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Lynching in tsarist Russia: what did the crowd do with the criminal
Lynching in tsarist Russia: what did the crowd do with the criminal

The life of Russian peasants from childhood was saturated with violence, perceived as the norm. Lynching, often in extremely violent forms, were commonplace. "You are a fool, you are a fool, you are not enough!" - shouted the children of a mother who was publicly beaten by their father in the village of Aleksandrovka in 1920. Why was it so easy to draw the people into the chaos of violence during the revolutions?

You can't calm the thief, if you don't kill to death

According to the historian Valery Chalidze, the number of lynching in Russia was huge: in the Ishim district of the Tobolsk province alone in 1884, a district doctor opened about 200 corpses of those who had been killed by lynching, the population of the district was about 250 thousand people. To these cases can be added unaccounted for (they tried to hide the facts of lynching from the authorities) and cases without lethal outcome.

Russian peasant of the 19th century is used to dealing with criminals himself

It becomes clear that even within one year, thousands of people were participants and witnesses of massacres of varying degrees of cruelty. They beat a thief to death, and the authorities will never find the culprit. They killed in a crowd, and no one considers it a crime, and you cannot punish everyone. The populist writer Gleb Uspensky described the trial of the horse thief: “They beat them with stones, sticks, reins, shafts, one even with a cart axle …

Everyone strove to give a blow without any mercy, whatever! The crowd drags them with its force, and if they fall, they will lift them up, drive them forward, and everyone beat them: one strives from behind, the other from the front, the third from the side aims at anything … It was a cruel battle, truly bloody! No one thought that he would kill to death, everyone beat for himself, for his grief … There was a trial. And for sure - there was nothing. Everyone was acquitted."

As a rule, quite ordinary people, not criminals, sober, in public, in groups, and often not spontaneously, but quite deliberately and by decision of the community, took part in lynching. To horse thieves, arsonists, "sorcerers", thieves (even only suspects), they used harsh measures that inspire others with fear of committing crimes - knocking out teeth with a hammer, ripping open stomachs, gouging out eyes, flaying skin and pulling out veins, torturing with a hot iron, drowning, beating to death. In the periodicals of those years and in the descriptions of witnesses, there are a lot of various examples.

At the end of the 19th century, peasants who were suspected of witchcraft were brutally murdered

The peasants did not like the volost courts, considered them inept and liked to decide everything for themselves, "in fairness." And the idea of ​​justice was peculiar. Theft from landowners or wealthy people was not considered a crime, as well as murder by negligence and murder in a fight (after all, they fought, they were not going to kill).

The historian of the Russian peasantry, Vladimir Bezgin, emphasizes that the life of the peasant was saturated with cruelty and for objective reasons. The strengthening of the authorities' control over the legal situation in the village took place gradually. The modernization of the economy, involving more and more labor resources of the village in industry, the penetration of the countryside and local authorities of liberal ideas influenced the change in the traditional patriarchal order, but this process was too long for mass humanization by the beginning of the 20th century.

Don't beat your wife - there's no point in being

Beatings against women and children were the norm in family life. In 1880, ethnographer Nikolai Ivanitsky wrote that a woman among the peasants “… is considered a soulless creature. […] A peasant treats a woman worse than a horse or a cow. Beating a woman is considered a necessity."

Violence among peasants was a norm of life, encouraged by the women themselves

Emotionally, but not unreasonable.Small offenses of women were punished by beatings, more serious ones, for example, casting a shadow on marital fidelity, could entail "driving" and "shame" - public bullying, undressing and flogging. The rural municipality courts in most cases shared the traditional attitude towards women as an animal labor force. The law, even if the woman was familiar with it and, having overcome fear, wanted to apply, was on the side of the husbands - if the ribs did not break, then everything is within the framework of the norm, the complaint is rejected.

Violence, widely used by adults against each other and children, was cultivated and perfectly absorbed by the younger generation. V. Bezgin gave a description by a witness of a family massacre of a woman in the village of Aleksandrovka in 1920: “The whole village fled to the reprisal and admired the beating as a free spectacle.

Someone sent for a policeman, he was in no hurry, saying: "Nothing, women are tenacious!" “Marya Trifonovna,” one of the women said to her mother-in-law. "Why are you killing a person?" She replied: “For the cause. We have not been beaten like that yet.” Another woman, looking at this beating, said to her son: "Sashka, why won't you teach your wife?"

And Sashka, just a boy, gives a jab to his wife, to which his mother remarks: "Is that how they beat?" In her opinion, it is impossible to beat like that - you have to beat harder in order to cripple a woman. It is not surprising that small children, accustomed to such reprisals, shout to the mother beaten by their father: "You are a fool, you are a fool, you are not enough!"

This is not beaten, but the mind is given

Violence as a pedagogical technique was also taken for granted. Researcher Dmitry Zhbankov interviewed Moscow students in 1908 (324). 75 said that at home they were flogged with rods, while 85 were subjected to other punishments: standing with bare knees on peas, blows to the face, flogging from the lower back with a wet rope or reins. None of them condemned the parents for being too strict, five even said “that they should have been torn harder”. The "study" of the young men was even tougher.

Mobilizing people for violence was easy - they were used to violence

The perception of violence as a norm among peasants is described by many ethnographers, lawyers, historians - Bezgin, Chalidze, Igor Kon, Stephen Frank and others. The presentation of such judgments today easily brings accusations of Russophobia to the author of the text, so it is worth noting two important points.

First, the level of violence in everyday life of that time was higher than the current one among other peoples of Russia and in Western European countries, which affected (this is a subject for a separate story). The level of education, usually conducive to humanization, was also low.

Second, in the village, for a long time only occasionally controlled by the state and living according to customary law, violence and the threat of its use were an accessible, familiar and quite effective tool for regulating behavior and building a social hierarchy, a form of asserting power.

Another thing is important: the cruelty developed over the centuries, the readiness to independently decide on the use of violence in peacetime played a role in the cruelty of the revolution. Already in 1905-1907, they found great scope in peasant riots, not to mention the real triumph of the atrocities of the Civil War.

This is where the notorious "senselessness and ruthlessness" manifested itself - if in 1905-1906 acts of violence directed against landlords or officials were often committed by the decision of the community, like ordinary lynching, then since 1917 such phenomena were added to a genuine rampant excesses, elements.

Cruel lynching in the army and navy (where the rank and file are almost entirely peasants), robberies, pogroms, etc. took away hundreds of thousands of lives - in the chaos of hatred of the Civil War, all this walked alongside bloody slogans and organized terror carried out by politicians of all colors.

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