The history and romance of crime (1900) by Arthur Griffiths

The history and romance of crime from the earliest time to the present day

The history and romance of crime from the earliest time to the present day



The huge empire founded by the Czars of Russia in the latter half of the sixteenth century was based upon absolute autocracy. The Czar by virtue of his divine origin exercised absolute authority over the many diverse elements consolidated under his sovereign will. From the earliest times, no idea of personal liberty was tolerated; the slightest eءpression of independence in thought and action was peremptorily forbidden. 
The attitude of the government has ever been uncompromisingly severe toward all malcontents, and Russian history for the last two centuries is one long record of conspiracy constantly afoot, and constantly repressed by savagely cruel coercion. 

Imprisonment, the absolute loss of physical freedom, has taken a wider meaning in Russia than in other countries, for it is the lot in one form or another of two classes of offenders: the ordinary criminal under a civil code, from which capital punishment is now excluded, and the political dissidents deemed criminal by the arbitrary government of the land and deserving of exemplary and vindictive punishment. Russian prisons are in some respects the worst and most horrible the world has seen, and they are more especially reprehensible in these latter days when humane considerations are allowed weight in the administration of penal institutions.

 In giving a description of Russian prisons as they have been and to some extent still remain, it is fair to state that the facts are authenticated by unimpeachable evidence. We have the statements of eye-witnesses speaking from their own knowledge, and these unsparing critics have not always been foreigners and outsiders;

 Russians themselves have also raised their indignant voices in energetic pro- test, and official reports can be quoted to substantiate many of the charges. On the other hand, Russian methods have found champions and apologists among travellers, who were, perhaps, superficial observers, easily misled, and their accounts cannot in the least upset the conclusions arrived at by more thoroughgoing and disinterested investigators. 

Such men as George Kennan, indefatigable, honest, courageous and of the highest veracity, have framed an indictment from which there is no appeal. 

The facts have been vouched for, moreover, by the trustworthy narratives of those who have themselves been personal victims of the worst horrors inflicted, and buttressed by confidential reports from great Russian functionaries sent directly to the Czar. Secret despatches which have fallen into hands for which they were not intended, and have been made public by the searchers for truth, frankly admit the justice of the sentence passed upon at least one frightful portion of Russian penal institutions, — the system of exile to Eastern Siberia. 

Governor-General Anuchin twice addressed Czar Alexander III, in 1880 and 1882, after long tours of personal inspection, in such condemnatory terms that the mighty ruler upon whom the terrible burden of responsibility rested, was moved to endorse the report in his own handwriting with the words, " It is inexcusable, even criminal, to allow such a state of affairs in Siberia to continue." The frightful system which allowed an irresponsible bureaucracy to sentence untried persons to exile by the so-called " administrative process " is fully explained and described in the present volume.

Arthur George Frederick Griffiths (9 December 1838 – 24 March 1908) was a British military officer, prison administrator and author who published more than 60 books during his lifetime. He was also a military historian who wrote extensively about the wars of the 19th century and was for a time military correspondent for The Times newspaper.

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