Encyclopedia > Knout

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The knout is a whip usually made of a bunch of rawhide thongs attached to a long handle, sometimes metal wire or hooks could be incorporated. Pronounced to rhyme with boot.

It was a Tartar invention and was introduced into Russia in the 15th C, maybe by Ivan III. It served as the official method of corporal punishment until 1845 when it was replaced with the pleti. A punishment of 100 lashes would almost certainly kill the recipient. Even twenty lashes could maim; with the specially extended Great Knout twenty blows could kill.

The tool became synonymous in western European languages with what was seen as the tyrannical cruelty of the autocratic government of Russia, much as the sjambok brought to mind the Apartheid government of South Africa or lynching the period of Jim Crow in America.

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