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DELUSIONS

OF

INSANE

POLITICAL

detail, is sensational and exaggerated; but I system of punishment. The records of Russian have simply to say that the condition of that insane asylums, and particularly of the asylum party has been described to me many times, at Kazan, would show, if they could be exnot only by politicals, but by officers of the amined, in what way and to what extent the Exile Administration. One of the latter, who characters of political offenders are broken. saw the party after it left Moscow and before it crossed the Siberian frontier, said to me that

CONthe prisoners who composed it were little more

VICTS.- -“FICTITIOUS MARRIAGES.". than epileptics — mere wrecks of human beings, who fainted at the least excitement. He

THE EMPRESS'S PHOTOGRAPH. probably would not have made this admission In the month of October, 1880, there arrived had he not been trying to prove in an argu- at the Russian provincial prison of Mtsensk a ment with me that the condition of politicals party of condemned politicals, who had just in Siberia, and even at the mines, was far bet- been released from four or five years of ter than in the fortresses and central convict solitary confinement in the fortress of Petroprisons of European Russia.

pavlovsk and the central convict prison of Kharkoff, and who were on their way to the

East Siberian mines. It happened to be my BREAKING THE CHARACTERS OF POLITI

fortune to find several of these condemned CAL OFFENDERS.

prisoners still alive in various parts of Siberia I have never been able to obtain from any in 1885, and to make the acquaintance, near officer of the Russian government a satisfac- Irkutsk, of an exiled journalist named Xtory explanation of the fact, that while con- who was in the Mtsensk prison when these demned murderers, highway robbers, and other convicts arrived there. The condition of the common felons are allowed almost unrestricted condemned party was pitiable in the extreme. intercommunication and association in the Two of them - Plotnikoff and Donetski forwarding prisons, and are deported as speed- were hopelessly insane, three or four others ily as practicable to Siberia, political criminals were hysterical or subject to hallucinations, of the same grade are thrown into fortress and all were so worn, emaciated, and weak casemates, or into the secret" cells of cen- that it was found necessary to postpone their tral convict prisons, are detained there for deportation to Siberia until they could be reyears in the strictest isolation, and are sent to vived and restored to something like health Siberia only when their minds and bodies have by means of stimulants and nourishing food. been almost hopelessly wrecked by hardships, privations, and solitude. There is a story cur- It was pitiful (said Mr. X-, in describing to me rent among the exiles in Siberia to the effect the appearance of these condemned convicts) to see that when the penal servitude section of the how the mental powers of some of them had been

wrecked by misery and solitude. Donetski, before his Petropavlovsk fortress was organized, a late arrest, had contracted a “fictitious marriage” with a director of the Imperial Police, whose name young girl in a Russian provincial town, for the purI purposely withhold, explained its object pose of freeing her from the patriarchal despotism of by saying that it was intended to “ break the herself at St. Petersburg. He had parted from her at

her home, and affording her an opportunity to educate characters” of political offenders. Whether the church door and had never again seen her; but such a remark was really made or not, and after he went insane in the central prison of Kharkoff

, whether, if made, it was the authorized state- he constantly raved about her, and seemed to think ment of a real purpose, I do not know, but that she would come to him if she were not prevented

from doing so by the Government. He had obtained in in any case the words express forcibly and some way while in prison a small card photograph of concisely the actual tendency of this cruel the Empress, taken when she was the Crown Princess

* At the time of that great spiritual and moral awaken- of such marriages were contracted in all parts of Rus. ing of the youth of Russia which resulted in the so- sia between 1870 and 1875, and in many cases the called movement "to the people,” between the years young men had never seen, previous to marriage, the 1870 and 1875, it was a common thing for a young man young women to whom they bound themselves, and to emancipate a young woman from the patriarchal tyr. knew of their existence only' through mutual friends. anny and the cramped life of a Russian provincial Sometimes fictitious husbands met and fell in love with household, by contracting with her what was called a their wives in prison or in exile many years after their “fictitious marriage.” The ceremony was not fictitious nominal union; but in most cases their respective in the sense of illegality,– it was, on the contrary, a fields of activity were widely separated, and they revalid and binding tie,– but the contracting parties did mained strangers. The purpose of these fictitious not live together and never expected to do so. The marriages was a pure and noble one, but the method young man voluntarily sacrificed his domestic future, adopted to carry out that purpose was in the highest and all his anticipations of home and family, for the degree quixotic and impracticable, and it was ultisake of liberating some young girl from the despotic mately abandoned. At the time when Donetski lay inpower of the head of her household, and giving her an sane in the central prison of Kharkoff, his fictitious opportunity to educate herself and to make herself use. wife was under arrest upon a political charge in Mosful to "the people and the Fatherland." Hundreds cow.

Vol. XXXV. – 104.

Dagmar, and after he became insane he imagined that During all the time that Plotnikoff had been it was a photograph of his fictitious wife, and would in the penal servitude section of the fortress, admiration. In the prison of Mtsensk, where he was and in the central prison of Kharkoff, his put into a large cell with other political convicts, he mother had neither seen him, communicated would show to ihe latter this worn and soiled portrait of with him, nor had news of him; but as soon as the Empress, and say, with a sort of childish pride, she heard that he had been removed from the “This is my wise — is n't she beautiful ?" Then with a mournful intonation he would add, “I have asked prison of Kharkoff to Mtsensk and was about them so many times to send for her - I know she would to be sent to Siberia, she implored the Minister come - but (hysterically) they don't do it — they don't of the Interior to allow her a last interview do it!"

Could anything [said Mr. X—] be more touch with him. If the Minister had been aware that ing and pathetic than to find a political convict in Plotnikoff was insane, he probably would have chains and leg.fetters cherishing as his dearest pos- refused to allow the mother to see him; but session a photograph of her Majesty the Empress – high Government officials cannot be expected to see a revolutionist insane from ill-treatment at the hands of the Government and in love with the wife of to remember the names of all the condemned the Tsar!

politicals in Russian prisons who happen to be insane.

When Madame Plotnikoff, eager and exTHE INSANE POLITICAL PRISONER,

cited, presented herself at the Mtsensk prison PLOTNIKOFF.

and asked to see her son, the warden, who The case of Plotnikoff

, the other insane was naturally a kind-hearted man, tried to prisoner in this party of condemned politicals dissuade her from her purpose by telling her from the central prison of Kharkoff, was, if that her son was about to go to Siberia for possible, even more pitiable than that of Donet- life; that he was virtually dead to her already; ski. At the time of his arrest he was a student that he was greatly worn and broken by long in the Moscow University — a quiet, modest imprisonment; and that she would be happier young fellow about twenty years of age, with if she would content herself with remembera very attractive and lovable character and a ing him as he was in boyhood, or as he aprather serious and thoughtful disposition. He peared when she last saw him, and not lay up had been well educated and was a good lin- for herself a new store of bitter memories by guist, speaking fluently four or five languages, insisting upon an interview that could only including English, French, and German. He increase her grief and renew her sense of behad never been engaged in active revolution- reavement. The mother, however, would not be ary work, but was a member of a so-called denied. She had been granted permission to see “ circle” of young people in Moscow, known her son, and see him she would. The warden from the name of its founder as the “Dolgu- then tried to prepare her for a great change in shintsi." He was arrested, tried, and sentenced her son's appearance, and finally told her frankto penal servitude, and the world of the living ly that he was broken down mentally and knew him no more.

physically and that she might not know him. When he came to Mtsensk (said one of my inform. The mother, however, would not believe that ants] he was a broken, insane, emaciated man about she could fail to recognize her boy, however twenty-eight years of age, and had been eight years in pale, however wasted by prison confinement, solitary confinement. How long he had been insane I he might be. Seeing at last that argument, do not know; but his condition was evidently hopeless, persuasion, and forewarning were all useless, accompanied by profound melancholy. He still retained the warden conducted the mother to the inconsciousness of the fact that he was a political crim- terview room of the prison, where her son sat inal, but that fact seemed to be a source of distress and reading a prison Bible. For a moment she humiliation to him, and he did not like to be reminded gazed at him in amazement and horror. In of it. He was particularly ashamed of his chain and leg-fetters, and used to try in every possible way to

the wild-looking figure before her, with its conceal them. When I first saw him he had carefully thin, yellowish face, half-shaven head, coarse wrapped up all the links of his chain in rags, so that gray prison shirt, and patchwork petticoat, they should not jingle when he moved and thus call she could not see even a suggestion of the boy the attention of others to what he regarded as his disgrace. He saved carefully all the pieces of old clothing from whom she had parted eight years beand foot-wrappers which fell into his hands, and finally fore. As she looked at him, however, some made out of them a sort of ragged patchwork petticoat, maternal instinct told her that it was indeed which, when tied about his waist, fell to the floor all her son, and with a cry, which was half joy around like a woman's dress and entirely concealed from sight both his leg-fetters and his muffled chain. and half terror, she threw herself upon him His hair was long on one side of the head and closely and clasped him in her arms. The insane shaven on the other, and this, with his coarse gray prisoner shrank away from her in alarm and prison shirt, and the patchwork petticoat hanging embarrassment, and as he strove to unclasp made him the most extraordinary figure i had ever her arms and escape from her embrace she

looked into his eyes and the truth suddenly flashed upon her. The body was that of her mon the officer who was warden of the Kharson, but the mind was gone. The abruptness koff Central Prison in 1880, and the comof this terrible shock was more than her over- mandant and the surgeon who served in the strained nerves could bear. She sank on the Petropavlovsk fortress in 1883, and will perfloor in a deep swoon and was carried out of sonally examine those officers, and, if necesthe room unconscious. Plotnikoff was sent to sary, their subordinates, as to the mental and the insane asylum at Kazan, and shortly after- physical condition of the political convicts ward died there.

seen.

who left those prisons for Siberia in the years The facts above set forth I obtained partly named, he will learn at least one of the reafrom political convicts who were confined with sons why, when he goes from St. Petersburg to Plotnikoff in the prison of Kharkoff, and Moscow, it is necessary to guard the railway partly from exiles who were in the Mtsensk with twenty thousand soldiers. prison when he arrived there and when he was visited by his mother. All of my informants

THE HOUSE OF PRELIMINARY DETENTION. are still in Siberia, and most of them are in the Trans-Baikal.

One of the most interesting prisons in Eu

ropean Russia, and the only one containing ARE EXILES' ACCOUNTS OF PRISON LIFE

politicals that I was permitted to inspect, is

the House of Preliminary Detention in St. EXAGGERATED ?

Petersburg. It is not, properly speaking, a It may, perhaps, seem to the reader that ac- political prison, since most of the persons counts of prison life obtained from political ex- therein confined are common criminals; but iles are likely to be overcolored and exagger- it has held at times as many as three hundred ated — that it must in the nature of things be political offenders awaiting trial or exile to impossible for a man who has had such an ex- Siberia. It is, in a certain sense, the great perience to regard it fairly and judicially and to show prison of the empire, and has been pardescribe it without overstatement. I fully un- ticularly commended by the Rev. Henry derstand and appreciate this skeptical attitude Lansdell as an illustration of “what Russia toward such facts as those set forth in these can do” in this particular field. It was conpapers; but I must say, in justice to the ex-pris- structed in 1873–75, under the supervision of a oners whose acquaintance I made in Siberia, special commission appointed by the Minister that they were reluctant, rather than eager, to of Justice and the Minister of the Interior live over again in narration these terrible months jointly, and in accordance with plans drawn and years of their lives, and that when, by by Actual State Counselor Maiefski. It cost persistent questioning, I succeeded in getting more than 800,000 rubles (about $400,000 at their darkest memories, it was often at the at the present rate of exchange), contained all expense of an outburst of grief which was al- sorts of modern improvements in the shape of most as painful to me as to the narrator. A heating and ventilating apparatus, and was beRussian author, whose name is known even lieved to embody the latest results of scientific in Western Europe, and who is now an exile experiment in the department of prison archiin Eastern Siberia, attempted to describe to me tecture. From the fact, however, that a crimone night the death in the fortress of a comrade inal suit based on alleged incompetence was - an army officer - to whom he was tender- instituted against the architect before the buildly and devotedly attached. Before he ended ing had been fairly completed, it would appear his recital my eyes were full of tears, and he that its defects as a prison soon became manihimself was pacing the floor with tightly fest. To what extent, when completed, it an. clinched hands, striving to control his emo- swered the purposes for which it was designed tion and to keep his voice from breaking, may be inferred from the fact that between while his breast heaved with the tearless, con- 1875 and 1880 it was formally condemned by vulsive sobs which make the grief of a strong three successive prison commissions.* man more painful to witness than even the In the summer of 1886, armed with a permit uncontrolled weeping of a woman. He suc- from Mr. Galkin-Vrasskoi, Chief of the Prison ceeded in finishing his story; but he would and Exile Department, I presented myself at talk of the fortress no more that night. In the the door of the House of Preliminary Deten. mind of any one who heard that recital there tion, sent my card to the warden, and was could have been no question of exaggeration promptly admitted. The prison is situated in or overstatement. Men are not thus pro- the heart of the city, on a corner of the Liteni foundly moved by the simulated recollection Prospekt, directly behind the Circuit Court. of unreal experience.

*Prison and Exile” (Tiurma i Sylka), by V. N. If his Imperial Majesty the Tsar, to whose Nikitin [one of the Directors of the St. Petersburg eyes I hope these pages may come, will sum- Prison Committee), p. 519. St. Petersburg, 1880.

It is a large, square, rather showy building, on a pleasant day in summer was fairly good. with high arched windows, and suggests to The lower stories, however, seemed to be dark an American a town-hall or an opera-house and damp, and the ventilation to be bad everyrather than a prison. The exterior of the where. As the cells all open through their building, however, is merely an ornamental windows upon the quadrangle, which is virtumask, designed apparently to disguise the ally nothing more than a deep square well, the real character and purpose of the structure. wind rarely blows into or through them, and * From the outside it appears to be only four the circulation of air secured by artificial means stories in height, but upon entering the is sluggish and inadequate. The sanitary concourt-yard, or quadrangle around which it is dition of the building, as shown by hospital built, one discovers that the high external records, is very unsatisfactory. Even when windows are deceptive, that the building it was new, 20 per cent. of its criminal populareally consists of six stories, and that all the tion received hospital treatment some time cells look out into the completely inclosed in the course of the year,* and in 1884 it furcourt-yard. Whether the high outside win- nished 116 cases of anæmia and scurvy.t dows serve any useful purpose or not I failed The treatment of political offenders in the to ascertain; but they certainly do not light any House of Preliminary Detention is generally of the cells, and it is impossible for a prisoner lenient and fairly considerate. They are not to get through these windows, or any others, so obliged to wear any particular dress, they are much as a glimpse of the outside world. By allowed to have interviews with relatives and standing on his stationary wash-basin he can to receive from the latter unobjectionable look down into the quadrangle, but that is all. books and articles of clothing, and they may

The prison contains 317 solitary confine- keep money of their own in the hands of the ment cells, and 68 kameras, or cells for more warden and order all their own meals, if they than one person, and was designed to hold choose, from a restaurant. 700 prisoners. The solitary confinement cells, The difference between confinement in such which are all alike, 'seemed to me to be about a prison as this and incarceration in a case12 feet long by 7 feet wide and 772 feet high, mate of the fortress is very great. with whitewashed brick walls and concrete floors. They contain a gas fixture, a station- When I was transferred from the Trubetskoi bastion ary wash-basin, an iron bedstead which can Siberia), it was like going from a sepulcher to a water:

to the House of Detention [said Dr. Sokolof to me in be folded up against the wall, two hinged ing-place hotel. The sound of footsteps, the rumble of slabs of iron which fold up in the same way, ventilating apparatus, the comparative lightness and and serve respectively as a table and a chair, airiness of the cells, the doves flying about the windows, and finally, in the end of the cell near the and the faint roar of vehicles in ihe adjacent streets,

which suggested the busy life and activity of the world, window, a modern water-closet seat and basin, all combined to give me a sense of unwonted exhilarawith a round cover and a water trap to ex- tion. In the “ monastery ” I never saw a human beclude noxious air from the soil pipe. As it is ing except the guard, and rarely heard a sound except, not my purpose to describe this prison more

perhaps, the low tapping of a prisoner in an adjoining

cell. In the House of Detention, on the contrary, I minutely than may be necessary in order to heard noises of all sorts, and soon found myself in comexplain certain events of which it was the munication with everybody: Before I had been there scene, I will merely say, briefly, that the cells a day, some one in the cell below mine knocked out to and corridors shown me were scrupulously

me on the steam pipe which ran up beside my door,

“ Scoop the water out of your basin.” I went and clean, and that the light in the upper stories looked into my wash-basin and found it to be empty.

In a few moments the command came again in a * There were imprisoned in the House:

slightly different form,“ Scoop the water out of yonr

Men. Women. water-closet basin.” Then the significance of the di. In 1876

1502
173

rection flashed upon my mind. Somebody wished to 1877

.1148

149 talk to me through the soil pipe with which his basin 1878

.1195 138 and mine were in communication. I succeeded, after

some trouble, in clearing the trap, and as I did so a 3845

babel of hollow human voices came up through the Total .....

4305 basin, and I found myself able to talk freely with the Of this number there were taken sick :

inmates of eleven other cells, most of whom were

Men, Women. politicals. In 1876.

.146 33 “ 1877

.287 45 1878

.296 40 "PIPE CLUBS” OF POLITICAL PRISONERS. 729

118 If the reader will imagine six capital Y's Total .. “ Report of the Central Prison Administration for that the stem of each rests in the fork of the

847 placed over one another in such a manner 1884, p. 234.

# The fortress of Petropavlovsk has received from next one below, he will have a rough general political offenders the nickname of the “monastery.” idea of the way in which the soil pipes of the

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PRISON

CELEBRATION

OF

THE

CENTENNIAL

House of Detention are arranged. The arms In this way, and by means of weighted cords, of the Y in each story terminate in the swung like pendulums from window to winwater-closet basins of two adjoining cells, dow between clubs, small articles were circuwhile the stem forms a section of the large lated and distributed throughout the whole perpendicular pipe which runs from the roof prison. to the ground, and with which twelve cells are thus connected. All that it is

necessary do, therefore, in order to open oral communica

FOURTH OF JULY. tion with the occupants of these twelve cells is to clear the water-traps. The political pris- In the summer of 1876, when there were oners confined in the House of Detention confined in the House of Detention more than soon discovered that they could talk with one three hundred political offenders, it was deanother through these pipes, and when the cided to have a general prison celebration of number of such prisoners was so great that the Centennial Fourth of July — the birthday of the dark punishment cells of the prison would the American Republic. As early as the first not hold a tenth part of them, the authorities week in June the prisoners began to make of the prison were almost powerless to prevent preparations for the proposed celebration, by 'such intercommunication. Before 1876 all at- requesting relatives who visited them to send tempts to prevent it had been virtually aban- to the prison for their use as many red and doned, and the political prisoners had formed blue handkerchiefs, neckerchiefs, shirts, and what they called “Water-closet Clubs” or pairs of red flannel drawers as could be sent “Pipe Clubs," for social intercourse and mu- without exciting suspicion, and at the same time tual improvement. Each club consisted of ten all the prisoners who were permitted to have or twelve members, and had its own name movable lights began to purchase and hoard and rules. Frequently, when I asked a politi- candles. The colored garments were torn into cal exile in Siberia whether he knew such or strips, the candles were cut into inch-long such a person, he would reply, “ Oh, yes! I bits, and both were distributed by means of have never seen him, but I know him well — the water-closet pipes throughout the whole he was a member of my pipe club in the prison. Some of the women, who were alHouse of Detention.” Educated political lowed to have needles and thread and to sew prisoners gave lessons through these pipes in their cells, succeeded in making rude to the uneducated; languages were taught American flags, and before the ist of July althrough them; newspapers were read through most every political offender in the prison had them; and they served all the purposes for either a flag, or a few strips of red, white, and which speaking and pneumatic tubes are em- blue cloth, and an inch or two of candle. ployed in large public buildings. Miss Med- Day breaks in the latitude of St. Petersburg, vedieva, who afterward became the wife of in summer, very early, and on the morning of the the Russian author Machtet, read aloud to Fourth of July, 1876, hours before the first midthe members of her pipe club the whole of night cannon announced the beginning of the Turgenieff's novel “ Virgin Soil.” The politi- great national celebration in Philadelphia, huncal prisoners, however, were not contented with dreds of American flags and streamers of red, mere oral communication through these pipes, white, and blue fluttered from the grated winbut made them useful also as a means of con- dows of the politicals around the whole quadveying packages from cell to cell within the rangle of the great St. Petersburg prison, and limits of each club. A prisoner, for example, the members of the prison “clubs" were faintly in one of the upper stories, would ravel out a hurrahing, singing patriotic songs, and expart of one of the sheets from his bed, twist changing greetings with one another through the threads into a long cord, fasten to it a the water-closet pipes which united their cells. securely inclosed package, throw or push the The celebration, of course, was soon over. The package through the branch pipe of the water- prison guard, although they had never heard closet basin into the main perpendicular pipe, of the Declaration of Independence and did and then lower it. The prisoner in the cell be- not understand the significance of this extraorlow for whom it was intended could not reach dinary demonstration, promptly seized and it, as it hung in the main pipe, but he would have removed the flags and tricolored streamers. ready another similar cord with a small weight Some of the prisoners, however, had more attached, would throw that out through the material of the same kind in reserve; and at branch pipe into the main pipe, and the two intervals throughout the whole day scraps and prisoners would then jerk their respective cords tatters of red, white, and blue were furtively up and down until they became intertwined, hung out here and there from cell windows when the lower prisoner would haul in the or tied around the bars of the gratings. Late package through his branch pipe and basin. in the evening, at a preconcerted hour, the

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