Commonly known as “Butyrka,” this was the largest prison in Moscow, and one of the oldest and best-known prisons in Russia. Its history dates back to the 17th century. Beginning in 1868, Butyrka was Russia’s central transit prison and was used for the detention of defendants and convicts in political and criminal cases. Its present building was constructed in 1879 to replace the previous 18th century prison castle.
After the October Revolution of 1917, Butyrka was used as a transit prison and for interrogations. During the “great terror” of 1937-1938, the prison population reached 20,000. Famous inmates during the “terror” years included writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn, poet Ossip Mandelstam, Soviet space rocket designer Sergei Korolev and many others. Today, the prison building is listed among national monuments of history and architecture.