Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

released from prison and enrolled in the free previous preparation for such an undertaking ? The command. At the last meeting of the politi- reason why no preparations have been made you cal convicts and their wives, on New Year's Eve, know, if you received the letter that I wrote you

last August. it was noticed that Semyonofski seemed to be greatly depressed, and that when they parted

My own personal determination was to attempt he bade his comrades good-bye with unusual should come in the spring, when it would be pos

an escape if the order for our return to prison manifestations of emotion and affection. About sible to escape, and to do it, not on the spur of 2 o'clock that morning Mr. Charushin (Char- the moment, but after serious preparation. It has oo'shin), a political convict in whose little not, however, happened so. In the mean time I cabin Semyonofski was living, was awakened feel that my physical strength is failing day by day. by the report of a pistol, and rushing into the I know that my weakness must soon have its effect room of Semyonofski found that the latter had upon my mental powers, and that I am threatened shot himself through the head. He was still and all this while I am living outside the prison.

with the danger of becoming a complete imbecile – living, but he did not recover consciousness, The question arises, what would become of me in and died in about an hour. On the table lay prison ? My whole life rests on the hope of returna letter addressed to his father, with a note to ing some time to Russia and serving, with all my Charushin asking him to forward it, if possible, sout, the cause of right and justice to which I long to its destination. The letter was as follows: ago devoted myself; but how can that cause be

served by a man who is mentally and physically Mines of Kara,

wrecked ? When the hope of rendering such service Night of December 31, January 1, 1880-1. is taken away from me, what is there left? PerMY DEAR FATHER: I write you just after my re- sonal self-justification ? But before the moment turn from watching the old year out and the new comes for anything like complete satisfaction of year in with all my comrades. We met, this new that desire, they can put me ten times to the year, 'under melancholy and disheartening circum- torture. I have, therefore, come to the conclusion stances. You have probably received a letter from that there is no longer anything to live for — that the wife of one of my comrades, whom I requested I have earned the right, at last, to put an end to to inform you that we had been forbidden thence- sufferings that have become aimless and useless. ! forth to write letters to any one —even our parents. have long been tired — deathly tired of life; and Senseless and inhuman as that prohibition was, there only the thought of home has restrained me, hitherto, awaited us something much worse - something from self-destruction. I know that I am about to that I knew nothing about when that letter was cause terrible grief, Sasha,1 to you, and to all who written. Ten days or so after we received notice love me ; but is not your love great enough to of the order forbidding us to write letters, we were forgive the suicide of a man tortured to the last informed that we were all to be returned to prison extremity ? Understand that, for God's sake! I have and confined in chains and leg-fetters. There are been literally tortured to death during these last years. nine men of us, namely: Shishko, Charushin, For the sake of all that you hold dear, I beseech Kviatkovski, Uspenski, Soyuzof, Bogdanof, Teren- you to forgive me! You must know that my last tief, Tevtul, and l; and we have all been living thoughts are of you — that if I had a little more about two years in comparative freedom outside the strength I would live out my life, if only to save prison. We expected something of this kind from you from further suffering ; but my strength is the very day that we heard of the order of Loris exhausted. There is nothing left for me to do but Melikof prohibiting our correspondence; because to go insane or die; and the latter alternative is, there was in that order a paragraph which led us after all, better than the former. to fear that we should not be left in peace. To- Good-bye forever, my dear, kind, well-rememmorrow we are to go back to prison. But for the bered father and friend! Good-bye, Sasha, and you faith that Colonel Kononovich has in us we should my younger brother, whom I know so little. Rehave been arrested and imprisoned as soon as the member that it is better to die, even as I die, than order was received ; but he trusted us and gave us to live without being able to feel one's self a man of a few days in which to settle up our affairs. We principle and honor. have availed ourselves of this respite to meet to- Once more, good-bye! Do not think ill of your gether, for the last time in freedom, to watch the unhappy son and brother, who, even in his unhapold year out and the new year in. I shall avail piness, finds consolation. myself of it for yet another purpose. I do not know

EUGENE, whether the carrying out of that purpose will, or will not, be a betrayal of the confidence that Colonel All that was mortal of Eugene Semyonofski Kononovich has reposed in us; but even if I knew

now lies in the political convicts' buryingthat it would be such a betrayal I should still carry ground on a lonely hill known as “ The Conout my purpose.

It may be that some one who reads the words vict's Head” in Eastern Siberia. The unpainted “they are going back to prison” will compare us wooden cross that marks his grave will soon to sheep, submissively presenting their throats to the decay, and then nothing will remain to show knife of the butcher; but such a comparison would where lie the ashes of a man whose brilliant be a grievously mistaken one. The only means of talents, high standards of duty, and intense escape from such a situation as ours is in flight - moral earnestness might have made him an and how and whither could we fly, in a temperature of thirty-five degrees below zero, and without any 1 “Sasha " was Semyonofski's brother Alexander. MME. KAVALÉFSKAYA. honor to his country and an invaluable worker one of the best known political economists in in the cause of freedom and humanity. Russia, I went insane, shrieked constantly, broke

[graphic]

Of course Colonel Kononovich was greatly the windows of her cell, and was so violent shocked by Semyonofski's suicide, but this was that it became necessary to confine her in a only the beginning of the series of tragedies strait-jacket. that resulted from an enforcement of the Colonel Kononovich was too warm-hearted Government's orders concerning the treatment and sympathetic a man not to be profoundly of the political convicts.

moved by such terrible evidences of human Very soon after Semyonofski's suicide, Mr. misery. He determined to resign his position Rodin, another political convict, poisoned him- as governor of the Kara penal establishment, self to death by drinking water in which he whatever might be the consequences; and in had soaked the heads of matches ; Mr. Uspen- pursuance of this determination he wrote to ski (Oo-spen'skee) hanged himself in the bath- the Governor-General of Eastern Siberia and to house; and Madame Kavaléfskaya, sister of the Minister of the Interior a very frank and

bold letter, in which he said that he regarded 1 Mr. V. Vorontsof (Vor-on-tsof'), author of “The the late instructions of the Government conDestiny of Capital in Russia” and of a large number cerning the treatment of the political convicts of articles upon political economy in the Russian magazines European Messenger,” “Annals of the as not only impolitic but cruel. If they wanted Fatherland,” and “ Russian Thought.”

an officer who would treat the politicals in

[ocr errors]
[graphic]

OLD MILL NEAR KARA. pected to act as governor of the Kara prisons and mines, and I doubt whether such a man can hold any position whatever in the Government service."

“Very well,” replied Kononovich," then I will get out of it.”

Soon after his arrival in St. Petersburg, Colonel Kononovich had an interview with Mr. Durnovo (Door'no-vo), Assistant Minister of the Interior, in the course of which he said to the latter, “ I did not relax any necessary discipline at Kara, nor did I violate or neglect to enforce any law. If you want to have good order among the political convicts at the mines, and to have your Government respected, you will have to send there men with convictions like mine. That I had no selfish aims in view you can understand from the fact that the course I pursued was dangerous to me. You have probably received not a few accu

sations made against me by other officers. I accordance with the spirit of such instructions, am not afraid of accusations, nor of opposithey had best send a hangman there. He, tion, but I do fear my own conscience, and himself, was not a hangman; he could not I am not willing to do anything that would enforce such orders without doing violence to lose me its approval. The Government, by all his feelings, and he must therefore ask to its orders, made it impossible for me to serve be relieved of his command. The resignation as governor of the Kara prisons and at the was accepted, and in the summer of 1881 same time keep an approving conscience, and Colonel Kononovich left the mines of Kara, I therefore asked to be relieved. If I should and some time afterwards returned to St. Peters- be ordered there again I would act in preburg. As he passed through Irkutsk he had cisely the same way.” an interview with Governor-General Anuchin The subsequent history of the Kara penal (An-noo'chin), in the course of which the latter establishment, which I shall give in a later said to him, rather coldly and contemptuously, article, must have made Mr. Durnovo think “Of course, Colonel Kononovich, a man hold- many times of these brave, frank words. ing such views as you do could not be ex- I have not been able to speak favorably of many Siberian prisons, nor to praise many continued suffering and ill-treatment on the Siberian officials; but it affords me pleasure road, this young man was as wild, suspicious, to say that of Colonel Kononovich I heard and savage as a trapped wolf. He seemed to little that was not good. Political convicts, regard all the world as his enemies, and glared honest officers, and good citizens everywhere at every officer as if he expected a blow, was united in declaring that he was a humane, half afraid of it, but was prepared to die fightsympathetic, and warm-hearted man, as well ing. Colonel Kononovich received him courtas a fearless, intelligent, and absolutely incor- eously and kindly; sent the wife of one of the ruptible official. Nearly all the improvement political exiles to him with clean fresh underthat has been made in the Kara penal estab- clothing; attended generally to his physical lishment within the past quarter of a century needs, and finally said to him, “Remember was made during Colonel Kononovich's term that nobody here will insult you or ill-treat of service as governor. In view of these facts you.” The young convict was greatly surprised

[graphic][subsumed][merged small][merged small]

I regret to have to say that he was virtually by such a reception, and in a letter that he driven out of Siberia by the worst and most subsequently wrote to a friend in European corrupt class of Russian bureaucratic officials. Russia he said, “I am glad to know, from the He was called “weak” and “sentimental”; little acquaintance I have had with Kononohe was accused of being a “socialist”; he vich, that a Russian colonel is not necessarily was said to be in sympathy with the views of a beast.” This letter fell into the hands of the the political convicts; and the ispravnik of police in European Russia, was forwarded Nerchinsk openly boasted, in the official club through the Ministry of the Interior to Genof that city, that he would yet “ send Colonel eral Ilyashevich (Ill-yah-shay'vitch), the govKononovich to the province of Yakutsk with ernor of the Trans-Baikal, and was sent by a yellow diamond on his back.” How ready that officer to Colonel Kononovich with a reeven high officers of the Siberian administra- quest for an “explanation.” It seemed to be tion were to entertain the most trivial charges regarded as documentary evidence that the against him may be inferred from the follow- governor of the Kara prisons was on susing anecdote. During the last year of his serv- piciously friendly terms with the political ice at Kara there came to the mines a political convicts. Kononovich paid no attention to convict, hardly out of his teens, named Bibi- the communication. Some months later he kof (Bee'bee-koff). As a consequence of long- happened to visit Chita on business, and Governor Ilyashevich, in the course of a conversa – or, in other words, releasing, for two or three tion about other matters, said to him, “ By the hundred rubles per capita, young men who had way, Colonel Kononovich, you have never an- been legally drawnasconscripts and who should swered a letter that I wrote you asking for an render military service. He undertook to bring explanation of something said about you in a the corrupt officials to justice; but they had letter from one of the political convicts in your strong and highly placed friends in Irkutsk, command. Did you receive it?”

they trumped up a set of counter charges, “Yes,” replied Kononovich, “I received it; packed the investigating commission with their but what kind of answer did you look for? own associates, and came very near sending What explanation could I give? Did you ex- Colonel Kononovich to the province of Ya. pect me to excuse myself because somebody kutsk“ with a yellow diamond on his back," regarded me as a human being and not a beast? in fulfillment of the ispravnik's boast. Fortu

[graphic][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

Was I to say that the writer of the letter was nately Kononovich had influential friends in mistaken in supposing me to be a human be- St. Petersburg. He telegraphed to them and ing — that in reality I was a beast, and that I to the Minister of the Interior, and finally suchad never given him or anybody else reason ceeded in securing the appointment of another to suppose that a Russian colonel could be a commission, in having the ispravnik and some human being ?"

of his confederates thrown into prison, and in This presentation of the case rather confused obtaining documentary evidence of their guilt. the governor, who said that the demand for The conspirators then caused his house to be an explanation had been written by his assist- set on fire in the middle of a cold winter night, ant, that it had been stupidly expressed, and and nearly burned him alive with all his famthat after all the matter was not of much con- ily. He escaped in his night-clothing, and, as sequence. He then dropped the subject. soon as he had gotten his wife and children

After resigning his position at the mines of out, rushed back to try to save the papers in Kara, Colonel Kononovich, who was a Cos- the pending case against the ispravnik, but it sack officer, went to Nerchinsk, where he took was too late. He was driven out by smoke and command of the Cossack forces of the Trans- flames, and most of the proofs were destroyed. Baikal. He soon discovered that a small knot Colonel Kononovich then “shook his hand ” of officers, including the ispravnik, were en- against Siberia — to use a Russian expression gaged in selling immunity from conscription — and went to St. Petersburg. He did not

« AnteriorContinuar »