Political Exile

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Exile, Political


the forced removal of persons accused of political crimes to a remote locality, either for a specified term or indefinitely, for settlement or hard labor under sentence imposed by a court or under administrative order.

In Russia the first legislative reference to political exile dates from 1582; however, political exile goes back earlier, both for the common people and for boyars fallen into disfavor. In the 16th and 17th centuries, persons exiled for political reasons were sent to the frontier regions of European Russia and, more rarely, to Siberia. In the 18th century, participants in mass popular uprisings were exiled to work on the construction and maintenance of fortresses or to work at factories and mines. During the period of palace coups, state figures who fell from favor were sent into exile—for example, P. A. Tolstoi was exiled to Solovki, and A. D. Menshikov to Berezov. After the ukases of 1753–54, which abolished capital punishment and replaced it with hard labor for life, political exile assumed mass proportions.

In 1822, with the participation of M. M. Speranskii, the Statute on Exiles and the Statute on Penal Way Stations in the Siberian Provinces, both of which touched on political exile, were drawn up and promulgated. In every province and oblast in Siberia, bureaus of exiles were established under the provincial and oblast administrations. From 1826 the Third Section exercised general supervision over political exile. In the second quarter of the 19th century, the Decembrists and Petrashevtsy were sentenced to hard labor in Siberia and exile in the Caucasus. In 1831 thousands of participants in the Polish Uprising of 1830–31 were sentenced to hard labor and exile in Siberia.

Persons who had been exiled for political reasons had a great impact on the development of Siberia, contributing to the spread of culture and enlightenment and to the study of Siberia’s natural riches.

The Code on Punishments of 1845 established exile as one of the most important measures of punishment for both political and criminal offenses. In addition, administrative exile “by imperial order” was frequently applied—for example, to A. S. Pushkin, A. I. Herzen, and N. P. Ogarev. In the 1850’s certain local officials, such as the namestnik (vicegerent) of the Caucasus and the governor-general of Vil’na (Vilnius), were empowered to impose exile, by administrative order, for political reasons.

In the 1860’s participants in peasant disturbances, in the revolutionary movement of the 1860’s, and in the Polish Uprising of 1863–64 (18,623 persons) were sent into political exile. In 1867 members of the Ishutin Circle were exiled to Eastern Siberia. In the 1870’s and 1880’s many participants in the Narodnik (Populist) and People’s Will organizations, the first worker-revolutionaries, and, from the very end of the 19th century, members of Marxist circles and organizations were also exiled. The principal places of political exile were Transbaikalia (seeKARA PENAL COLONY and NERCHINSK HARD LABOR CAMPS), Yakutsk Oblast, Enisei Province (seeENISEI EXILE), Irkutsk Province (seeVERKHOLENSK EXILE), and Tomsk Province (seeNARYM EXILE).

During the revolutionary situation of the late 1870’s and early 1880’s, the government and local administration made wide use of administrative exile in regard to figures in the revolutionary and opposition movement. Between April 1879 and July 1880, 575 persons were exiled by administrative order, 130 to Siberia. The Statute on Police Surveillance of 1882 deprived exiled persons of the right of movement and permitted the police to conduct searches and monitor the exiles’ correspondence. Exiled persons could not be employed in government or public service or work as lawyers or teachers.

Administrative arbitrariness provoked protests and demonstrations by political exiles, as in the Yakutsk tragedy of 1889 and the Yakutsk protest of 1904. By the early 20th century, there were 298,577 exiled persons in Siberia, about half of whom were administrative exiles. The tsarist government, which had placed limitations on exile in criminal cases, continued to exile “politicals” to “places remote” (Siberia) and “places not so remote” (Russia’s European provinces). In 1886 the island of Sakhalin was made a place of political exile (seeSAKHALIN HARD LABOR AND EXILE COLONY).

After the amnesty of 1905, many exiled persons returned from their places of exile; from 1906, however, newly exiled persons, participants in the Revolution of 1905–07, once again began to fill the places of exile. On Mar. 6 (19), 1917, the Provisional Government declared a political amnesty. On Apr. 26 (May 9), 1917, political exile was officially abolished. After the October Revolution of 1917, the Society of Former Political Prisoners and Exiles was founded; its members made a significant contribution to the study of the history of political exile.


Gernet, M. N. Istoriia tsarskoi tiur’my, vols. 1–5. Moscow, 1960–63.
Dvorianov, V. N. V sibirskoi dal’nei storone. Minsk, 1971.
Ssylka i katorga v Sibiri (XVlll-nach. XXv.). Novosibirsk, 1975.
Spravochniki po istorii dorevoliutsionnoi Rossii: Bibliografiia. Moscow, 1971.
Narodnichestvo v rabotakh sovetskikh issledovatelei za 1953–1970 gg. Moscow, 1971.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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