Kara Penal Colony

Kara Penal Colony


a penal colony for political prisoners in tsarist Russia on the Kara River (Baikal region); part of the Nerchinsk Penal Colony.

The colony was created in 1838. Criminal convicts and, after 1873, political convicts as well were sent to the Kara to work in the goldfields. There were seven prisons on the Kara; one of these, built in 1881, was for political convicts. Through the Kara Penal Colony passed 211 to 217 political prisoners, 32 of them women. Most of them were Narodniks (Populists) sentenced at the trials of the 1870’s and 1880’s, including I. N. Myshkin, E. K. Breshko-Breshkovskaia, E. N. Koval’skaia, N. A. Ishutin, P. A. Alekseev, and P. I. Voinaral’skii. Of these, 25 prisoners were sentenced to penal servitude with indefinite terms; 22, to 20 years. The situation of the political prisoners sharply deteriorated in 1882 after an unsuccessful escape attempt by eight convicts led by Myshkin. The prisoners responded to the repressions with lengthy hunger strikes. New waves of disturbances broke out in 1888 at the Kara Penal Colony because of the humiliation of political prisoners (particularly E. N. Koval’skaia). Mass suicides at Kara took place during the disturbances; this so-called Kara tragedy led to the closing of the Kara Penal Colony in 1890. The political prisoners were transferred to Aka-tui, where they were lodged together with criminal convicts and shared their working conditions, food, and regime of punishments.


Kara i drugie tiur’my Nerchinskoi katorgi. Moscow, 1927.
Gernet, M. I. Istoriia tsarskoi tiur’my, vol. 3. Moscow, 1961.