More Russians and their wicked whipping ways

cutaway of how an unusual Russian birching procedure might have looked.

Cutaway of how an unusual Russian birching procedure might have looked.

An unusual Russian birching procedure might have looked

How preparations for an unusual Russian birching procedure might have looked.

judicial flogging

Russian judicial punishment

Above and here a more usual Russian judicial punishment

Most of the illustrations above depict the more typical judicial flogging of Russia during the 18th and 19th centuries, but the first two illustrate a rather more unusual procedure.

Picture this, if you will, a group of men and sometimes women milling around in a large room, perhaps having paid a small coin. On one wall there are a row of holes through which women have been made to bend so that only their legs and hips are visible. By now the audience is looking at a row of bared bottoms of women whose skirts have been turned up and whose heads and everything above their waists is out of sight on the other side of a wall.

It has been hard trying to find out more about this ever since it first cropped up. Somewhere there is even a contemporary Russian movie that depicts this very practice. The practice in question is a very public-private judicial correction for Russian ladies with a certain social standing during the 18th and 19th centuries.

Women found guilty of various misdemeanours might be, and usually were, flogged. If they were from the lower orders they could expect to be summarily chastised at the local police station as illustrated in the third picture (actually from Austria in this instance) by a male officer on the bare bottom whilst bent over a birching block. If they were lucky they were indeed only birched, although the Russians often favoured something called a knout, which was a heavy multi-tailed whip.

However, it was not only lower class women who were punished. Any woman might be hauled before the courts in age that might be described as an era of zero tolerance. The feeling was that respectable women should not be out at night and a well-dressed woman might not be what she seemed. Therefore even the aristocracy might be rounded up after a night on the tiles.

Of course the very rich and powerful might pull rank, but what if Daddy or the husband did not know where you were and she wanted to keep it that way?

Now here is the dilemma – it would not do to be identified at public flogging; you might as well not go through with it and what if you took the risk? Might not a powerful Duke or minister take a dim view of a policeman who had birched his wife?

Another thing to consider is that the lower orders might have less respect if they could see a certain lady of otherwise high standing being flogged. Also in earlier times leaders like Catherine the Great and Peter the Great and even stressed that the aristocracy should not be above the law. What to do then?

Enter the solution described above. Well-to-do women could pay to be displayed below the waist and keep their identities secret. That way high class courtesans, adulteresses and wilful wayward girls could go on getting away with it and their fathers and husbands need never find out.

The police and officials won out all ways. They got to uphold the law free of the fear of recriminations and made money from the miscreants as well as the spectators. The added benefit was that often the great ladies being flogged did not know who wielded the whip or birch that ravaged their bottoms, so certain gentleman might pay extra to take a turn themselves.

It is not clear how widespread this practice was, maybe someone out there knows more.

7 Responses to “More Russians and their wicked whipping ways”

  1. 1 fatherjim

    I remember reading about Catherine the Great in a work of fiction where she had a woman who had angered the queen placed behind a wall and her head put through a whole to the next room, face down. The woman’s head was shaved and then decorated like a Fabergie egg and a basket was built around her head, making it look like a real decorated, although quite large, egg. Later that day, a party was held where everyone she knew walked by and viewed her head, but never knew who’s head it was.

    Behind the wall, in the meantime, three soldiers of the queen took turns using the woman’s nude body like a cheap whore. They knew not who they were abusing, only that she angered the queen. Likewise, she had no idea who was abusing her, only that they were loyal soldiers to the queen.

    It turned out one of the soldiers was, indeed, her own husband, but she would never know that. Always thought the woman could have used a good whipping while in this predicament, but alas, the authoress did not agree.

    Thanks for the historical tidbits. I wish there were more Russians active on the web. I’m certain their history is so overflowing with anecdotes of this kind. The stories of Russians spanking Polish woman throughout history alone could probably fill a book. Likewise, the Cossacks had an affinity to hanging women by their thumbs and then teaching them salutory lessons upon their bared behinds!

    Count Orloff had his legendary trapdoor in his office through which women would fall, only to hang by their own garments bunched at their armpits. Stationed in the room below, an unseen man would take the woman’s now bared behind to task, as she would scream and beg for mercy from some unseen torment to those watching around her in the Count’s office.

    Women of quality were routinely taken in all their lace and finery to the local police station, horsed across a man’s back, their clothing raised and lowered, baring their pampered behinds to the birch , sometimes, just for voicing an unpopular opinion to the wrong person.

    I have read Rasputin, himself, had the wife of a high ranking military official thrashed upon her bared behind, as her husband was forced to kneel nearby and watch. Her crime, turning down the famed mystic’s sexual advances, despite her being happily married.

    Such a great country, such a beautiful land, and such a rich and colorful history!


    • 2 DJ

      While what you say rather supports this as a Russian tradition it is rather a long way from some women opting for a semi-private punishment.

      personally I don’t think descriptions of rape and torture and beautiful, rich and colourful go together. Not sure we are on quite the same page here.

      Thanks anyway for your comment.


  2. 3 fatherjim

    Sorry, DJ, I wasn’t quite clear. I was merely reporting that the use of HOLES IN THE WALL is well known enough to have made it to popular fiction. The point I was making was that I would have PREFFERED a different punishment than that provided by the author.

    The punishment of women, mostly as one would have punished children in that day is what I say was remarkable, not rape or torture.

    My remarks about the beauty of Russia was merely a statement of my personal opinion concerning the landscape and older achitecture. I find their history , coming from a very old-world nation to their rise of power in the modern world, though chilling, quite remarkable. My statements were not meant to imply anything about rape or torture, and any hint that I was is truly off the mark.

    I’m not making judgements on their politics not their methods, just that their history is rich with stories that fuel the imagination in our shared fantasy world!

    I was just trying to reitterate the validity of your article with anecdotes I have found in my own reading. Sorry, it was misinterpreted. My bad! Won’t happen again!


    • 4 DJ

      That’s OK Jim I got most of that

      it is just that I thought it was worth pointing out that what you said juxtaposition might have created the wrong impression.

      It was a useful fleshing out of this curious custom


  3. 5 George

    Indeed wicked ways but something good is still alive today.
    Young women, even in their first 20s, are often strictly raised by their parents and going on their father’s lap for a sound spanking is as normal as it was in western world before overidulgence and folly hit us as a mass illness.
    Mothers usualy are even stricter and use traditional tools like their wooden hairbrush.

  4. 6 Carla

    That’s hard

  5. 7 Richard

    knot knowing who’s whipping you was a privilage ? Now you have to saw for it And they say the english are the capitalists best example that’s simply a Cracker Jack idea if ever i heard one Thanks for this bit of history Knot a bad fantasy idea

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