Alexander Petrovich Goryanchikov I met in a small Siberian town. Born in Russia as a nobleman, he became an ex-convict of the second class for the murder of his wife. After serving 10 years of hard labor, he lived his life in town K. He was a pale and thin man of about thirty-five, small and frail, unsociable and suspicious. Passing one night past his windows, I noticed the light in them and decided that he was writing something.
Returning to the town three months later, I learned that Alexander Petrovich had died. His mistress gave me his papers. Among them was a notebook with a description of the hard life of the deceased. These notes, Scenes from the Dead House, as he called them, seemed curious to me. I choose several chapters for the sample.
I. The Dead House
Ostrog stood at the ramparts. The large courtyard was surrounded by a fence of high pointed pillars. In the fence there were strong gates guarded by sentries. There was a special world here, with its own laws, clothes, customs and customs.
On the sides of the wide courtyard stretched two long one-story barracks for the prisoners. In the backyard there is a kitchen, cellars, barns, sheds. In the middle of the yard there is an even area for checks and rolls. Between the buildings and the fence there was a large space where some prisoners liked to be alone.
At night we were locked in a barracks, a long and stuffy room, lit by tallow candles. In winter they locked up early, and in the barracks for four hours there was a din, laughter, curses and ringing of chains. Constantly in the prison there was a man of 250. Each strip of Russia had its representatives here.
Most of the convicts are ex-convict civilians, criminals deprived of all rights, with branded faces. They were sent to the terms from 8 to 12 years, and then sent across Siberia to the settlement. Criminals of the military rank were sent for a short time, and then returned to where they came from. Many of them returned to prison for repeated crimes. This category was called “always.” In the “special department” criminals were sent from all over Russia. They did not know their term and worked more than the rest of the convicts.
On the evening of December, I entered this strange house. I had to get used to the fact that I would never be alone. The prisoners did not like talking about the past. Most are skilful to read and write.
Discharges differed in colored clothes and in different shaven heads. Most of the convicts were morose, envious, vain, boastful and resentful people. Most of all, the ability to be surprised by nothing was appreciated.
On the barracks endless gossip and intrigues were conducted, but no one dared to rebel against the internal charters of the prison. There were characters outstanding, obeying with difficulty. People who committed crimes from vanity came to the prison. Such. the newcomers quickly realized that there was no one to surprise, and fell into the general tone of special dignity, which was adopted in the prison. The curse was elevated to science, which was developed by incessant quarrels. Strong people did not enter into quarrels, were reasonable and obedient, it was profitable.
Hard labor was hated. Many in the prison had their own business, without which they could not survive. Arrestants were forbidden to have tools, but the authorities looked at it through their fingers. Here there were all kinds of crafts. Orders of work were extracted from the city.
Money and tobacco were saved from scurvy, and the work saved from crimes. Despite this, both work and money were banned. At night, searches were carried out, all the banned was taken, so the money was drunk at once.
Anyone who did not know how to become a reseller or usurer. on bail even official things were accepted. Almost everyone had a chest with a lock, but this did not save from theft. There were also tselovalniki, selling wine. Former smugglers quickly found application to their skills. There was one more permanent income, alms-giving, which was always divided equally.
II. First impressions
Soon I realized that the burden of hard labor was that it was forced and useless. In the winter, government work was not enough. Everyone was returning to the prison, where only one third of the prisoners were engaged in their craft, the rest were gossiping, drinking and playing cards.
In the morning it was stuffy in the barracks. In each barracks there was a prisoner who was called a parachute and did not go to work. He had to wash bunks and floors, take out the night tub and bring two buckets of fresh water – for washing, and for drinking.
At first they looked at me askance. Former gentry in penal servitude will never be recognized for their own. Especially it got to us at work, because we had little strength, and we could not help them. Polish nobles, of whom there were five people, did not like even more. There were four Russian noblemen. One is a spy and an informer, the other is a parricide. The third was Akim Akimych, a tall, lean fellow, honest, naive and tidy.
He served as an officer in the Caucasus. One neighboring prince, considered to be peaceful, attacked his fortress at night, but failed. Akim Akimych shot this prince before his detachment. He was sentenced to death, but softened the sentence and exiled to Siberia for 12 years. The arrests respected Akim Akimych for his accuracy and skill. There was no craft that he did not know.
Waiting at the shackle changing workshop, I asked Akim Akimych about our major. He turned out to be dishonest and evil. He looked at the prisoners as his enemies. In the prison he was hated, feared like the plague and even wanted to kill.
Meanwhile, several Kalashniks appeared in the workshop. Up to adulthood, they sold kalachi, which baked to their mother. After growing up, they sold quite different services. This was very difficult. It was necessary to choose time, place, appoint a date and bribe the escort. But still I managed to sometimes witness a love scene.
The prisoners were dining in shifts. In the first meal between the prisoners I talked about some Gazina. The Pole, who was sitting next to him, said that Gazin was selling wine and drinking the money earned. I asked why many prisoners look at me askance. He explained that they are angry with me for being a nobleman, many of them would like to humiliate me, and added that I have time and again meet troubles and abuse.
III. First impressions
The prisoners valued money on a par with freedom, but they were difficult to maintain. Either the money was taken away by the major, or they were stolen by their own. Subsequently, we gave money for storage to the old man, the old-believer, who came to us from Starodubov settlements.
It was a small, gray-haired old man who lay down sixty, calm and quiet, with clear, bright eyes surrounded by fine radiant wrinkles. The old man, along with other fanatics, set fire to the one-faith church. As one of the instigators, he was exiled to hard labor. The old man was a prosperous bourgeois, he left his family at home, but firmly went into exile, considering it “a flour for faith.” The prisoners respected him and were sure that the old man can not steal.
It was lonely in the prison. Arrestants wanted to cover up all the capital to forget their longing. Sometimes a person worked for several months only in order to lower all earnings in one day. Many of them liked to get themselves bright clothes and go to the holidays by the barracks.
Trade in wine was a risky business, but profitable. For the first time, the tselovalnik himself carried the wine to the prison and sold it profitably. After the second and third time he founded a real trade and started agents and assistants who risked instead. Agents were usually the lost revelers.
In the first days of my imprisonment, I became interested in a young prisoner named Sirotkin. He was no more than 23 years old. He was considered one of the most dangerous war criminals. He fell into prison for killing his company commander, who was always displeased with him. Sirotkin was friends with Gazin.
Gazin was a Tatar, very strong, tall and powerful, with a disproportionately huge head. In the prison they said that he was a runaway military man from Nerchinsk, he was exiled to Siberia more than once, and finally got into a special department. In the prison he behaved wisely, did not quarrel with anyone and was not sociable. It was noticeable that he was clever and cunning.
All the brutality of Gazin’s nature was manifested when he got drunk. He came into a terrible rage, grabbed a knife and rushed at people. The arrests found a way to deal with it. Ten people rushed at him and started to beat him until he lost consciousness. Then he was wrapped in a sheepskin coat and carried to the bunks. The next morning he got up healthy and went to work.
Leaping into the kitchen, Gazin began to carp at me and my friend. Seeing that we decided to remain silent, he trembled with fury, grabbed a heavy bread tray and swung. Despite the fact that the murder threatened to trouble the whole prison, everyone was quiet and waiting – to such a degree was strong in them hatred for the nobility. Only he wanted to lower the tray, someone shouted that they had stolen his wine, and he rushed out of the kitchen.
The whole evening I was occupied with the idea of the inequality of punishment for the same crimes. Sometimes crimes can not be compared. For example, one killed a man just like that, and another killed, protecting the honor of the bride, sisters, daughters. Another difference is in punished people. An educated man, with a developed conscience, condemns himself for his crime. The other does not even think about the murder committed by him and considers himself right. There are also those who commit crimes to get into hard labor and get rid of a difficult life at will.
IV. First impressions
After the last verification from the authorities in the barracks remained disabled, observing the order, and the eldest of the prisoners, appointed by the major for good conduct. Akim Akimych was the eldest in our barracks. The prisoners did not pay attention to the disabled.
The convicts always treated the prisoners with caution. The detainees realized that they were afraid, and this gave them courage. The best boss for prisoners is the one who does not fear them, and the convicts themselves enjoy such trust.
In the evening our barracks took on a home-like appearance. A bunch of revelers sat around the rug for cards. In each barracks there was a convict who rented a rug, a candle and greasy cards. All this was called “Maidan”. The servant at the Maidan stood guard all night and warned of the appearance of a major or sentry guard.
My place was on the bunk at the door. Next to me was Akim Akimych. To the left was a handful of Caucasian highlanders convicted of looting: three Dagestani Tatars, two Lezgins and one Chechen. Dagestan Tatars were brothers. The youngest, Aleu, a handsome guy with big black eyes, was about 22 years old. They got into hard labor for having robbed and stabbed an Armenian merchant. The brothers were very fond of Aley. Despite the external softness, Alya had a strong character. He was fair, clever and modest, avoiding quarrels, although he knew how to stand up for himself. For several months I taught him to speak Russian. Alya mastered several crafts, and the brothers were proud of him. With the help of the New Testament, I taught him to read and write in Russian, which earned the gratitude of his brothers.
Poles in penal servitude were a separate family. Some of them were educated. An educated person in hard labor must get used to a stranger environment for him. Often the punishment that is the same for everyone becomes ten times as painful for him.
Of all the hard-labor Poles, only the Jew Isaiah Fomich was fond of, resembling a plucked chicken of a man of about 50, small and weak. He came on a murder charge. In katorga it was easy for him to live. Being a jeweler, he was littered with work from the city.
Even in our barracks there were four Old Believers; several Little Russians; a young convict of 23 years, who killed eight people; a bunch of counterfeiters and a few grim personalities. All this flashed before me on the first evening of my new life amid the smoke and soot, the ringing of shackles, among curses and shameless laughter.
V. The first month
Three days later I went to work. At that time, among the hostile people, I could not see a single benevolent one. Akim Akimych was with all of us. Next to me was another person whom I knew well only after many years. It was the prisoner Sushilov, who was serving me. I also had another servant, Osip, one of the four cooks chosen by the prisoners. Cooks did not go to work, and at any time could refuse this post. Osip was chosen several years in a row. He was an honest and meek person, although he came for smuggling. Together with other chefs, he traded wine.
Osip was preparing me food. Sushilov himself began to wash me, run on different errands and repair my clothes. He could not help but serve someone. Sushilov was a wretched man, unaccountable and hammered by nature. The conversation was given to him with great difficulty. He was of medium height and of uncertain appearance.
The convicts laughed at Sushilov because he was replaced on the road to Siberia. To change is to change with someone’s name and fate. This is usually done by convicts with a long prison term. They find such a fool as Sushilov, and they deceive them.
I looked at hard labor with greedy attention, I was amazed by such phenomena as a meeting with the convict A-vym. He was from the nobility and informed our platz-major about everything that was being done in the prison. Having quarreled with his family, A’s left Moscow and arrived in Petersburg. To get money, he went to a vile denunciation. He was convicted and exiled to Siberia for ten years. Katorga untied his hands. For the sake of satisfying his brutal instincts, he was ready for anything. It was a monster, clever, intelligent, beautiful and educated.
VI. First month
In the cover of the Gospel, I had several rubles hidden. This book with money was presented to me by other exiles in Tobolsk. There are people in Siberia who unselfishly help the exiles. In the city where our prison was located, there lived a widow, Nastasya Ivanovna. She could not do much because of poverty, but we felt that there, beyond the prison, we have a friend.
In these early days I was thinking about how to put myself in a prison. I decided to act as my conscience dictates. On the fourth day they sent me to examine the old state barges. This old material was worthless, and the prisoners were sent in order not to sit idly by, which the prisoners themselves well understood.
For work they began sluggishly, unwillingly, unskilfully. An hour later the conductor came and announced a lesson, after which he could go home. The convicts quickly got down to business, and went home tired, but pleased, although they won only some half an hour.
I interfered everywhere, I was almost driven away with scolding. When I stepped aside, they immediately shouted that I was a bad worker. They were happy to mock the former nobleman. Despite this, I decided to keep myself as simple and independent as possible, without fear of their threats and hatred.
According to their notions, I had to behave like a noblewoman-beloruchka. They would scold me for this, but they would respect themselves. This role was not for me; I promised myself not to belittle either my education or my way of thinking. If I began to lick up and make friends with them, they would think that I was doing this for fear, and would treat me with contempt. But I did not want to confine myself to them.
In the evening I wandered alone behind the barracks and suddenly saw Sharik, our detached dog, quite large, black with white spots, with intelligent eyes and a fluffy tail. I stroked her and gave her bread. Now, coming back from work, I hurried for the barracks with squealing with joy Ball, clasped his head, and sweet-bitter feeling chewed my heart.
VII. New acquaintances. Petrov
I began to get used to it. I no longer wandered around the prison like a lost, curious views of convicts did not stop at me so often. I was amazed by the frivolity of convicts. A free man hopes, but he lives, acts. The hope of the prisoner is of a completely different kind. Even the terrible criminals, chained to the wall by a chain, dream to walk around the yard of the prison.
For the love of work convicts mocked me, but I knew that the work would save me, and did not pay attention to them. The engineering authorities facilitated the work of the nobles, as people are weak and unskillful. To burn and crush alabaster appointed a person three or four, led by master Almazov, a stern, swarthy and lean man in years, unsociable and obese. Another job I was sent to do was to turn the grinding wheel in the workshop. If they were sharpening something big, another nobleman was sent to help me. This work remained for us for several years.
Gradually began to expand the circle of my acquaintances. The first to visit me was the prisoner Petrov. He lived in a special compartment, in the barracks furthest from me. Petrov was of short stature, strong build, with a pleasant broad-faced face and a bold look. He was about forty years old. He spoke with me at ease, and behaved decently and delicately. Such relations continued between us for several years and never got closer.
Petrov was the most determined and fearless of all convicts. His passions, like hot coals, were sprinkled with gold and softly smoldering. He quarreled rarely, but he was not friendly with anyone. He was interested in everything, but he remained indifferent to everything and loitered about the jail without work. Such people sharply manifest themselves at critical moments. They are not instigators of the case, but its main performers. They jump first through the main obstacle, everyone rushes after them and blindly go to the last line, where they put their heads.
VIII. Decisive people. Luchka
Decisive people in katorga were few. At first I eschewed these people, but then changed my views even to the most terrible murderers. About some crimes it was difficult to form an opinion, so many were strange in them.
The prisoners liked to boast of their “exploits.” Once I heard a story about how a convict Luke Kuzmich killed one major for his pleasure. This Luka Kuzmich was a small, thin, young prisoner from khokhlov. He was boastful, arrogant, ambitious, convicts did not respect him and called Luchka.
Luchka told his story to a stupid and limited but kind fellow, a neighbor on the plank bed, a prisoner to Kobylin. Luchka spoke loudly: he wanted everyone to hear him. It happened during the shipment. With him sat a man of 12 jokhlov, tall, healthy, but quiet. The food is bad, but the major is twisting them, as his grace pleases. Luchka stirred Khokhlov, demanded a major, and he himself took a knife from his neighbor in the morning. The major ran in, drunk, screaming. “I am the king, I am God!” Luchka got closer, and stuck a knife into his stomach.
Unfortunately, such expressions as “I am a king, I am God” were used by many officers, especially those who left the lower ranks. Before the authorities they are obsequious, but for the subordinates they become unlimited masters. This is very annoying to the prisoners. Every prisoner, no matter how humiliated he is, demands respect for himself. I saw what kind of action the noble and good officers did on those humiliated. They, like children, began to love.
For the murder of the officer Luchke was given 105 lashes. Although Luchka killed six people, but nobody was afraid of him in the prison, although in his heart he dreamed of being called a terrible person.
IX. Isai Fomich. Bathhouse. The story of Baklushin
Four days before Christmas, we were taken to a bath. Most of all, Isai Fomich Bumshtein was happy. It seemed that he did not regret at all that he was on hard labor. He did only jewelry work and lived richly. City Jews patronized him. On Saturdays he went under escort to the city synagogue and waited for the end of his twelve year term to marry. There was a mixture of naivety, stupidity, cunning, audacity, simplicity, timidity, boastfulness and impudence. Isai Fomich served everyone for entertainment. He understood this and was proud of his meaning.
In the city there were only two public baths. The first was paid, the other was dilapidated, dirty and cramped. We were taken to this bathhouse. The prisoners were happy that they would leave the fortress. In the bathhouse we were divided into two shifts, but, despite this, it was crowded. Petrov helped me to undress, because of the shackles it was difficult. The detainees were given out on a small piece of official soap, but then, in the dressing room, besides soap, it was possible to buy sbiten, kalachi and hot water.
The bath was like hell. A hundred people piled into a small room. Petrov bought a place on a bench from some man who immediately dived under the bench, where it was dark, dirty and everything was occupied. All this screamed and bawled at the sound of chains trailing along the floor. Dirt poured from all sides. Baklushin brought hot water, and Petrov washed me with such ceremonies, as if I were porcelain. When we came home, I treated him to a crockery. I invited Baklushin to tea with me.
All loved Baklushin. He was a tall guy, about 30 years old, with a dashing and simple-minded face. He was full of fire and life. Acquainted with me, Baklushin said that he was from the cantonists, served in the pioneers and was loved by some high faces. He even read books. When he came to me for tea, he announced to me that a theatrical performance would soon take place, which the convicts arranged in the prison on holidays. Baklushin was one of the main instigators of the theater.
Baklushin told me that he served as a non-commissioned officer in a garrison battalion. There he fell in love with a German woman, laundress Louise, who lived with her aunt, and decided to marry her. A desire to marry Louise and her distant relative, an elderly and rich watchmaker, the German Schultz, expressed a desire to marry. Louise was not against this marriage. A few days later it became known that Schultz had forced Louise to swear not to meet with Baklushin that the German was holding them with his aunt in a black body, and that his aunt would meet with Schultz on Sunday at his store to finally agree on everything. On Sunday, Baklushin took a gun, went to the store and shot Shultz. Two weeks after that, he was happy with Louise, and then he was arrested.
X. The Feast of the Nativity of Christ
Finally came a holiday, from which everyone expected something. Towards evening the invalids who went to the bazaar brought a lot of all provisions. Even the most economical prisoners wanted to celebrate Christmas with dignity. On this day, the prisoners were not sent to work, there were three such days in the year.
Akim Akimych did not have family memories – he grew up an orphan in someone else’s house and from the age of fifteen went to heavy service. He was not especially religious, so he was preparing to meet Christmas, not with dreary memories, but with quiet kindness. He did not like to think and lived according to the rules fixed for good. Only once in his life he tried to live with his mind – and got into hard labor. He deduced from this rule – never argue.
The next morning, the sentry guard of the non-commissioned officer, who entered the prison, congratulated everyone on the holiday. From all corners of the city, alms were brought to the prison, which was divided equally between the barracks.
In the military barracks, where the bunks stood only along the walls, the priest held a Christmas service and consecrated all the barracks. Immediately afterwards, a major-major arrived and the commandant, whom we loved and even respected. They went around all the barracks and congratulated everyone.
Gradually the people were walking, but there were sober people sober, and there was someone to look after drunkards. Gasin was sober. He intended to walk at the end of the holiday, collecting all the money from the prisoner’s pockets. Songs were heard from the barracks. Many paced with their own balalaika, in a special department formed even a chorus of eight people.
Meanwhile, twilight began. Among drunkenness, sadness and longing glimpsed. The people wanted to have a great holiday, and how hard and sad this day was for almost everyone. It became unbearable and disgusting in the barracks. I was sad and sorry for them all.
On the third day of the festival, a performance took place in our theater. We did not know whether our main-rank soldier knew about the theater. To such a person as the major-major, it was necessary to take something away, to deprive someone of the right. The senior non-commissioned officer did not contradict the prisoners, taking the word from them that everything would be quiet. The poster was written by Baklushin for gentlemen of officers and noble visitors who honored our theater with their visit.
The first piece was called “Filatka and Miroshka rivals”, in which Baklushin played Filatka, and Sirotkin – Filatkina bride. The second play was called “Kedril Glutton.” In conclusion, it seemed “pantomime to music.”
The theater was staged in a military barracks. Half the room was given to the audience, on the other half was a scene. The curtain, stretched across the barracks, was painted with oil paint and sewn from the canvas. Before the curtain stood two benches and several chairs for officers and foreign visitors who had not been translated during the whole holiday. Behind the benches stood the prisoners, and the crowd there was incredible.
The crowd of spectators, squeezed from all sides, with bliss on the face, awaited the beginning of the performance. The gleam of children’s joy shone on branded faces. The prisoners were delighted. They were allowed to have fun, forget about shackles and long years of imprisonment.
After the holidays, I fell ill and went to our military hospital, in the main building of which were 2 convicts’ chambers. The sick prisoners declared their illness to a non-commissioned officer. They were written down in a book and sent to the battalion hospital with the escort, where the really sick people were recorded by the doctor in the hospital.
The appointment of the medicines and the distribution of portions was carried out by the resident, who was in charge of the convict chambers. We were dressed in hospital linen, I walked along a clean corridor and found myself in a long, narrow room, where there were 22 wooden beds.
Severely ill it was a little. To my right lay a counterfeiter, a former clerk, an illegitimate son of a retired captain. He was a stocky guy of 28 years, smart, cheeky, confident of his innocence. He told me in detail about the orders in the hospital.
After him came to me a patient from the correctional company. It was already a gray-haired soldier named Chekunov. He began to serve me, which caused several venomous ridicule from a consumptive patient named Ustyantsev, who, frightened of punishment, drank a mug of wine, infused with tobacco, and was poisoned. I felt that his anger was directed more at me than at Chekunov.
All diseases, even venereal diseases, were collected here. There were several who came just to “relax.” Doctors let them out of compassion. Outwardly the chamber was relatively clean, but we did not sport our inner purity. Patients have got used to it and even considered, that and it is necessary. Punished by the spitzbruten we were met very seriously and silently looked after the unfortunate. The paramedics knew that they were handing over the battered into experienced hands.
After an evening visit to the doctor, the ward was locked up with a night tub. At night, the prisoners were not allowed out of the houses. This useless cruelty was explained by the fact that the prisoner would go out to the toilet at night and run away, despite the fact that there is a window with an iron grate, and an armed sentinel escorts up to the toilet of the convict. And where to run in winter in hospital clothes. From the chains of the convict does not save any disease. For the sick, the shackles are too heavy, and this burden aggravates their suffering.
Doctors bypassed the room in the morning. Before them came to the ward our resident, a young but knowledgeable doctor. Many doctors in Russia enjoy the love and respect of the common people, despite the general distrust of medicine. When the resident noticed that the prisoner had come to rest from work, he wrote to him a non-existent illness and left lying. The elder doctor was much more severe than the resident, and we were respected for that.
Some patients asked for an extract from the back that had not healed from the first sticks, in order to get out of the court as soon as possible. To bring punishment to some helped habit. The arrests with extraordinary good-natured talked about how they were beaten, and about those who beat them.
However, not all the stories were cold-blooded and indifferent. About the lieutenant Zherebiatnikov was told with indignation. It was a man of about 30, tall, fat, with ruddy cheeks, white teeth and a rolling laugh. He loved to chop and punish with sticks. The lieutenant was a refined gourmet in the execution case: he invented various unnatural things to pleasantly tickle his fat-swallowed soul.
About the Lieutenant Smekalove, who was the commander at our prison, was remembered with joy and pleasure. The Russian people are ready to forget all the pains for one affectionate word, but Lieutenant Smekalov has acquired special popularity. He was a simple man, even in his own way, and he was recognized by us for his.
In the hospital, I received a visual representation of all types of punishment. In our wards were all punished by the spitscruten. I wanted to know all the degrees of sentences, I tried to imagine the psychological state of those going to be executed.
If the appointed number of strokes could not withstand the prisoner, then according to the sentence of the healer, he was divided into several parts. The convicts themselves endured the execution bravely. I noticed that the rod in large numbers is the heaviest punishment. With five hundred rods, you can track a person to death, and five hundred sticks can be moved without danger to life.
The executioner’s properties are in almost every person, but they develop unevenly. Executioners are of two types: voluntary and bonded. To the servile executioner people are experiencing an unconscious, mystical fear.
The servile executioner is an exiled convict who entered the disciples to another executioner and left him for ever at a prison where he has his own farm and is under protection. The executioners have money, they eat well, drink wine. It is not possible to punish the executioner poorly; but for a bribe he promises to the victim that it will not hurt her very painfully. If they do not agree to his proposal, he punishes barbarians.
It was boring to lie in the hospital. The arrival of a newcomer always produced a revival. Even the crazy who were brought to the test rejoiced. The defendants pretended to be crazy to get rid of punishment. Some of them, after two or three days’ pokrolesiv, died down and asked for an extract. The real madmen were the punishment for the whole ward.
Severely ill loved to be treated. Bleeding was accepted with pleasure. Our banks were of a special kind. The doctor who cuts the skin, the paramedic lost or spoiled, and had to make 12 cuts for each can of the lancet.
The most sad time came late in the evening. It was getting stifling, remembering the bright pictures of a past life. One night I heard a story that seemed to me a feverish sleep.
IV. Akulkin husband
Late in the night I woke up and heard two people whispering around me. Storyteller Shishkov was still young, about 30 years old, a civil prisoner, an empty, erratic and cowardly man of small stature, lean, with restless or stupidly brooding eyes.
It was about the wife of Shishkov, Ankudim Trofimych. He was a rich and respected old man of 70 years, had a bidding and a big zaimku, kept three workers. Ankudim Trofimych was married a second time, had two sons and the eldest daughter of Akulina. Her friend was Shishkov’s friend Filka Morozov. Filka died at that time, and he was going to skip the inheritance and go into the soldiers. He did not want to marry Akulka. Shishkov then also buried his father, and his mother worked for Ankudima – baked gingerbread for sale.
Once Filka had beaten Shishkov to smear Akulka with tar in the gate – he did not want Filka to marry an old rich man who had asked her to marry him. He heard that the rumors about Akulka had gone, and backed up. Mother advised Shishkov to marry Akulka – now no one married her, but she was given a decent dowry for her.
Until the wedding Shishkov drank without pissing. Filoz Morozov threatened to break all his ribs, and with his wife to sleep every night. Ankudim at the wedding of tears poured, he knew that the daughter gives the flour. And Shishkov was still with him before the crown, and decided to spend his time on Akulka, so that she knew how to marry in a dishonest deceit.
After the wedding they left them with Akulka in the cage. She sits white, bloodless in her face with fear. Shishkov prepared a whip and laid it near the bed, but Akulka was innocent. He then knelt before her, asked for forgiveness, and vowed to avenge Filka Morozov for his disgrace.
Some time later Filka offered Shishkov to sell him his wife. To force Shishkov, Filka let out a rumor that he does not sleep with his wife, because he is always drunk, and his wife at the time takes others. It offended Shishkov, and he began to beat his wife from morning till night. Old Ankudim insisted on coming forward, and then gave up. Mother Shishkov did not allow to interfere, he threatened to kill.
Filka, meanwhile, completely drunk himself off and went into mercenaries to a commoner, to his eldest son. Filka lived at his own pleasure, drank, slept with his daughters, dragged the owner by his beard. The philistine suffered – Filka was for his eldest son to go to the soldiers. When they were taking Filka to the soldiers to hand over, he saw Akulka on the way, stopped, bowed to her in the ground and asked for forgiveness for his meanness. Akulka forgave him, and then told Shishkov that now he loves Filka more than death.
I decided to kill Shishkov. At dawn I harnessed the cart, went with my wife to the woods, to a dead trap and there cut her throat with a knife. After that he fell on Shishkov’s fear, he threw both his wife and his horse, and ran home to his house on errands, and hid in the bath. In the evening they found the dead Akulka and Shishkov in the bathhouse. And now for the fourth year he was in hard labor.
V. The summer season
Easter was approaching. Summer work began. The coming spring excited the chained man, gave birth to desires and longing. At that time wandering began all over Russia. Life in the woods, free and full of adventure, had a mysterious charm for those who experienced it.
One prisoner of one hundred decided to flee, the other ninety-nine only dream about it. Much more often defendants and convicts run away for long periods. After serving two or three years of hard labor, the prisoner prefers to finish his term and enter the settlement, rather than risk and die in case of failure. All these runners by autumn themselves are in the jails of wintering, hoping to escape again in the summer.
My anxiety and yearning grew every day. The hatred that I, the nobleman, excited in the prisoners, poisoned my life. On Easter from the authorities we got one egg and a slice of wheat bread. Everything was exactly the same as at Christmas, only now it was possible to walk and bask in the sun.
Summer work proved to be much heavier than winter ones. The convicts built, digged the earth, laid bricks, did the plumbing, carpentry or painting work. I either went to the workshop, or to alabaster, or was a barmen bricks. From work I became stronger. Physical strength in prison is necessary, and I wanted to live after the prison.
In the evenings, the convicts crowded around the yard, discussing the most ridiculous rumors. It became known that an important general from St. Petersburg was going to inspect the whole of Siberia. At this time, there was one incident in the prison, which did not excite the major, but gave him pleasure. One prisoner in a fight poked the other with an awl in the chest.
The arrested person who committed the crime was Lomov. The victim, Gavrilka, was from hardened vagabonds. Lomov was from the prosperous peasants of the K-c. Uyezd. All the Lomovs lived as a family, and, apart from legal matters, were engaged in usury, harboring vagabonds and stolen property. Soon the Lomovs decided that they were not governed, and they began to take more and more risks in various lawless enterprises. Not far from the village they had a big farm, where a man lived six robber Kirghiz. One night they were all cut. Lomovs were accused of killing their employees. During the investigation and trial, all their condition went to pieces, and Lomov’s uncle and nephew got into our hard labor.
Soon in the prison turned up Gavrilka, a rogue and a tramp who took the blame for the death of the Kirghiz for himself. The Lomovs knew that Gavrilka was a criminal, but they did not quarrel with him. And suddenly Uncle Lomov stabbed Gavrilka with an awl because of the girl. Lomovs lived in the jail rich, for which the major hated them. Lomov was tried, although the wound was a scratch. The culprit was added deadline and carried through a thousand. The major was pleased.
On the second day after the arrival in the city the inspector came to our prison. He entered sternly and majestically, followed by a large retinue. Silently walked around the general barracks, looked into the kitchen, tried the cabbage soup. They pointed at me: they say, from the nobility. The general nodded his head, and within two minutes left the prison. The prisoners were blinded, perplexed, and remained perplexed.
VI. Castigable animals
Buying a nest entertained prisoners much more than a high visit. A horse was used in a prison for household needs. One fine morning she died. The major ordered the immediate purchase of a new horse. The charge was given to the prisoners themselves, among whom were real experts. It was a young, beautiful and strong horse. Soon he became a favorite of the whole prison.
The convicts loved animals, but the jail was not allowed to breed a lot of domestic animals and poultry. In addition to Sharik, there were two more dogs in the prison: Belka and Kultiapka, which I brought back from work as a puppy.
Geese we got wound up accidentally. They amused the prisoners and even became known in the city. All the brood geese went with the prisoners to work. They always adjoined to the largest party and were grazing nearby. When the party moved back to the prison, they also rose. But, in spite of devotion, they were all ordered to be slaughtered.
Goat Vaska appeared in the prison as a small, white kid and became a common favorite. From Vaska grew a big goat with long horns. He also began to go to work with us. Vaska would have lived in the prison for a long time, but once, returning to the convicts from work, he caught the eye of the major. Immediately ordered to slaughter the goat, sell the skin, and give the meat to the prisoners.
Lived with us in the prison and the eagle. Someone brought him to the prison, wounded and exhausted. He lived with us for three months and never went out of his corner. Lonely and viciously he expected death, not trusting anyone. To the eagle died in the wild, the prisoners dropped him from the rampart to the steppe.
It took me almost a year to reconcile with life in the prison. To get used to this life could not and other prisoners. Anxiety, fervor and impatience formed the most characteristic property of this place.
Dreaminess gave the prisoners a sullen and gloomy look. They did not like to expose their hopes for show. Simple-mindedness and frankness were despised. And if someone started to dream out loud, he was roughly upset and ridiculed.
In addition to these naive and rustic chatterboxes, all the rest were divided into good and evil, sullen and light. Gloomy and evil were much more. There was also a group of desperate, there were very few of them. Without striving for a goal, no man lives. Having lost the purpose and hope, the person turns into a monster, and the goal for all was freedom.
Once, on a hot summer day, all katorga began to be built on an island courtyard. I knew nothing about it, but meanwhile katorga had been worried for three days already. The pretext for this explosion was food, to which everyone was unhappy.
The convicts are quarrelsome, but they all rise together rarely. However, this time the excitement was not in vain. In this case, there are always instigators. This is a special type of people, naively confident in the possibility of justice. They are too hot to be cunning and prudent, so they always lose. Instead of the main goal, they often rush to the small things, and this destroys them.
In our prison there were several instigators. One of them is Martynov, a former hussar, a hot, restless and suspicious person; the other – Vasily Antonov, clever and cold-blooded, with an insolent gaze and an arrogant smile; both honest and truthful.
Our non-commissioned officer was frightened. After building up, people politely asked him to tell the major that the penal servant wanted to talk to him. I also went out to build, thinking that there was some kind of verification. Many looked at me with surprise and mocked me angrily. Eventually, Kulikov approached me, took me by the hand and led me out of the ranks. Puzzled, I went to the kitchen, where there were many people.
In the hall I met the nobleman T-vsky. He explained to me that if we were there, we would be accused of a riot and handed over to the court. Akim Akimych and Isai Fomich also did not take part in the riots. There were all the sharp Poles and a few gloomy, harsh prisoners who were convinced that nothing good would come of this.
Major flew angry, followed by a scribe Dyatlov, who actually ran the prison and had an influence on the major, a cunning but not bad man. A minute later one convict went to the guardhouse, then another and a third. The Dyatlov’s handmaid went to our kitchen. Here he was told that they had no complaints. He immediately reported to the major, who ordered us to rewrite us separately from the dissatisfied. Paper and the threat of giving disgruntled people to court acted. All of a sudden everyone was happy.
The next day the food has improved, although for a short while. The major began to visit the prison more often and find riots. The detainees could not calm down for a long time, were disturbed and puzzled. Many laughed themselves over themselves, as if executing themselves for a claim.
That same evening I asked Petrov if the prisoners were not angry with the nobles because they did not go out with everyone. He did not understand what I was trying to achieve. But I realized that I would never be accepted into a partnership. In Petrov’s question: “What kind of comrade are you to us?” – was heard genuine geniality and simple-minded bewilderment.
Of the three nobles who were in the prison, I only talked with Akim Akimych. He was a kind person, he helped me with advice and some services, but sometimes he made me sad in his even, honest voice.
In addition to these three Russians, eight Poles visited us in my time. The best of them were painful and intolerant. Educated were only three: B-sky, M-cue and old man Zh-cue, a former professor of mathematics.
Some of them were sent for 10-12 years. With the Circassians and Tatars, with Isaiah Fomich, they were affectionate and affable, but avoided the other convicts. Only one Old Believer Old Believer deserved their respect.
The higher authorities in Siberia belonged to noble criminals differently than to the other exiles. Following the higher authorities, the lower commanders got used to this. The second category of penal servitude, where I was, was much heavier than the other two grades. The device of this category was military, very similar to the prisoner companies, about which everyone spoke with horror. On the nobility in our prison, the authorities looked more cautious and did not punish as often as ordinary prisoners.
Relief in work we tried to do only once: I and B-cue for three whole months went to the engineering office as scribes. This happened even under Lieutenant Colonel G-Cove. He was affectionate with the prisoners and loved them as a father. In the first month after his arrival, G-kok quarreled with our major and left.
We copied the papers, when suddenly the higher authorities followed the command to return us to their previous work. Then we went for two years with B-m on some work, most often in the workshop.
Meanwhile, M-cue became more sad and gloomier over the years. He was inspired only by remembering his old and sick mother. Finally, the mother of M-tskogo procured forgiveness for him. He went to the settlement and stayed in our city.
Of the others, two were young people, sent for short periods, poorly educated, but honest and simple. The third, A-Chukovsky, was too simple, but the fourth, Gd, an elderly man, made a bad impression on us. It was a crude, philistine soul, with the habits of a shopkeeper. He was not interested in anything, except his craft. He was a skilled painter. Soon the whole city began to demand B-ma for painting walls and ceilings. To work with him began to send and his other comrades.
B-m painted the house to our major-major, who after that began to patronize the nobles. Soon the major-major was brought to trial, and resigned. After retiring, he sold the estate and fell into poverty. We met him later in a worn frock-coat. In the uniform he was a god. He looked like a servant in a frock coat.
IX. The escape
Soon after the change of the major-major, penal servitude was abolished and instead of it a military prisoner company was founded. A special branch was also left, and dangerous war criminals were sent to it until the discovery of the heaviest hard labor in Siberia.
For us, life continued as before, only the authorities changed. A staff officer, a company commander and four chief officers, who were on duty in turn, were appointed. In place of the disabled, twelve non-commissioned officers and a quartermaster were appointed. Corporals from the prisoners were wound up, and Akim Akimych immediately turned out to be a corporal. All this remained in the office of the commandant.
The main thing was that we got rid of the former major. The frightened species disappeared, now everyone knew that the right would be punished by mistake instead of the one guilty. The non-commissioned officers turned out to be decent people. They tried not to look at how they carried and sold vodka. Like disabled people, they went to the bazaar and brought provisions to the prisoners.
Further years have faded from my memory. Only the passionate desire for a new life gave me strength to wait and hope. I reconsidered my past life and strictly judged myself. I swore to myself that in the future I will not make past mistakes.
Sometimes we had shoots. When I ran two. After the change of the major, his spy A-v was left without protection. He was a daring, resolute, intelligent and cynical man. He was drawn to the attention of the prisoner of a special branch of Kulikov, a man who was not young, but strong. They became friends and agreed to escape.
Without escort, it was impossible to escape. In one of the battalions, standing in the fortress, served as a Pole named Koller, an elderly energetic person. Coming to the service in Siberia, he fled. He was caught and held for two years in prisoner companies. When he was returned to the soldiers, he began to serve zealously, for which he was made a corporal. He was ambitious, presumptuous, and knew his own worth. Kulikov chose him as a friend. They conspired and appointed a day.
It was in the month of June. The fugitives arranged so that they, along with the prisoner Shilkin, were sent to plaster empty barracks. Koller, with a young recruit, was escort. After an hour’s work, Kulikov and A-in told Shilkin that they were following the wine. After a while Shilkin realized that his comrades had fled, quit his job, went straight to the prison, and told the sergeant-major everything.
The criminals were important, messengers were sent to all the volosts to declare the fugitives and leave their signs everywhere. They wrote to the neighboring counties and provinces, the Cossacks were sent to chase.
This incident broke the monotonous life of the prison, and the escape responded in all souls. The commandant himself came to the prison. The detainees behaved boldly, with strict solidity. The prisoners were sent to work under a reinforced escort, and in the evening they were counted several times. But the prisoners behaved decently and independently. Kulikov and A-vym all were proud.
For a whole week, intensified searches continued. The detainees received all the news of the maneuvers of the authorities. Days after eight after the escape, they attacked the track of the fugitives. The next day in the city they began to say that the fugitives were caught seventy versts from the prison. Finally the sergeant-major announced that by the evening they would be brought directly to the guardhouse at the prison.
At first, everyone was angry, then dejected, and then they began to laugh at the caught ones. Kulikova and A-va were now humiliated as much as they had previously been extolled. When they were brought, bound hand and foot, all katorga poured out to see what would happen to them. The fugitives were chained and taken to court. Learning that the fugitives had no other choice but to surrender, everyone began to follow the proceedings in court.
A-woo was awarded five hundred sticks, Kulikov was given fifteen hundred. Koller lost everything, went two thousand and was sent somewhere a prisoner. A-wa punished weakly. In the hospital, he said that now everything is ready. Returning after his punishment in the prison, Kulikov behaved as if he had never left him. Despite this, the prisoners stopped respecting him.
X. Quitting the Katorga
All this happened in the last year of my hard labor. This year I lived easier. Between the prisoners I had many friends and friends. In the city among the military I had friends, and I resumed communication with them. Through them I could write to my homeland and receive books.
The nearer the time for release, the more patient I became. Many convicts sincerely and joyfully congratulated me. It seemed to me that everyone became more affable with me.
On the day of liberation, I walked around the barracks to say goodbye to all the prisoners. Some of them shook hands with me in a comradely way, others knew that I know people in the city, that I will go from here to the masters and sit next to them as an equal. They said goodbye to me not as a comrade, but as a gentleman. Some turned away from me, did not answer my farewell, and looked with some kind of hatred.
About ten minutes after the convicts left for work, I left the prison to never return to it. In the smithy, to unfasten the shackles, I was escorted not by a convoy with a gun, but by a non-commissioned officer. Our detainees, however, shook us. They were busy, they wanted to do everything as best they could. The shackles fell. Freedom, a new life. What a glorious moment!