Watch Tower

Description

This photograph is from an album of 47 views of convicts and structures at the Akatuy Prison, one of the main centers where political prisoners were held in the Russian Empire during the late-tsarist period. The album belonged to Isaiah Aronovich Shinkman, a physician and member of the Socialist Revolutionary Party, who was incarcerated at Akatuy from 1906 to 1911. The prison was located at the Akatuy silver mine in Nerchinsk okrug (district) in the Transbaikal Territory of Siberia. Thousands of political prisoners were exiled to Siberia from European Russia and from Poland, Finland, Latvia, and Estonia (all then part of the Russian Empire) following the repression of the Russian Revolution of 1905. Criminal labor convicts and political prisoners had long been sent to Nerchinsk to work in extracting lead-silver ores in the region’s mines. The American explorer and journalist George Kennan (1845–1924) visited Akatuy in 1885, and wrote about his experience in his book Siberia and the Exile System (1891), a scathing critique of the system of prisons and prison camps in Russia. The album is held by the Irkutsk State University in Irkutsk and was digitized for the Meeting of Frontiers digital library project in the early 2000s. The photographs it contains offer glimpses into the day-to-day existence and activities of the political prisoners in Siberia in the years before World War I and the outbreak of the Russian Revolution of 1917.

Last updated: July 18, 2017