Imágenes de páginas

The effect produced upon a young, inexperienced, impressible girl, by the overwhelming shock of such a transition from the repose, quiet, and security of her own bedroom, in her own home, to a narrow, gloomy cell in a common criminal prison at night, can readily be imagined. Even if she were a girl of courage and firmness of character, her self-control might give way under the strain of such an ordeal. The sounds which break the stillness of a Russian criminal prison at night-the stealthy tread of the guard; the faintly heard cries and struggles of a drunken and disorderly "casual" who is being strapped to his bed in another part of the prison, cries which suggest to an inexperienced girl some terrible scene of violence and outrage; the occasional clang of a heavy door; the moaning and hysterical weeping of other recently arrested prisoners in cells on the same corridor, and the sudden and noiseless appearance now and then of an unknown human face at the little square port-hole in the cell door through which the prisoners are watched-all combine to make the first night of a young girl in prison an experience never to be forgotten while she lives. This experience, however, is only the beginning of the trial which her courage and selfcontrol are destined to undergo. One day passes-two days-three days-ten days without bringing any news from the outside world, or any information concerning the nature of the charges made against her. Twice every twenty-four hours food is handed to her through the square port-hole by the taciturn guard, but nothing else breaks the monotony and the solitude of her life. She has no books, no writing materials, no means whatever of diverting her thoughts or relieving the mental strain which soon becomes almost unendurable. Tortured by apprehension and by uncertainty as to her own fate and the fate of those dear to her, she can only pace her cell from corner to corner until she is exhausted, and then throw herself on the narrow prison bed and in sleep try to lose consciousness of her misery.

At last, two weeks perhaps after her arrest, when her spirit is supposed to be sufficiently broken by solitary confinement and grief, she is summoned to the dopros, a preliminary examination, without witnesses or counsel, con

[ocr errors]

Ivan Maximovitch Prisedski is a wealthy landed proprietor in the district of Zinkofski, province of Pultava. His own loyalty to the Tsar has never been questioned, but all of his children-three girls and a boy have been exiled to Siberia upon various political charges. Two of them are in Semipalatinsk on the frontier of central Asia; a third is in prison at the mines of Kara, on the head-waters of the Amur, and the fourth was, until recently, in the village of Tunka, near the boundary line between eastern Siberia and Mon

ducted by General Strelnikoff in person. He begins by saying to her that she is "charged with very serious crimes under such and such sections of the Penal Code, and that she stands in danger of exile to Siberia for a long term of years. In view, however, of her youth and inexperience, and of the probability that she has been misled by criminal associates, he feels authorized to say to her that if she will show repentance, and a sincere desire to reform, by making a chisto-serdechni.'- clean-hearted' confession, and will answer truthfully all questions put to her, she will be immediately released. If, on the contrary, she manifests an obdurate disposition and thus proves herself to be unworthy of clemency, it will become his duty, as prosecuting officer of the Crown, to treat her with all the rigor of the law."

The poor girl is well aware that the reference to Siberian exile is not an empty threat. Belonging as she does to an "untrustworthy" family, she has often heard discussed the case of Marie Prisedski, who was exiled before she was sixteen years of age because she would not betray her older sister, and the case of the Ivitchevitch children, one seventeen and the other fourteen years of age, who were arrested in Kiev and sent to Siberia in 1879 for no particular reason except that their two older brothers were revolutionists and had been shot dead while resisting arrest.*

It is not a matter for surprise if a young girl who has thus been torn from her home, who is depressed and disheartened by solitary confinement, who is without counsel, without knowledge of the law, without the support of a single friend in this supreme crisis of her life, breaks down at last under the strain of deadly fear, and tells the inquisitor all she knows. She is at once released, but only to suffer agonies of self-reproach and remorse as she sees her relatives and dearest friends arrested, imprisoned, and exiled to Siberia, upon information and clews which she herself has furnished. It frequently happens, however, that a girl remains steadfast and refuses to answer questions even after months of solitary confinement. The authorities then resort to other and even more discreditable methods.

In 1884 Marie Kaluzhnaya, a girl eighteen years of age, daughter of a merchant in Odessa, was arrested upon a charge of disloyalty, thrown into prison, and subjected to precisely the treatment which I have described. She was, however, a girl of spirit and character, and withstood successfully, for many months, all

golia. I made the acquaintance of three of them in their places of exile during my recent journey to Siberia, and was very favorably impressed by them. A traveler could not hope nor expect to meet in any country more refined, cultivated, and attractive young people.

The Ivitchevitch children - Christina, a girl of seventeen, and her brother, who was only fourteen- -were exiled to Kirinsk in the province of Irkutsk, more than four thousand miles east of St. Petersburg.

attempts to persuade or frighten her into a confession or a betrayal of others. At last Colonel Katanski, a gendarme officer in Odessa, brought to her a skillfully forged statement, which purported to be the confession of her imprisoned revolutionary associates.

It was, in fact, a document prepared by the gendarmes themselves from information obtained through spies, supplemented by shrewd guesses and conjectures, and was part of an adroitly contrived scheme to elicit from Miss Kaluzhnaya evidence which could be used against certain of her friends who were in prison awaiting trial upon serious charges. Colonel Katanski, with cruel duplicity, said to Miss Kaluzhnaya that

"he came to her not as an officer of the Crown, but as a friend, to show her this confession of her associates and to urge her to save herself while there was yet time. Persistence in her refusal to answer questions could no longer protect or benefit her friends, since they had admitted their guilt. The Procureur would not know that he [Colonel Katanski] had showed her this confession and would suppose, if she announced her readiness to answer questions, that she had become repentant. There was no serious charge against her personally, and nothing but long-continued obduracy stood in the way of her immediate release. All that she had to do was to show a tractable and penitent disposition. It would not be necessary for her to testify to any facts not already known to the police through this confession,- facts which her friends themselves had admitted. Why should she wreck her young life upon a mistaken and quixotic sentiment of honor which no longer had any practical bearing upon the fate of her associates? They had confessed; they could not possibly be harmed if she merely repeated what they themselves had admitted. The Procureur would not know that she had been made aware of their confession; he would suppose that her offer to appear and testify was prompted by sincere penitence, and there could be no doubt that he would at once order her release."

Miss Kaluzhnaya fell into the trap. She sent word to the Procureur that she was ready to testify, and, upon examination, admitted facts which she supposed the police already knew through the confession, but of which, in reality, they had no proof whatever. Having thus unconsciously served at last the purpose for which she had been arrested, Miss Kaluzhnaya was released from prison and put again under police surveillance. When the case of her friends came up for trial, she discovered, of course, that none of them had made confession, and that there was no evidence against them of any importance except that which she had furnished. The terrible agony of such a discovery to a generous, affectionate, high-minded girl can be imagined. She saw her friends sent into penal servitude upon her testimony, while she herself could neither share their fate nor explain to them the fraud of which she had been a victim. She was in the attitude of a coward who had betrayed her associates in order to secure her own safety. For a time

her remorse and despair seemed likely to result either in insanity or in suicide; but she finally recovered her self-control, and there gradually formed in her mind a determination. to do something to avenge the intolerable wrong which she had suffered, and to show the world that if she had unwittingly betrayed her friends, she was not afraid to share their fate. She procured a revolver, and on the 21st of August, 1884, called upon Colonel Katanski, and fired at him as he entered the reception-room to meet her. The bullet grazed his head, slightly wounding one ear, and buried itself in the wall. Before she could fire again he sprang upon her and wrested the pistol from her hand. For this attempt at assassination Miss Kaluzhnaya was brought to trial before a court martial in Odessa on the 10th of September of the same year. As it was her only wish to be sent to Siberia with the friends whom she had betrayed, she refused the aid of counsel, and made no attempt at self-defense. The court found her guilty of premeditated assault with intent to kill, and sentenced her to twenty years' penal servitude.

I witnessed the beginning of the last act in this mournful tragedy. I happened to be present in the town of Chita, in eastern Siberia, on the 8th of December, 1885, when Marie Kaluzhnaya, in convict dress, left there on foot, with a gang of chained criminals, in a temperature of twenty degrees below zero, for the mines of Kara. It affords me a sort of melancholy satisfaction now to think that the unfortunate girl was at least aware, as she walked wearily away from the étape that bitterly cold December morning, that there was an American traveler there who knew her story, and who would some time explain to the world why she had attempted to commit murder.

It may be thought that cases of this kind are rare and exceptional, but I regret to say that I heard similar stories from exiles in all parts of Siberia and from some Russian officials. The deception which was practiced upon Marie Kaluzhnaya had been repeatedly tried before in the same city of Odessa. An attempt had been made, for example, only a year earlier to deceive, by means of a pretended confession, Miss Fanny Morenis, who is now in exile in the Trans-Baikal. The same plan was tried with Madame Kutitonskaya, who is now in the Irkoutsk prison. In these cases, however, the trap was set in vain.

When solitary confinement and deception fail to bring about the desired result, the gendarmes and the officers of the Department of Justice resort to other means, which are perhaps less dishonorable, but which are equally cruel. In March, 1882, General Strelnikoff, finding that solitary confinement in the gloomy

and badly ventilated prison of Kiev was not of itself sufficient to torture his prisoners into a confession of what he believed they knew with regard to the revolutionary movement, determined to make their life still more intolerable, and to break down, if possible, their obstinate resolution, by darkening their cells. Upon the pretext that he wished to make it impossible for them to talk with one another through their windows, he caused a sheet-iron hood to be put over the window of every cell in the prison occupied by a political offender. The hood was large enough to cover the entire window, and resembled in shape a shallow rectangular box with the cover and one end gone. It fitted the window closely on both sides and at the top, but was open at the bottom. The result of putting these shields over the windows was to deprive the prisoners almost entirely of light and air, and to turn every cell into a sort of cave or oubliette. The light which came in through the opening at the bottom of the hood was only sufficient to enable the prisoner to distinguish between night and day. The artisan who put up the hoods told General Strelnikoff that they would not answer the purpose for which they were designed, that it would be as easy to talk from window to window as it had been before, but he was sharply informed that that was none of his business. Of course the life of the prisoners under such conditions became almost intolerable. Young, nervous, and impressible girls walked their cells from corner to corner in the gloomy twilight until they became nearly insane. Even the prison officials expressed to the sufferers their sympathy and pity. At last the political prisoners addressed a petition to Governor-General Drenteln asking him to send an officer to see how they were situated, and, if possible, to intercede for them. In response to this petition the governor of the province of Kiev, acting under orders from General Drenteln, made a visit to the prison, entered the cell of a young student named X—, whom I afterward met in Siberia, and said to him, "What do you understand to be the object of these hoods?" Mr. X-replied that they had been put up by order of General Strelnikoff to prevent oral communication between the prisoners. "Do they have the desired effect?" inquired the governor. "No," replied the young student. "I can show you, if you wish, that it is as easy to talk from window to window now as it was before." "Show me, please," said the governor. Mr. X went to the window and called to a prisoner in the cell below. His comrade answered, and they carried on a conversation until the governor expressed himself as satisfied. "I appreciate," he said to Mr. X, "your situation,

but I cannot give you any reason to hope for a change at present. General Strelnikoff is acting under instructions and authority given him by the Tsar in person, and he is therefore independent, not only of Governor-General Drenteln, but of the Minister of the Interior himself. This being the case, the authorities of the province cannot and dare not interfere."

On the next day after the visit of the governor to the prison, General Strelnikoff was assassinated in Odessa. The hoods were immediately removed from the windows, amid great excitement and rejoicing on the part of the political prisoners, who were so much encouraged and emboldened, that they suggested to the governor the use of the sheet-iron hoods as material for a monument to their inventor.

I have space only for a brief reference to the many other methods of extorting testimony from arrested persons which are practiced by the gendarmes and the officers of the Department of Justice. One of the most cruel of them, it seems to me, is the custom of terrifying old and feeble parents into the belief that their sons or daughters will inevitably be hanged unless they confess, and then sending the poor old people, trembling with terror and blinded with tears, to make an agonized appeal to their imprisoned children in their cells. The officials know very well that the children will not be hanged-that it is extremely doubtful whether they will even be brought to trial. They are kept in prison simply because the Procureur hopes ultimately to obtain information from them. If the torture of solitary confinement can be intensified by adding to it the entreaties of half frantic parents, so much the better. A little fright will benefit the old people and teach them to look after their children more closely, and the children's obstinate determination not to betray their friends will perhaps be broken down by a sight of the grief and misery of their parents. It is a plan which, to the official mind, works beneficently both ways.

The mother of a young student named Zhebunoff in Kiev, a lady sixty-five years of age, was so terrified by a vivid description from General Strelnikoff of the way in which her son, if he did not confess, would "dangle and kick in the air, his neck in a noose," that she fainted on the floor of the Procureur's office. Yet Strelnikoff knew very well that there was not evidence enough in his possession even to bring Zhebunoff to trial—much less to hang him. As a matter of fact the young student never was tried, but was sent to Siberia by "administrative process."

The aged mother of an exile whom I met in the Trans-Baikal was made to believe that her son would certainly be hanged unless he told all that he knew, and then, upon condi

tion that she should try to persuade him to confess, she was allowed to go to his cell. A terrible scene followed, in which the whitehaired mother, frenzied with fear and choking with sobs, knelt to her son, clung about his legs, and tried to press her tear-wet face to his feet, as she implored him, by his love for her-by her gray hairs-to promise that he would answer the questions of the gendarmes. The strain of such a scene upon the emotions and the resolution of a prisoner who is weakened and depressed by months of solitary confinement, who loves and reverences his mother, and who sees her for the first time since his arrest, and perhaps for the last time before he goes to Siberia, is simply heart-breaking. The mother finally departs in despair, bidding her son good-bye as she would bid good-bye to the dying, while the son lays up the memories of this bitter hour-the cruel deception of his mother, the torture of himself, and the attempt to make the most sacred of human feelings serve the purposes of the police. — as memories which will steady his nerves and steel his heart when the time comes for vengeance.

This playing upon the deepest and most intense of human emotions as a means of extorting information from unwilling witnesses is practiced more or less in all Russian prisons where political offenders are confined. The details are of course varied according to the circumstances of the case or the ingenuity of the inquisitor. One prisoner, for example, after months of solitary confinement, is promised an interview with his mother. Filled with glad anticipations, he follows the guard out through the long, gloomy corridor into the prison court-yard, where the mother is sitting on a rude prison bench forty or fifty feet from the door through which he emerges. At the sight of the well-remembered, loving face, changed and aged by grief since he saw it last, his heart overflows with pity and tenderness, and he rushes toward her with the intention of taking her in his arms. He is at once stopped by the guard, who tells him that the interview is not to take place here, but in the reception-room of the prison, to which he is thereupon conducted. He waits impatiently ten minutes-fifteen minutes-half an hour-and at last the door opens. As he springs toward it he is met, not by his mother, but by the Procureur, who asks him whether, after this further period of reflection, he has changed his mind with regard to answering questions. He replies that he was brought there, as he supposed, to see his mother, not for examination. The Procureur, however, informs him that interviews with relatives are privileges not granted to obstinate and refractory prisoners, and that if he has nothing to add to his previous statements he

will be taken to his cell. Disappointed and embittered, the young man goes back to solitary confinement with a new cause for hatred and an intensified thirst for vengeance, while the heart-broken mother, whose misery has only been increased by this brief glimpse of her son under guard and in prison dress, returns to her distant village home.

In another case which came to my knowledge in Siberia, the prisoner was a young married woman with a baby in her arms. She refused to answer questions intended to elicit criminating evidence against her friends, and the gendarme officer who was conducting the examination threatened, if she continued obstinate, to take her child from her. She made a pathetic appeal to the Procureur, and asked him whether there was any law under which the gendarme officer could deprive her of her child if she refused to testify. The Procureur, instead of giving her a direct answer, told her that "the prudent course for her to pursue would be not to raise a question as to the legal authority of the examining officer, but to tell him truthfully all she knew; then it was certain that he could not take her child from her." In the face of a threat so terrifying to a young mother, she was not more than twentytwo years of age when I made her acquaintance in Siberia,- she adhered to her determination not to betray her friends. Her babe was finally left in her possession, but she suffered weeks of torturing apprehension, the mere remembrance of which bathed her face with tears as she told me the story.

I have devoted much space to these illustrations of the use of prison confinement as a means of torturing political prisoners into making confession, partly because my notebooks are full of records of such cases which were everywhere forced upon my attention in Russia, and partly because it seems to me to explain, more clearly than any other fact or set of facts, the state of mind in which so-called "terroristic" activity originates. Whatever view one may take of the events in their moral aspect, one can see that such causes might be adequate to produce such results without the ascription to the Russian revolutionists either of homicidal insanity or inhuman ferocity.

It may be supposed that officials who are capable of treating prisoners in this way must be constitutionally cruel, cold-blooded, and heartless; but such a supposition would be, in many cases, perhaps in a majority of cases, an erroneous one. Many of the officials are naturally no worse than other men, but they have been trained under a system which is intolerant of opposition, and especially of that form of opposition which in Russia is called insubordination; they have been accustomed to

regard themselves rather as the rulers than as the servants of the people; they have not felt personally the full weight of the yoke of oppression; they have been irritated and embittered by a long contest with fearless and impetuous men whose motives and characters they misunderstand, and whom they regard as unreasonable fanatics and treacherous assassins; and, finally, their fortunes and prospects of advancement depend upon the success with which they carry on this contest.

I met in the town of Chita, in eastern Siberia, a Russian army officer - Colonel Novikoff who had been the commander of the Cossack battalion which served as prison guard at the mines of Kara, and who in 1880 sat as one of the judges in the court martial which tried Madame Rossikova, Miss Anna Alexeieva, and other politicals at Odessa. He was a man about forty-five years of age; was devotedly attached to his family; seemed to have broad and humane views with regard to the treatment of common criminals, and did not appear to be naturally a cruel or vindictive man. Yet this personally amiable, courteous, intelligent army officer, speaking to me of the political offenders in whose trial he had participated as judge, said: "If I had my way, I would give them all the shpitzruten." The "shpitzruten," it must be explained, is a peculiarly cruel form of "running the gauntlet" which was formerly much used in Siberia as a disciplinary punishment for the worst class of convicts. The prisoner, stripped to the waist, was forced to walk slowly between two lines of soldiers armed with rods "not too large to go into a musket barrel," and, as he passed, received one blow on the bare back from every soldier. The number of blows inflicted was from two thousand to five thousand, two thousand being the lowest number mentioned in the law.* The sufferer, unless he was an exceptionally strong and vigorous man, usually fainted before he had received the prescribed number of blows, and was carried directly from the place of punishment to the hospital. This was the punishment which Colonel Novikoff said he would inflict upon political offenders, and which he had suggested and recommended

*Exile Statutes; Laws of the Russian Empire, Vol. XIV., Part II., Section 799.

+ Official certified copy of the sentence of the Court in the trial of the 193, signed by Chief Secretary Lutofski, and dated February 15th, 1878. It is in my possession, as is also the " Accusatory Act," or indictment, in the same case, a document of about 350 folio pages, authenticated by the signature of V. Zhelekhofski, "Associate Chief- Procureur of the Department of Criminal Appeals of the Governing Senate."

The bold and impetuous revolutionist Muishkin, who was one of the accused in this case, made a determined attempt to state these facts to the Court in a speech which he made in his own defense. He was VOL. XXXV.— 42.

to the court of which he was a member. "If," he added, "you punish in that way, you will soon put a stop to political agitation." When one considers the fact that such a method as this of dealing with politicals was actually suggested and advocated by a judge in his official capacity, and that he seemed utterly unconscious of the cruelty and barbarity of the proposed measure, one has little difficulty in understanding how gendarme officers and procureurs regard such comparatively trifling things as the arrest of the innocent with the guilty, the frightening of parents, and the deception of obstinate and refractory prisoners who refuse to testify.

But these are by no means all of the factors which must be taken into consideration in an attempt to explain the so-called policy of "terror." Another cause for the white-heat intensity of feeling which prompts violent retaliation is the illegal detention of political suspects in solitary confinement for months and years while the police scour the empire in search of evidence upon which to base indictments. In the trial of the regicides at St. Petersburg in 1881, Mr. Gerard, one of the ablest advocates at the Russian bar, and one of the boldest of the counsel for the prisoners, attempted to bring this cause to the attention of the court by referring to the well-known fact that out of more than a thousand persons arrested for alleged participation in the so-called “revolutionary propaganda" of 1872-75-out of more than a thousand persons held in solitary confinement for periods ranging from one to four years-only one hundred and ninety-three had ever been brought to trial, and even of that number ninety had been acquitted by a court of judges of the Government's own selection.†

In other words, more than nine hundred persons whose innocence was finally admitted by the Department of Justice had been subjected to from one to four years of solitary confinement, in the course of which eighty of them, or nearly ten per cent., had died, committed suicide, or become insane.‡ Before Mr. Gerard had finished making this statement he was stopped by the Court, and directed to confine himself to the facts of the case on trial. § promptly ordered to stop, and when he refused to do so, he was throttled by three or four gendarmes and dragged out of the court-room. For his obstinacy, and for insulting references to the Court, which were regarded as an aggravation of his original offense, his sentence was made ten years of penal servitude, with deprivation of all civil rights. [Sentence of the Court in the trial of the 193 above cited, p. 13.] In a subsequent paper I shall give an account of the life of Muishkin, who was one of the most remarkable characters that the Russian revolutionary movement has yet produced.

§ Official Stenographic Report of the Trial of the Regicides at St. Petersburg in 1881, pp. 213–219.

« AnteriorContinuar »