See inside a notorious Siberian prison

See inside a notorious Siberian prison

The Prison Castle, a strict-regime penitentiary in Tobolsk, Russia, recently opened its doors to inmates of a different kind. Travellers can now check into one of the cramped “sweat-box” punishment cells – spending the night where Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Tsar Nicholas II and Stalin’s victims did time.


See inside a notorious Siberian prison
View image of The Prison Castle in Tobolsk, Russia, was considered stricter than most (Credit: Credit: Alexander Aksakov/Getty)

Built between 1838 and 1855, and closed in 1989, the notorious Siberian prison was considered stricter than most. As many as 2,500 inmates considered enemies of the state were executed here during the Soviet Union’s political repression campaign of 1937-1938, and it’s believed that no one ever escaped.

The sweat-box cells – sparse dormitory-style rooms with metal bunk beds, clunky iron locks and heavy doors – were originally used for prisoners who breached the conduct code. The rooms didn’t have lights; some weren’t even large enough for prisoners to stand fully upright.

An enlarged mugshot outside each cell helps visitors get acquainted with the men who once walked these halls. Other photos in the Prison Castle’s adjoining museum offer a glimpse of what daily life was like: prisoners reclining in the sunlight wearing shackles and dirty prison garb, or chopping wood for the furnaces that never quite warmed the cells during February’s freezing nights.

In this bastille of crime and punishment, the photographs reveal a haunting range of emotion, something Dostoevsky knew all too well.


See inside a notorious Siberian prison
View image of Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky once did time inside these prison walls (Credit: Credit: Alexander Aksakov/Getty)


See inside a notorious Siberian prison
View image of 2,500 inmates were executed in this strict-regime penitentiary (Credit: Credit: Alexander Aksakov/Getty)


See inside a notorious Siberian prison
View image of It’s believed that no one ever escaped from the Prison Castle (Credit: Credit: Alexander Aksakov/Getty)


See inside a notorious Siberian prison
View image of Clunky iron locks are still fixed to cell block doors (Credit: Credit: Alexander Aksakov/Getty)


See inside a notorious Siberian prison
View image of Guests can take a tour that includes prison food served in solitary confinement (Credit: Credit: Alexander Aksakov/Getty)


See inside a notorious Siberian prison
View image of Prisoners were locked up tightly behind heavy doors (Credit: Credit: Alexander Aksakov/Getty)


See inside a notorious Siberian prison
View image of An inmate mannequin has the right side of his head shaved – a practice that made it easy to identify escapees (Credit: Credit: Alexander Aksakov/Getty)


See inside a notorious Siberian prison
View image of Guests can now check into sparsely decorated “sweat-box” punishment cells (Credit: Credit: Alexander Aksakov/Getty)


View image of Photos in the museum offer a glimpse of daily prisoner life (Credit: Credit: Alexander Aksakov/Getty)

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