The Russian Bastille
By Simon O. Pollock
Charles H. Kerr & Company
Copyright 1908 by CHARLES H. KERR & COMPANY
“The blessed time will come
When from the martyrs’ graves
Will rise a mighty nation
That will avenge all wrongs.”
—From a Russian Revolutionary Song.
The truthful words about the Schlüsselburg Political Prison should serve the cause of Russian freedom. The story was written during the short period of “Days of Liberty” in Russia, when there was hope that the Fortress would no longer be used as a political dungeon, when its doors were thrown open and the friends of the released inmates were enabled to visit the very cells where Vera Figner, Herman Alexanrowitch Lopatin and others spent scores of years in seclusion and where Nicholas Morosoff wrote his Astronomical Interpretation of the Apocalypse.
But since then the scale of Nemesis has turned once more. The power of the autocracy is again restored and the doors of the Schlüsselburg Dungeon are closed to hide again from the world the awful mystery of its solitary cells. The life of the new inmates is again dribbling out slowly and silently, drop by drop.
20th of July, 1907.
Note — Nicholas Tchaykovsky, who wrote the preface, shortly after July, 1907, went to Russia. He and Catherine Breshkovsky, who also continued her activity there, were soon arrested and are now imprisoned in the Sts. Peter and Paul Fortress in St. Petersburg.
THE RUSSIAN BASTILLE.
“The history of mankind gives the assurance that the principles of liberty will ultimately triumph over oppression, and that human happiness will in time cease to be only a dream. But the road to liberty is covered with so many martyrs and the pages of history are so soiled with so much of humanity’s blood, that one often despairs of the cause of the human race.”
Such are the words of Mr. L. Melshin-Yacoubovitch, a Russian poet, journalist and revolutionist in his book, “The Schlusselburg Prisoners,” recently published in St. Petersburg. They are words embodying thoughts which inevitably force themselves upon anyone who has acquired only cur-
sory knowledge of the facts concerning the prison near St. Petersburg, known as the Schlusselburg Fortress, which was abolished after the manifesto of October, 1905, and restored in September, 1906, and which for years kept, and still keeps within its walls, the ablest and noblest pioneer offsprings of the Russian revolution.
The Schlusselburg Fortress was not an ordinary prison. It was a Bastille — a place for the arbitrary incarceration, torture and execution of political offenders. It is situated on an island on the Neva, fifty-four north of St. Petersburg. In earlier days it had been used as a prison, but not until the summer of 1884, after a long disuse and desertion, was it consigned to the purpose which it so effectively served for more than twenty-one years.
Before that time the Sts. Peter and Paul Fortress, within the boundaries of the capital, was the national Bas-
tille. The Alexeieff Ravelin and the Trubetzkoy Bastion, towers within this Fortress, kept the convicted revolutionists in absolute seclusion. They were well equipped for the confining of the prisoners and well served all purposes of the government. Here Peter I. tortured and killed his son Alexis. Here were buried alive those who protested against the assassination of Paul I by the satellites of Catherine II., his wife. In this Fortress were imprisoned the Decembrists, the first revolutionists during the reign of Nicholas I., before their deportation to hard labor, and here, five of them — Poet Releieff, Count Pastel, Brothers Princes Muravieff and marine officer Bestuscheff Rumin, were hanged. The Petropavlovka, as it has been otherwise known, also kept imprisoned the reformers in the cause of religion and all patriots of minor nationalities, Polish or South Russian, who demanded
national autonomy and independence from Russia. It was a thoroughly reliable dungeon, even after its abolition as a hard labor prison, when it became a place for preliminary confinement and detention. As such it numbered the committee of Journalists and Poets, consisting of Maxim Gorky, N. F. Annensky, J. B. Hessen and others, who, on the eve of the workingmen’s procession, on the 22d day of January, 1905, petitioned the Secretary of Interior to prevent the massacre then openly contemplated by General Trepoff. During the same year, and shortly after the first general strike, there were imprisoned in this Fortress Leo Deutch, the well known Social Democrat and author of “Sixteen Years in Siberia,” who returned to Russia after the manifesto of 1905, Nosar Krustaleff, the chairman of the now historical “Council of the Workingmen’s Deputies in St. Pet-
ersburg” and many others . The causes which prior to 1884 prompted the government to remove the “dangerous” prisoners from the Fortress in the capital to a more isolated place were deeply rooted in the peculiar features of the revolutionary movement of those days.
1 Alexander S. Prugavin, St. Peter and St. Paul Fortress, pp. 4-6 (in Russian), St. Petersburg, 1906.
The period in Russian history following the emancipation of the serfs in 1861 was marked by widespread discontent. The conditions then prevailing and the movement resulting therefrom are described in the article “Ekatherina Breshkovskaia and The Russian Revolution” as follows: “Many young Russian reformers had soon realized that the emancipation, instead of being a great reform was but a means of deceit and a means of enrichment for the nobility and the government; that if the Russian peasants had been enlightened upon their rights and instructed upon the conditions of their liberation, the reform would have emancipated the peasantry instead of enslaving it to the government by the heavy payments it had
to make for the freedom and land it had been given. The restrictions placed upon the civic life of the peasantry, for the purpose of securing the “payments” conclusively fastened on it a new system of dependence on the bureaucracy, and within two years after the reform, in twenty-nine provinces only, according to the report of the Secretary of Interior, there were 1,100 peasants’ uprisings. The peasants opposed the “liberty.” They could not subsist under the new conditions. The land allotted them was insufficient for their maintenance and they could not hear the burden of the new payments. The uprisings were suppressed by force of arms. The freed serfs were killed and wounded for their ingratitude to the Czar, “who gave them freedom.” These events inaugurated the revolutionary movement of those days, at first a movement of education. The motto was: “Let
us take a lesson from these occurrences; let us first educate the masses and then with their own aid give them true and just freedom and happiness.” The revealed poverty added to the exalted devotion to the cause of the people. Then the Paris Commune of 1871 with its tragic downfall followed. It affected the revolutionary mind in Russia more than elsewhere and forced to the front the problem of an extensive revolutionary propaganda. We see in the beginning of the seventies an influx of Russian young men and young women into Switzerland, where they went to learn social science and wherefrom they intended to return to Russia well equipped with the knowledge and experience necessary in the impending revolutionary movement. The lectures of the Russian fugitive journalists Peter Lavroff, Bakunin, Tkacheff and others, as well as the contact with many
communards, prepared the youth for the struggle of the future days. The Russian government was alarmed. In 1873 it issued the famous Ukas to the “Russian men and women in Switzerland,” ordering them to leave their revolutionary studies and return to Russia. It threatened to deprive them of the privilege to practice their professions or vocations, if they would not return within the time fixed in the Ukas. But it was of no avail. The men and women remained abroad and returned only when ready for the work of propaganda, which was carried on in a manner most unique in the history of such movements. Realizing the existing social iniquities, the youth considered it a crime to enjoy pleasures of life, while the people were enmeshed in complete poverty and utter ignorance. They believed that they owed the people the duty of education and revolution. They claimed that the
wealth they and their fathers owned was the property of the people, of which they were deprived by the strong and the unjust. And the cry was: “Go among the people and give back to them what has wrongfully been taken from them.” And thousands of young men and young women stripped themselves of their homes, their friends, their comforts and their pleasures, and went among the people. In the disguise of laborers, apprentices, traveling men, teachers, they go all over Russia, cover every available village and hamlet teaching, educating, preaching. This great and until then unequalled movement is known in Russian history as the “peasantist” movement. When in 1875 Count Palen, then Secretary of Justice, reported the result of his investigation of this crusade, he claimed
that it affected no less than thirty-seven provinces.
At about this time, Professor Yansen, in an elaborate book on distribution of lands and taxes in Russia, established the fact that the allotments or parcels held by the peasants were hardly sufficient to pay the taxes and because of that reason the peasants were compelled to look for work in the cities during the winter season. The cry of land was taken up by the legitimate liberal press. Notwithstanding all this the demand was disregarded. The peasants were kept in ignorance; the appeals of the reformers were ignored and the press was placed under a censorship similar to that under Nicholas I.
In the beginning of 1877 the political case of “50,” with many female de-
1 “Ekatherina Breshkovskaia and the Russian Revolution,” by this author, in the “Worker,” December 25th, 1904.
fendants, stirred the nation. During the same year, the case of “193” followed. It began in October, 1877, and was finished in January, 1878. It was a result of the arrest of over one thousand men and women who were held in preliminary custody for four years, before “193” were singled out for trial. Katherine Breshkovsky and many others were sentenced to hard labor in this case.
The Society “Semlia e Volia” (Land and Liberty), to which most of the propagandists belonged, was more an educational than a political organization. But though the agitation was peaceful, it was met by prosecution more severe than any previously known in Russian history. The methods of oppression and persecution which had been employed inflamed the educated Russian youth and after a discussion of the conditions at secret conventions, held in 1879 in Woronesh
and Lipetzk, called by the “Land and Liberty,” the party “Narodnaia Volia” (People’s Will), with terrorism as its principal weapon, was organized. Having been inaugurated by Vera Sassulitch, who, in 1878 shot at General Trepoff to avenge the flogging of Bogoluboff, a consumptive revolutionist, terrorism spread, not only as a means of self defense, but also as a method of attack. It was a policy of “violence against violence,” purporting by a series of organized attacks upon the government, to force political and economical concessions from the autocracy. The world then witnessed a heroic duel between a small number of men and women and an army of gendarmes, prosecutors and spies. The movement was bound to fail, since it was one almost purely of “intellectuals,” having but little foundation in the will of the masses. But until it was finally crushed, in 1887, it kept the
government in constant fear for its existence.
The more dangerous revolutionists whose lives were spared by the gendarmes, were thrown into the Sts. Peters and Paul Fortress in St. Petersburg. As a result of its regime, most of the prisoners were soon attacked by consumption, insanity or other diseases. Among the first to perish during the first two years of their imprisonment in the Fortress, were Alexander Mikhailoff, Obolesheff, Shiraieff, Telaloff, all members of the “Narodnaia Volia.” Female revolutionists were also incarcerated in the Fortress; among them were Terentieva and Helfman, who died there shortly after their term began, but the circumstances attending their death have not been disclosed. The fate of Helfman’s baby born in jail is altogether unknown. There was fear that other prisoners might soon follow. Through
a conspiracy between prisoners and guards in 1881, however, some modification of the grosser cruelties of the dungeon was obtained and the lot of the inmates was for a time made more tolerable.
The head of this conspiracy was Sergius Netchaieff, who had inaugurated a revolutionary movement in 1869. Escaping to Switzerland, he had been extradited in 1872, on the false plea that he was a felon and not a political offender. Tried in 1873, he had been sentenced to ten years at hard labor and subsequent banishment to Siberia. He was, however, imprisoned in the Sts. Peter and Paul Portress as a political offender, and in 1877, before his term had expired, had been tried for a violation of the rules of the Fortress and sentenced to life imprisonment. He was the first revolutionist who succeeded in winning over the soldiers of the prison guard. These soldiers
not only established for him a system of communication with the Executive Committee of his party, but they even conspired to place the Emperor under arrest on his visit to the Fortress. It was during the time when the “Narodnaia Volia” was bent upon the assassination of Alexander II., and the Executive Committee placed Netchaieff in the dilemma of choosing the liberation of all prisoners, including himself, or the assassination of Alexander II. One enterprise excluded the other, and there was fear that if all prisoners were to escape from the Fortress, the Czar would, in his fear, take extraordinary precautions for his safety and a new era of persecutions would follow.
Without a murmur Netchaieff refused to be liberated. Alexander II. fell on the 1st day of March, 1881. Netchaielf remained in the Fortress. But soon thereafter the police discovered
the garrison’s conspiracy. Forty soldiers were arrested and tried in December, 1882. The fate of Netchaieff was unknown until after October, 1905. It has now been established that this iron man died on the 9th day of May, 1883, in the Fortress, and that after the discovery of the plot he was constantly kept in a cell specially designated for disobedient prisoners, having been deprived even of the limited privileges of the jail. The government then concluded to place the dangerous political prisoners beyond possible reach, and Count Dmitri Tolstoi, then the Secretary of the Interior, ordered the re-establishment of the Schlusselburg Fortress. This jail had been built in 1384. Its traditions fully justified the choice of the secretary. Here perished not only the enemies of the old Czars from the ranks of nobil-
1 The Past (Biloie), monthly magazine in Russian, No. F, July, 1906, p. 170.
ity, but even members of the Czars’ families not in favor with them, had found their death in the Schlusselburg Fortress. Among them were Czarina Eudoxie Lopoukhin, the first wife of Peter the Great, and Czarewitz Johan Antonowitz, who was strangled there during the reign of Catherine II. This old dungeon and mainstay of autocracy was hurriedly renovated and repaired and the Russian Bastille was founded.
In August, 1884, the first barge with twelve prisoners left the Ravelin for Schlusselburg. On the barge the prisoners were not allowed to see one another. Polivanoff relates that they were all chained hand and foot and were placed in separate cells in the swimming prison. This was the gloomy prologue to the history of the Bastille.
A long, narrow and dark corridor, dimly lighted by lamps; small, damp, half-dark cells on both sides of the corridor, barred and locked by iron and steel; all about the corridors gendarmes and wardens now and then looking into the openings of the cell doors; sentinels outside; towers and walls
1 Peter Polivanoff, “Alexeiff Ravelin,” in Russian, 1904.
surrounding the prison yards and cells and water all around — such was the dungeon to which these prisoners were consigned.
The question of who “deserved” Schlusselberg was regulated by rules embodied in the General Code of Laws, which provided that only revolutionists, who after a trial were sentenced to hard labor for lifetime or whose death sentence was commuted to a term of years at hard labor, were to be placed in the Bastille. There were other prisons in European and Asiatic Russia in which revolutionists were confined. The Bastille, however, purported to serve as a permanent threat to all Russia, and the final disposition of prisoners was therefore left to the discretion of the Department of Police.
The Police Department, however, used its discretion freely. Thus there were to be found in the Bastille among the life prisoners, men like Vasily Kar-
aouloff, who had been sentenced to four years at hard labor and to subsequent deportation to Siberia. There was also to be found there one Michael Lagovsky, an army officer, who, having been punished by administrative order, was also to be deported to Siberia. But after the expiration of his term of five years, the Police Department, without trial and with the approval of Alexander III., “prolonged” his imprisonment to a “life” term.
At the end of 1884 we find there thirty-six men: Eleven immigrants from the Ravelin (Frolenko, Morosoff, Trigoni, Grachefsky, Arontchik, Isaieff, Yurii Bodganowitch, Polivanoff, Slatopolsky, Klimenko, marine officer Bucevitch); eleven new arrivals from the Kara prison in Siberia (Mishkin, Popoff, Malavsky, Dolgushin, Stchedrin, Buzinsky, Kobiliansky, Minakoff, Gellis, Yurkovsky, Krishanovsky); eleven participants in the Military
case of Vera Figner; (Vera Figner, Ludmilla A. Wolkenstein, Nemelovsky, Wassily Ivanoff, Surovzeff and army officers Askenbrenner, Pokhitonoff, Youvacheff, Tikhanowitch, Stromberg and Rogatcheff, of whom the last two were hanged immediately upon their arrival); and four participants in the Kieff case (Karaouloff, Shebalin, Pankratoff, Martinoff). During the following two years only a few were added. Ignatius Ivanoff was brought from the Kasan House for Insane, Manachuroff from Odessa, Lagovsky and Yanovitch and Varinsky, participants in the case of “Proletariat” from Warsaw. In 1887 a new array of victims, participants of the last famous trials of the Narodnaia Volia, were brought in, some of them for the purpose of execution. Thus, five of the seven “First March Men” — Ulianoff, Generaloff, Osiparoff, Andreiushkin and Shevareff — were hanged a few
days after their arrival. Novorouski and Lukashevitch remained in the fortress to serve their sentence. They were charged with the attempt upon the life of Alexander III. in March, 1887. Nearly all of them were students of Cossack families. Then came Herman Alexandrowitch Lopatin and his comrades, Starodvorsky, Konashewitch, Sergius Ivanoff and finally Borris Origik. Lopatin and Orgik were the last organizers of the Narodnaia Yolia, who fell in their attempt to reorganize and re-establish their party. From 1887 on political trials in Russia ceased, the government preferring “administrative order” to a trial and from that year up to the closing days of the Bastille, for the period of seventeen years, only eleven men and women were added to the list of “dangerous” (Sophie Ginzburg, Karpowitch, Balmashoff, Katchura, Gershuni, Melnikoff, Sasonoff, Sikorsky,
Hershkowitch, Wasilieff and Kaliaieff). Thus for the twenty-one years of its existence prior to October, 1905, the Bastille had kept sixty-seven men and women. The amnesty, however, found in the Bastille only thirteen out of the sixty-seven originally imprisoned (Popoff, Frolenko, Morosoff, Novorousky, Loukashewitch, Lopatin, Ivanoff, Antonoff, Karpowitch, Gershuni, Melnikoff, Sasonoff and Sikorsky). The fourteenth, Starodworsky, was transferred to St. Paul and St. Peter Fortress in September, 1905.
During these years only thirteen men and women left Schlusselburg. The fate of the rest of the thirty-seven is most tragic. Thirteen were shot or hanged within the walls of the prison. Four committed suicide in jail.2>
1 Mishkin, Minakoff, Ulianoff, Generaloff, Osipanoff, Andreiushkin, Shevaleff, Stromberg, Rogatcheff, Balmashoff, Hershkowitch, Wasilieff and Kaliaieff.
2 Klimenko, Tikhanowitch, Grachefsky and Sophie Ginzburg.
Three committed suicide after liberation. Fifteen died of consumption, insanity and other diseases.  Three insanes were allowed to leave the Bastille. One of them subsequently died in a hospital in St. Petersburg and two are still hopeless inmates in the Kasan House for Insane.
3 Martinoff, Yanowitch and Polivanoff.
4 Netchaieff, Isaieff, Aronbchik, Bogdanowitch, Slatopolsky, Malavsky, Buzinsky, Buchevitch, Kobiliansky, Gellis, Dolgushin, Jurkowsky, Ignatius Ivanoff, Nemolosky, Ludwig Varinsky.
5 Stchedrin, Konashewitch and Pokhitonoff.
All inmates of the Bastille began their career as peaceful propagandists, and only some of them subsequently became terrorists. Many of the old prisoners belonged to the so-called Tchaykovsky circle, which was organized in the beginning of the seventies of the last century with the object of spreading the knowledge of popular subjects among the factory laborers and millmen. Except Ippolit Mishkin and Herman Alexandrowitch Lopatin, whose biographies are given elsewhere below, the following men and women are specially to be noted.
Alexander Dolgushin was the oldest prisoner. In 1874 he was sentenced to ten years at hard labor in Siberia for the publication of three proclamations. He had never taken part in terroristic
acts. On his way to hard labor in Siberia be defended a comrade from an attack made on him by an officer in the Krasnoiarsk Jail, and for this interference he received fifteen years additional servitude without a trial. He was transferred from Siberia to the Sts. Peter and Paul Portress in 1883, and died in the Bastille in 1886.
Nicholas Stchedrin was twice sentenced to death, once for organizing the South Russian Labor Union in 1881, and once for attacking a prison official, while the latter was making insulting remarks to female prisoners. His treatment was exceedingly cruel. For many years he was fastened to an iron cart, which he dragged wherever he went. In 1886 he became insane. Up to 1891 the authorities would not admit that he was insane, and they even placed him in a cell specially designated for disorderly prisoners. Not until 1896 did they transfer him to the
Kasan Institution for the Insane.
Michael Trigoni was a friend of the famous Andrew Sheliaboff, who, together with Sophie Perovskaia and others, was tried in 1881 for the assassination of Alexander II. Trigoni protected Sheliaboff against the police for some time and kept him in his house, where both were arrested. After twenty years of servitude Trigoni was deported to Saghalien, where he was freed during the Japanese War.
Nicholas Morosoff, who was the editor of the revolutionary journal, “Land and Liberty,” took part in several famous trials and was known as the poet of the “Narodnaia Volia.” Jointly with Alexander Mikhailoff, the organizer, and Andrew Sheliaboff, the leader, he formed the most influential circle in the executive committee of their party. While in the Bastille he wrote a scientific research on the “Astronomical Interpretation of the
Apocalypse.” Including preliminary confinement he served twenty-seven years. After his release he published a few of his other literary productions. When he regained sufficient strength he made a successful campaign for the office of deputy to the third Duma and was elected in Yaroslave province by an overwhelming majority. His election, however, was cancelled by the government.
Michael Frolenko began his revolutionary career as a peaceful propagandist. He attended the conventions in 1879 at which the “Narodnaia Volia” was finally inaugurated. He was a man of unusual daring and became particularly known for the successful rescue from jail of Leo Deutch. He was a member of the Executive Committee of his party.
Peter Polivanoff, author of the
1 “Tovaristch,” Sept. 26, Oct. 9, 1907, No. 331, and N. Y. Evening Eost, Nov. 9, 1907.
“Alexeieff Ravelin” and of an “open letter” to Secretary Muravieff, served twenty-two years. He began his activity in the beginning of the eighties. He soon discovered that most of the revolutionists had been captured by the government and he conceived the idea of rescuing them from prison. In one of such attempts he was arrested and sentenced to death. His sentence was commuted to life imprisonment. In jail he many times attempted suicide. After his release he was deported to Siberia, wherefrom he escaped to France, where he committed suicide in 1903. In a letter left by him he wrote that, having lost his health in prison, he was unable to continue the work of his younger days and concluded to die.
Yurii Bogdanowitch, who was known as Koboseff, was one of the shrewdest conspirators. In the seventies of the last century he joined the crusade of the “peasantists.” In 1881
he organized an attempt on Alexander II. by the way of a mine, which he laid from a milk store in one of the streets in St. Petersburg. He successfully assisted Prince Peter Kropotkin in the escape from the Sts. Peter and Paul Fortress. He died insane in the Bastille.
Vera Figner had first taken part in the organization of the “Land and Liberty.” When the “Narodnaia Volia” was established she promptly joined it, was one of the trusted executive members and had taken part in many terroristic enterprises. At one time Figner was the only executive member of the “Narodnaia Volia” remaining in Russia. Although she lost all her friends during the years 1881-1882, she continued her activity and established the first military organization in connection with the “Narodnaia Volia.” Highly educated and brave, she enlisted a few hundred
army officers into the organization, which was the strongest of its kind ever since the plot of the Decembrists in 1825. She was arrested in 1883, tried in 1884 and sentenced to death. Her sentence was commuted to hard labor in Schlusselburg. She was released in 1904, but deported to the City of Archangelsk in northern Russia.
Ludmila A. Wolkenstein took part in the agitation of the “People’s Will” party and was one of the defendants in the Figner “Military” trial. She was arrested in 1883, also sentenced to death, which sentence was commuted to hard labor. She was released in 1896 and sent to Saghalien. She wrote her memoirs about the Bastille, known as “Thirteen Years in Schlusselburg.” During the Japanese War she was transferred to Vladivostok where, in January, 1906, she was killed in a street demonstration of mutineers.
[between pp. 40 & 41: page with portraits of V. Figner, S. Ginsburg, Z. Konnopliannikova, L. A. Wolkenshtein]
The military men who were convicted with Vera Figner were only accused of propaganda in the army and of founding revolutionary military organizations. Lieutenant Baron Alexander Stromberg and Nicholas Rogatcheff, whose death sentences were not commuted, were not the most influential among them. The government made “examples” of them for the reason that they had been associating with the leaders of Narodnaia Volia much oftener than others. Baron Stromberg was deported to Siberia in 1881, and while serving his term there he was brought back for the Figner case, convicted and hanged. Nicholas Rogatcheff only intended to resign from service and then devote his time to the newly formed organization, but was arrested before he had tendered his resignation. The fact that his brother, Dmitri Rogatcheff, was con-
victed to hard labor in 1878 in the case of “193,” prompted his execution.
Colonel Ashenbrenner and Pokhitonoff were the most brilliant men in the military organization. Ashenbrenner took leave of absence for a long term and traveled all over Russia, organizing military circles. Their sentences were commuted in view of the splendid record they made while in actual service. Pokhitonoff went insane in the Bastille. Ashenbrenner, as well as a few of those who survived the imprisonment, is now engaged in literary pursuits.
A remarkable feature in this case was the conduct of Officer Tikhanowitch. On the 17th day of August, 1882, one Wassily Ivanoff, a student and revolutionist, escaped from the Kieff Prison. Two prison keepers were accused of complicity in the escape, were tried and sentenced to hard labor. The real accomplice, however,
was Tikhanowitch, who, at the time of the escape, had charge of the prison guard. As soon as the keepers were convicted Tikhanowitch announced his part in the escape and the keepers were released. At the trial he showed evidence of mental derangement, but the court refused to examine into his sanity. He was sent to the Bastille, where he committed suicide two weeks after his term began.
Starodworsky and Konashewitch, of the Lopatin case, were convicted of complicity in the assassination of Colonel of Gendarmes Soudeikin. This affair was noteworthy in Russian history. One, Sergius Degaieff, an army officer, was arrested on a charge of revolutionary propaganda in the army. Colonel Soudeikin visited him in jail in Odessa and by a promise of immunity and the assurance that if the revolutionists on one hand and the reactionists on the other hand, should be re-
moved, the Czar would grant a constitution, induced Degaieff to betray his comrades and take up a position with the Secret Police. To conceal Degaieff’s treason an escape from jail had been arranged for him and he began a wholesale betrayal. Hundreds of men and women fell into Soudeikin’s hands. Among them were Vera Figner, Baron Stromberg, Colonel Ashenbrenner and more than two hundred others, mostly army officers. At one time Soudeikin was in position to lay his hands on almost all leading revolutionists. The assurance of a constitution held out to Degaieff was only used to deceive this weak man into treason. Soudeikin, ambitious and jealous of the men at the Court, whose intrigues prevented his further promotion, planned to remove, with the aid of Degaieff, Count Tolstoi, Count Strogonoff and other advisers of the Czar and thus reach the position
of Secretary of Interior. To enhance his own importance, a fictitious attempt upon his life had been made by Degaieff, which act, at the same time purported to remove all suspicion against Degaieff among the revolutionists. When the unusual number of arrests compelled the revolutionists to suspect treason in their own ranks, and suspicion fell upon Degaieff, he realized the awful part he played under Soudeikin’s influence and command, confessed to the Executive Committee of the Revolutionary party, offered to redress the crimes committed by him and demanded that the party impose on him such punishment as it would see fit. The verdict of the party was that Degaieff give all information which he had about the plans and projects of the Secret Police, and thus place the suspected revolutionists beyond its reach and that he do away with the man whom he had intrusted
with the names and welfare of hundreds of men and women. It was stated in the manifesto issued by the party on this occasion that the circumstances compelled it to use Degaieff for that purpose, and that it was done with all reluctance and repugnance that attach to deals with traitors. After Degaieff shall have complied with this resolution, his own punishment was to be determined. Starodworsky and Konashewitch had been directed to see that Degaieff carry out this verdict. On the 16th day of December, 1883, Soudeikin fell by their hands. After that Degaieff again demanded his punishment and begged that if it should be decreed that his life be taken, that he be allowed to take it himself. The verdict, however, was that his name be given to eternal dishonor and that under a penalty of death, he forever sever all connections with the movement on behalf of Rus-
sian freedom. Degaieff complied with the verdict. His whereabouts are unknown today. His family struck his name from its roll. Starodworsky and Konashewitch were arrested some time thereafter, sentenced to death and placed in the Bastille, where the latter went insane. Starodworsky, however, having gone through its horrors, was released in 1905 to see life again.
Antonoff and Pankratoff were workmen engaged in propaganda among working people, a crime most seriously prosecuted in the seventies and eighties, if committed by one of the “lower” classes. Both had organized labor circles and enjoyed great influence. Upon his release Pankratoff, who had served thirteen years, published his reminiscences about the Bastille in
1 “Messenger of the People’s Will” (in Russian), No. 2, 1884, and “Narodnaia Volia,” No. 10, 1884. Also Stepniak in London “Times,” January, 1884.
a book entiled “Life in Schlusselburg.” Antonoff remained there until October, 1905.
Ludwig Varinsky was the founder of the Polish Revolutionary Party “Proletariat.” An able speaker and organizer, he was expelled from Austria after the Krakow Trial in 1880. Having arrived in Warsaw in 1881, he soon organized the so-called “Labor Committee” which led all labor disputes. He wrote the programme of the party and many of its appeals and established its leading newspapers. In 1883 he laid the foundation for the cooperation of the “Proletariat” with the “Narodnaia Volia,” which subsequently resulted in unity of action of both parties. Having travelled in the interest of his cause, he escaped arrest many times, but finally fell into the hands of the police on the 28th day of September, 1883, after a fierce struggle
[between pp. 48 & 49: page of portraits: D. ROGATCHEFF, N. MOROSOFF, M. ASHENBRENNER, H. A. LOPATIN, I. MISHKIN]
with the spies, who followed him. He died in the Bastille in 1889.
The fate of Michael Popoff was particularly tragic. He was a “peasantist.” He was sentenced in 1879 and sent to Siberia. From there he was transferred to the Bastille with sixteen others, who were charged with an attempted escape, in which he took no part. He survived all his comrades and served the longest term.
The younger prisoners, most of whom belonged to the Revolutionary Socialists, were terrorists, although they too began their career as peaceful propagandists and educators.
The terrorism of these men originated under circumstances different from those which brought about the tactics of the Narodnaia Volia. While that party adopted this weapon as a means of self defense and attack during a time when the movement was purely intellectual and had no footing among the masses, terrorism of the Revolutionary Socialists sprang up at a time when the government inaugurated a system of white terror for the purpose of crushing the movements then spreading among the workmen and peasants. It coincided with the
growth of the Social Democratic agitation in the cities and Social Revolutionary propaganda in the villages. Secretaries Sipiagin, Yon Plehve, General Bogdanowitch, Grand Duke Sergius and others all fell victims of the system of the massacre of non-orthodox nationalities and wholesale flogging, deportation and execution of workmen, peasants and intellectuals inaugurated by them.
Peter Karpowitch, a student of the Moscow University, was an ardent organizer of educational circles and societies for self-support, widely known as “Countrymen’s Organizations.” In this activity he soon met with persecution. For participation in the memorial services over the victims of the so-called “Khodin Affair,” he was ar-
1 It is an accident which occurred on the Khodin Place in Moscow during the coronation of Nicholas II., wherein a few thousands were killed and maimed as a result of a collapse of one of the structures during the festivities.
rested and expelled from the University. There have been more than eight hundred students expelled for this offense. He subsequently joined the Dorpalt University, from which he was again expelled, in 1889, for taking part in a student meeting. He then went to Switzerland, whence he returned to Russia in 1901, a full fledged revolutionist. At this time Secretary Bogolepoff, who was responsible for measures of persecution against students, adopted a new regulation by which students had been thrown into involuntary soldiery for any complaint that may have been made against them by the ordinary or university police and one hundred and eighty-six students in Kieff were at once subjected to such punishment. At the trial for killing the Secretary, Karpowitch said:
“I was a student. Our aims and endeavors were legitimate. I was acquainted with the life of the soldiers
and realized what horrors would befall the young students in the disciplinary regiments. I knew that many could not adapt themselves to the discipline in vogue and I decided to protest, but how? The press was muzzled and then it would be useless and I decided to shoot at Bogolepoff. I had no intention to kill. My object was to direct public attention to the unjust and cruel treatment of the studying youth.” He was sentenced to twenty years at hard labor. He took no appeal from the verdict, although advised to do so. He was sent to Schlusselburg. In 1905 Karpowitch was transferred to a Siberian hard labor prison in Akatoui, from which he escaped in 1906.
Stephen Balmashoff was born of exiled parents in 1881 in one of the northern provinces, where his father
1 Messenger of the Russian Revolution (in Russian), July, 1901, No. 1, Paris.
was serving a term of deportation. While a child young Stephen saw misery and injustice and witnessed night raids upon his father’s house made by the Secret Police. When they were allowed to return to Saratoff and Stephen was about to enter a public school or a gymnasium, an objection was made to his admission, on the ground that his father was politically unreliable. He was finally admitted only upon the urgent request of influential friends.
In school young Balmashoff developed a passion for reading. In the higher classes he edited a magazine, in which he popularized the views of well known writers. The raids upon his father’s house continued, however, even in Saratoff when Stephen was a youth of eighteen. In 1899 he entered the Kasan University. Here he organized educational circles, published a students’ magazine and lectured to
workmen during evenings. In 1900 he sought and obtained a transfer to the Kieff University, where he was immediately elected a representative of the Volga Circle to the United Council of Students’ Organizations.
When in 1900 two students were arrested for speaking at public meetings, a protest demonstration had taken place at a railroad station. A few hundred students were arrested for it and one hundred and eighty-six of them thrown into soldiery, Balmashoff among them. He escaped, was subsequently arrested and thrown into jail, wherefrom he published a magazine known as “From the Dungeon.” He was at last taken into the disciplinary battalion. During these days Balmashoff fostered the view that, unless the political conditions are changed, students, like other classes, would suffer and that such a change could he brought about only by a movement of
the masses. For this reason, as soon as he managed to obtain his release from the regiment, he again gave his energy to the organization of the workmen in the cities.
The students’ movement had, however, continued and in 1901 demonstrations had taken place in all principal cities. The whipping of the students by the Cossacks in the streets of St. Petersburg, had aroused general indignation and the Union of Writers in St. Petersburg protested to Secretary Sipiagin against the unwarranted behavior of the authorities. At about this time the latter issued his famous order forbidding private charity among the famine stricken peasants upon the ground “that it might lead to public initiative, which is contrary to our laws” and subsequently direct-
1 The “Union of Writers” was subsequently dissolved by Sipiagin and more than 1,200 intellectuals expelled from St. Petersburg, Peter Struve and Roditcheff among them.
ed the open shooting of inoffensive striking workmen in Batum and Ekaterinoslav. When new demonstrations were planned and Sipiagin announced that he would “drown St. Petersburg in blood and would make the writers forget how to think if they dared to protest again” and threatened an all-Russian massacre of the intellectuals, the Fighting League, then a young organization, sentenced Sipiagin to death. Balmashoff, who was the youngest member of the League, aspired to the inevitable martyrdom in this affair. It is well known how Balmashoff, dressed like a lieutenant, carried out the verdict of the League on the 2d day of April, 1902, in the office of the Council of Ministers. At the trial he displayed an iron character. When asked about his motives he said:
“Ask all Russian citizens why they have not killed Sipiagin long before I
did. Why I have done it should be clear to all.”
When asked about his accomplices he said:
“They are the Russian Government with the Czar at the head and I demand that my accomplices be tried here with me.”
He was sentenced to death. On the same day his mother appealed to the Czar for clemency. Nicholas II said that he would exercise clemency if the petition would be signed by Balmashoff personally. Dumovo, then Assistant Secretary of Interior, went to Balmashoff and endeavored to induce him to sign the petition. When Durnovo returned he said to his mother: “Your son is a stone.’’ Before execution Balmashoff wrote to his parents: “Do not crush me with the burden of your reproach. The cruel and relentless conditions of Russian life compelled me to shed human blood, and
are responsible for your undeserved suffering. How happy would I be if I would not have the thought of your grief! But though the satisfaction caused by the consciousness of a fulfilled duty is saddened by this thought, I do not regret the deed. You have long ago realized the importance of the struggle with the most pronounced and dangerous representatives of the autocratic regime and that inevitable are sacrifices in this war. But the conditions now prevailing in our unfortunate fatherland not only demand material sacrifices, they make it imperative for parents to give up their children. I bring my life as a sacrifice to the great cause of the oppressed and the persecuted and this I hope gives me the moral justification for the cruelty which I heaped on you, my dearest.
1 S. V. Balmashoff, biographie, in Russian, 1903. Switzerland.
“Let this interpretation of my deed appease your grief, and I ask you to do one thing, though I know how hard it is for you to comply with the request: Whatever may happen to me, please be as cool and as firm as I am. Perhaps your coolness will reach me through the thick prison walls and will lessen my anxiety for you.” He was twenty-one when executed in the Bastille.
Gregory Gershuni was born in 1869. He was one of the most conspicuous figures in the revolutionary movement of the recent days. He enjoyed all opportunities which means and education could offer. He was a chemist by profession. His first activity covered a few years in the city of Minsk, where he established schools for the poor and participated in charitable institutions. “But,” he said to the Court during his trial, “as soon as our educational activity spread and
we learned the conditions of the masses; owing to the political regime, we have come to realize that we could not do much for them, and that the most serious obstacle in our way was the opposition of the government to every legitimate enterprise. The poverty of the workmen and the peasants, the persecution of the Jews and other nationalities, the prohibition of free speech, free press, and of the right to petition or protest, the flogging of the peasants and the shooting of the workmen, had soon aroused my shame and my conscience, and I joined the ranks of those who made common welfare their only motive.”
But even in the ranks of the revolutionary party Gershuni at first devoted most of his time to the education and organization of the masses, believing that only on those principles a movement that intends to change the system in vogue could be successful.
At this time one Soubatoff, Chief of Gendarmes in Moscow, conceived the idea to use the spreading labor movement for the purpose of strengthening the autocracy. His plan was to permit some betterments in their conditions, attract the intellectuals to such a movement and thus weaken and demoralize the revolutionary ranks.
In 1900 Gershuni was arrested in Kieff. He was taken to Moscow, where Soubatoff, by various means, endeavored to induce him to follow the methods adopted by the gendarmes in the newly formed labor circles. Gershuni was offered freedom and permission to lecture among the workmen on economics, if he should promise not to discuss politics. This incident once more convinced him of the hypocrisy of the government and its officials, and that their only object was to remain in power as long as it was possible. His arrest, however, did not last long.
The Fighting League came soon into existence and Gershuni became its leading spirit. The object of this organization is well known. It was to punish the officials for the brutalities heaped upon the people and deter and prevent the repetition of such occurrences. On the 2d day of April, 1902, Secretary Sipiagin was shot. On the 29th day of July of the same year, Thomas Katchur shot at Prince Obolensky, Governor of Kharkoff, who flogged peasants to death during a famine strike and who had given over the wives and the daughters of the peasants to the Cossacks after the flogging. On the 13th day of March, 1903, Governor of Ufa Bogdanowitch, who ordered soldiers to shoot into a crowd of workmen who came to petition him, was killed. The government was bent upon capturing the leaders and members of the League. Owing to a statement which Katchur, while in a state
of mental derangement, made to the police, Gershuni was again arrested in 1903. Chained hand and foot, he was taken to St. Petersburg. Such a proceeding before trial was extraordinary even in Russia. During three years which passed after his first arrest, he covered many cities, visited Europe a few times, contributed to the legitimate and illegitimate press on politics and economics, and wrote poetry.
The accusation against him was that he led and conducted the acts committed by the members of the Fighting League. In February, 1904, he was brought to trial. The eyes of all Russia turned to this case. The honor of the revolutionary movement was to be upheld. Gershuni did justice to his cause. The trial marked an epoch in the history of the Revolution. The days of the “Narodania Volia” were recalled. Gershuni refused to give
testimony or call witnesses on his behalf. He said: “We are deprived of an opportunity to prove our case; our witnesses will he condemned as accomplices. The sentence of the Court is known beforehand. Its session is an unnecessary formality. You have the power and yours shall he the triumph now, and I speak here only because I want you to know the conditions which, in spite of the gallows and hard labor, force honest men and women into the revolutionary ranks. The problem of the party is to prepare Russia for the convocation of the Semsky Sobor, which should act as a constitutional assembly, and to that end we are educating, organizing, demonstrating and taking part in all protests. But the feeling of indignation and the thirst to punish the cruelties heaped on us, caused terror, and terror will follow whenever it will be provoked, whether our party
wants it or not. For the party terror is not a means by which it expects to change the system. It is not invoked for love of violence. It is used in self defense and as a deterring method, with all the reluctance and opposition to violence, which civilized men and women must entertain. I know what awaits me here. My road is to the gallows. I knew it in Kieff, when your lackeys chained me hand and foot. Nine months have passed. The time has come! Finish your work! But if you think that your proceedings will remain secret, you are in error. The death knell for me will be a signal for renewed activity in behalf of liberty! Our people will learn at what cost your government exists and will realize that during such days it is a crime to sit and look on. I know that it is unpleasant for you to listen to me, but if you have the courage to hang a man for his convictions, then have
the bravery to listen to him before you hang him.”
Gershuni was sentenced to death. The sentence was commuted to confinement in the Schlusselburg Fortress for life. Before he was taken there Plehve visited him and endeavored to engage him in a conversation. The object was to induce him to petition the Czar for clemency. Gershuni refused to speak to Plehve. When the decision on the commutation of sentence was brought to him by the presiding judge, Gershuni exclaimed, “I did not ask for it.” Before he knew of the change of sentence he wrote to his friends apologizing for his refusal to escape, before the anticipated arrest as they had urged him to do.
“I had to remain in Russia. You know that I always opposed desertion of the battlefield. I know that my execution will be a hard blow to you, but
it will serve our cause. It was hard for the revolutionists of the seventies and eighties to die. They were alone. We are surrounded by a struggling people. We breathe with them and it is so easy to die! You, however, unite and continue the struggle.”
Having remained in the Bastille for over a year Gershuni was released in October, 1905, and deported to the hard labor prison in Akatoui in Siberia, wherefrom he escaped in 1906, and safely reached the United States.
Here Gershuni aroused great interest in the cause of Russian Freedom. An exposal of the methods of the Russian Government made by him almost resulted in a serious financial embarrassment for that government, and immediately thereafter an inquiry was made from Washington as to the nature of Gershuni’s career and agita-
1 Revolutionary Russia and Emancipation (in Russian), 1904.
tion. Only a strong and proper explanation of his activity prevented him from being expelled from the United States, an expulsion sought by the Russian Grovemment.
In the beginning of 1907, Grershuni disappeared from the United States. True to the “call of his army” as said by him in one of his speeches, he went back to Russia. There, under circumstances most unspeakable, he began the hard task of uniting the scattered forces of the Revolution, and on one of his skirmishes was arrested. He convinced the gendarmes, who failed to recognize him, that he was a peaceful citizen, and was freed.
But the imprisonment in Schlusselberg and Akatoui, constant exposure and travelling, improper food and strained life began to tell. Having contracted a pulmonary disease while in prison, he failed to take care of his health after liberation. On his last
trip to Russia he broke down and his friends compelled him to go to Switzerland for a rest. On the 18th day of March, 1908, he died in Zurich, leaving thousands of friends and admirers, in the old and new worlds, mourning a loss long not to be replaced.
In his last letter to his American friends Gershuni wrote: “Do not lose courage and do not despair at the conditions in Russia. I tell you: have patience! Had you only known what is going on in the heart of the people’s soul! What a change had taken place in the people’s views and attitudes! There Stolypin is powerless and the Revolution sings its triumphant song.”
He was buried in Paris, escorted to his grave by representatives of all revolutionary parties of Russia and many
Note — The biography of Gregory Gershuni has been revised by the author before it went to press, and added new facts, which could not be published, if he were alive.
representatives of modem thought in Europe.
Egor Sasonoff, a student, was twice exiled to Siberia on a mere suspicion. When he returned he joined the Fighting League. He was one of the five members of the League who had undertaken to assassinate Plehve. In the disguise of a cabman he followed Plehve for three months and finally carried out the verdict of the League on July 27, 1903. The unmistakable widespread rejoicing caused by Plehve’s death resulted in the commutation of the death sentence imposed upon Sasonoff by the Court, to a term at hard labor for the limited period of eighteen years. He served in the Bastille until October, 1905, and he is now in the Akatoui Prison in Siberia.
Ivan Kaliaieff was born in 1877 in Warsaw. His father was a police sergeant. He was a pupil in the Warsaw Gymnasium, where he studied under
a regime particularly cruel in Poland. In his young days lie had already contributed to Russian and Polish magazines. He studied history in the University at Moscow and in 1898 entered the law school in St. Petersburg. In 1899 he served three months in jail for a student affair and was exiled for two years. In 1902 he was arrested again for carrying a few forbidden pamphlets published for workmen by the Social Democrat Organization and was thrown into the Warsaw Citadel. This arrest changed Kaliaieff’s policy. In 1903 we find him abroad and at the disposal of the Revolutionary Party. He was a member of the Fighting League. A man of unusual education and ability, a poet and a speaker, he showed great caution at the time he carried out the sentence of the Fighting League against the Grand Duke Sergius. He twice met the Duke with his wife in streets wherefrom he could
[between pp. 72 & 73: page of portraits: S. Sikorsky, N. Blinoff, Sidortchuk, Gershuni, C. Breshkovsky, Polivanoff, S. Salmasheff, E. Sasonoff, I. Kaliaeff.
Three of this group were not in Sclusselburg. Blinoff was killed in the Zhitomir massacre. Sidortchuk was sentenced to death, but imprisoned at hard labor in the Akatoui jail, in Siberia. Breshkovsky served four years in Sts. Peter and Paul Fortress before she was sentenced in 1879.]
have easily escaped, but he refrained from throwing his bomb. The Grand Duchess was not to suffer for her reactionary husband. It was for this reason that the Grand Duchess visited him in jail after her husband, who was the leading member of the Court Camarille, was killed. At the trial Kaliaieff recited the history of Russia during the days previous to the establishment of the Fighting League and stated that the acts of the League are a warning to autocracy. When the death sentence was pronounced, Kaliaieff said to the Judges: “I am happy to receive your verdict, and only hope that you will have the courage to carry it out as publicly as I have carried out the verdict of the Revolutionary Party. Learn to face the Russian Revolution!” He took an oath from his mother not to seek clemency. When, however, she informed him that his sentence might be com-
muted without a petition, he immediately wrote to the Secretary of Justice: “True to the testament of the Narodnaia Volia, I notify you that I consider it my duty to reject clemency.”
Zinaida Konopliannikova was a school teacher among peasants and knew the conditions from personal observation. In December, 1905, Colonel Min was sent to Moscow to crush the uprising which then had taken place there. He was the commander of the Semonovsky Regiment, which was brought from St. Petersburg because the Moscow Garrison refused to obey orders. The soldiers were wrought up to a frenzy by drink, and only while in this condition could be induced to do their deadly work.
Even after the rebellion subsided a few hundred men and women were
* Ivan Platonowitch Kaliaieff, biographie (in Russian), 1905. “Daily Telegraph,” May 11-24, 1905, cited therein.
slaughtered without regard of their guilt or innocence. For this work Colonel Min was promoted to the rank of general. He was, however, completely ostracised by society. The Fighting League sentenced him to death and Konopliannikova executed the sentence in September, 1906. She met the general at a railroad station near St. Petersburg. He was there with his wife. Konopliannikova, therefore, did not throw her bomb at the general but shot him, not wishing to harm the innocent. The general was killed but his wife was not injured. At her trial she said that all, guilty of atrocities against her people, will sooner or later find their death at the hands of the revolutionists for that all tyrants had forfeited their lives. She was sentenced to death and executed in the Bastille in September, 1906. This execution opens a new gloomy chapter in the history of the
Bastille, which has again been restored after an enforced disuse which only lasted about ten months. Shortly thereafter the cells of the Bastille opened for the sailors and marines of the Kronstadt and Sveaborg rebellion, which broke out immediately after the dissolution of the first Duma. Among these new inmates we find Social Democrats as well as Social Revolutionists. Thus the Fortress numbers among its prisoners men and women of all parties and phases in the history of the revolutionary movement, including the sailors and marines — these true sons of the revolution of the later days.
The regime in prison during the eighties, when at the head of the Russian Gendarmery stood men like Shebecco, Orjevsky and Plehve, may be characterized as most atrocious. Sokoloff, the brutal warden of the Alexeieff Ravelin, was placed in command of the new prison. He was an ignorant, cruel soldier, and always ready, he said, “to kill his parents, if ordered by superiors.” Lopatin named him “Herod.” All communications between the prisoners, by knocking on the walls, singing, whistling, rapid walking, as well as interviews with relatives or friends, were forbidden. The enforced and continued silence, inactivity and isolation were maddening. The restriction of correspondence with relations and the prohibition to visit the prisoners, cut off the Bas-
tille from all life. Novorouski relates that at times the prisoners forgot ordinary words of the Russian language. For violation of the rules disobedient prisoners were beaten, bound and incarcerated in dark cells and deprived of their daily promenade and of their meals. The meals were worse than those dispensed in the Russian army. Foul food was given even to sick prisoners. And only when, as a result of such diet, almost all prisoners became sick and there was fear that they all might perish; those who were dangerously ill were allowed a small portion of milk and given more time for promenade. But as soon as a prisoner’s health improved the milk would disappear. Few books, except the New Testament were allowed. There was no hospital attached to the jail. The iron bed in each cell was closed early in the morning, and even the sick or dying were compelled to lie upon the
cold floor, their expectorating making the surroundings dangerous for the rest. As an instance, the case of Arontchik may be cited. Paralyzed and insane, he remained in his cell for more than two years. Judging from the number of deaths in prison we may say that this was not an exceptional case.
For new arrivals and those who were guilty of slight offenses in prison, disciplinary cells were in readiness. They were dungeons in a separate part of the building, damp and dark, known among the prisoners as the “Stable.” They had been established by “Herod” in the Sts. Peter and Paul Fortress and were subsequently introduced by him in the Bastille. It is asserted that once placed in the “Stable,” the revolutionists were subjected to such extraordinary brutalities that as a result few left it alive. In the Alexeiff Ravelin there were a few isolated and
extraordinarily guarded cells, wherefrom no knocking could he heard and no noise could reach and the fate of the inmates of those cells is hardly known. Alexander Mikhailoff and Kletochnikoff were placed in the “Stable” after Netchaieff. Alexander Mikhailoff organized the most daring and complicated enterprises. He secured for Kletochnikoff a position in the Third Section of the Police Department, which had charge of political prosecutions. Kletochnikoff served three years in the Department and constantly advised the Executive Committee of his Party of all the movements of the Police. His superiors, however, did not suspect him. They even honored him with the Cross of St. Stanislaw. The members of the Executive Committee joked when they congratulated each other upon the “promotion” of their member. Owing to Kletochnikoff, the Third Section
could not check the activity of the revolutionists. It was suspected of political unreliability and Alexander II. charged it with treason. Kletochnikoff’s arrest, however, was due to a mere accident. He visited a friend after a house search and before he had received word about it and was surprised by members of the ordinary police, which kept watch in the house. It is hard to imagine the anger of the gendarmes when they made this discovery. In February, 1882, he was convicted to death. His sentence was commuted to life imprisonment. He was corked up in the Ravelin, then transferred to the “Stable,” where he was subjected to the most improvised tortures and died in 1883.
The Schlusselburg regime continued the deadly work begun in the Sts. Peter and Paul Fortress. The heroes of the “People’s Will,” one after the other, descended into their graves. It
was the desire of those in power to force these men and women to plead for clemency or pardon. Orjevsky, Shebecco and Plehve had cynically defended the system in vogue in the Bastille, on the ground that it had for its “good” object the breaking of the will of the prisoners. But the history of the Bastille does not record one case of a “broken will, ” of a plea for mercy or leniency!
They died in loneliness and helplessness, forgotten and forsaken, but they never submitted or implored and always remained proud and true to their ideal. And when death arrived, when the last suffering sigh subsided, the noise caused by the gendarmes removing the body, would announce to the inmates that one of theirs had perished, leaving his cell for another to fill. And what beauty of human soul and great fidelity to the ideal are found in the tragic images of these martyred
apostles of liberty! One can not read without tears the incident described by Polivanoff. When sick and on the verge of insanity he contemplated suicide, and so informed Kolodkewitch, his friend in the adjoining cell, Kolodkewitch, who was dying, crawled on his crutches to the wall, knocked words of consolation and courage and dissuaded Polivanoff from committing suicide. One morning, however, Polivanoff’s knock to Kolodkewitch remained unanswered. He soon heard the familiar noise and thus learned of the end of a friend, who, on the eve of death, did not fail by word of courage and hope to preserve the life of a despairing comrade.
Of course, the system provoked stormy protests by the incarcerated men and women. General and individual hunger strikes frequently took place. In one case Michael Shebalin, as a protest against his unlawful im-
prisonment in Schlusselburg, refused meals during twenty-one days. He demanded his return to his wife and son in Siberia. The unfortunate man did not know that they had died long before in the Moscow Prison. In 1899 the entire prison starved for eleven days in order to remove restrictions placed upon their little library, enlarged sometime before. But this method of protest, agonizing for the prisoners, was not very effective. The prison keepers well knew that it was hard to accomplish death in this manner, as only a few could endure hunger for any length of time. Then, too, it was possible to feed by force those who weakened. Such forcible feeding was practiced many a time by the lackeys in the Bastille, who bore the name of physicians. The conduct of the prison physicians was such that in 1884 Minakoff, in a fiat of anger, threw a dish at Dr. Zarkowitch. For this act he was
court martialed and sentenced to be shot. He had sought death and had purposely committed the act. He refused to petition for mercy and was not allowed to communicate with his parents before execution. On the 6th day of September, 1884, the prisoners heard a cry, “Good-bye, brothers, good-bye, I am going to be shot!” This was Minakoff’s happy walk to death. It happened three months after his term of imprisonment began.
A few hours after the execution Klimenko was found hanging in his cell. In October of the same year Lieutenant Tikhanowitch had also committed suicide.
Minakoff’s insubordination was followed by that of Ippolit Mishkin, who invited capital punishment by striking another prison official.
While a youth, Mishkin was a reporter for the reactionary Moscow Vedomosti. In 1871 he was sent by Kat-
koff, the editor of the paper, to report the trial of the so-called Netchaieff conspirators. Here Mishkin for the first time became acquainted with revolutionary ideas, and he soon after determined to devote his life to the revolution. In 1875, dressed like a gendarme, Mishkin went to Viluisk, in the Yakutsk Province in Siberia, to rescue Tchernishevsky, the famous writer and economist, who was at hard labor there. Tchernichevsky had been the hope of the revolutionists for a number of decades and many men and women dreamed of his rescue and attempted it at various times. Mishkin presented to the local authorities an order from the Irkutsk chief of gendarmes, directing them to place Tchernishevsky in his custody for transportation to Irkutsk. Mishkin was, however, suspected and compelled to flee, which he did in a boat and sailed north on the Lena River. He was caught
and taken to Russia, where he was wanted for his agitation among the peasants and for the establishment of a secret printing plant. After a preliminary imprisonment, which lasted four years, Mishkin was tried in the famous trial of “193,” together with Katherine Breshkovsky. His speech in court was for many years considered the gospel of revolution. He was sentenced to ten years at hard labor. While in the Central Prison in Kharkoff, awaiting deportation to Siberia, he made an unsuccessful attempt to escape by the way of an opening in a wall, which he himself dug out. While in the Irkutsk Jail Mishkin made his famous speech at the grave of a revolutionist, Dmochovsky. Denouncing the system which brought about the early death of his comrade, he closed by saying: “And upon the soil drenched with the blood of the martyrs, the tree of liberty will rise!”
For this speech Mishkin’s term of hard labor was prolonged. Katherine Breshkovsky in her biography of Mishkin comments upon these incidents in his life as follows: “Two speeches — two hard labors.” From Kara he made a successful escape with a workman named Krustchoff, and reached Vladivostok. But an insignificant incident again placed him in the hands of the police. It was then that the government decided to imprison him in the Bastille.
Knocking on the walls, although, forbidden, was the only means of communication between the prisoners, and, of course, afforded great relief. The unwritten rule among the prisoners required that every knock should at all times be answered by the one to whom it had been directed, no matter how sick or exhausted he may have been. But each knock and answer invariably resulted in the incarceration of the offender, male or female, in the “Stable,” and this innocent pastime brought torture. “Sick and exhausted,” relates Vera Figner, “with tears in my eyes, and anxious for rest, I would step to the wall and answer the knock. But right here the door would open and the gendarmes with the yell, ‘Do not knock,’ would force
their entrance into the cell and the guilty “would be dragged into the ‘Stable.’”
On one occasion Vera Figner said to Herod:
“Why do you not drag me?”
Herod looked at the short figure of the woman and said:
“Whom should I drag, you?”
And a moment later she was also in the “Stable.”
It should not be wondered at that the prisoners refused all favors from the gendarmes. When Chief Shebecco, on his visit to jail, entered the cell of Madam Wolkenstein, the following conversation took place:
“Your mother,” said Shebecco, “saw me and I could tell you”— “Are you General Shebecco?” interrupted Madam Wolkenstein.
“From you,” continued the prison-
er, “I will not receive regards, even from my mother.”
Another method of torture, more poignant than anything else described, was the placing and retaining of insane prisoners in the Bastille. Ignatius Ivanoff, who was an inmate of the Kasan House for the Insane prior to the re-establishment of the Bastille, was brought to the latter place apparently for the purpose of harassing the other prisoners, since he had been declared hopelessly insane in the institution from which he was taken. Shortly thereafter Stchedrin, Arontchik, Juvasheff, Pokhitonoff and Konashevitch went insane. The latter could hardly endure the three years of preliminary imprisonment in the St. Peter’s Fortress, and in expectation of a death sentence, said to the Court: “I do not ask nor do I want your leniency.” He preferred the gallows to imprisonment, hut was sent to the Bastille. Insanity
was the lot of many. Some were subject to quiet and harmless attacks of mental debility. Some had violent attacks; they laughed, they sang, they cried, they shouted, and their wild shouts shattered the nerves of the sane inmates. The mania of some of the insane was their successful escape from prison, and that of others was persecution or the mania of greatness. The sane considered it the height of happiness to see their afflicted comrades removed to a medical institution, and they often appealed to the authorities, on their visits to the jail, to remove the sick or insane, hut mostly without avail.
Last, but not least, of the horrible incidents of this inferno, were the executions. It was the rule to send those who were sentenced to death to the Bastille, there to be hanged within a day or two after their arrival. The inmates often learned of approaching
executions of newly arrived revolutionists. The promenades would cease. The noise around the prison would increase, the sound of the work about the gallows would tell the rest.
On the 10th day of October, 1884, Schlusselburg saw the hanging of Army Officers Rogatcheff and Stromberg. During this period Mishkin and Minakoff were shot. On the 10th day of May, 1887, it saw the execution of five young students accused of conspiracy against the life of Alexander III. On the 3d day of May, 1902, Stephen Balmashoff gave up his life in the Bastille. On the 10th day of May, 1905, Ivan Kaliaieff was hanged there. In the same manner, Hyman Hershkovitch and Alexander Wasilieff, both minors, were executed within one hour on the 20th day of August, 1905. On the 10th day of September, 1906, the Bastille was consecrated anew by the blood of Zinaida Konopliannikova.
The young revolutionists triumphed in their death. Balmashoff refused to take the consolation from the priest, saying to him: “I cannot be false with you.” Crossing the prison yard on his way to the cell for his last sleep on this earth, he removed his hat and bowed in the direction of the cell windows around the yard in the hope of reaching and greeting the elder prisoners, as if inviting their blessing before death.
Kaliaieff was approached before execution by the prosecutor with a proposition to petition the Czar. The prosecutor entered the cell eight times, each time receiving Kaliaieff’s stubborn refusal. When before the gallows Kaliaieff said to one of the officials :
“Tell my comrades that I die in joy and that I will forever be with them.”
Wasilieff coolly took leave of the in-
mates and with a how to the witnesses, ascended the gallows.
Hershkovitch enjoined his mother not to petition for a commutation of the sentence and when he reached the place of execution he said to the surrounding officials:
“You have come to see my death. I die coolly and I know that the time will soon come when the people will avenge our death.”
Konopliannikova herself placed the noose around her neck and with the word “Ready!” gave the signal to death.
The bodies of all victims were thrown into graves dug in the prison yard and chopped wood placed on the graves.
Between 1887 and 1901, the Bastille had only one new prisoner, Sophie Ginzberg. Having been placed in a secluded tower, the girl committed suicide almost immediately thereafter, and even before she had an opportunity to communicate with her comrades. In 1901, young Karpowitch, author of the terrorist act against Secretary Bogolepoff, was brought in. He carried life and hope into the Bastille.
During the previous years the female inmates, Vera Figner and Ludmilla A. Wolkenstein, were the only upholders of hope and courage. Many a man owed his life to these women. But still suicides continued. The most horrible case was that of Gratchevsky. He soon tired of the regime of torture and insult and decided to
follow Mishkin’s example. He assaulted one of the various wardens and demanded a trial. Because of the demand, a trial was refused him and he was declared insane. He was not, however, removed to an institution. He then attempted to starve himself, hut was fed by force. Thereupon he threw kerosene from his lamp over himself and set it on fire. It was a most agonizing death, and even those in the distant “Stable” heard his shrieks. Not until after this tragedy, did the police department grant privileges to the prisoners. New books were allowed, better meals introduced, work was permitted. The prohibition of communication by knocks was not strictly enforced, and at times the prisoners were allowed to promenade by twos. After Sophie Ginzberg’s suicide, the prisoners were permitted to take care of their sick comrades. At the deathbed of Yurkosky, the prisoners were allowed
to watch, in turn. Madam Wolkenstein, describing this singular incident, says that for a long time he refused to disclose the fact of his illness, believing that no help would come. The physician came to see him only upon the urgent request of his fellow prisoners. It was then that the administration, as if conscience stricken, made a special effort to save his life, refusing, however, to transfer him to a hospital in St. Petersburg. During this year (1896) while hopelessly sick, he received a letter from his aged mother, who wrote that she had given up all hope to obtain an interview with him, since her petitions have been declined and she therefore sent him her last blessing, her cross and her prayer book, upon which she prayed during the sixteen years of his imprisonment. Before death he requested the warden to permit him to take leave of the two female prisoners. His request was
granted. His was the only death at which prisoners performed their last duty to a departing comrade.
The regime, was not substantially affected by the new privileges. For the slightest violation of a rule, the administration still continued its arbitrary and cruel punishment. Thus when Michael Popoff attempted to send a secret letter to his mother, with the aid of one of the guards, the entire prison was deprived of books and magazines, although only magazines of previous years were at the time allowed in jail.
The last thirteen inmates of the Bastille, before October, 1905, consisted of two parties. The first party of eight were the remaining old prisoners — Lopatin, Morosoff, Popoff, Frolenko, Antonoff, Ivanoff, Loukashevitch and Novorouski; the second party of five — Gershuni, Sasonoff, Sikorsky, Melnikoff and Karpowitch, were the younger prisoners. The five young prisoners, although ordered released from the Bastille, were sent to Siberia and placed in the Akatoui hard labor prison.
The old prisoners served various terms, ranging from twenty-one to twenty-six years. Although their sentences were definite, they could never tell when their terms would actually
1 Gershuni, Melnikoff and Karpowitch escaped from the prison in Siberia.
expire. It was a principle of the autocracy to keep the inmates in ignorance of the time of their release; and even the imperial manifestos, which were now and then issued, commuting the sentence of convicts, did not always apply to them.
Peter Polivanoff addressed in 1903 an “open letter”1 to N. V. Muravieff, then Secretary of Justice in Russia, by which he called his attention to the unlawful regime in the Bastille and thus hoped to ameliorate the condition of those who still lingered there.
Citing the 14th volume of the Code of Laws and the Statute of Penalties, he proved that the regime in the Bastille was a violation of all regulations provided by the law, in that some inmates were illegally imprisoned and that among others, Logavsky, who was not tried at all and Karpowitch who
1 Revolutionary Russia (in Russian), No. 27, July, 1903. La Tribune Russe (in French), No. 11, February, 1904.
was tried by an ordinary Court, should have been sent to Siberia, but not to the Fortress; that the Fortress was the only prison where the inmates had been deprived of the privilege to be visited by their relatives and even on the eve of death or execution, old parents had been refused the permission to see their children; that the restriction of correspondence to and from relatives to two short letters a year, was tantamount to actual prohibition and that up to 1897, relatives could not at all write to the prisoners and that some of the prisoners have not heard from their relatives for fifteen years, and no inmate had ever received word from his kin before he had served ten years; that the restriction placed on books and the prohibition to receive contributions for the purpose of bettering the meals, have not at all been provided by the Statute, since books and donations were permitted in other
jails. Polivanoff shows that the Schlusselburg Fortress was the only prison which was taken from the control of the general prison department and placed under the supervision of the Secretaries of Interior, who had always considered the revolutionists their personal enemies, and that such a change of the control has not been provided by any law. He shows that sections 299-310 of the Statute of Exiles and section 341 of Volume 14 of the Code of Laws, distinctly provided that each sentence he reduced and that prisoners be kept in jail or at hard labor only a certain part of their sentence and should thereafter he sent to settlements in Siberia and, that according to these regulations, all prisoners except Karpowitch should have been freed long prior to the date of his letter, and that instead all had served in excess of their sentences. Giving more specific data, Polivanoff asserts
that in 1903 Loukashewitch, Novorouski, Antonoff, Lopatin, Sergius Ivanoff and Starodworsky had already served sixteen years, of which eight years were in excess of their term; Vera Figner, Ashenbrenner and Wassily Ivanoff had served nineteen years, of which eleven years were in excess of their term; Morosoff and Frolenko had served twenty-one years, of which thirteen years were above their term and Popoff had then served twenty-three years, of which fifteen years were in excess of his term, and with all that they were still subjected to the regime which had existed at the time they commenced their sentences, for at the beginning of the nineties the small privileges acquired by the prisoners, through years of sufferings and struggling, had been taken away from them by the officials without cause or reason. He finally showed that in violation of the general rule, that a life
sentence meant twenty years without the usual allowance, prisoners were kept there a real life time and that some of them who had served the lawful life sentence and who had been officially freed by various manifestos, were still in jail, and that others who had served the full sentence and had been freed by the manifestos, had died in jail long thereafter.
Polivanoff’s letter aroused widespread indignation in Europe, but it was ignored by Muravieff.
One of the eight men released in October, 1905, was Herman Alexandrowitch Lopatin. In 1896 his sentence was commuted under a manifesto, but Secretary Goremykin specially petitioned the Czar that the commutation should not apply to Lopatin. A subsequent manifesto, known as that of August 11th, also failed to affect Lopatin’s status. Count Mirsky refused to apply it to him for the reason that “Lopatin could himself petition the Czar.” There was good reason why Lopatin should have been kept in Schlusselburg until freed by the revolutionary wave, which resulted in the amnesty of October, 1905. He was one of those wonderful Russians who devote themselves unreservedly to the cause of his country. His biography
is a part of Russian revolutionary history. Bom in 1845, in 1866 he had already completed his university education and was to become a professor of biology in the University of St. Petersburg. A man of science, he was a friend of Karl Marx and Peter Lavroff. He translated into Russian the greatest portion of the first volume of “Capital.” In 1866 he was for the first time connected with a revolutionary circle, known as the circle of Korokosoff. In 1867, he took part in the Garibaldi crusade in Italy. Upon his return to Russia, his first arrest took place. A forcible speaker, witty and energetic, he was the object of persecution for a number of years.
In 1870 he was in London, whence he went to Siberia to rescue Tchernishevsky. It was the first attempt of its kind, subsequently followed by that of Mishkin and others. He thought that Tchernishevsky would be in a po-
sition to gather around himself all revolutionary forces in Russia. Having been discovered before he accomplished his task, he was arrested, but escaped. Soon afterward we find him in Zurich, assisting Peter Lavroff in the publication of the revolutionary magazine, “Forward.” In 1883, he assisted in the publication of the “Messenger of the People’s Will,” published in Paris. His last effort was to reorganize the “Narodnaia Volia” which had been crippled by the persecution of the government, most of its members having been either hanged or imprisoned. In a short time he established about three hundred circles and organizations. In 1884 he was recognized by an agent of the secret police in St. Petersburg, and after a struggle, he was overpowered. After a preliminary imprisonment of three years he was tried jointly with others, the poet Melshin Jacoubovitch among
them, in June, 1887. The gendarmes made an effort to hang him. They accused him of organizing the assassination of Colonel of Gendarmes Sudeikin, but even the Military Court, before which he was tried, rejected this accusation. In fact Lopatin opposed terrorism for a number of years and began to advocate it only on his last journey to Russia. He was, however, sentenced to death as a dangerous revolutionist, and his sentence was commuted to life imprisonment in Schlusselburg. Altogether he has been arrested twenty-six times, and he has crossed the threshhold of seventeen prisons. This martyr, who is now sixty-two years old, has served his cause for forty years, twenty-five of which have been spent in jails.
Such is the brief story of the Bastille. We have omitted many of its shocking details. They are beyond the imagination of those who have not
lived through them. Only the downfall of the Russian autocracy will make the repetition of such a story impossible.