Exile, Murder and Madness in Siberia, 1823-61 by Andrew A. Gentes

By Andrew A. Gentes

Regardless of stories of exile proving disastrous to the quarter, 300,000 Russian topics, from political dissidents to the aged and mentally disabled, have been deported to Siberia from 1823-61. Their tales of actual and mental affliction, heroism and private resurrection, are stated during this compelling background of tsarist Siberian exile.

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Extra resources for Exile, Murder and Madness in Siberia, 1823-61

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The regime also used exile to rid the Caucasus and Central Asia of Muslims and other inhabitants. 95 Given that many would have been elderly, crippled, or mentally afflicted, the Senate was knowingly condemning many to death in an unfamiliar and hostile climate. Likening this particular decision to ethnic cleansing would be going too far, but other evidence shows that in addition to individual political and religious figures96 ethnic groups were targeted by the Russian military. In 1822 Robert Lyall, an English botanist and member of London’s Royal Asiatic Society who had been living in Russia for several years, traveled with a fellow countryman and two Italians to the Caucasus.

With regard to Siberian exile, five counter-conduct communities may be said to have existed. First was the community of Siberian officials who habitually produced a network of antidisciplinary acts that constituted an entire sphere of counter-conduct. There is abundant evidence of the disparity between Petersburg’s orders and Siberian officials’ behavior. For instance, writing years after the event, a former katorga official recalled that he did not report two men he knew to have escaped from their places of exile because he believed they were occupied at the time by more rehabilitative activities.

In June 1830 the Tobol´sk Exile Office (TobPS) informed the Senate: Most were being exiled without having committed “any crime at all… and cannot complete the march and find themselves in City Hospitals [along the way],” where they were routinely ignored by staff who resented having these wretches foisted on them. , Siberia, if these people got that far). The charitable institutions the Senate so casually invoked hardly existed, however, and so guberniia administrators often felt they had no other choice.

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