Lukiškės Prison

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Saint Nicholas Orthodox Church, part of the Lukiškės Prison complex

Lukiškės Prison (Lithuanian: Lukiškių tardymo izoliatorius kalėjimas, in Polish known as Więzienie na Łukiszkach or simply Łukiszki, in Belarusian - Лукішкі) is a prison in the center of Vilnius, Lithuania, near the Lukiškės Square. As of 2007, it housed approximately 1,000 prisoners and employed around 250 prison guards.[1] Most prisoners are there under temporary arrest awaiting court decisions or transfers to other detention facilities, but there is also a permanent prison with about 180 inmates; about 80 of whom are serving for life.[2]

After more than a century of continuous service, the prison suffers from overcrowding and is in need of investment in thorough improvements. The prison is located in a prestigious area, next to the Seimas Palace. Discussions about relocating it have continued for several years, but the process is slow. According to a 2014 plan, the prison will be relocated to Pravieniškės by 2018.[3]



Until the late 19th century the main form of punishment in Russian-held part of partitioned Poland was the katorga, or forced resettlement to a remote area to heavy labour camps or prison farms. This was true to both criminal and political prisoners alike. The Russian Penal Code of 1845 further strengthened the notion.[4] Furthermore, prior to the Emancipation reform of 1861 the serfs, who constituted most of the society in contemporary Russian-held Europe, could be incarcerated by their master rather than in state-run prisons. Because of that, for most of the 19th century the small criminal prison at Vilna's suburb of Łukiszki (modern Lukiškės), converted from an earlier Roman Catholic monastery in 1837, was enough to suit the needs of the Russian authorities.[4] Most prisoners spent only a short period in the prison before being either released, sent to the gallows or sent to distant regions of Russia for penal servitude.

However, the 1874 revision of the criminal code of Russia introduced two additional penalties: a short-term prison confinement (up to 1.5 years) and long-term prison confinement (up to 6 years).[4] Meanwhile, the old prison became dilapidated and severely overcrowded.[4] It was clear that a new prison complex was needed. Because of that in 1900 G.A. Trambitski, the official architect of the Main Prison Authority, was tasked with designing a modern, high-security prison complex.[4] Instead of moving it out of the city, the tsarist authorities decided to demolish the old prison and build the new one in its place. One of the reasons for it was the site's proximity to the newly built Provincial Court building.

The project was inspired by Jeremy Bentham's idea of Panopticon, and was based on the design of Kresty Prison in Sankt Petersburg, which in turn was modelled after Moabit Prison in Berlin and the Holmesburg Prison and Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia.[4] In 1901 construction work began and the old prison was closed down and demolished.[4] The works were supervised by General Anatoliy Kelchevskiy.[4] The plot of land occupied by the old prison was too small to accommodate a modern prison. Because of that an adjoining plot of land previously occupied by a Lipka Tatar cemetery was bought for the price of 20 thousand roubles.[4]

The new complex covered the entire block. It included a penal prison with cells for 421 inmates, a detention centre for 278 inmates, as well as several other buildings.[4] Those included an office building, kitchen, bakery, baths, ice cellar and a laundry.[4] In addition, there were family apartments for the warden, his four deputies and 37 officers, and 24 smaller flats for single officers.[4] One of the most distinctive buildings in the complex was the Orthodox St. Nicholas Church, one of the finest Orthodox churches in Vilna.[4] However, as most of the inhabitants of the Vilna Governorate were Catholics or Jews, a separate Catholic church and a small synagogue were also built into one of the prison blocks.[4] The new prison had its own water supply and had its own sewage system.[4] The complex was surrounded with a stone wall.[4]

The prison complex was the most expensive building constructed in the region in the early 20th century.[4] The cells were fully equipped, heated and ventilated, and constructed entirely of non-combustible materials (except for window frames and doors).[4] The prison block containing the churches alone cost 504,000 roubles.[4] The building of the detention centre cost 285 thousand roubles,[4] while the administrative building with offices and apartments for the staff cost approximately 180 thousand roubles.[4] Despite its complexity, the project was finished in 1905, a full year ahead of schedule.[4]


In the interwar Second Polish Republic, the prison was used by Polish authorities to hold numerous notable West Belarusian political prisoners: writers Maksim Tank, Maksim Haretski, Michaś Mašara, Uladzislau Pauliukouski; teacher Barys Kit, musician and composer Ryhor Šyrma, ballet dancer Janka Chvorast

In June 1941, during the German invasion, the NKVD shot prisoners at Lukiškės Prison (see NKVD prisoner massacres).[5]

The prison became more notorious during the Nazi occupation of Lithuania, when it was used by the Gestapo and Lithuanian Saugumas as a holding cell for thousands of Jews from the Vilna Ghetto and Poles, picked up in Łapankas in reprisals for actions by the Polish resistance. The majority were taken to the outskirts of Vilnius and executed at Ponary (Paneriai).[6][7][8] When Soviets reoccupied the territory in 1944, the prison was returned to the NKVD who detained thousands of Polish activists and partisans of Armia Krajowa.[9][10]

Notable prisoners[edit]



  1. ^ Arbušauskas, p. 1
  2. ^ Prison Department of Lithuania (corporate author)
  3. ^ BNS (corporate author)
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v Marganavichyene, pp. 1-2
  5. ^ Paszkowski, p. 1
  6. ^ Langerbein, pp. 66-68
  7. ^ Michalski, pp. 1-3
  8. ^ Krahel, p. 1
  9. ^ Kościesza, Chapter 19
  10. ^ Hrybacz, p. 1
  11. ^ a b c Struve, Alena (11 May 2011). ""А над намі чорнай хмарай вісьне цесная турма…"" ["And over us, the cramped prison hangs like a dark cloud"]. (in Belarusian). Radio Svaboda. Retrieved 14 September 2016. Пагалоўна арыштоўвалі шмат людзей, актывістаў беларускіх, быў разгром Таварыства беларускай школы (ТБШ). Тады старшынём ТБШ быў Рыгор Шырма, — прыгадвае Барыс Уладзімеравіч. — Між іншым, спачатку мы сядзелі ў горадзе, у цэнтральным пункце, дзе трымаюць усіх вязьняў тыдзень перад адпраўкай у Лукішкі. Так і я там сядзеў спачатку тыдзень, а празь сьценку сядзеў Рыгор Шырма". Рыгор Шырма, беларускі харавы дырыжор, фальклярыст, займаўся асьветніцкай і культурнай працай, а не палітычнымі справамі. Тым ня меней супраць яго было тры судовыя працэсы. Барыс Кіт раней ва ўспамінах, запісаных Васілём Быкавым улетку 2001 году ў Франкфурце-на-Майне, прыгадваў, што "сядзеў разам з Шырмам, які з Хворастам быў у суседняй камэры. 
  12. ^ Aksak, Valancina (18 February 2013). "120-годзьдзе Максіма Гарэцкага: дом зьнесьлі, збор твораў ня выдалі" [120th anniversary of Maksim Harecki: house demolished, collection of works not published]. (in Belarusian). Radio Svaboda. Retrieved 14 September 2016. У студзені 1922 году, перад выбарамі ў Віленскі сойм, быў арыштаваны польскімі ўладамі як цяжкі палітычны злачынца, зьняволены ў Лукіскай турме ў Вільні. 
  13. ^ "Рукапісы не гараць. Максім Гарэцкі: Жыццё праляцела, як адзін дзень" [Manuscripts don't burn. Maksim Harecki: Life flew like one day]. (in Belarusian). Retrieved 14 September 2016. У студзені 1922 года Максім Гарэцкі разам з іншымі дзеячамі беларускай культуры быў арыштаваны польскімі ўладамі і зняволены ў вядомы астрог на Лукішках па абвінавачванні ў сувязях з камуністамі і дзейнасць супраць дзяржаўнага ладу, што афіцыйна так і не пацвердзілася. Але сам пісьменнік у адным з лістоў да жонкі са ссылкі ў Вятцы адзначаў, што падтрымліваў сувязі з падпольнай камуністычнай арганізацыяй, пераклаў на рускую мову брашуру Сяргея Мініна “Хто такія камуністы?”, хаваў літаратуру і грошы. Палітзняволеным пагражала смяротная кара альбо катарга. Але ж суд так і не адбыўся: дзякуючы шматлікім пратэстам грамадскасці, арыштаваных выслалі з Вільні. 
  14. ^ Marakou, Leanid. "Рэпрэсаваныя лiтаратары, навукоўцы, работнiкi асветы, грамадскiя i культурныя дзеячы Беларусi. 1794-1991.  » Том II  » МАШАРА Міхась" [Repressed writers, scientists, education workers, civic and cultural activists of Belarus. 1794-1991. Band II. MASHARA, Mikhas]. Leanid Marakou. Retrieved 14 September 2016. Арыштаваны ў 1928; зняволены ў віленскай турме Лукішкі. 
  15. ^ "Рукапісы не гараць. Міхась Машара" [Manuscripts don't burn. Michaś Mašara]. (in Belarusian). Retrieved 14 September 2016. Пасля разгрому Грамады ў пачатку 1927 года М. Машара непрацяглы час рэдагаваў газету рэвалюцыйна-дэмакратычнага накірунку “Наша воля”, якая выходзіла ў Вільні. Пасля трэцяй яе канфіскацыі быў арыштаваны, перавезены на допыты ў Глыбокае, а адтуль амаль праз месяц – зноў у Вільню, у турму Лукішкі, дзе прасядзеў больш за чатыры гады. Там жа, у астрозе, ізноў пачаў пісаць вершы, якія здолеў перадаць на волю. 
  16. ^ "Гумарыстычныя вершы Уладзіслава Паўлюкоўскага" [Satiric verses by Uładzisłaŭ Paŭlukoŭski]. (in Belarusian). Czasopis - Białoruski miesięcznik społeczno-kulturalny. 26 November 2015. Retrieved 14 September 2016. Пасля смерці Сталіна, Уладзіслаў Паўлюкоўскі вярнуўся ў Вільню паралізаваным. Ён пражыў яшчэ два гады і памёр. Яму было толькі 60 гадоў, з якіх 7 ён правёў у зняволенні: Лукішкі, Картуз-Бяроза, ГУЛАГ. 
  17. ^ Drańko-Majsiuk, Leanid (16 October 2012). "Максім Танк" [Maksim Tank]. (in Belarusian). Arche. Retrieved 14 September 2016. 
  18. ^ Kruk & Harshav, p. 53


External links[edit]

Coordinates: 54°41′29″N 25°15′59″E / 54.69139°N 25.26639°E / 54.69139; 25.26639