19. Buried Alive

[Moscow?]: Tvo skoropech. A. A. Levenson, [1905?]

Omsk, a Siberian city located on the Irtysh and Om rivers, was a major destination for Russian exile and penal servitude in the nineteenth century. In a letter, Dostoevsky wrote to his brother of his years there as ‘a time during which I was buried alive and shut up in a coffin’. The clues to Raskolnikov’s location at the end of Crime and Punishment, given in the previous caption, allow the reader to imagine that Raskolnikov too has found himself in Omsk.

This postcard, printed ‘in aid of the Saint Evgeniia Community’, depicts the general officers’ building of the penal colony located in Omsk. The postcard’s own captions do not make this clear – the Russian version says simply ‘Omsk. Gates’. Would senders and recipients of this card have known the bleak view? The Cambridge copy, sadly unused, provides no clues.

The Saint Evgeniia Community, a women’s charitable community and part of the Sisters of Mercy, published ephemera for fundraising. The censor’s date (on the verso) – a standard addition to all printed material at the time – usefully indicates the year of production, not otherwise given. The card was printed by the Moscow-based A. A. Levenson Printing Company, a manufacturer of illustrated books and pamphlets as well as postcards and posters.

Kristina McGuirk

Extended captions