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The Russian Knout

The Russian Knout image
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One uever kuows for certaiu how ■ tnuch of the knout is left in modern Bussia. The telegraph wire still at times sarries the horrid whiz of it from i mote Siberia, and only the other day I i saw mention in news from St. Petersburg of a new imperial ukase, "abolishing the use of the knout for the punishnient of offenses committed by the i antry, which has hitherto been [ ly at the mercy of the local judges in this respect. ' ' I was under the impression that the "local judges" had been deprived of their knout for 20 years or more, but the sender of this message adds that "statistics were submitted to the czar, showing that in tfin years 3,000 person.5, mostly guilty of thefts of produce, had rïied after punishment with the kii out. ! ' Grïintcd the iufliction of the knont, the 3,000 deaths are easily believed. The instrument itself, eupposingthis report to be true, evidently dies harder j than its victims. But even in Russia, ! where the rod and its equivalents have had a more extended and bloody existence than in auy other European state, the humaner spirit of the age has been feit, and one is dispo.sed to regard as 1 aggerated the statements just qaoted. j Certainly we had been given to believe that the kuout was abolished for all but the gravest olïense as long ago as 1866. But Bussia has never been governed wholly by its written laws, and there j are rcgions of that empire whero a ukase may be slow to reach the ' ' local judges. ' ' I The merciful edict of 1866, however, stopped short at the confines of Siberia, and it was with tho object of learning ! to what extent the knout is used in the i Siberia of today that I sought an view with a distinguished and very j teresting exile, M. Alexander j zewski, on a visit to England. M. 1 chaczewski, a Pole by birth, an artist ; by professiou, and in England to arrange for the exhibition of a picture ' which will move the sympathies of j ery friend of the victims of the czar, was a political exile in Siberia at the j age of 21 and suffered ] years in the j mines, during 2 % oi which he carried, night and day, chains of which marks are permanently graven on his ankles. ! Twenty years in all were the days of ! his exile, and he counts himself happy that he did not, like so many of his comrades in oppression, perish under i that cruel yoke. Indeed he speaks ' out bitterness and sáys that even in 1 beria one may often forget oneself. M. Sochaczewski could say much about the knout. He had been many times a witness of its infliction. Tho knout, in fact, was in use in the mines during the whole of M. Sochaczewski's exile, and those who were coudemned to it suif ered iu public. At the present day M. Sochaczewski believed that it was practically I ed in 1893, but the governor retains a j certain discretionary power, which may i mean much in Siberia. Would M. chaczewski describe the punishment? i He took a half sheet of note paper and a pen and made a rapid sketch. "That is the kuout, ' ' he said. A band of leather, ! as is well known, serves the tioner for a handle, and the knout self is a single thong of leather, rough and very hard, tapering toward the extremity, where it is weighted with a ball of lead. With this the executioner - who is generally a reprieved j er - can inflict as great or as little ■ fering as he pleases. "Thus, " said M. Sochaczewski, "the prisoners would sometimes give him a rnble to prove his skill, when he would j strike one of them, apparently with f uil force, across the palm of the hand, but [ the blow would scarcely be feit and i would uot leave a scratch. With the ! same instrument he could kill at a single stroke, and was occasionally bribed by a condemned prisoner to do so, breaking the ribs and almost tearing out the heart. What number of strokes, I asked M. I Sochaczewski, were ordinarily inflicted? He replied that it was of uo great consequence, iuasmuch as punishment with the knout was generally regarded as a I sentence of death. A man under sentence of 100 lashes might die at the third lash, in which case the remaining 97 wonld be given to the corpse. It was possible, if the executiouer did not employ his whole art or strength, for the victim to escape death, but he would then inevitably be a cripple for the rest of his life. There were men in the hospital in his time whom the knout had maimed forever. I asked whether the knout exhausted the resources of penal discipline in Siberia. "By no means," said M. Sochaczewski. He took up his pen again, and scratched me a picture of a whip called the plet, which bas three tails of twisted leather, with bits of metal at the tips. It is a little less deadly than the knont, but an expert flogger can kill his victim at the fifth stroke. There is a difference in flogging with the knout and with the plet. The knout, like the English ' ' cat, ' ' is laid across the back. The three tails of the plet score the back downward, from the nape of the neck to the loins, aud every stroke, properly given, carries away three strips of skin and bites well into the flesh. Yes. M. Sochaczewski I had seen many comrades suffer under the plet. "Protest? To what end?" To protest was to be tied up oneself. The very flogger ran the risk of being cut to j ripees with kuout or plet if he failed to kiil or maim his victim.


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