Butyrka prison (Russian: Бутырка, a colloquial term for the official Бутырская тюрьма, Butyrskaya tyurma) was the central transit prison in pre-Revolutionary Russia, located in Moscow.
The first references to Butyrka prison may be traced back to the 17th century. The present prison building was erected in 1879 near the Butyrsk gate (Бутырская застава, or Butyrskaya zastava) on the site of a prison-fortress which had been built by the architect Matvei Kazakov during the reign of Catherine the Great. The towers of the old fortress once housed the rebellious Streltsy during the reign of Peter I and later on hundreds of participants of the 1863 January Uprising in Poland. Members of Narodnaya Volya were also prisoners of the Butyrka in 1883, as were the participants in the Morozov Strike of 1885. The Butyrka prison was known for its brutal regime. The prison administration resorted to violence every time the inmates tried to protest against anything.
Among its famous inmates were the influential revolutionary poet Vladimir Mayakovsky, a Russian revolutionary Nikolai Bauman, the founder of the KGB Felix Dzerzhinsky (who was one of the few individuals to stage a successful escape from the prison), and the writers Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and Yevgenia Ginzburg.
During the February Revolution, the workers of Moscow freed all the political prisoners from the Butyrka.
After the October Revolution Butyrka remained a place of internment for political prisoners and a transfer camp for people sentenced to be sent to the Gulag.
During the Great Purge about 20 thousand inmates at a time were imprisoned in Butyrka. Thousands of political prisoners were shot after investigations.
Currently Butyrka remains the largest of Moscow remand prisons. Overcrowding continues to be a problem.