I'm reading Orlando Figes' Revolutionary Russia.

Prince Mirsky was appointed Minister for the Interior by Tsar Nicholas and was much more progressive than his predecessor. He convened a congress of middle-class liberals and they drafted some proposals for reform to present to Nicholas, including the suggestion of an advisory parliamentary body. Nicholas rejected this proposal on the grounds that it undermined his god-given right to rule over the people.

After this rejection, Mirsky said, 'Everything has failed. Let us build jails!'

What did he mean by this?

3 Answers 3


Mirsky was saying that after the defeat by Japan in 1905 (and the resulting uprising), that Russia had to choose between "reform" and "anarchy."

Nicholas had blocked, and the nobles had failed to produce, "reform," so the result would be "anarchy." For which jails might be an antidote.


It may be wrong translation.

In the original it's "Будем строить тюрьмы", an incomplete colloquial phrase which may, depending on intonation, be interpreted both as 1st person plural imperative (Let's build jails) and as 1st person plural future indicative (We'll be building jails).

I suppose he gloomily said that his effort failed, so "we" (i. e. the nation, or the government of which he was a member) would be building jails.


I believe Mirsky kinda' saw what was coming and KNEW that the monarchy had failed in it's duty to the people. He then acknowledged, sarcastically, that if we won't help the people then we must contain them.

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