A Look Through the Judas Hole

by David M Skipton, Posted: 2008-06-08 Samovar Email the Link to this Exhibit

Exhibit Categories: CensorshipImperialPrison and CampsSocial Philately

Judas Hole

Topic Summary:

The Imperial Russian prison-and-exile system exerted a profound influence on the empire's development, culture, politics, social and natural sciences. Russia's history cannot be properly understood without taking prison and exile into consideration. The tsarist penal regime was a reflection of the greater struggle outside the walls, and for many of the early leaders of the Soviet Union, prison had been their university. The intentional horrors of the GULAG were based on what they had learned while 'in class,' but magnified a thousand-fold. This field of study is also an important one from the sociological standpoint. Russian language, art, literature, mannerisms, music, and demography have all been profoundly influenced by the penal system. This exhibit will examine seven areas:

  • The authorities - the police and the Ministries of Internal Affairs and Justice;
  • From citizen to inmate (the "catchers" and the caught) - the process of becoming an inmate or an exile;
  • Types of incarceration facilities;
  • The prison censorship regime - who was authorized to censor inmate correspondence, and under what circumstances;
  • "The Paper Battle" - inmate and outsider efforts to circumvent censorship and the authorities' efforts to counter them;
  • Inmate correspondence - types of mail, restrictions and postal services allowed to convicts;
  • Aftermath - prisons, camps and courts in the early Soviet period.