Political Exile and the Martyrdom of the Decembrists



Political repression already had a long history in Russia before 1823, and though the term “political exile” (politicheskaia ssylka) did not appear in juridical legislation until the nineteenth century, exile for political reasons commenced no later than Ivan IV’s reign. The deporting of political opponents gained rapid pace during Anna Ionnovna’s and Elizabeth Petrovna’s reigns, when a number of “secret prisoners” (sekretnye arestanty or uzniki) were assigned to fortress jails (ostroga), monastic dungeons, or literally holes in the ground in Siberia. Later, Catherine Il’s Secret Office kept busy dispatching a number of undesirables beyond the Urals, most notably Aleksandr Radishchev.1 The findings of an investigation conducted early in Alexander I’s reign suggested the Secret Office was even more active during Paul I’s brief reign, when more than 700 people were incarcerated through “personal rulings,” though the number exiled for expressly political reasons during that period is unknown. Despite Alexander’s immediate abolition of the office, wartime exigencies and other concerns gave rise to subsequent secret police departments such as the Committee of Public Safety (1807) and the Ministry of Police’s Special Chancery (1810). Military police were first introduced in 1815,2 and the secret investigation unit created after the Semenovskii Mutiny was mentioned in Chapter 1.


State Crime Special Committee Political Dissident State Criminal Political Repression 
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© Andrew A. Gentes 2010

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