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The Cynosure

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Kropotkin, Peter. The Terror in Russia. London: Methuen & Co., 1909. 4th Ed.



Countless instances could be produced to show how the neglect of all laws has become a normal feature of the Russian Administration, and how the police officials consider themselves as the absolute rulers of the country, and therefore permit themselves the most incredible brutalities. Quite a series of such facts were last winter brought before the session of the provincial tribunal of Kazan and the High Chamber of the Kazan judicial district, several police officers being tried there for the tortures they had inflicted upon free citizens, and even for the murder of some of them.

In the introductory remarks it has been mentioned that a considerable number of prosecutions have been started against persons who, during the years 1905-1907, had taken advantage of the liberties granted by the Constitution and acted upon them.

Quite a series of such cases was brought before the Courts during the last few months. The most striking of them was the affair of two Odessa University professors, the Dean and his assistant, who were prosecuted and condemned for having shown leniency towards the students during the excitement and disorders that took place in the University at the very height of the first months of the Liberation Movement of 1905, and for having used all their influence upon both the students and the military to pacify them, as well as to avoid an armed conflict between the troops, the police, and the students.

Writing about this affair to the Moscow Weekly, Prince E. Trubetskoy (who is also a lawyer) said: "To bring out such a condemnation the Court had absolutely to ignore the conditions under which the incriminating events took place," and so it was asked to do by the prosecutor. "It is just as if the Dean of the Messina University were prosecuted for not having taken measures to prevent crumbling of the walls during the earthquake." . . . "The worst is," Prince Obolensky writes, "that the same systematical 'cleaning' is going to be done in all universities." "A series of 'administrative dismissals' of professors already taken place in the Odessa University, and our universities are going to be transformed into 'tea-shops of the Union of Russian Men,' . . . all decent men will have go. And when the moral authority of the professors has been destroyed, and all students' unions forbidden then the universities will again be ripe for the revolution."

In April last, a series of such trials took place, described by the Russian Press as "Revenge trials." At Saratov a group of men were prosecuted for having held peaceful meetings in connection with a strike of railway men in September, 1907, and were condemned to imprisonment in fortresses. At Moscow the local organisation of the Social Democrats prosecuted for what it did at the end of 1905--heaviest accusation being that against a Social Democratic lawyer, Roshkoff, for having edited a daily paper at that time, and inserted in it detailed reports about the progress of the Moscow insurrection of December, 1905.--A hundred and six persons, already tried once, and condemned, for the anti-Governmental meetings and the constitutional manifestations held, in November, 1905, at Novorossiysk, after the Sevastopol rising, were tried again last April--the Military Prosecutor having lodged an appeal against the first sentence of the Court Martial, "because it contained no death sentences!" The new Court, too, could find no means better to please the high authorities, and a third trial will probably take place. In meantime two local lawyers, who had defended the accused, have been exiled from the province; three witnesses--a local teacher, an official of the local post administration, and a military official (a lieutenant-colonel)--who spoke in Court in favour of the accused, have been dismissed. Two Justices of the Peace, who were in the same case, are being prosecuted, and complaints have been made even against officials of the secret police who had spoken before the Court favour of the accused, with the result that the ex-head of police, Kiréef, has been dismissed. Inquiries are also being held to consider the case of a gendarme officer, of the commander of the military district, and even of the President of the Court Martial himself--all of them being accused of 'leniency towards the accused.1

We might add a quantity of similar seemingly insignificant cases that are in reality equally important, owing to their numbers. Thus, also in April last, a lawyer was prosecuted for having spoken, on November 21, 1905, in a village of the Vladimir government about the necessity of a Constituent Assembly, and having exclaimed, "Bread, light, and liberty for the people!" And again, a Cossack woman, Davydoff, was prosecuted for having organised several Liberation meetings three years ago, while she was still a girl. The lawyer was acquitted, but the girl was sent to Siberia in exile, and there are scores of thousands of people--thousands of them employed in the meantime in the regular service of the State--who now live in Russia under the menace of being dragged some day to prison, and thence before a Court Martial, like the woman Davydoff, for having taken part in the strikes and the Liberation Movement of 1905.

During the debates in the Duma, on March 7, 1909, the Deputy Tcheidze gave the following interesting figures. During the last four years 237 ex-Deputies of the Duma were condemned to various terms of imprisonment, eighteen being sent to the Siberian mines. At the same time 406 editors of periodicals were condemned to prison, fortress, and penal servitude; 1,085 periodicals were forbidden. During the last sixteen months 418 fines, to the amount of £29,100, were imposed by the Administration upon publishers of newspapers.

"Civic freedom in Russia," said Tcheidze, "is now confined to the hangman alone, and executions have become an everyday incident."



1Ryech, April, 1909. Russkiya Védomosti, February 20, 1909.

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