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spect; and as early as possible Sunday morning I called upon the ispravnik, introduced myself as an American traveler, exhibited my open letters, and succeeded in making an engagement with that official to meet him at the old prison about noon.

The ostrog of Verkhni Udinsk, which serves at the same time as a local prison, a forwarding prison, and a place of temporary detention for persons awaiting trial, is an old weatherbeaten, decaying log-building situated on the high right bank of the Selenga River, about a mile below the town. It does not differ essentially from a log étape of the old Siberian type except in being a little higher from foundation to roof, and in having a sort of gallery in every kamera, or cell, so arranged as to serve the purpose of a second story. This gallery, which was reached by a steep flight of steps, seemed to me to have been put in as an afterthought in order to increase the amount of floor space available for nares, or sleeping-platforms. The prison had evidently been put in as good order

as possible for our inspection: half the prisoners were out in the court-yard, the doors and windows of nearly all the kameras had been thrown open to admit the fresh air, and the floors of the corridors and cells did not seem to me to be disgracefully dirty. The prison was originally built to accommodate 170 prisoners. At the time of our visit it contained 250, and the ispravnik admitted, in reply to my questions, that in the late fall and winter it frequently held 700. The prisoners were then compelled to lie huddled together on the floors, under the low sleeping-platforms, in the corridors, and even out in the court-yard. What the condition of things would be when 700 poor wretches were locked up for the night in an air space intended for 170, and in winter, when the windows could not be opened without freezing to death all who were forced to lie near them, I could partly imagine. The prison at such times must be a perfect hell of misery.

Mr. M. I. Orfanoff (Or-fán-off), a wellknown Russian officer who inspected this

ostrog at intervals for a number of years previous to our visit, has described it as follows in a book published at Moscow under all the limitations of the censorship:

The first ostrog in the Trans-Baikal is that of Verkhni Udinsk. It stands on the outskirts of the

town, on the steep, high bank of the Selenga River. Over the edge of this bank, distant only five or six fathoms from the ostrog, are thrown all the prison filth and refuse, so that the first thing that you no

He was simply astounded. "How can people sleep," he exclaimed, "on this wet, foul floor and under such insupportable conditions?" He shouted indignantly at the warden and the other prison authorities, but he could change nothing.

It has been argued by some of my critics that I exaggerate the bad condition of Siberian prisons and étapes; but I think I have said nothing worse than the words that I have above quoted from a book written by an officer in


I, 2. THE NEW PRISON IN VERKHNI UDINSK. 3. TYPE OF NEW TRANS-BAIKAL ÉTAPES. tice as you approach it at any time except in winter is an intolerable stench. The prison itself is an extremely old two-story log-building intended to accommodate 140 prisoners.1 During my stay in Siberia I had occasion to visit it frequently. I never saw it when it held less than 500, and at times there were packed into it more than 800.2 I remember very well a visit that I once made to it with the governor of the Trans-Baikal. He arrived in winter and went to the prison early in the morning, so that the outer door of the corridor was opened [for the first time that day] in his presence. The stench that met him was so great that, in spite of his desire to conceal from the prisoners his recognition of the

the service of the Russian Government and published at Moscow in 1883 under all the limitations and restrictions of the censorship.4

fact that their accommodations were worse than those provided for dogs, he could not at once enter the building. He ordered the opposite door to be thrown open, and did not himself enter until a strong wind had been blowing for some time through the prison. The first thing that he saw in one corner of the corridor was an overflowing "parasha,"3 and through the ceiling was dripping filth from a similar parasha in the story above. In that corner of the corridor he found six men lying on the floor asleep.

Through this prison of Verkhni Udinsk pass every year educated and refined men and women sent to the Trans-Baikal for political offenses, and through it Madame Breshkofskaya passed four times on her way to and from the mines of Kara. I am glad, however, to be able to say that the old ostrog at Verkhni Udinsk will soon become, if it has not already become, a thing of the past. A large new forwarding prison had just been finished at the time of our arrival, and it was to be opened, the ispravnik said, as soon as the necessary ar

1 The ispravnik told me 170. The lesser number is probably nearer the truth.

2 The italics are Mr. Orfanoff's own.

3 This is the name given by Russian prisoners to the excrement tub.

4 "Afar" (V'Dalee), by M. I. Orfanoff, pp. 220-222. Moscow: Kushnereff & Co., 1883.

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rangements could be made for the larger guard that it would require.

As soon as we had finished our inspection of the old ostrog, we went with the ispravnik to see the new prison that was intended to take its place. It was a large four-story structure of brick, stuccoed and painted white, with two spacious wings, a large court-yard, and a separate building for the accommodation of political prisoners and the prison guard. The kameras were all large, well lighted, and well ventilated, and every one of them above the basement story had an extensive outlook over the surrounding country through at least three large windows. The corridors were twelve or fifteen feet wide; the stairways were of stone with iron balustrades; the solitary-confinement cells were as spacious as an ordinary American hall-bedroom; the arrangements for heating, ventilation, and cleanliness seemed to me to be as nearly perfect as they could be made; and as a whole the prison impressed me as being the very best I had seen in Russia, and one of the best I had ever seen in any country. Its cost was about 200,000 rubles ($100,000), and it was intended to accommodate 440 prisoners. I expressed my satisfaction to the ispravnik, and said that I had not seen so good a prison in the Empire.

"Yes," he replied; "if they do not overcrowd it, it will be very comfortable. But if we have to shut up 700 prisoners in the old prison we shall probably be expected to put 3000 into this one, and then the state of things will be almost as bad as ever." Whether the ispravnik's fears have been justified by events, I do not know; but the fact remains that the new prison at Verkhni Udinsk is far and away the best building of its kind that we saw in the Empire except at St. Petersburg, and we were more than gratified to see at last some tangible evidence that the Russian Government does not regard the sufferings of its exiled criminals with absolute indifference.

We left Verkhni Udinsk on Monday, October 19, for a ride of about three hundred miles to the town of Chita, which is the capital of the Trans-Baikal. The weather was more wintry than any that we had yet experienced; but no snow had fallen, the sky was generally clear, and we did not suffer much from cold except at night. At first the road ran up the shallow, barren, uninteresting valley of the Uda (Oó-da) River, between nearly parallel ranges of low mountains, and presented, so far as we could see, little that was interesting. The leaves had all fallen from the trees; the flowers, with the exception of here and there a frost-bitten dandelion, had entirely disappeared; and winter was evidently close at hand. We traveled night and day without rest, stopping only now and then to visit a Buddhist lamasery by the roadside or to inspect an étape. The Government


has recently expended three or four hundred thousand rubles ($150,000 to $200,000) in the erection of a line of new étapes through the Trans-Baikal. These buildings, the general appearance of which is shown in one of the three combined illustrations on page 80, are rather small and are not well spoken of by the officers of the exile administration; but they seemed to us to be a great improvement upon the étapes between Tomsk and Irkutsk.

On Thursday, October 22, about fifty miles

(Cheé-tah), and took up our quarters in a hotel kept by a Polish exile and known as the "Hotel Peterburg." Chita, which is the capital of the Trans-Baikal and the residence of the governor, is a large, straggling, provincial town of about four thousand inhabitants, and, as will be seen from the illustration on page 81, does not differ essentially from other Siberian towns of its class. It has a public library, a large building used occasionally as a theater, and fairly good schools; politically and socially

it is perhaps the most important place in the territory of which it is the capital. Its chief interest for us, however, lay in the fact that it is a famous town in the history of the exile system. To Chita were banished, between 1825 and 1828, most of the gallant young noblemen who vainly endeavored to overthrow the Russian autocracy and to establish a constitutional form of


from Chita we crossed a high, mountainous ridge near the post station of Domnokluchefskaya (Dom-no-kloochéf-ska-ya) and rode down its eastern slope to one of the tributaries of the great river Amur (Am-moór). We had crossed the watershed that divides the river systems of the Arctic Ocean from the river systems of the Pacific, and from that time America began


to seem nearer to us across the Pacific than across Siberia. American goods of all kinds, brought from California, suddenly made their appearance in the village shops; and as I saw the American tin-ware, lanterns, and "Yankee notions," and read the English labels on the cans of preserved peaches and tomatoes, it seemed to me as if in the immediate future we ought from some high hill to catch sight of San Francisco and the Golden Gate. A few kerosene lamps and a shelf full of canned fruits and vegetables brought us in imagination five thousand miles nearer home.

About noon we arrived cold, tired, and hungry at the Trans-Baikal town of Chita

government at the accession to the throne of the Emperor Nicholas in December, 1825. Two of the log houses in which these socalled Decembrist exiles lived are still standing, and one of them is now occupied as a carpenter's shop, and is a general rendezvous by later politicals who followed the example set by the Decembrists and met the same fate.

The colony of exiles in Chita at the time of our visit comprised some of the most interesting men and women whom we met in the Trans-Baikal. We brought letters of introduction to them from many of their comrades in other parts of Siberia, were received by them with warm-hearted hospitality and perfect trust,

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and spent with them many long winter evenings in the upper room of the old Decembrist house, talking of the Russian revolutionary movement, of the fortress of Petropavlovsk, of the Kharkoff Central Prison, and of the mines of Kara. Such meetings as that pictured above were of almost daily or nightly occurrence, and are among the pleasantest recollections of our East Siberian life. I shall not undertake, at the end of an article, to make the reader acquainted with these political exiles, but shall reserve an account of their lives and characters for a future paper, descriptive of our second visit to Chita, on our way back from the mines, when we spent in the upper room of the little carpenter-shop the greater part of every night for two weeks.

Owing to the absence of the governor of the province, we could not obtain in Chita permission to visit and inspect the Kara prisons and mines; but the governor's chief of staff, upon whom I called, did not seem to have any objection to our going there and making the attempt. He said he would telegraph the commanding officer about us, and gave me one of his visiting-cards as a substitute for a letter of introduction. It did not seem to me likely that a simple visiting-card, without even so much as a penciled line, would unlock the doors of the dread Kara prisons; but it was all that we could get, and on the 24th of October we set out for our remaining ride of three hundred miles to the mines.

George Kennan.

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