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Penal deportation to Siberia and the limits of state power, 1801-81.

In February 1839, having been sentenced to 20 years of penal labor in the mines of Nerchinsk in eastern Siberia, the Polish revolutionary Justynian Rucinski found himself clapped in irons and tramping eastward in a marching convoy of exiles:

   A life began for us that is difficult to name, let alone adequately
   to describe. It seemed there can be no harsher existence on earth.
   It comprised daily marches of 18 to 25 versts in chains,
   overnighting in prisons on filthy wooden benches ..., lacking
   undergarments, clothes and boots, a starvation diet, extreme
   hunger, icy slush, heat, frosts, and all the time we had to keep
   marching onward and onward. There was the unceasing surveillance of
   the convicts, whose lives were full of the most cynical kinds of
   depravity, usually encouraged by corrupt convoy commanders.... Our
   bodies were terribly exhausted through physical exertion and our
   minds through anxiety and homesickness. That is but a pale
   rendering of our bitter fate. (1)

Like many Siberian exiles before him and after him, Rucinski would look back on the 13-month-long journey as the most torturous aspect of his Siberian exile. Yet Rucinski's formal punishment--his term of penal servitude--began only when he finally reached Nerchinsk. As far as the authorities were concerned, the torments of the marching convoys were an incidental preamble to Rucinski's actual sentence. The yawning gulf between the state's own conception of deportation as a strictly logistical operation, on the one hand, and the convicts' experience of it as a brutal ordeal, on the other, reflected the weaknesses and limitations of the autocracy.

By the beginning of the 19th century, exile to settlement and, for more serious crimes, exile to penal labor (katorga) in Siberia had come to represent different conceptions of penality. At its most fundamental, exile was an expression of sovereign power. The autocrat could move his subjects around the vast territories of his empire at will, to move them, as the 1649 Penal Code stipulated, "to wherever the sovereign shall direct." (2) The journey into exile was thus a measure of autocratic power; each footstep eastward a homage to the dominance of the state. From the mid-18th century on, the rituals of civil execution that presaged expulsion into the Siberian penal realm were a performance of the might of a patrimonial Russian statehood. (3) Penal labor replaced the gallows in an act of imperial clemency that underlined the power of the ruler. Exiles were deported beyond the frontiers of the metropole to sites at the periphery (or indeed beyond the imaginative frontiers) of the state. (4) From its earliest origins, however, Siberian exile further served an important economic function. The deployment of forced laborers to harvest raw materials at discrete labor sites under Peter the Great expanded over the course of the 18th century into a full-blown state-led project to colonize the Siberian landmass under Catherine the Great. (5)

The demands of colonization implied some measure of disciplining, even rehabilitating, exiles. The eventual release of penal laborers to settlement assumed some level of readjustment of their "role as state subjects." (6) Over the course of the reign of Alexander I and Nicholas I, concern with social discipline supplemented the established colonial priorities of population transfer and resource extraction across Siberia. (7) As Abby Schrader and Andrew Gentes have shown, the state encouraged women to follow their husbands into exile, believing their presence would exert a pacifying, reforming influence over the men. Through the establishment of stable and productive family units, individual regeneration neatly dovetailed with the state's colonial agenda. (8) By the era of the Great Reforms, rehabilitation was an explicit justification for the exile system as a whole. (9)

Exile embraced then overlapping modes of penality: sovereign, economic, colonial, and disciplinary. Central to each one was deportation, in Gentes's phrase, "the transmission belt linking the sovereign's punitive vengeance to the state's utilitarian exploitation." (10) Writing about later waves of deportations in the 20th century, Judith Pallot has argued that coerced mobility needs to be folded into our understanding of the Russian state's penal regimes. Deportations were not simply a temporal antechamber to punishment; they were central to it. (11) Yet across the 19th century, it was precisely as a temporal antechamber that senior government officials and exile administrators viewed the deportation convoys. To be sure, the act of banishment was a punishment in itself, one that heralded a painful separation of the criminal from native lands, but the archives do not appear to contain any official endorsement of the deportation convoys themselves as appointed sites of a deliberate ordeal to be inflicted.

Of course, the ardors of the journey undoubtedly served as a deterrent to would-be offenders. Individual exile officials, convoy commanders, and soldiers may have believed that, and often certainly behaved as if, the exiles marching eastward deserved their treatment. Yet right from the end of the 18th century, the authorities in St. Petersburg and in the senior echelons of the exile administration viewed deportation primarily not as a form of punishment in its own right but as a means to a punitive end of exile. Officials approached the process of deportation itself as a logistical challenge, shaped by the need for efficiency and security. The marching convoys of exiles were designed to ensure the delivery of healthy and robust laborers and settlers to specific locations throughout Siberia. Far from being deliberate and calculated, the ordeal of the journey was inadvertent and incidental to the state's formal punishment of offenders.

This official view scarcely corresponded with the experience of the exiles themselves. On the road for many months, sometimes years, they experienced deportation as a grim, sometimes fatal, ordeal that often inflicted more suffering on the convicts than the punishments that awaited them at the end of the Great Siberian Highway. Across the 19th century, the weakness of the autocracy was laid bare in the chaos, corruption, and brutality of the marching convoys. The state wielded a fundamental, raw power to exile imperial subjects from their towns and villages but then lacked the resources effectively to respond to the logistical challenges that flowed from this policy.

Far from a mobile carceral space in which the disciplinary power of the state was concentrated on convicts, the marching convoys were chronically undergoverned. Deportation was thus an ordeal dominated by administrative failings, inadequate infrastructure, corruption, and the maneuvering of subaltern groups for advantage. As a consequence, the convicts' experiences in the marching convoys bore no relation to the formal punishments appointed in the laws of the empire. (12) Penal migration emerges as a specific instance of a socially dispersed state power, one that reflected under-resourced, improvised and negotiable practices of governance across the empire. (13) From the perspective of St. Petersburg, the deportation of convicts and their families was so chaotic and costly in both material and human terms as to severely compromise the state's stated economic, colonial, and rehabilitative ambitions. For the exiles themselves, the deportation convoys were a semilawless world of privation, hunger, dangerous exposure to the elements, disease-infested waystations, and the ever-present threat of violence. Punishment understood as a formally conceived instrument of the state bore little relation to the informal ordeal inflicted by the deportation convoys. The disorderly crucible of human misery that Rucinski endured en route to Siberia was, though unacknowledged by the state, at the heart of his experience as an exile. To be deported to Siberia was to suffer not just the punitive power of the autocracy but (arguably far worse) its limitations.

Between the reigns of Alexander I and Alexander II, there were two major attempts to modernize the deportation of exiles. First, the Siberian reforms of 1822 sought to rationalize and bring administrative order to the system of penal migration. Second, from the 1860s on, the state introduced new means of transportation designed to speed up the transfer of exiles and their families from European Russia to Siberia. In both instances, the efficacy of these improvements was radically undercut by the rapid expansion in the numbers of exiles in the 1820s and again in the 1870s. The result was a near-permanent lag between expanding numbers and penal infrastructure that ensured that deportation convoys remained at best an ordeal for the exiles and, at worst, proved lethal. This basic thread of continuity runs throughout the 19th century: the retributive appetites of the imperial state outstripped its punitive capacities.

Before the Siberian Reforms, 1801-22

At the beginning of the century, all exiles made the journey to Siberia on foot. They would set out from cities across the empire and be funneled through Moscow before marching eastward through the town of Vladimir that gave its name to the notorious road that wound its way through Kazan, Perm', across the Urals to Tiumen', Tobol'sk and on toward Tomsk, Krasnoiarsk, and Irkutsk. (14) The Vladimirka, or the Great Siberian Highway, was in reality nothing more than a narrow dirt track. It wound its way across the open steppe of western Siberia before plunging into the thick swampy forests of the taiga in Enisei and Irkutsk provinces.

The convicts would walk all year round. During the intense heat of the summer, those at the rear of the marching column would choke on the great dust clouds raised by hundreds of tramping feet. On the open steppe, the treeless horizon and cloudless skies offered no respite from the burning sun. Dehydration and sunstroke saw many exiles collapse as they marched. The autumn rains brought only temporary respite from the heat before they transformed the roads into a churning quagmire through which the convicts squelched knee-deep. The Russian term for this period, each autumn and spring is rasputitsa--literally, the "time without roads." The horse-drawn carts frequently became stuck in bogs; wheels and axles broke as they were hoisted over rocks and logs. Siberia's dense birch and coniferous forests played host each summer to swarms of ferocious mosquitoes and gadflies who feasted on the exposed flesh of the exiles. Late September would already bring the first scorching winter frosts. The temperatures in this most continental of climates would plummet from a roasting 30 degrees Celsius to a bone-chilling minus 20 between August and November. In a custom that had developed over the 17th and 18th centuries, marching convoys would overnight in the villages strung out along the route. Smaller groups could be accommodated in peasant huts and barns, but larger parties were sometimes forced to sleep in the open air. (15)

At the beginning of the 19th century, the deportation of exiles to Siberia was chaotic. A senior state official charged with inspecting conditions in Siberia in 1802, State Councillor Nikolai Osipovich Laba (1766-1816), reported directly to Alexander I that many of the exiles were not sufficiently equipped with money or clothing before they set out from their provinces in European Russia; others had their funds stolen by officials en route. Still others, although adequately provided for by their local officials, "had, from carelessness and fecklessness, frittered away their allowance before completing half their journey." In the end, a large number of the exiles in marching convoys were obliged to sell their coats, suffered shortages in both food and clothing, and became exhausted, reliant for food on the alms of Siberian villagers in whose cabins they were put up for the night. Laba observed that recordkeeping was in a desperate state, with different convict parties mingling, documents being lost and altered. (16) In 1806, Alexander I issued a decree acknowledging that the Siberian authorities "did not accurately know the sex or the number of the people sent to them for settlement." It proposed the establishment of officials at the first settlement inside the border of each province through which the exiles passed. It would be their job to draw accurate lists of the numbers of exiles arriving, their condition, and their destination. (17) Yet recordkeeping within the system remained haphazard and incomplete. The transportation of exiles was in such disarray that officials "lost count of the people in their charge and of the money spent on feeding and clothing them." (18) A combination of escapes, deaths, and exiles waylaid in the provinces through which they marched defied the compilation of accurate statistics on exile numbers and their location. (19)

Senior figures in the tsarist government were concerned that the failure to deliver healthy exiles to their appointed destination was subverting the state's economic goals. In 1813, Minister of the Interior Osip Petrovich Kozodavlev (1753-1819) fired off an angry letter to Siberian Governor-General Ivan Pestel\ complaining that of the 1,111 male souls destined for Irkutsk Province between 1809 and 1811, only 625 had arrived. Four hundred and eighty-six had remained in Tomsk Province: 178 to settle, 219 because they were apparently too sick to travel, and the rest were put to work in the local factories. While acknowledging that the sick should indeed to be allowed to remain in Tomsk Province to be cared for by local communities, the minister noted, "under this pretext perfectly capable people are being detained who should be sent on to Irkutsk Province, and the Tomsk provincial authorities have been instructed not to detain such people." (20)

Officials at the end of the Siberian Highway shared St. Petersburg's indignation. In 1818, the Irkutsk provincial authorities were still complaining to St. Petersburg that less than half the allocated number of exiles was reaching eastern Siberia. Investigations revealed that the "best people in terms of age and abilities" were remaining in Russia and in western Siberia to be used as laborers. They were being sent on to Irkutsk only when periods of up to ten years of hard labor had destroyed their health. The authorities were aware of the problem. Noting that the journey to Irkutsk was often taking between four and ten years, St. Petersburg issued instructions in 1817 to all regional governors that exiles were to be transported to their destination "without delay." The central government was also sharply critical of the practice of deliberately sending on to eastern Siberia the frail and the sick, incapable of settlement. These exiles, the State Senate observed, "constitute a class of parasites and beggars who are in need of assistance to feed themselves. They are a burden on the local peasant communities and ... infect them with vices and diseases." Beyond the reach of central government, local authorities continued to harvest healthy exiles en route to Siberia. An individual exile's destination depended therefore as much on his or her economic utility as on a formally determined sentence. (21)

The deportation convoys were hemorrhaging exiles not simply as a result of local officials filtering out the useful en route. Escapes were also commonplace. Fugitive exiles sometimes formed themselves into marauding bands of vagabonds who subsequently attacked the "entire merchant caravans" that journeyed along Siberia's isolated highways. Governor-General of Siberia Ivan Selifontov wrote to Alexander I in March 1805, calling for the establishment of military units with mounted Cossacks along the main Siberian roads "not only to put an end to such acts of banditry and brigandage but also to remove the danger for inhabitants and travelers." Selifontov calculated that 2,880 soldiers, based in post offices along the main routes, would be required to undertake the transportation of prisoners successfully. He understood, however, that it would be difficult to raise the required numbers without severely impinging on the army's duties elsewhere, so he settled for 1,825. Alexander approved his request and the Internal Watch was established in 1816. Yet the Cossacks who manned it proved no more reliable than the peasants they replaced. (22) Officials lamented that they "frequently, sometimes even deliberately in return for payment, release the convicts they are accompanying." The result was that in the year ending in October 1816, 98 convicts had "fled" from marching convoys, and this figure included only those reported to the civilian authorities. (23) The endemic nature of escapes and the crime wave unleashed by fugitives in the Siberian provinces of Tobol'sk and Tomsk were a mounting concern for the authorities. (24)

Overlying these administrative problems in the years prior to the Siberian reforms of 1822, the numbers of exiles being marched off to Siberia were expanding at rates that threatened to overwhelm the system. If an annual average of 1,606 were exiled in the years from 1807 to 1813, the figure for the period from 1814 to 1818 had jumped to 2,476; in the period from 1819 to 1823, it had reached an annual average of 4,570.25 The increasing use of administrative exile by both landowners and peasant communities, compounded by mounting conflict between the peasants and their masters under the impact of the Napoleonic Wars, fueled this growth in numbers. (26) The result was that by the end of the second decade of the 19th century, the system was teetering on the verge of collapse. Responsibility for stabilizing and overhauling it was entrusted to the outstanding Russian statesman of the first half of the 19th century, Mikhail Mikhailovich Speranskii (1772-1839). (27)

The Siberian Reforms of 1822

Speranskii's Siberian reforms nurtured a vision of Siberia's eventual integration into the Russian Empire. Speranskii believed that moral energy and administrative reform could tackle the problems of the exile system. (28) He approached the challenges of deporting convicts to Siberia as a purely logistical project. His Regulation on Exile Transfer with Siberian Provinces was part of the Regulations on Exiles published in 1822 and comprised 13 articles and 199 clauses. The construction of purpose-built waystations (etapes, etapy) along the Great Siberian Highway had already begun in 1819. Speranskii's "Regulations" accelerated and expanded the process, mapping a route--little changed from the existing highway--along a series of stages, each punctuated by a succession of waystations. Each was separated by a day's march from a semistation (poluetap), then another day's trek to the next waystation. (29) Semistations were designed to accommodate marching convoys for a single night; waystations for two nights and a rest day. Speranskii ordered the construction of 40 such stages in western Siberia and another 21 in eastern Siberia. Each had its own command, drawn from the Internal Watch and answerable to the Ministry of War, responsible for relaying marching convoys, under armed guard, along the route. The marching convoys were usually led by an officer, a noncommissioned officer, and a drummer, flanked by armed soldiers on both sides and with Cossacks on horseback at the front and the rear. (30)

In Speranskii's technocratic vision, the design of the etape system would allow the orderly movement of exiles to their assigned destinations and enforce accountability for their transfer. He was meticulous in his detailing of the route and schedule of the marching convoys: an exile beginning his exile at the First Siberian Etape Command in Tyguloe would march two days via a semistation to the next full station at Perevlova where they would then be turned over to the Second Etape Command. At this station, they received a day's rest and were permitted to use the bathhouse. The convoy would then march them on toTiumen', where it transferred them to the Tiumen' Invalid Command, responsible for delivering them the 262 versts to the medieval town of Tobol'sk. (31) It was here that Speranskii's reforms established the headquarters of the Exile Office, transforming the town into the nerve center of the exile administration and the gateway to the Siberian penal realm. Exiles arriving here in marching convoys from all over the empire would learn of their ultimate destination. Incarcerated in the Tobol'sk transit prison, they would be redistributed into stable marching convoys, then continue their journey eastward. (32)

Setting out from Tobol 'sk, exiles would march a staggering 1,470 versts to the city of Tomsk, averaging 25 versts a day over a 12-week period with never more than a full day of continuous rest. Another 550 versts stood between Tomsk and Krasnoiarsk on the Enisei River in eastern Siberia, where the prisoners would rest up for a week. After a further 1,000 versts of marching with never more than a single day's continuous rest, the convoy would finally reach the eastern Siberian capital city of Irkutsk and another few days of respite. From there, penal laborers destined for the silver mines of Nerchinsk had another 1,500 versts to march. (33) According to Speranskii's calculations, an exile would, on reaching Irkutsk, have walked 3,344 versts in 29.5 weeks at an average distance of 25 versts per day. (34) Such calculations were, in most cases, wildly optimistic.

Beyond their naive expectations of the speed at which the marching convoys would proceed, Speranskii's granular plans for an efficient and orderly transfer of exiles across the Siberian continent foundered for two further reasons: the explosion in the numbers of exiles banished each year beyond the Urals and the endemic corruption of the exile administration. Speranskii appeared convinced that annual numbers would remain fairly static but, fueled by a government crackdown on deserters from the army and vagabondage, they more than doubled across the 1820s. (35) From an annual average of 4,570 between 1819 and 1823, they rose to an annual average of 11,116 over the next three years. One official noted ruefully in 1825 that whereas in the years before 1822, the state was exiling between 60 and 70 individuals each week, it was now deporting in excess of 200. (36) In the period between 1823 and 1831, 10,886 penal laborers and 68,620 exiles, a total of 79,506 individuals of whom 9,166 were women, passed through the Tobol'sk Exile Office. (37) Speranskii's carefully calibrated reforms were swamped by this sudden and unforeseen expansion in the numbers of exiles.

The Regulation on Exile Transfer noted that "many years of experience have shown that exiles in Siberia seek to escape during the summer." (38) It accordingly set a limit of 60 exiles in each marching convoy during the summer and a maximum of 100 in winter when the ferocious cold dissuaded almost all from attempting to escape. Penal laborers, considered more dangerous than exiles, were to number no more than ten in each party. Speranskii furthermore stipulated that no more than one party should set out each week from the collection point in the village of Tyguloe on Tobol'sk's western border. Yet as the number of exiles increased in the 1820s, officials were obliged to ignore these limits and thus compromise the security of the convoys. Marching convoys swelled to in excess of 400 exiles from the very moment Speranskii's reforms were implemented. Subsequent attempts to limit the size each marching convoy were defeated by the sheer weight of numbers flooding into the exile system. In 1835, senior figures in the government charged with inspecting the state of the exile system noted that the huge and unforeseen increase in exile numbers made it "extremely difficult, not say impossible, for local officials to carry out their duties in accordance with the rules laid out in the Regulation on Exiles." They noted that marching convoys regularly exceeded 250 souls. (39)

The convoys themselves were processions of misfortune. At the front marched the penal laborers. Those sentenced not simply to exile but to penal labor were considered to be more dangerous and more likely to attempt an escape. Their hands were manacled, and they wore heavy leg fetters connected by a chain that ran through a ring attached to a belt. They were then chained in pairs to a pole, later replaced by a chain, to prevent escapes. When one collapsed, all had to stop. When one had to defecate, all had to attend. (40) As one contemporary observer of the exile system described: "the heavy fetters, even though surrounded by leather, chafed legs exhausted from walking; but most unbearable of all for these unfortunates was being shackled in pairs: every convict suffered from each jerking movement of his partner through the manacles, especially if they were of different heights and builds." (41) If there were not enough fetters to go around, convicts would be shackled together in a single set. (42) Following them tramped those exiled to settlement, wearing only leg fetters. Next came those exiled administratively and those exiled to residence, neither of whom were shackled. The final group comprised the family members voluntarily following their relatives into exile. Behind the column rumbled four telegi (springless carts), each drawn by a single horse. These bore the exiles' belongings (each was permitted a maximum of 12 kilograms) and, if space allowed, the old, the young, and the sick. (43)

The waystations beyond the Siberian frontier, constructed according to a set of prescriptions spelled out in Speranskii's regulations, were usually low stockades enclosing a yard. They contained three one-story log buildings painted in regulation ocher, one housing the convoy commander and the other two the soldiers and exiles. Inside the exiles' barracks were three or four large cells, each of which contained a Russian stove and rows of upper and lower planking running along their walls, on which the convicts could sit, sleep, and keep their belongings. Exiles struggled for space on the benches, hardened and aggressive criminals occupying premium positions near the stove in winter and the windows in the summer. The weak and the sick were forced to sleep under the benches on the filth-encrusted floors. Semistations were even more primitive: a wooden stockade containing huts, one for the officer and convoy soldiers and another for the exiles. Their maintenance was the responsibility of a local population with nothing to gain from investing in the state's prison buildings. (44)

A mere decade or so after most were constructed, one official reported to St. Petersburg that almost all the prison buildings in Tobol'sk Province "were in an absolutely terrible state, both cramped and badly designed." (45) Instructions to improve the construction of the waystations by building with stone were flouted by local authorities. As late as 1848 the central forwarding prison in Tobol'sk, through which all exiles passed and in which many spent several months awaiting the next stage of their journey, was still built of wood. In many waystations, the prisoners' cells were poorly heated and ventilated, characterized by forced intimacy and a desperate lack of sanitation, as one Decembrist exile, Vasilii Kolesnikov, recalled: "It was so crowded on the benches that it was scarcely possible to turn over; some made room for themselves at the feet of others, at the very edge of the benches; the rest on the floor and under the benches. One can imagine how fetid it is, especially in foul weather, when all arrive soaked through in their dirty rags. Then there are the so-called parashi (wooden tubs that met the nocturnal needs of prisoners). The stench from these parashi was unbearable." (46)

These leaking vats of excrement and the terrible ventilation ensured that the waystations were incubators of typhus, dysentery, cholera, and tuberculosis. The Great Siberian Highway was, however, no place to fall ill. Each waystation boasted only a single medical room containing six beds, hopelessly inadequate for the numbers of sick exiles in the marching convoys. In 1845, the government decreed that the sick be immediately transported on the convoy carts to the medical facilities in each of the district towns along the route. Yet in western Siberia there were only six such towns across a distance of 1,800 versts. Those in need of hospital treatment had to endure up to 200 versts and more of jolting along Siberia's notoriously potted roads in order to receive medical care. (47) Those fortunate or hardy enough to survive the journey often discovered that the medical facilities in Siberia's towns offered little respite. Some would only admit the sick if they could pay; others had no qualified medical staff. (48) In 1844, St. Petersburg was obliged to clarify that the local authorities should make available funds for the burials of exiles who expired en route. (49)

Malfeasance and Inadequate Resources in the Exile Administration

An unintended but entirely foreseeable consequence of official malfeasance and administrative underfunding was that the marching convoys could prove not simply torturous but also lethal. (50) The venality of the Siberian authorities repeatedly circumvented the efforts of the central authorities to enforce oversight and accountability throughout the deportation system. Convoy officers would make available a daily allowance or sometimes would simply hand over a given sum when the convoy set out from the waystation on a given stage along the route. These funds were almost always insufficient to purchase food from the local villages through which the convoy passed. The convoy soldiers and their families then charged extortionate prices for bread and supplies at the waystations and semistations in which they operated monopolies. (51)

Such venality could prove fatal. In June 1855, four convicts froze to death in a snowstorm en route to the Kara mines from the Klichkin mine in Nerchinsk. The head of the Nerchinsk Mining District, Ivan Evgrafovich Razgil'deev (1810-?), reported that the cause of death had not been simply that the prisoners had not been equipped with the necessary warm clothing but that they had been effectively starving when the snowstorm struck. They had been unable to purchase more supplies of bread from the Cossacks at the waystations because the price charged for the food exceeded their daily allowance. (52) A report by the Third Department to the Ministry of the Interior in 1863 detailed a party of 130 convicts who arrived in Krasnoiarsk in October dressed in nothing but their shirts. The convicts explained that they had been forced to sell their clothing to pay for food because of their financial exploitation by families of commanders of the transit prisons and their staff. (53) In February 1866, another 11 convicts froze to death en route from Krasnoiarsk to the Irkutsk prison. Autopsies of the bodies revealed, "their stomachs were completely empty." Moreover, "almost none of the convicts had warm clothing," and one of them "arrived without a shirt, in someone else's caftan under which he had stuffed straw." The survivors testified that they had reported to the authorities in Nizheudinsk that they did not possess the necessary clothing for the journey but that "this had been ignored." The convicts had again been forced to sell their clothing to purchase bread at extortionate prices from the waystation soldiers and their families. (54)

Although sharply critical of these abuses, the central government was unable to stamp them out. In response to the deaths reported in 1866, Minister of the Interior Aleksandr Egorovich Timashev (1818-93) wrote to the governor-general of eastern Siberia in the wake of the affair pointing out, "if what has been described can happen under the noses of the Enisei provincial authorities, it can only be imagined what occurs in localities far removed from such supervision." Not for the first time, Timashev drew the attention of provincial governors to the risks attendant on allowing convoy soldiers and their families to run monopolies over the sale of provisions to the marching convoys. He demanded "the severest prosecution of those guilty of these abuses." Timashev's subordinates, the governors of Enisei and Irkutsk provinces, Pavel Nikolaevich Zamiatnin and Konstantin Nikolaevich Shelashnikov, scrambled to excuse and explain the incident. They acknowledged that the deaths were unacceptable but argued that the men had been already been sent on from Tomsk to Krasnoiarsk without adequate clothing; the overcrowding in the Krasnoiarsk transit prison had already led to an outbreak of typhus such that the authorities there had no choice but to send the convict party on to Irkutsk (7,500 exiles and their families were passing along the route each year). The deaths could have been averted, Zamiatnin averred, if the junior officer in charge of the convoy, Kashin, had permitted the exiles to shelter from the frosts and recover in the villages along the route. Shelashnikov once again affirmed the need to improve oversight and accountability over the provisioning of exiles during their journey eastward. Central government was unable to force its will onto the convoy commanders in waystations thousands of versts distant from St. Petersburg. In the 1860s and 1870s, exiles continued to perish in the marching convoys from cold, hunger, and disease in numbers so high they elicited protests from the local peasantry who were charged with disposing of the corpses. (55)

Speranskii had envisaged the Tobol'sk Exile Office as the efficient administrative headquarters of the exile system. In fact, it was a pit of corruption. Report after report highlighted cases of embezzlement, the theft of exiles' possessions, and a brisk illicit trade in places of banishment. (56) In 1833, one inspector, Colonel Maslov, reported to Minister of the Interior Count Benkendorf that officials in the Exile Office were establishing which exiles bound for eastern Siberia had money and were then selling them permission to remain in Tobol'sk Province. (57) The ensuing six-year-long investigation uncovered a whole host of abuses. More than 2,000 exiles had been granted illicit permission to remain in Tobol'sk; others had purchased permits to return to the provinces from which they had been exiled, and still others had their sentences arbitrarily reduced. (58) Yet two decades later, little had changed. In a rare expose of corruption in 1862, the St. Petersburg journal Zritel' reported on the persistent venality of the Tobol'sk Exile Office: "Here officials sometimes appear before the convicts, and pretending to be charged with special responsibilities from the head of the exile office, they call the convicts to one side for negotiations and offer them their services: lobbying so that they may remain in Tobol'sk, or so that those destined for the factories of Irkutsk might be transferred to settlement in Tobol'sk guberniia." (59)

The article occasioned a string of investigations initiated by the Ministry of the Interior, but the closing of ranks and the shielding of official posteriors was something of an art form in the administration of Siberian exile. (60) The Tobol'sk Exile Office continued to embezzle funds intended for the provision of warm clothing, leaving the exiles desperately vulnerable to the ferocity of the Siberian winter. One official reported in 1864 that exiles were still setting out from Tobol'sk with clothes of such poor quality that "if they did not have their own clothing, they would be quite unable to make the journey." Some were arriving in Tomsk with severe cases of frostbite, having lost fingers and toes to the cold. (61)

Such malfeasance remained difficult to root out, in part because even the most senior officials were themselves heavily involved in embezzlement and bribery schemes. Between 1822 and 1852, 5 of the 11 governors of Tobol'sk were dismissed for corruption. (62) In 1847, Governor-General of Eastern Siberia Vil'gel'm Iakovlevich Rupert (1787-1849) was forced to resign after an inquiry found him guilty of a whole spectrum of abuses, including commandeering penal laborers to work on his own private residence. (63)

Yet flagrant abuses of power and the venality of individual officials only compounded what were deep-seated structural problems of inadequate resources and chaotic administration. When challenged by St. Petersburg over the parlous state of affairs within the Tobol'sk Exile Office, officials routinely pointed to "the shortages in secretarial resources needed to cope with the growth in the number of cases following the 1823 edicts on vagrants." (64) They had a case to make. In 1856, the staff of the Tobol'sk Exile Office--charged with equipping, processing, and distributing almost every exile entering the Siberian landmass--boasted a total of seven members: a director, two assessors, two bookkeepers, and two secretaries. By 1873, the numbers had leapt to a total of nine. (65)

This threadbare administration ensured that half a century after Speranskii's reforms of the deportation system, recordkeeping was still in chaos. Prisoners were arriving in Irkutsk from western Siberia without the requisite papers specifying their crimes and sentences. (66) A government inspection revealed that between 1872 and 1875 the Irkutsk Exile Office had kept no accurate records of the exiles passing through it: "in the absence of such records, the office in the majority of cases does not know whether it ever processed a given exile, where he is, and what rights of estate he does or does not continue to enjoy." The inspectors found some 500 unprocessed files, dating back to 1870, "lying around in piles." There were cases of penal laborers who had long since served out their terms of hard labor and should have been released to settlement but "had not been released because the Irkutsk Exile Office had never sent through their papers." There were cases when the office's failure to process the relevant paperwork had left convicts sent onward to prisons and penal settlements in eastern Siberia with no linen. Exiles transiting through Irkutsk were held up by this bureaucratic sloth and chaos for "up to several months, and sometimes for more than a year." One exiled peasant had already spent two years in the Irkutsk prison as the authorities were unable to locate his paperwork. (67) Back in the capital, the situation was little better. One hapless exile languished in a Moscow prison for half a year in 1877 before even setting out for Siberia while the authorities clarified his sentence. (68)

Shared Sovereignty in the Deportation Convoys: The Convict's Artel

Convicts responded to the brutal and unpredictable environment of the deportation convoys by organizing themselves into an artel, or prisoners' association, for the duration of the journey into exile. Composed of representatives from groups of approximately ten prisoners in each convoy, this unofficial but powerful community was effectively a duplication of the communal traditions of the peasant village. It held sway over all aspects of the convicts' lives in the marching convoy. Its primary function was the collective protection of its members against the authorities. Headed by an elected figure, the starosta, the artel's operations were governed by traditions embracing commercial activity, a central exchequer, and draconian codes of discipline and punishment. (69) Although it was not an official institution, the exile administration did recognize the existence and to some extent, the necessity, of the artel. The authorities not only turned a blind eye to many of its illegal practices but also relied on its good will to manage the operation of the convoys. The convicts, in turn, valued the trust of the convoy commanders and sought to simplify their duties by obeying instructions and sticking to commitments undertaken.

Setting out from European Russian cities, the marching convoy would elect its starosta for the duration of the journey to ToboT'sk. The convicts usually selected an individual familiar with Siberia from previous periods in exile, often vagabonds who had escaped only to be recaptured and those possessed of useful skills and trades. On reaching ToboT'sk, the artels dissolved and reformed within new and stable marching convoys organized by the ToboT'sk Exile Office. The Exile Office would confirm the election of the new starosta before the convoys departure from ToboTsk. Once the authorities had confirmed his election, the starosta could not be dismissed by any of the convoy officers or waystation guards without the consent of the entire convoy. (70)

At the outset of the journey, the artel oversaw the maidan, which provided a number of commercial services within the marching convoy--grocers' shop, tobacconist, liquor store, and gambling den. (71) The artel also operated a kitty used principally as a source of bribes to purchase various concessions from the convoy soldiers and waystation commanders. This form of collective bargaining could be used to secure permission to beg for alms in the villages through which the convoy passed. Extra horse-drawn carts could be hired from local villages to carry the infirm and the sick. The artel also struck bargains with the convoy officers that secured concessions but also implicated the convicts themselves in forms of self-policing. (72)

Unable to enforce its own control over the exiles in the deportation convoys, the state did not merely co-opt a select number of convicts who received individual benefits in exchange for the enforcement of compliance among their fellow captives. Through the institution of the artel, the convoy commanders dispersed disciplinary responsibilities throughout the marching convoy in exchange for the extension of concessions to all. In violation of Speranskii's Regulations on Exiles, convoy soldiers agreed to the removal of the hated leg fetters outside towns and villages in return for a promise that no escapes would be attempted. (73) The artel collectively vouched for the conduct of its members. Should any of the convicts break the terms of this bargain, he would be hunted down not only by the convoy soldiers but also by other exiles in the marching convoy. (74) On one occasion, the exiles even helped the convoy soldiers extinguish a blaze that had taken hold in one of the waystations. None tried to escape. (75) When, however, 3 exiles did flee a 300-strong marching convoy near the town of Tiumen', which had just negotiated an extra day's rest from the convoy commander, the other exiles were outraged by this violation of their collective agreement. Fearful lest it jeopardize the concessions they had secured, the artel dispatched a group of exiles in pursuit of the fugitives. By morning, they had caught up with their quarry and dragged them back to the convoy commander, who ordered that each man receive 100 strokes of the birch rod. Finding such leniency unsatisfactory, the artel went on to administer a further 500 strokes of its own "with such vigor that their cruelty shocked even the convoy officer, himself no stranger to corporal punishment." (76) The enforcement of loyalty to the artel was a necessity for all Siberian exiles, as the implacable brutality of the artel, and thus its powers of deterrence to would-be violators of its code, was the only basis on which the artel could enter into negotiations with the authorities. Every convict in the marching convoy thus had a personal investment in ensuring that the authority of the artel was upheld.

Official and informal disciplinary regimes did not, however, always coincide. Another of the artel's primary responsibilities was the enforcement of contracts, from the strictly financial to the very personal, between its members. Backed by the threat of violence, the artel oversaw, and indeed made possible, the constant bartering of goods and services between convicts. From the repairing of boots to the purchase of vodka, the artel ensured that undertakings of deferred payment would be honored. Some had only their names--and fates--to barter. Each convict sentenced to exile or penal labor was issued with a card that bore his name, his rank, his origins, his crime, his punishment, and a very brief description of his appearance. This paperwork often contained clerical errors--names misspelled or exile destinations mixed up--resulting in individuals marching thousands of versts to the wrong destinations. It could take several months to rectify mistakes. (77) The exiles themselves were acutely aware that these papers determined their fate. Guards in the marching convoys were keen to ensure that they arrived with the full complement of the exiles in their charge, but they were preoccupied with names rather than individuals. It was quite impossible for convoy commanders to remember each individual's face and at the changeover from one stage command to another only the overall number of convicts was counted; there was no roll call. Such laxity in recordkeeping presented an opportunity to determined and unscrupulous exiles.

For the months, sometimes years, spent in the marching convoys provided scope for the formation not only of new friendships but also of more sinister and exploitative bonds. Fedor Dostoevskii explained the practice of exchanging names in his 1862 memoir of Siberian exile, Notes from the House of the Dead. Wily, hardened criminals would trick naive and destitute exiles into swapping names (and fates) in exchange for a few rubles or vodka. (78) Anyone attempting to renege on such agreements would incur the wrath of the artel and might be, in Kennan's words, "condemned to death by this merciless Siberian Vehmgericht." Even those who escaped immediate punishment might subsequently be hunted down and found with their throats slit in some remote village or waystation. Over the head of such traitors, Kennan wrote, "hung an invisible sword of Damocles, and sooner or later, in one place or another, it was sure to fall." (79)

Under the state-sponsored auspices of the artel, the practice of name swapping, already an acknowledged problem at the beginning of the 19th century, flourished as the size of the marching convoys swelled in the 1820s. (80) Seeking to contain the illicit trade in identities, the government passed a new law in 1828 that punished each exile to settlement who exchanged names with a penal laborer with five years of katorga. Penal laborers caught trafficking in identities were to be punished with 100 blows of the rod and a minimum of 25 years of penal labor in the place of their original sentence of exile. (81) More draconian laws followed, but the traffic in identities remained impossible to root out. (82) In subsequent decades, officials continued to complain that the practice was subverting the exile system. Cases of individuals who had switched names, and so had been delivered to the wrong destinations to serve out the wrong sentences, were clogging up local courts. (83)

Changing names was perhaps the most flagrant subversion of the state's deportations. It revealed the weakness of the authorities' chaotic recordkeeping and tenuous grasp on the identities of the convicts in their charge. When undetected, the practice decoupled a prisoner's fate from his or her sentence. While the state might succeed in banishing offenders from European Russia, their deployment to specific sites where punishment, utility, and rehabilitation might all blend together fruitfully remained an unfulfilled aspiration. The artel offered then an alternative, even rival, disciplinary regime within the official carceral space of the deportation. Sometimes working in concert with the state's wider goal of penal migration, the artel was also able to subvert them. The state's disciplinary weakness in the deportation convoys pushed it to recognize and approve the existence of an alternative source of authority, even sovereignty, in the form of the artel. The sovereign could banish exiles to Siberia, but his power diminished, the further it extended eastward.

Women and Children in the Deportation Convoys

The deportation convoys reserved special torments for women. Female convicts, and even the innocent wives and daughters voluntarily following husbands and fathers into exile, often found themselves destitute and vulnerable to sexual assault and exploitation in the marching convoys. It became almost impossible for the women to maintain any dignity. Female convicts and frequently the innocent wives of exiled convicts were often obliged to use the parashi before gaggles of jeering and ogling convicts. (84) Despite the fact that most female convicts had no history of vice, officials assumed that all female convicts were prostitutes even before they entered the marching convoys. (85) Many took to selling themselves in exchange for protection and the most basic of supplies. (86) The Polish exile Justynian Ruciriski witnessed at first hand in 1839 how every female exile was obliged to take a lover in the marching convoys. The choice of partner was not, however, her own but that of the convicts' artel, which auctioned the women off to the highest bidder among the "suitors." If a woman rejected the proposed union, she "was subjected to terrible reprisals." On several occasions, Rucinski "witnessed horrible rapes in broad daylight." (87)

The effects of this traffic in bodies on the moral and physical health of the exiles had long troubled the authorities. The Tomsk Medical Council observed in 1817 that "most of the sick exiles of both sexes transiting through Tomsk were suffering from venereal disease, the cause of which ... was the dissolute life the women lead with their fellow prisoners on their way to distant regions." (88) In 1825, the minister of police, Count Sergei Kuz'mich Vziamitinov (1744-1819) and the head of the Internal Watch, Count Evgraf Fedotovich Komarovskii (1769-1843), both recommended that women and children should follow the men after an interval of two days in separate convoys. (89) These proposals were put into law the next year, but convicts of both sexes continued to be transported together as officials on the ground had not the resources to separate them. In violation of the regulations, the wives and children following exiles into Siberia were often locked up overnight together with hardened criminals. (90) In 1840, the authorities in St. Petersburg were still issuing directives to have the sexes separated at the waystations. (91)

Yet the practice persisted. Even in the 1870s, women and children following their husbands voluntarily into exile continued to be locked up in the transit prisons and waystations, in violation of rules that the center had repeatedly reaffirmed. (92) Observers of the marching convoys in the 1870s and 1880s referred to them "as huge mobile brothels" that serviced convoy soldiers and exiles alike. (93) The failure to separate small numbers of women from large groups of men created a combustible swirl of passions, lusts, and jealousies. In 1879, the Polish exile Waclaw Sieroszewski, found himself in a marching convoy that numbered some 300 men and only a few female convicts: "all kind of romantic affairs developed, and one beautiful young woman ended up with her stomach sliced open in one of the waystations." (94) Women were especially vulnerable when they were pregnant or carrying newborns. In 1837, the State Senate had ruled that female exiles should not be sent to exile if they were pregnant or breast-feeding, but like many directives from the center, the Siberian authorities routinely ignored this instruction. (95) Indeed, given the length of the journey into exile and the pressures on the women to have sex with the men in the marching convoys, many became pregnant en route. One female convict in a group of penal laborers being transported by steamship down the Amur River in 1870 gave birth on deck, shielded from the eyes of onlookers and from the bad weather by only a few convict smocks. The child died within an hour, "probably having caught a chill in the cold air." (96)

Women often followed their husbands with several young children in tow. (97) They suffered, as the ethnographer Sergei Maksimov observed, the foul dank air of the cells, the unnourishing and disgusting convict food, stifling heat, cold, sickness, and so on." The crowded waystations, train carriages, and ships' holds proved especially dangerous to young children. (98) In 1875 alone, some 1,030 children died en route to Siberia in the forwarding prisons of Moscow, Nizhnii Novgorod, Kazan, Perm', and in the waystations beyond. Two years later, 404 did not survive the journey. Indeed, Nikolai Iadrintsev estimated in 1882 that as a result of woefully inadequate medical facilities en route, half of all children did not survive the journey to Siberia. (99)

In addition to hunger, cold, and lack of adequate medical care, the children faced the predatory appetites of the convicts whom they accompanied. The Interior Ministry official Vasilii Vlasov reported in 1873 that the authorities' failure to ensure that children were kept separated from the convicts in the marching convoys and transport ships resulted in their exposure to "orgies and illegal acts." He documented the rape of a young girl in one of the waystations and, in another convoy, two penal laborers' daughters aged 12 and 14 already infected with syphilis. The ethnographer Vasilii Semevskii accompanied a party of 500 exiles and family members to the Lena goldfields in 1878: among them were 11-year-old boys who drank, played cards, and were interested in women; there was also a 12-year-old girl, "considered common property by the convict party." (100) By the time they reached their destination, women and children had been subjected for months on end to grinding poverty, a barrage of personal humiliations, and often-violent sexual assault and exploitation. Their bitter fate was proof that the ordeal of the deportation convoys bore no relation to crimes. It also undermined autocracy's much-vaunted paternalism, exposing its negligence, indifference, and brutality. (101)

Modernizing Deportations in the Reign of Alexander II

When the exiled lecturer from Kiev University Ivan Belokonskii made the journey to eastern Siberia in 1880, he experienced the full range of transportational means now at the state's disposal: marching convoys and waystations, river barges and railways. (102) The government turned to waterways and to railways to ensure a faster, smoother, and more orderly transfer of convicts eastward. Despite this modernization of the deportation process, the convoys remained dangerous, violent, and unpredictable spaces in which suffering and punishment bore little relation to each other.

From 1862 on, trains transferred convicts from Moscow and other collection points such as Kursk via Vladimir to Nizhnii Novgorod. The converted trains into which the convicts were crammed comprised third-class carriages with bars on the windows. The overcrowding forced convicts not simply to sit on the benches but also beneath them and in the aisles: "the sealed doors and the absence of ventilation" took their toll. The 410 versts to Nizhnii Novgorod took a day and a night. (103)

By the 1860s, the authorities were turning to Siberia's rivers to expedite the deportations. Private contractors supplied barges in 1867 to transport a total of 5,434 exiles north along the River Tobol' from Tiumen' to Tobol'sk. The human cargo of 4,651 adults, 566 children under the age of 15, and 126 infants were delivered into the charge of the Tobol 'sk Exile Office, which set about dispersing them into marching convoys or transport barges depending on their final destination. Those bound for Tomsk and beyond were loaded into other barges, which carried them north along the Irtysh River and then inched their way south, against the current of the Ob' River, on a 14-day journey as far as Tomsk. These were "hurriedly converted" freight barges, fitted with bars to prevent convicts from leaping overboard to freedom. It was not always possible, one official noted, to separate the single women from the men. He reported, with pronounced understatement, that the parashi were located inside the convicts' cabins and, "with large accumulations of convicts, the air in the cells is insufficiently cleansed." (104)

Not all of Siberia's rivers neatly intersected, however, leaving stretches of the route that needed to be navigated by land. One such leg of the journey lay between Perm' and Tiumen', a route along which 16,235 convicts marched in 1867. That year, an enterprising merchant, Aleksei Mikhailov, came to an arrangement with the Ministry of the Interior. Mikhailov agreed to provide horses and carts, each capable of carrying six individuals, to transport convicts and their families along the 710 kilometers of the Perm'-Tiumen' Highway for 1.5 kopecks per convict per verst, a price that was marginally lower than the costs the state was incurring for itself. Mikhailov undertook to transport up to 120 convicts and their families every day during the summer months and, in the winter, "as frequently as possible." He began his convict transportation business in August 1868. (105) For all its technological and logistical innovations, however, the government was unable to cope with the surge in the number of exiles being deported to Siberia. In the 1860s, an average of 11,200 exiles and their families entered Siberia; by the 1870s, the average had increased to 16,600, an average annual increase from one decade to the next of 48 percent. (106)

The policy proved difficult to implement. The stumbling block to the suspension of wintertime transfers was the lack of capacity within the waystations and transit prisons along the route. The authorities struggled to flush sufficient numbers of convicts through the system in the brief five-month window available to them between the beginning of May and the end of September. One bottleneck was the Tomsk-Achinsk Highway. In the absence of either waterways or railways, the convicts in Tomsk were once again assembled into marching convoys to set out on the remainder of their journey: 590 kilometers to Krasnoiarsk, then a further 1,080 kilometers to Irkutsk. By 1869, around 7,500 convicts were arriving in Tomsk each year (the first groups arrived in early June) on barges from Tiumen'. The penal infrastructure--buildings and convoy soldiers--was able to process only 3,250 convicts over the four available summer months. The accumulated backlog of nearly 4,250 prisoners each summer would simply overwhelm the prisons of Tomsk. The authorities therefore decided to continue with deportations from Tomsk eastward all year around dispatches on marches in the freezing and often lethal winter temperatures. (111)

Even so, European Russian prisons remained heavily congested with convicts destined for Siberia who "spend the entire winter in prison and set off for Siberia only the summer of the following year" when the waterways thawed. (112) Between 1 May and 1 August 1876, 413 exiles died of disease awaiting deportation in Moscow, more than 150 of them children. A further 512 died in Nizhnii Novgorod, Kazan, and Perm', and 104 died along the route between these major transit points. (113)

Throughout the reign of Alexander II, Siberia's waystations and transit prisons remained decaying, disease-ridden structures in which exiles and their families were falling sick in large numbers in overcrowded, drafty, and inadequately heated prisons and waystations. (114) Vlasov reported in 1871 that in eastern Siberia: "the majority of the waystation buildings are not fit for purpose, they are so cramped and dilapidated. There is no way that order can be maintained in them." (115) Basic sanitation in the transit prisons and waystations remained dreadful. In 1868, "as a result of the acute overcrowding in the prison," typhus tore through the Krasnoiarsk prison, into which more than 1,500 convicts were crammed. Built for 80 beds, the prison hospital was struggling to cope with 250 patients. (116) In 1880, no fewer than 87 of the 290 prisoners held in the Tobol'sk transit prison were suffering from scurvy, a fact that the authorities attributed to the "dampness of the building and the poor quality of the food." (117) Persistent overcrowding, underfunding, and administrative incompetence ensured that the convicts' journey into exile might have speeded up but it still proved grueling, and sometimes fatal.


From the reign of Alexander I to that of Alexander II, the autocracy proved unable to finance properly and administer efficiently penal migration to Siberia. Attempts to rationalize and modernize the deportation remained inadequate to the growing administrative and logistical challenges of the process. The deportations remained chaotic, often dangerously so, overwhelmed by the burgeoning numbers of exiles and subverted by lack of resources and corruption. Yet for all its injustice and inefficiency, the system endured. Bureaucratic inertia, the lack of funds for an alternative (chiefly the construction of a network of modern prisons in European Russia with sufficient capacity), and by the absence of coordinated opposition from the mass of convicts themselves all ensured that the state continued to exercise the raw power of banishment. (118) Resistance to the deportation regime came not from the convicts themselves but from within government and from without, in Russian civil society.

Toward the end of Alexander II's reign, however, both official and public opinion began to shift decisively against the exile system. Various government commissions were established in the 1870s and 1880s, charged with devising solutions to the state's reliance on Siberia as a dumping ground for criminals. (119) Each one proposed a series of reforms in legislation to reduce the numbers being exiled each year and to promote the construction of prisons. One commission was chaired by Konstantin Grot under the auspices of the State Council in 1877 and drew on senior officials from all the key ministries and legal experts. After two years of regular sittings, it found, "it is perfectly obvious that the reason for the disarray in the exile system lies in the very legislation governing it; in the unfeasibility of the very goals it has pursued up to now; in the shortage of funds, the shortage of experienced administrators; in the shortcomings of Siberia's location for penal colonization; and in the vast scale on which exile was used." (120) Reflecting the changed legal culture of the empire in the wake of the Great Reforms, the commission acknowledged that Siberian exile was "harmful and lacked any juridical foundation." It would, however, be another two decades before the government embarked on meaningful reform. (121)

This lack of "juridical foundation" was laid bare in deportation convoys-crucibles of privation, misery, and violence in which suffering bore little or no relationship to crimes committed or sentences passed. In the final decades of the 19th century, the widely perceived lack of coherent moral economy underpinning the ordeal of deportation came to bedevil the autocracy. What had been confined to discussions and criticisms of failings in the pages of official reports and memoranda erupted in the last two decades of the 19th century into the pages of the popular press in both Siberia and European Russia. (122) The so-called thick journals published a hefty quotient of fiction, memoirs, and factual accounts lamenting the brutal dysfunctionalities of the deportation convoys in particular and the injustices of the exile system as a whole. (123) The fate of women, children, administrative exiles, political prisoners, and the hapless Siberians themselves commanded page after page of reportage clamoring for reform. Chekhov spoke for many when he fulminated to his editor in 1890: "we have let millions of people rot in gaol, and let them rot to no purpose, treating them with an indifference that is little short of barbaric. We have forced them to drag themselves in chains across tens of thousands of miles in freezing conditions, infected them with syphilis, debauched them, hugely increased the criminal population." (124)

The serialization of Chekhov's own Sakhalin Island in Russkaia mysl' in 1893-94 delivered a devastating blow to the image of the exile system and the legitimacy of the state that administered it. (125) George Kennan had meanwhile made a name for himself even in Russia as a ferocious critic of the exile system, and his articles and books, although published only in the West before 1905, were picked up, summarized, and discussed in the pages of the Russian press. (126) Perhaps the most influential condemnation of Siberian exile came from the pen of Lev Tolstoi in 1899. His last great novel, Resurrection, offered an unflinching portrait of the degrading conditions in which men, women, and children were forced to make the grueling journey into exile. (127) By the end of the century, most educated Russians considered Siberian exile in general, and the marching convoys in particular, to be the embarrassing vestiges of a barbaric past and evidence of Russia's backwardness among its European neighbors.

Torn from their towns and villages, their family and friends, exiles found themselves hurled into an unfamiliar and frightening world of exhausting forced marches, overcrowded waystations, disease, penury, and the ever-present threat of violence. Yet these privations and torments were less the measure of a deliberate and calibrated penal policy emanating from St. Petersburg and more a consequence of the state's failure to implement its own directives and pursue its own stated penal and colonial goals. In making the arduous journey eastward into exile, convicts and their families were subjected to an unpredictable ordeal fundamentally detached by the official system of laws and punishments. By the 1880s, the deportations to Siberia had become a widely denounced symptom of the weakness, arbitrariness, and abuses of state power.

Royal Holloway

University of London

Egham, Surrey TW20 OEX, UK

The research for this article was funded by a Leverhulme Trust Research Fellowship. I am grateful to Ilya Magin, Jonathan Waterlow, Gavin Jacobson, Rebecca Reich, and the editors and anonymous readers of Kritika for their comments on earlier drafts.

(1) Iustynian Ruchin'skii [Justynian Rucinski], "Konarshchik, 1838-1878: Vospominaniia o sibirskoi ssylke," in Vospominaniia iz Sibiri: Memuary, ocherki, dnevnikovye zapisi pol'skikh politicheskikh ssyl 'nykh v vostochnuiu Sibir 'pervoipoloviny XIXstoletiia, ed. B. S. Shostakovich (Irkutsk: Artizdat, 2009), 331.

(2) Cited in Andrew A. Gentes, Exile to Siberia, 1590-1822 (Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave, 2008), 48.

(3) John P. LeDonne, Absolutism and Ruling Class: The Formation of the Russian Political Order, 1700-1825 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991), 216-17; Evgenii Anisimov, Dyba i knut: Politicheskii sysk i russkoe obshchestvo v XVIII veke (Moscow: Novoe literaturnoe obozrenie, 1999), 498-500; Cyril Bryner, "The Issue of Capital Punishment in the Reign of Elizabeth Petrovna," Russian Review 49, 4 (1990): 389-416.

(4) Abby M. Schrader, Languages of the Lash: Corporal Punishment and Identity in Imperial Russia (DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 2002), 80-83; Mark Bassin, "Expansion and Colonialism on the Eastern Frontier: Views of Siberia and the Far East in Pre-Petrine Russia.," Journal of Historical Geography 14, 1 (1988): 3-21.

(5) Gentes, Exile to Siberia, 5-6; Marc Raeff, The Well-Ordered Police State: Social and Institutional Change through Law in the Germanies and Russia, 1600-1800 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1983), 204-50.

(6) Gentes, Exile to Siberia, 94.

(7) On the evolving practice and meanings of this colonial project, see "Forum: Colonialism and Technocracy at the End of the Tsarist Era," Slavic Review 69, 1 (2010): 120-88; and Alberto Masoero, "Territorial Colonization in Late Imperial Russia: Stages in the Development of a Concept," Kritika 14, 1 (2013): 59-91.

(8) Andrew A. Gentes, "'Licentious Girls' and Frontier Domesticators: Women and Siberian Exile from the Late 16th to the Early 19th Centuries," Sibirica 3, 1 (2003): 3-20; Gentes, "Sakhalin's Women: The Convergence of Sexuality and Penology in Late Imperial Russia," Ab Imperio, no. 2 (2003): 115-37; Abby M. Schrader, "Unruly Felons and Civilizing Wives: Cultivating Marriage in the Siberian Exile System, 1822-1860," Slavic Review 66, 2 (2007): 230-56.

(9) Schrader, Languages of the Lash, 83.

(10) Gentes, Exile to Siberia, 57.

(11) Dominique Moran, Laura Piacentini, and Judith Pallot, "Disciplined Mobility and Carceral Geography: Prisoner Transport in Russia," Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 37, 3 (2012): 455-57. See also Pallot's contribution to this issue of Kritika. On the Stalin period, see Anne Applebaum, Gulag: A History (London: Penguin, 2003), chap. 9.

(12) These are, of course, arguments that can be applied to the exile system more generally. See the discussion of the chaotic conditions in Nerchinsk in the late 1820s in Daniel Beer, "Decembrists, Rebels, and Martyrs in Siberian Exile: The 'Zerentui Conspiracy' of 1828 and the Fashioning of a Revolutionary Genealogy," Slavic Review 72, 3 (2013): 528-51.

(13) Daniel R Brower and Edward J. Lazzerini, eds., Russia's Orient: Imperial Borderlands and Peoples, 1700-1917 (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1997); Willard Sunderland, Taming the Wild Field: Colonization and Empire on the Russian Steppe (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1996); Jane Burbank, Mark von Hagen, and Anatolyi Remnev, eds., Russian Empire: Space, People, Power, 1700-1930 (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2007); Nicholas Breyfogle, Heretics and Colonizers: Forging Russia's Empire in the South Caucasus (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2005); Jane Burbank, "An Imperial Rights Regime: Law and Citizenship in the Russian Empire," Kritika 7, 3 (2006): 397-431.

(14) N. Rumiantsov, Istoricheskii ocherk peresylki arestantov v Rossii (St. Petersburg: n.p., 1876), 10.

(15) O. N. Bortnikova, Sibir'tiuremnaia: Penitentsiarnaia sistema Zapadnoi Sibiri v 1801-1917 gg. (Tiumen': Ministerstvo vnutrennikh del, 1999), 45.

(16) Rossiiskii gosudarstvennyi istoricheskii arkhiv (RGIA) f. 383, op. 29, d. 924 (1806), l. 27; G. G. Peizen, "Istoricheskii ocherk kolonizatsii Sibiri," Sovremennik, no. 9 (1859): 29-30.

(17) RGIA f. 383, op. 29, d. 953 (1818), 1. 24.

(18) Ibid., d. 924 (1806), l. 29.

(19) Ibid., d. 953 (1818), l. 2.

(20) Ibid., d. 938 (1811), ll. 88-89.

(21) Ibid., d. 953 (1818), ll. 1, 12-14. On the wider problem of the incapacitated exiles reaching Siberia, see Andew A. Gentes, " 'Completely Useless': Exiling the Disabled to Tsarist Siberia," Sibirica 10, 2 (2011): 26-49.

(22) S. M. Shtutman, Na strazhe tishiny i spokoistviia: Iz istorii vnutrennikh voisk Rossii (1811-1917 gg.) (Moscow: Gazoil, 2000), 107-9.

(23) RGIA f. 1286, op. 1, d. 195 (1804), 11. 51, 53, 64; op. 2, d. 245 (1817), 1. 1.

(24) "O prestupleniiakh po vsei Sibiri, v koikh uchastvovali ssyl'nye s 1823 po 1831 god," Zhurnal Ministerstva vnutrennikh del, no. 8 (1833): 224-33.

(25) Ssylka v SihirOcherk ee istorii i sovremennogo polozheniia (St. Petersburg: Tipografiia S.Peterburgskoi tiur'my, 1900), appendix no. 1. For further examples ofthe effects of the increase, see L. M. Damshek and A. V. Remnev, eds., Sihir' v sostave Rossiiskoi Imperii (Moscow: Novoe literaturnoe obozrenie, 2007), 274-77.

(26) Gentes, Exile to Siberia, 137.

(27) Marc Raeff, Michael Speransky: Statesman of Imperial Russia, 1772-1839 (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1957).

(28) Marc Raeff, Siberia and the Reforms of 1822 (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1956), 44.

(29) Bortnikova, Sibir' tiuremnaia, 47.

(30) "Ustav ob etapakh v sibirskikh guberniiakh," Uchrezhdenie dlia upravleniia sibirskikh gubernii (St. Petersburg: Senatskaia tipografiia, 1822), 4-5; Ippolit Zavalishin, Opisanie Zapadnoi Sibiri, 2 vols. (Moscow: Grachev, 1862), 1:355-56.

(31) "Ustav ob etapakh v sibirskikh guberniiakh," 26.

(32) "Ustav o ssyl'nykh," 24, articles 210-13.

(33) RGIA f. 1286, op. 21, d. 1118 (1860) 1. 1.

(34) Gentes, Exile to Siberia, 198-99.

(35) Gentes discusses the various reasons for the surge in exile numbers in Andrew Gentes, Exile, Murder, and Madness in Siberia, 1823-61 (Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010), chap. 1.

(36) RGIA f. 1264, op. 1, d. 414 (1825), 1. 6.

(37) Ibid., d. 71 (1835), 1. 138.

(38) "Ustav ob etapakh v sibirskikh guberniiakh," no. 22.

(39) RGIA f. 1264, op. 1, d. 71 (1835), II. 136 ob.-37.

(40) S. V. Maksimov, Sibir' i katorga, 3rd ed. (St. Petersburg: V. I. Gubinskii, 1900), 14.

(41) Rumiantsov, Istoricheskii ocherk peresylki, 12.

(42) N. M. Iadrintsev, Russkaia obshchina v tiur 'me i ssylke (St. Petersburg: A. Morigerovskii, 1872), 320.

(43) Aleksandr Vlasenko, "Ugolovnaia ssylka v Zapadnuiu Sibir' v politike samoderzhaviia XIX veka" (Candidate's diss., Omsk State University, 2008), 63.

(44) Rumiantsov, Istoricheskii ocherk peresylki, 10-11.

(45) Gosudarstvennyi arkhiv Rossiiskoi Federatsii (GARF) f. 109, op. 8, 1 eksp., d. 357 (1833), 1. 10.

(46) Gosudarstvennyi arkhiv Tiumen'skoi oblasti v gorode Tobol 'sk (GATOvgT) f. 152, op. 31, d. 127 (1849), 1. 18; RGIA f. 1286, op. 29, d. 836 (1868), 1. 8; Vasilii Kolesnikov, "Zapiski neschastnogo," Zaria, no. 5 (1869): 25-26.

(47) Vlasenko, "Ugolovnaia ssylka," 66-67.

(48) RGIA f. 1286, op. 22, d. 925 (1857), 1. 8 ob.; Grytsko [G. Z. Eliseev], "Ugolovnye prestupniki," Sovremennik 74 (1860): 286.

(49) RGIA f. 1286, op. 9, d. 719 (1844), 11. 1-2, 17-18.

(50) The British government took swift and decisive action in response to lethal excesses in the British deportation of convicts to Australia in the late 18th century because the organized and efficient transfers of healthy convicts were understood to be necessary to the wider project of penal colonization. See Robert Hughes, The Fatal Shore: A History of the Transportation of Convicts to Australia, 1787-1868 (London: Vintage, 2003), 129-57; and J. McDonald and R. Shlomowitz, "Mortality on Convict Voyages to Australia, 1788-1868," Social Science History 13, 3 (1989): 285-313.

(51) "Arestanty v Sibiri," Sovremennik, no. 11 (1863): 139-40, 149.

(52) RGIA f. 468, op. 20, d. 1198 (1855), 11. 1-6.

(53) RGIA f. 1286, op. 24, d. 941 (1863), 11. 1-2.

(54) Ibid., op. 29, d. 771 (1868), 1. 10.

(55) Ibid., 11. 4-5,19-23 ob., 32-34; op. 36, d. 686 (1875), 1. 14.

(56) The tradition of kormlenie, of using one's office as a source of bribes and embezzlement stretched back, of course, to the Muscovite state (Richard Pipes, Russia under the Old Regime, 2nd ed. [New York: Penguin, 1997], 96).

(57) GARF f. 109, 1-aia eksp, op. 8, d. 357 (1833), 1. 15.

(58) RGIAf. 1286, op. 7, d. 377 (1840), 1. 38.

(59) "Po etapu ot Peterburga do Tobol'ska," Zritel', no. 52 (1862): 790-91.

(60) RGIA f. 1286, op. 24, d. 231 (1863), 11. 14, 20-21.

(61) GATOvgT f. 152, op. 39, d. 114 (1864), 1. 4.

(62) Gentes, Exile, Murder, and Madness, 52.

(63) RGIA f. 1286, op. 10, d. 1428 (1846) 11. 15-22.

(64) Ibid., op. 7, d. 377 (1840), 1.71.

(65) Vlasenko, "Ugolovnaia ssylka," 299.

(66) RGIA f. 1286, op. 36, d. 698 (1875), 11. 1-2.

(67) Ibid., d. 793 (1875), 11. 7, 12-17, 49.

(68) Ibid., op. 38, d. 407 (1877), 11. 103-3 ob.

(69) ladrintsev, Russkaia obshchina, 151-52.

(70) Alan Wood, "Administrative Exile and the Criminals' Commune in Siberia," in Land Commune and Peasant Community in Russia: Communal Forms in Imperial and Early Soviet Russia, ed. Roger Barlett (London: Macmillan, 1990), 403-4.

(71) Andrew A. Gentes, "'Beat the Devil!': Prison Society and Anarchy in Tsarist Siberia," Ab Imperio, no. 2 (2009): 209-10.

(72) Wood, "Adminstrative Exile," 404-5.

(73) "Ustav ob etapakh v sibirskikh guberniiakh," no. 61.

(74) Iadrintsev, Russkaia obshchina, 176; George Kennan, Siberia and the Exile System, 2 vols. (New York: Century, 1981), 1:393.

(75) Iadrintsev, Russkaia obshchina, 179.

(76) Maksimov, Sibir' i katorga, 17-18.

(77) Iadrintsev, Russkaia obshchina, 276.

(78) Fyodor Dostoevsky, The House of the Dead, trans. David McDuff (London: Penguin, 2003), 101-2 (translation modified--DB).

(79) Kennan, Siberia and the Exile System, 1:391-92.

(80) RGIA f. 383, op. 29, d. 924 (1806), 1. 28; Gosudarstvennyi arkhiv Irkutskoi oblasti (GAIO) f. 24, op. 3, k. 2, d. 23 (1827), 1. 9; GAIO f. 24, op. 3, d. 69, k. 4 (1829), 11. 33, 65; V. Kubalov, "Zabytyi dekabrist (A. N. Lutskii)," in Dekabristy v Vostochnoi Sibiri: Ocherki (Irkutsk: Izdatel'stvo Gubernskogo arkhivbiuro, 1925), 157-58.

(81) Polnoe sobranie zakonov Rossiiskoi Imperii: Sobranie vtoroe (hereafter PSZ 2), 55 vols. (St. Petersburg: Tipografiia Vtorogo otdeleniia Sobstvennogo Ego Imperatorskogo Velichestva Kantseliarii, 1830-85), vol. 3, no. 2286; vol. 4, no. 3377; RGIA f. 1264, op. 1, d. 51 (1828), 11. 187-88 ob.; A. D. Margolis, "Soldaty-dekabristy v Petropavlovskoi kreposti i sibirskoi ssylke," in Tiur 'ma i ssylka v imperatorskoi Rossii: Issledovaniia i arkhivnye nakhodki, ed. Margolis (Vita: Lanterna, 1995), 73.

(82) PSZ2, vol. 28, sect. 1, no. 27736.

(83) RGIA f. 1149, op. 2, d. 99 (1838), 1. 6; f. 1286, op. 7, d. 341 (1840), 1. 112 ob.; f. 1286, op. 8, d. 1086 (1843), 1. 6; Maksimov, Katorga i ssylka, 17.

(84) I. Mel'shin [P. Ia. Iakubovich], V mire otverzhennykh: Zapiski byvshego katorzhnika (St. Petersburg: V. M. Vol'f, 1896), 17.

(85) Stephen R Frank, "Narratives within Numbers: Women, Crime, and Judicial Statistics in Imperial Russia, 1834-1913," Russian Review 55, 4 (1996): 541-66.

(86) See the literary representations of this practice in Nikolai Leskovs Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk District (1865).

(87) Ruchin'skii, "Konarshchik, 1838-1878," 374.

(88) RGIA f. 1263, op. 1, d. 415 (1825), 1. 296.

(89) Ibid., II. 296, 298; f. 1264, op. 1, d. 414 (1825), 1. 1. See also Gentes, "'Licentious Girls' and Frontier Domesticators"; and Schrader, "Unruly Felons and Civilizing Wives," 243.

(90) RGIA f. 1286, op. 4, d. 413 (1828), 1. 12; f. 1264, op. 1, d. 414 (1825), 11. 4-5; V. I. Efimov, V zhizni katorzhnykh ilginskogo i aleksandrovskogo togda kazennykh, vinokurennykh zavodov, 1848-1853g. (St. Petersburg: Universitetskaia tipografiia, 1899), 51.

(91) RGIA f. 1286, op. 7, d. 341 (1840), 1. 30; Vlasenko, "Ugolovnaia ssylka," 66.

(92) RGIA f. 1286, op. 36, d. 686 (1875), 11. 13-14; GAIO f. 32, op. 1, d. 199 (1877), 1. 1.

(93) V. Moskvich, "Pogibshie i pogibaiushchie: Otbrosy Rossii na sibirskoi pochve," Russkoe bogatstvo, no. 7 (1895): 73.

(94) V. L. Seroshevskii, "Ssylka i katorga v Sibiri," in Sibir': Ee sovremennoe sostoianie i ee nuzhdy. Sbornik statei, ed. I. S. Mel'nik (St. Petersburg: A. F. Devrien, 1908), 209.

(95) RGIA f. 1149, op. 2, d. 97 (1837), 1. 14 ob.

(96) V. I. Vlasov, Kratkii ocherk neustroistv, sushchestvuiushchikh na katorge (St. Petersburg: n.p., 1873), 39.

(97) RGIA f. 1263, op. 1, d. 1067 (1836), 11. 134-35.

(98) I. P. Belokonskii (Petrovich), Po tiur'mam i etapam: Ocherki tiuremnoi zhizni i putevye zametki otMoskvy do Krasnoiarska (Orel: N. A. Semenova, 1887), 57; Sergei Maksimov, Sibir' i katorga (St. Petersburg: V. I. Guninskii, 1870), 24.

(99) Kennan, Siberia and the Exile System, 1:108; RGIA f. 1286, op. 36, d. 686 (1875), 1. 20; RGIA f. 1286, op. 38, d. 467 (1877), 1. 41 ob.; Nikolai Iadrintsev, Sibir' kak koloniia (St. Petersburg: M. M. Stasiulevich, 1882), 175.

(100) Vlasov, Kratkii ocherk neustroistv, 33, 36-38; V. I. Semevskii, Rabochie na sibirskikh zolotykh promyslakh: Istoricheskoe issledovanie, 2 vols. (St. Petersburg: M. M. Stasiulevich, 1898), 1:xvii-xviii.

(101) Pavla Miller, Transformations of Patriarchy in the West, 1500-1900 (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1998); Susan K. Morrissey, Suicide and the Body Politic in Imperial Russia (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), 11-12; Richard S. Wortman, Scenarios of Power: Myth and Ceremony in Russian Monarchy, 1 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1995), chap. 9.

(102) Belokonskii, Po tiur 'mam i etapam, 167-80.

(103) Ibid., 80; RGIA f. 1286, op. 38, d. 467 (1877), 1. 34.

(104) RGIA f. 1286, op. 28, d. 917 (1867), 1. 80.

(105) Ibid., d. 921 (1872), 11. 1-3, 115, 298-300.

(106) Ssylka v Sibir', appendix, table 1.

(107) RGIA f. 1286, op. 28, d. 920 (1869), 1. 122.

(108) Ibid., op. 38, d. 380 (1877), 1. 5.

(109) Ibid., op. 28, d. 290 (1869), 11. 125-26.

(110) Ibid., 1. 74.

(111) Ibid., 11. 77-79.

(112) Ibid., op. 38, d. 407 (1877), 1. 103.

(113) Ibid., op. 36, d. 686 (1875), 1. 20.

(114) Ibid., op. 29, d. 836 (1868), 11. 8-8 ob.

(115) Vlasov, Kratkii ocherk neustroistv, 37.

(116) RGIA f. 1286, op. 29, d. 771 (1868), 1. 2; GAIO f. 32, op. 1, d. 199 (1877), 1. 1.

(117) GARF f. 122, op. 5, d. 619 (1880), 11. 1-2.

(118) One notable exception was the acts of collective resistance organized by Polish exiles following the repression of the Polish rebellion of 1863 (Andrew A. Gentes, "Siberian Exile and the 1863 Polish Insurrectionists according to Russian Sources," Jahrbucher fur Geschichte Osteuropas 51, 2 [2003]: 197-217).

(119) RGIA f. 1149, op. 9, d. 3 (1877), 1. 337.

(120) Ibid., 1. 777; Ssylka v Sibir', 78-80; Bruce Adams, The Politics of Punishment: Prison Reform in Russia, 1863-1917 (DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 1996), 97-120.

(121) Margolis, "Sistema sibirskoi ssylki i zakon ot 12 iiunia 1900 goda," in Tiur 'ma i ssylka, 13-25 (quotation on 19); Richard S. Wortman, The Development of a Russian Legal Consciousness (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1976), chap. 9.

(122) Sibir', no. 15 (5 October 1875): 5; no. 37 (11 September 1877): 1; "Gonimye," Vostochnoe obozrenie, no. 3 (15 April 1882): 12.

(123) E. Andreev, "Obiazatel'naia rabota katorzhnykh i arestantov v Rossii," Zhurnal grazhdanskogo i ugolovnogoprava, nos. 1-2 (1877): 82-107; S. Chudnovskii, "Kolonizatsionnoe znachenie sibirskoi ssylki," Russkaia mysl', no. 10 (1886): 40-66; Moskvich, "Pogibshie i pogibaiushchie"; L. Mel'shin [P. Ia. Iakubovich], "Kobylka v puti," Russkoe bogatstvo, no. 8 (1896): 5-37; N. Belozerskii, "Ot Peterburga do Nerchinska," Russkaia mysl', no. 12 (1902): 53-71; Harriet Murav, '"Vo Glubine Sibirskikh Rud': Siberia and the Myth of Exile," in Between Heaven and Hell: The Myth of Siberia in Russian Culture, ed. Galya Diment and Yuri Slezkine (New York: St. Martins, 1993), 95-111.

(124) Anton Chekhov, A Life in Letters, ed. Rosamund Bartlett, trans. Bartlett and Anthony Philips (New York: Penguin, 2004), 204-5.

(125) A. P. Chekhov, "Ostrov Sakhalin," Russkaia mysl', no. 10 (1893): 1-33; no. 11: 149-70; no. 12: 77-114; no. 2 (1894): 26-60; no. 3: 1-28; no. 5: 1-30; no. 6: 1-27; no. 7: 1-30.

(126) Vostochnoe obozrenie, no. 4 (1 October 1889): 9.

(127) Leo Tolstoy, Resurrection, trans. Anthony Briggs (London: Penguin, 2009).
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