Sarah J. Young

Sep 20, 2021

Writing Resistance

Revolutionary Memoirs of Shlissel’burg Prison

UCL Press 2021

In 1884, sixty-eight prisoners convicted of terrorism and revolutionary activity were transferred to a new maximum-security prison at Shlissel'burg Fortress near St. Petersburg. Inhuman conditions in the prison caused severe mental and physical deterioration among the prisoners, and over half died. However, the survivors fought back to reform the prison and improve the inmates' living conditions. Their memoirs enshrined their experience in revolutionary mythology and served as an indictment of the Tsarist autocracy's loss of moral authority. Writing Resistance: Revolutionary Memoirs of Shlissel’burg Prison (UCL Press, 2021) features three of these memoirs--translated into English for the first time--as well as an introductory essay that analyzes the memoirs' construction of a collective narrative of resilience, resistance, and renewal. The first extended study of these memoirs in English, this book uncovers an important episode in the history of political imprisonment. It will be of interest to scholars and students of the Russian revolution, carceral history, penal practice and behaviors, and prison and life writing.

Dr. Sarah J. Young is Associate Professor of Russian at University College London, where she teaches nineteenth- and twentieth-century Russian literature, culture and thought. 

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