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The Contemporary Review, Volume 36, September 1879

Must be escorted by two gensdarmes


The

arbitrary deportations are decreed by the "Third Section," or Secret Police, which is under the Emperor's personal direction. Formerly, this dreaded office had the power of administering corporal punishment, in secret, to persons of the upper classes, male or female. At the Sassulitch trial, the counsel for the defence made a dark allusion to this practice, which created a deep impression in Court. It was a reference to a whipping-machine once in use, and of which some of those present--ladies, as well as gentlemen--may have had personal experience. A correspondent has given the following description:--The suspected person, who could not be brought to trial, but whom it was intended to castigate, would be invited to call at the Office of the Secret Police. After a few moments' conversation with the dread functionary, the floor would suddenly sink beneath the visitor's feet, and he would find himself suspended by the waist, all that part of the body below it being under the floor, and concealed from view. Then invisible hands and equally invisible rods would rapidly perform their duty--the trap-door would rise again--and the visitor would be bowed out with great courtesy, and go home, carrying with him substantial marks to remind him of his interview.

Though this more than Oriental custom has been abolished, enough remains of barbarity to explain why successive chiefs of the hated police Hermandad--Trepoff, Mesentzoff, and Drentelen--should have

been the mark of the bullet of popular revenge. A Russian writer says:--

"A history of the secret doings, of all the horrors and crimes perpetrated by this disgraceful institution, would fill up many volumes, before the contents of which the most sensational novels would appear tame and shallow. There is scarcely any sphere of public or private life which is exempted from the irresponsible control of this Inquisition of the nineteenth century. The verdict of a Court has no value whatever for the Third Section. Not only acquitted political offenders are as a rule transported, administratively, to some distant town of the Empire, but even the judges themselves, when they are considered to have passed too lenient a verdict, are liable to be forced into resigning their office, and to be then _exiled in company with the very prisoners who had stood before them_!"

Lest this description should appear to be overdrawn, I may quote from the letter of the St. Petersburg correspondent of an English journal, which is certainly not unfavourable to the Government of Alexander II. The letter was written after the recent proclamation of a state of siege. And the writer says:--

"As proofs and instances, not so much of martial law as of the repressive measures adopted (in many cases by ordinary administrative agency, without the machinery of martial law), I may mention that at the present time, as I am well informed, _more than 600 persons of the privileged classes are under arrest, to be deported to Siberia without trial_. In one of the temporary governor-generalships in the south of the Empire (Odessa), sixty privileged persons have been already sent to Siberia without trial, and 200 persons of this class are under arrest to be judged. So great is the number of persons of this category to be escorted that a practical difficulty is said to have arisen in connection with their deportation. A noble, or privileged person, who has not been judicially sentenced, when sent to Siberia by 'administrative process' (as it is called, _i.e._, by the orders of the Third Section, or Secret Police), must be escorted by two gensdarmes, it being against the laws to manacle a privileged person who is uncondemned. It appears that there are not gensdarmes enough thus to escort the number of persons to be deported, and the Ministry of Secret Police has, I understand, proposed to get rid of this difficulty by sending the privileged persons fettered like ordinary criminals.... The Third Section, or Secret Police, which is in its proceedings essentially _extra leges_, claims to act independently of any other department of the Empire. This institution, which lays hold of suspected persons, whether justly or unjustly suspected, and consigns them to Siberia at its pleasure, savours more of Asiatic lawlessness than of enlightened European rule, such as it must be the desire of all in authority to see established throughout the Empire.... I have myself met with respectable, honourable men, who have been arrested and imprisoned, in some cases for a few weeks, in other cases during months, _followed by years of exile in Siberia, without any charge being brought against them_; and it is the possibility of this recurring to them, or to others, that constitutes a Reign of Terror."


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