A Russian legal education

12Mar12
Russian judicial court punishment

Russian judicial court punishment

Russian judicial official punishment

Russian judicial official punishment

Russian judicial police punishment

Russian judicial police punishment. It is not clear if the culprit is a man or a woman or if the lamenting women are waiting for their turn or are just relatives. However, it is entirely possible that the scene depicts a round of women from the streets.

Russian judicial serf punished

Russian punishment of a serf. This may be an officially sanctioned punishment by the courts although the local lord or this serf's 'owner' may have ordered it

Russian judicial moral punishment

Russian moral punishment. This may depict an unofficial punishment following a raid in a brothel. Although it could just as easily have been judicially sanctioned

The last post on Russians was to be the last for a while, but at the time there was much interest shown in the unpublished plates of judicial flogging.

The purpose of the pictures above is unclear, perhaps they were intended to be educational or merely pornographic, but the former is entirely plausible as until the middle of the 19th century corporal punishment was casual and routine for just about everybody in Russia, even upper-class women .

Following the 1845 Criminal law Code, the plet (heavy whip) was reserved for non-privileged classes as flogging was used in lieu of fines, although in practice corporal punishment accompanied almost every sentence. For women the target of correction was the bared bottom and until 1863 when the law was further reformed there was no judicial limit of the severity of such punishments.

The usual punishments consisted of between 30 and 70 strokes although as many as 100 strokes could be given.

However, just because a family could afford a fine did not always mean that they paid it. Especially in the instances of moral crimes, that is to say offences related to immorality.

Officially corporal punishment was ended for women in 1893, but judicial flogging was not fully abolished until 1904. Although prostitutes and women arrested after dark who wished to avoid the stigma of an immorality prosecution often accepted chastisement from the police if they could not afford the ‘fines.’

In any case the courts often took the view that the law only applied to the more serious plet punishment and that rogza, the birch, was still permitted for women. This was because there was a great deal of resistance in Russia to abolition among the so-called ‘superior classes.’

Indeed Count Tolstoy’s son wrote to the Times on Wednesday 2nd September 1903.

“Just when we are on the eve of the abolition of corporal punishment, which is quite inevitable in view of the present rise of the moral and intellectual level of the peasants. As Prince Mestchersky suggests to them,” says Count Leo Tolstoi’s son, “flogging is good for them, and thus not only does he irritate them against the intellectual class, which dares to say such things to them, but also he tends to brutalize and infuriate the coarse element in the rural class — an element which is happily diminishing and losing more and more of its influence on that class.”

The upper and middle classes continued to be fascinated with this subject until the Revolution. From 1912 until 1917, the artist Antonina Westfalen painted a series of pictures depicting such punishments, although it is not clear if she painted the above.

In any case, she was not the only one with this interest, especially when it came to the chastisement of women. There were literally hundreds of ‘educational’ publication with full colour drawings; the above were taken from blogrex in Russia.



6 Responses to “A Russian legal education”

  1. 1 Karl Friedrich Gauss

    Wasn’t it Dostoyevsky who said of the Russian people “They should be whipped”?

    • 2 DJ

      You are probably right – they do seem to have a masochistic bent

      after 700 year of the tsar they replaced it with Stalin and now Putin

      no one else has such maxims as ‘I know he loves me, because he beats me so.’

      DJ 😉

  2. I love these pictures! Beautiful.

  3. 4 julio

    I recently read an account that claimed women were still being punished with the birch as late as 1902, in some Siberian prison camps.

  4. All the Russian flogging scenes are great. Yes, the ‘land of the knout’, loved to chastise their naughty women, and rightly so. And I am sure they continue to do so, still today. Thank you for showing us these excellent drawings.


  1. 1 chross.blogt.ch

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