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Article 58 (RSFSR Penal Code)

From Academic Kids

Article 58 of the Russian SFSR Penal Code was put in force on February 25, 1927 to arrest those suspected guilty of counter-revolutionary activities. It was revised several times. In particular, its Article 58-1 was updated by the listed sub-articles and put in force since June 8, 1934.

This article introduced the formal notion of the enemy of workers: those subject to articles 58-2 — 58-13 (those under 58-1 were "traitors", 58-14 were "saboteurs"). Penal codes of other republics of Soviet Union also had articles ofsimilar nature.

Contents

Summary

Note: In this section, the phraseology of article 58 is given in quotes.

The article covered the following offenses.

  • 58-1: Definition of counter-revolutionary activity. It was not limited to anti-Soviet acts: by "international solidarity of workers", any other "worker's state" was protected by this article.
    • 58-1а. Treason: death sentence or 10 years of prison, both cases with property confiscation.
    • 58-1б. Treason by military personnel: death sentence with property confiscation.
    • 58-1в. In the case of flight of the offended in treason, his relatives were subject to 5-10 years of imprisonment with confiscation or 5 years of Siberia exile, depending on the circumstances: either they helped or knew and didn't report or simply lived with the offender.
    • 58-1г. Non-reporting of a treason by a military man: 10 years of imprisonment. Non-reporting by others: offense by Article 58-12.
  • 58-2. Armed uprising or intervention with the goal to seize the power: up to death with confiscation, including formal recognition as "enemy of workers".
  • 58-3. Contacts with foreigners "with counter-revolutionary purposes" are subject to Article 58-2.
  • 58-4. Any kind of help to "international bourgeoisie" which does not recognize communist states: punishment similar to 58-2.
  • 58-5. Urging any foreign entity to any actions against USSR: similar to 58-2.
  • 58-6. Espionage: similar to 58-2.
  • 58-7. Undermining of state industry, transport, monetary circulation or credit system, as well as of cooperative societies and organizations, with counter-revolutionary purpose by means of the corresponding usage of the state institutions, as well as by opposing their normal functioning: same as 58-2. Note: the offense according to this article was known as wrecking and the offenders were called "wreckers".
  • 58-8. Terrorist acts against representatives of Soviet power or of workers and peasants organisations: same as 58-2.
  • 58-9. Damage of transport, communication, water supply, warehouses and other buildings or state and communal property with counter-revolutionary purpose: same as 58-2.
  • 58-10. Counter-revolutionary propaganda and agitation: up to 6 months of imprisonment. In the conditions of unrest or war: same as 58.2.
  • 58-11. Any kind of organisational or support actions related to the preparation or execution of the above crimes is equated to the corresponding offenses and persecuted by the corresponding articles.
  • 58-12. Non-reporting of a "counter-revolutionary activity": at least 6 months of imprisonment.
  • 58-13. Active struggle against revolutionary movement of tsarist personnel and members of "counter-revolutionary governments" during the civil war, same as 58-2.
  • 58-14 (added on June 6th, 1937) "Counter-revolutionary sabotage", i.e., conscious non-execution or deliberately careless execution of "defined duties", aimed at the weakening of the power of the government and of the functioning of the state apparatus is subject to at least one year of freedom deprivation, and under especially aggravating circumstances, up to the highest measure of social protection: death by firing squad with property confiscation.

Application

The article led to the imprisonment of many innocents, regardless of their position in society, even academics, including Alexander Solzhenitsyn, who would write about his experience as a "Fifty Eighter" in his novels (chiefly The First Circle).

Sentences were long, up to 25 years, and frequently extended indefinitely without trial or consultation. Inmates under Article 58 were known as "politichesky" (полити́ческий), as opposed to common criminals, "ugolovnik" (уголо́вник). Upon release, the prisoner would typically be sent into an exile within Russia without the right to settle closer than 100 km from large cities.

Section 10 of Article 58 made "propaganda and agitation against the Soviet Union" a triable offence, whilst section 12 allowed for onlookers to be prosecuted for not reporting instances of section 10. In effect, Article 58 was carte blanche for the secret police to arrest and imprison anyone deemed suspicious, making for its use as a political weapon. A person could be framed: The latter would arrange an "anti-Soviet" incident in the person's presence and then try the person for it. If the person pleaded innocence, not having reported the incident would also make them liable to imprisonment.

During and after World War II, Article 58 was used to imprison many returned Soviet prisoners of war on the grounds that their capture and detainment by the Axis Powers during the war was proof that they did not fight to the death and were therefore anti-Soviet.

See also

Wikisource

Full text in Russian

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