What is "Butyrka" - the most famous prison in the country

What is "Butyrka" - the most famous prison in the country
What is "Butyrka" - the most famous prison in the country

One of the oldest and most famous prisons in Russia is the largest pre-trial detention center in the capital. What is "Butyrka", learned tens of thousands of prisoners who have been sitting in it since the XVIII century. In December 2018, the leadership of the Federal Penitentiary Service announced the decision to close the famous pre-trial detention center. The general public, including human rights activists, federal and Moscow officials, proposes to make a museum in the prison building.

The base of "Butyrka"

In the second half of the 18th century, a small wooden prison worked near the Butyrskaya outpost, next to it were the barracks of the Butyrka hussar regiment. Its first famous prisoner was in 1775 Emelyan Pugachev. He was kept in a cage, chained up until his execution. The prison was called "Butyrka". The meaning of the word, however, is not known to everyone. These are several houses on the outskirts, settlements or a small settlement,separated by a field or forest from the main settlement.

View from the Pugachka Tower

In 1784, Catherine II allowed the construction of a provincial stone prison castle instead of a wooden prison, about which she wrote in a letter to the Moscow Governor-General Chernyshev. The general plan of the building, developed by the famous Russian architect Matvey Kazakov, was attached to the permit. According to the project, the prison castle had four towers: "North", "South" (since 1775 - Pugachevskaya, according to legend, it was in its basement that Pugachev was kept), "Sentry" and "Police". At the end of the 18th century, the Pokrovsky Church was built in the center of the castle square, which was also designed by Kazakov. Currently, the Butyrka building is classified as an architectural and historical monument protected by the state.

Refuge of criminals and rebels

Ancient gates of Butyrskaya prison

Very quickly, not only Russian criminals, but also revolutionaries, who in this prison were waiting to be sent to Siberia, learned what "Butyrka" was. Since the end of the 19th century, the castle has become a central transit point, through which almost 30 thousand people pass every year. The prisoners not only sat here, but also worked. At Butyrka, various handicraft workshops operated (tailoring, shoemaking, bookbinding, carpentry, where they even made Viennese chairs and burned wood). For women and children who voluntarily followed the exiles, the Sergius-Elizabeth Shelter worked

Political exiles wereplaced on the prison towers. In 1884, the great Russian writer Leo Tolstoy visited Yegor Lazarev (a political prisoner). Which later became the prototype of the revolutionary Nabatov in the novel "Sunday". Later, Tolstoy talked a lot with the prison guard I.M. Vinogradov. about life in prison. And in order to better understand what Butyrka is and how it works, he even walked with the prisoners all the way to the Nikolayevsky railway station.

Famous pre-revolutionary "inmates"

prison corridor

During the revolution of 1905, the insurgent workers tried to seize Butyrka, but the escort team managed to fight back.

In 1907, the investigative department started working in the prison, and the next year hard labor was organized.

At the beginning of the twentieth century, the revolutionaries Nikolai Shmit and Ivan Kalyaev, sailors from the rebellious Ochakovo, the famous poets Sergei Yesenin and Vladimir Mayakovsky, learned what Butyrka was. In 1908, the American maestro Harry Houdini gave a performance in prison. He was shackled and placed in a wooden, iron-studded box, in which especially dangerous criminals were transported. The illusionist managed to free himself in 28 minutes, to the surprise and jubilation of the audience.

Six years spent in the famous prison Nestor Makhno, who was released, like all political prisoners, in 1917 after the February Revolution. At the same time, Felix Dzerzhinsky, sentenced to 6 years of hard labor, was released from prison.

Soviet period

Camera view

After the revolution

After the October Revolution, the cells freed from the revolutionaries quickly filled with new prisoners. Alexander Solzhenitsyn, who was also imprisoned in Butyrka, wrote that by 1918 the prison was overcrowded and even a women's cell for 70 people was organized in the laundry room. Church of the Intercession was closed in 1922 and reopened only in 1991.

During the years of mass repressions, the concept of "Butyrka" somewhat lost its "prestige", state criminals were sent to the "Lubyanka". During these years, up to 20 thousand people were sitting in the prison at the same time, there were up to 170 prisoners in each cell. Sometimes new prisoners sat on the stairs for several days, waiting for the places in the cells sentenced to death to be vacated.

During the Great Patriotic War, workshops worked on the territory of the prison, where prisoners produced products for the army.

During the years of perestroika

In the spring of 1994, a group of former prisoners led by "Sibiryak" (Sergey Lipchansky), having agreed with the guards, decided to visit their comrades in the Butyrka detention center. However, someone reported the event to the police and 34 criminals and employees of the Federal Penitentiary Service were arrested. Many workers were subsequently fired and two were sentenced to a year in prison.

food distribution

After 1996, women are no longer placed in the famous prison (with the exception of the psychiatric ward of the hospital). The most famous prisoner of this period was the oligarchVladimir Gusinsky, who stayed here for three days.


Now Moscow's largest remand prison, Butyrka, is used to hold less than 2,000 people. The Intercession Church operates on the territory, a prayer room and a synagogue are open. Despite the reconstruction, the content of prisoners still does not quite meet the established standards. As noted by many human rights activists, the prison building is so old that it is outdated both morally and physically. The leadership of the Federal Penitentiary Service and the public hope that in the coming years it will be possible to close the famous detention center.

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