We know, moreover, that the Troubetskoy bastion is a palace—a true palace—in comparison with those prisons where a hundred thousand of our people are locked up every year, and submitted to the treatment I have described in this Review.
Of course, to deal fairly with the subject, a well-informed visitor to the fortress would have said this :— 'The material conditions of detention in the Troubetskoy bastion are not exceedingly bad; in any case they are open to improvement. But half of the prisoners kept there were arrested on a simple denunciation of a spy, or as acquaintances of revolutionists; and half of them, after having been kept for two or three years, will not even be brought before a court; or, if brought, will be acquitted—as was the case in the trial of the hundred and ninety-three—and thereupon sent to Siberia or Mezen by a simple order of the administration. The inquiry is pursued in secrecy, and nobody knows how long it will last; which law will be applied (the common or the martial); what may be the fate of the prisoner;—he may be acquitted, but also he may be hanged. No counsel is allowed during the inquiry; no conversation nor correspondence with friends about the circumstances which led to the arrest. During all this exceedingly long time, no occupation is allowed to prisoners. Pen, ink, and lead-pencils are strictly prohibited on the bastion.3 As to working-men and peasants, who cannot read throughout the day, to keep them for years without any occupation is merely to bring them to despair. Hence the large proportion of cases of insanity.4
Further, a well-informed visitor would have mentioned how the few liberties given as to the visits of friends were acquired. Formerly, the visit of a friend was considered as a great favor, and not as a right. It happened to me once, after the arrest of my brother, to see none of my kinsfolk for three months. I knew that my brother, with whom I was more closely connected than is usually the case between two brothers, was arrested: a letter of a few lines announced to me that on all matters concerning the publication of my work I was to address another person, and I guessed the cause. But during three months I knew not why he was arrested, of what he was accused, what would be his fate. And I certainly wish nobody in the world such three months in his life as these three which I passed without having any news from the outside. When I was allowed to see my sister, she was severely admonished that if she said anything to me about my brother, she would never be allowed to see me more. As to my comrades, very many saw nobody during the whole two or three years of their detention. Many had no near relations in St. Petersburg, and friends were not admitted; others had kinsfolk, but these last were suspected of having themselves acquaintances with Socialist or Liberal circles, and that was sufficient for refusing them the favor of seeing their arrested brother or sister. At present—at least Mr. Lansdell was told so— the visits of friends are allowed each fortnight. But it ought to be mentioned how an extension of the right of visiting was acquired. It was won, so to say, by fight; that is, by the famous famine strike, during which a number of prisoners in the Troubetskoy bastion refused to take any food for five or six days, and resisted by force the attempts to feed by means of injections and the blows of the warders by which this operation was accompanied.
Further, the same visitor would have mentioned also the means and ways in which the secret inquiry is conducted, and the shameful proceedings by which avowals have been extorted, or rather tried to be extorted, from all who have shown a nervous temper. He would have mentioned, for instance, the lady who went mad when her new-born child was taken away from her, and refused to be given back until the lady was 'more sincere' in her testimonies, that is, merely betrayed her friends. He would have mentioned, too, the numerous attempts at suicide made in this pleasant place, the Troubetskoy bastion, by means of a piece of glass taken from a broken window, or by means of matches carefully concealed piece by piece during several months, or by means of strangulation with a towel.5 And he would have found also a word of sympathy for the friends and kinsfolk of the prisoners, who are kept for several years between black despair and faint hopes as to the fate of their arrested sons, daughters, or husbands.6
A well-informed visitor to the fortress would have told all this, and much more, without going as far back as 1866 to revive the stories about the salted herrings of Mouravioff the hangman. Perhaps I ought to have told this in my paper on Prisons. But I repeat, that when I remembered the streams of tears that are shed through-out Russia, in each remotest village, in connection with our prisons; when I remembered the horrors of our ostrogs and central prisons; when I remembered the salt-works at Ust-Kut, or the gold-mines of Siberia, the pen stayed in my hands to write about our sufferings— so small in comparison with these,—and I hastened to tell my English readers what is the real state of those prisons where thousands of people are groaning every day in the hands of omnipotent wild beasts. I mentioned the treatment of political prisoners (in a paper on the Russian Revolutionary Party) only as far as it was necessary to show the development of the struggle that is going on now in Russia; and in a paper on Russian Prisons I spared only five lines to mention the fate of my political friends.
But what I stigmatized as it deserves, what I have brought to the knowledge of public opinion in England, in order to show the hypocrisy of our Government, was the treatment to which were submitted the condemned revolutionists, who, instead of being sent to Siberia, according to law, were kept in the fortress, in dark cells, without any occupation, and were brought to madness, or on the edge of the grave, in the proportion of five to ten in less than one year. This I wrote, according to a description published in the Will of the People and in the pamphlet Na Rodinye, as I knew that each word of this description was absolutely exact.
This part of the fortress (where Shiriaeff, Okladsky, Tikhonoff, Martynovsky, Tsukerman, &c, were kept) was not shown to Mr. Lansdell, and he knows nothing about it; so that the only account which, in my opinion, he was entitled to give, was the following:— 'Although Count Tolstoy had promised me that I should see everything (he might say), I was shown only that building where prisoners are kept when waiting for trial, and the Courtine, where I found no political prisoners. I was not shown any building where the above-named convicts were kept, and I do not remember any of the names mentioned in this Review being named to me in the Troubetskoy bastion. So I can say nothing about the fate of Shiriaeff, Okladsky, and their comrades. In fact, I visited only one bastion out of eight or ten, and have no idea about what the extensive fortifications in the north of the fortress may contain.' That would have been, I think, the only correct way to give an account of his visit to the fortress, and this the more so as, out of two of Mr. Lansdell's informants — both belonging to the State's secret police—one (who belongs to the third section) said that he once visited a building with cells underground which were 'lighted from the corridor above, hardly enough,' he said,' to read by,' which cells are probably the same that I have mentioned, where lamps are lighted for twenty-two hours out of twenty-four; and the other informant ('a chief of the gendarmerie') mentioned a more comfortable building, three stories high, in the Alexis Ravelin, where prisoners were also kept. There are thus at least two prisons, or two suites of cells, which were not shown to Mr. Lansdell. But, notwithstanding that, Mr. Lansdell tries to cast a doubt upon the just-mentioned description of the shameful treatment to which Shiriaeff, Okladsky, and their comrades were submitted, and, in order to show its inaccuracy, tells us a long story about a Russian, Mr. Robinson, who was kept, twenty years ago, for three years (without being brought before a court) in the Alexis Ravelin, and was treated there as in a good hotel. Everybody will understand, however, that Mr. Robinson's case has absolutely nothing to do with that of Shiriaeff and Okladsky, and that the well-lighted room where he was kept (like hundreds of students and young men arrested at the same epoch) has nothing to do with the suite of dark cells mentioned not only by 'vindictive writers,' but even by a third informant of Mr. Lansdell. The fortress covers nearly a square mile, and it contains all kinds of buildings, from the palace of the Commandant to the cells where people are brought to death, or madness, in the course of a few months. Everybody knows that Tchernyshersky wrote in the fortress, and that our brilliant literary critic and popularizer of Darwin's works, Pisareff, who was kept in the fortress for two years or more, and was set at liberty only when already becoming insane, wrote his remarkable essays on Darwinism in the fortress. But what has that to do with the treatment of Shiriaeff, Okladsky, and their comrades?
There is, however, one point upon which Mr. Lansdell's doubts are quite legitimate. It is when he doubts about torture having been applied to Ryssakoff and Adrian Mikhailoff. I doubted it myself, nay, I said it was impossible, until I was convinced by facts. It is quite natural, therefore, that he wishes more details about torture before believing in it. But I know also that the Russian Government would be only too glad if, provoked by polemics, I should say something more about the subject. I merely say, therefore, that when bringing forward this terrible charge against the Russian Government, I was fully aware of the responsibility I took upon myself, and therefore brought forward only what I was certain of. If I were reporting mere rumors and town-talk, I surely would have added the name of Goldenberg to those of Ryssakoff and Mikhailoff. The Russian Government was loudly accused at St. Petersburg of having put Goldenberg to torture, in order to extort from him the avowals which served to condemn to death so many of his acquaintances, and this rumor was telegraphed at that time to the best informed London papers. Besides, the accusation received a horrible stamp of reality when it was announced that Goldenberg had hanged himself in the fortress, whilst it is known that there is nothing in the cells on which to hang even a towel. But I did not mention Goldenberg's name, as I knew nothing exact about him. And I published that torture was applied to Ryssakoff and Mikhailoff, because I considered the facts brought before me with regard to them as indubitable. None of those who have read the minutes of the last trials will doubt that the Russian Revolutionary party, which finds sympathizers —passive if not active—everywhere, from the Winter Palace to the last ostrog, from the Ministries to the barracks of soldiers, has more means for penetrating into the secrets of the jails, than those who simply visit them with permission of Government. Who will be convinced, indeed, of the contrary by such arguments of Mr. Lansdell as these:—Nobody was tortured in his presence, and Mr. Jones, a British subject, who was arrested once, and set at liberty after an examination which lasted for a quarter of an hour, was not put to torture!7 Everybody understands that torture would not be applied in the fortress under the eyes of Mr. Lansdell, and still less to Mr. Jones.
But Mr. Lansdell made up his mind that, after having seen a corner of the fortress, one would know everything about it; and he goes still further, he victoriously exclaims— 'What, then, have become of the cachots, oubliettes, and dismal chambers which have been connected with the Peter and Paul by so many?' Well, I also know the Troubetskoy bastion ; I know also the rooms of the Courtine; still I should never permit myself, on the ground of this limited knowledge, either to affirm or to deny the existence of oubliettes in the fortress. I should not affirm their existence, as I know that oubliettes are usually discovered only after a 14th of July; and I should not deny it, as I know that the Troubetskoy bastion does not embody even a tenth part of the fortifications of the fortress.
Again, I should not deny the existence of oubliettes, as I know that even in our times people disappear in Russia without anybody knowing where they are concealed. I take one instance, Netchaieff. He killed a spy at Moscow, fled to Switzerland, and was extradited by the Federal Council on the solemn promise of the Russian Government to treat him as a common-law prisoner, and not as a political adversary. He was condemned by a jury at Moscow to hard labor, and, after having been ill-treated there in the way I have described elsewhere, he disappeared. According to law he ought to be now at Kara, or at Sakhalin, or at any hard-labor colony in Siberia. But we know that in 1881 he was at none of these places. Where is he then? Last year the rumor was current that he had managed to make his escape from the fortress, but it has not been confirmed since; and I have some reasons to suppose that he was, two years ago, and may be still, in some part of the fortress. I do not say he is ill-treated there: I suppose, on the contrary, that, like all other political prisoners, he won at last the sympathies of his jailers, and I hope that he is kept in a decent cell. But he has the right to be now in Siberia, and to be enjoying a relative liberty in the Kara village, close by the mines. He has also kinsfolk and friends, who surely would be happy to learn at least if he is in life, and where he is. Does Mr. Lansdell's personal experience of the fortress go so far as to entitle him to affirm, on his conscience, that Netchaieff is no longer kept somewhere in the fortress? Is he sufficiently sure of his informants to authorize us to write to Netchaieff's friends that there are no oubliettes in the fortress, and that they must search for their friend elsewhere?
Again, I should not deny the existence of oubliettes in the St. Petersburg fortress, as it is notorious that there are oubliettes with men therein in other Russian fortresses; for instance, in the old fortress of the Solovetsky monastery. Last year (1882) we read with immense pleasure in our newspapers that one of those who were kept in such an oubliette for fifteen years was at last set at liberty. I mean Pushkin. In 1858 he came to the conclusion that the orthodox religion is not in accordance with truth. He explained his ideas in a work and in schemes, went to St. Petersburg in 1861 and 1863, and asked the Church authorities to publish his work. The world, he said, is rotten in its sins; Christ has not saved it completely, and a new Messiah will come. For these ideas he was arrested in 1866, and sent, between two gendarmes, to the Solovetsky prison—of course without having been tried. There he was put in a dark and damp cell, and kept therein for fifteen years. He has a wife; she was not admitted to see him during fourteen years, that is, until 1881. Nobody was allowed to enter his cell during all this time, excepting the archimandrite of the monastery, Mr. H. Dixon, and M. Prougavin, who is an official of the staff of the Governor of Arkhangelsk, and visited him in 1881. Pushkin was fifty-five years old when M. Prougavin saw him, and he said: 'I do not know what are my faults; how can I exculpate myself? They say to me, "Go to church, abandon your heresy, and you will be free." But how can I do it? I have sacrificed everything for my convictions—my fortune, the happiness of my own family, my own life. Can I abjure my convictions? Time will show if I am right, and I hope it. But if I am wrong, if it only seems to me to be the truth, let then this prison be my grave!' In 1881 his wife was admitted to see him, and thence she went directly to St. Petersburg to ask for his release. By this time M. Prougavin had published all this awful story in a review and in newspapers. The press cried for grace, and Pushkin was pardoned; but he had been kept for fifteen years in an oubliette.8
Was Pushkin the sole person who was so kept in an oubliette? I do not think so. Some twelve years ago a German geologist, a friend of mine, discovered an artillery officer in the same condition as Pushkin. We made at St. Petersburg all kinds of applications to influential persons, in order to obtain his release. A Grand-Duchess was interested in the fate of this ex-officer. We obtained nothing, and probably he is still in an oubliette, if 'the prison has not been his grave.' Before such dreadful examples let us be more cautious in speaking about oubliettes, and still more cautious in undertaking the defense of the Russian Government.
And now let me add a few words about the difficulties which beset the way of those who earnestly wish to know the real state of Russian prisons. I shall not follow Mr. Lansdell's example, and accuse him of a want of good faith for holding different views from those of our Russian explorers and myself. I am fully aware of the difficulties one meets with in this matter. I know them from my own experience, and still more from the written experience of those who attempted to make on a larger scale an inquiry into the state of our prisons. Even officials, to whom their official position opened the doors of the jails at any time, and who had plenty of time before them to pursue their inquiry, have openly acknowledged these difficulties. All serious explorers of our penal institutions are unanimous in saying that one learns nothing from a mere inspection of a prison. 'Each prison undergoes a magical change when a visitor is expected,' says one of them. 'I did not recognize the lock-up which I had visited incognito, when I went afterwards to the same lock-up in my official capacity,' says another. 'The prisoners never reveal to an inspector the horrors committed in the prison, as they know that the inspector goes away and the jailer remains,' says a third explorer. One must know the prisons beforehand to discover the horrible black-holes, like those described by MM. Nikitin and Yadrintseff, as they obviously will never be shown to a visitor who knows nothing about them; and so on.
Such being the difficulties for Russian officials, they are still greater for a foreigner. He is in the worst imaginable position, on account of the continuous fear of Russian administrators of being treated by the foreign press as barbarians. He has before him this dilemma. Either he determines to thoroughly inquire into the state of the prisons, to go to the bottom, and to discover the bestialities of the Makaroffs, the Trepoffs, and their acolytes; and then he will not receive permission to visit prisons. Or, he will make only an official scamper through the prisons; he will know nothing but what the Government is willing to let him know; and, being unable to check for himself what is reported to him by officials, he will become the vehicle for bringing to public knowledge what his official acquaintances desire to be published. Well enough is it if he has the necessary firmness of character not to come by-and-by, like so many foreigners in Russia, to extenuate the dark features which formerly revolted him.
But the greater the difficulties, the greater must be the efforts of those who are really desirous to know the truth; and we have seen foreigners who have vanquished these difficulties. One might differ in opinion from Mr. Mackenzie Wallace on many points, perhaps he himself would now change his opinion on several subjects; but still his work, although not congratulated by MM. Katkoff and Tolstoy, was recognized unanimously by the independent Russian press as a serious and conscientious work. And as to our prisons, several Russian officials, by displaying much patience and by spending much time, have happened to learn the true state of our penal institutions. The English prisons are not Russian ostrogs; the jailers in England are not omnipotent, the inmates are not flogged on a mere caprice of the jailer, and their coppers are not stolen by him; a man would not order a prisoner to be flogged who had not saluted him, and those to be kicked down who protest against this measure. The Trepoffs have disappeared from England. Parliament would be only too glad to know any dark features of English prisons; yet to know their real state is not an easy task. But if a foreigner went to England, without knowing a word of English, without taking the pains to study what was written in England about her penal institutions, and, after having paid a hasty visit to the prisons, were to write that all those who hold different views on prisons from himself are merely inspired with a feeling of vindictiveness, surely he would be accused of great levity and presumption. But Russia is not England, and to know the truth in Russia is far more difficult.
Levity is always regrettable, but it is the more regrettable in questions like this, and in a country like Russia. For twenty years all honest men in our country have loudly cried out against our prisons, and loudly asked for an immediate reform. For twenty years public opinion has vainly asked for a thorough renewal of the prisons' administration, for more light, for more control in the whole system. And the Government which refuses all that will be only too glad if it can answer them: 'You see, here is a foreigner who knows everything about prisons throughout the world, and who finds that all you say is mere exaggeration; that our prisons are not at all bad in comparison with those of other countries.'
When thousands, nay, a hundred thousand of men, women, and children are groaning under the abominable régime of prisons as they are in Russia, one ought to proceed with the greatest caution; and I earnestly invite foreigners who may be tempted to study this question, never to forget that every attempt to extenuate the dark features of our prisons will be a stone brought to consolidate the abominable régime we have now.
Lyon, Prison St. Pau.
1 Mr. Lansdell repeats this accusation against Herzen with such a persistence, a (sic) different places of his book, and in the Contemporary Review, that, in order to be absolutely certain about this subject, I wrote to the son of Herzen, the. distinguished Professor of Physiology, A. A. Herzen. Here is a translation of his reply, dated Lausanne, February 26, 1883 :—
'Sir,—You are quite right; it is merely the part of the memoirs of my father which deals with his arrest and exile; there is not a word about Siberia. It was the English publisher who added to the title the words 'to Siberia,' without the knowledge of my father, and my father publicly protested at once against this 'humbug' (d l'insu de mon père, et mon père a dès alors protesté publiquement contre ce 'humbug.') . . , Believe me, &c, (Signed) A. Herzen.'
2 The cell I occupy now has a window with four panes, nine inches by eight inches each. It cannot be compared with the fortress cells for its brightness.
3 When the Council of the Geographical Society asked for me the permission of finishing a scientific work, it had to obtain it from the Emperor himself.
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