21. Crimes and Punishment

S. Maksimov (1831–1901)
Sibirʹ i katorga / Siberia and Katorga
St Petersburg: Tipografiia A. Transhelia, 1871

Raskolnikov is sent to Siberia for murder and theft, but the crimes for which a Siberian sentence could be handed out ranged widely. This table shows the number of criminals, divided into columns for males and females, sent to Siberia over a 20-year mid-nineteenth-century span for different categories of crimes. Exiles for murder (including attempted suicide) and theft (11,552/2,979 and 35,414/5,244 respectively) were the most prevalent in the Religious Crimes category (this is the first, long list). Other crimes include falsification of documents (2,943/602) and running away from Siberia (17,805/523).

This table is from the three-volume ethnographic study Siberia and Katorga by Sergei Maksimov. Katorga was a penal labour system in the Russian Empire. In the early 1860s, Maksimov travelled throughout Siberia by government order to collect data on the state of Russia’s penal institutions; after rounds of strict censorship, Siberia and Katorga was published in 1871. The ground-breaking work was the first of its kind, and included the history of exile, as well as detailed accounts of prisoners’ everyday lives and personal stories.

Interestingly, Maksimov’s work refers to the depiction of prisoners’ language in Notes from the House of the Dead, Dostoevsky’s fictional account of life in a Siberian prison.

Ksenia Stepkina

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