Information

Mikhail Frolenko


Mikhail Frolenko, of a retired sergeant major, was born in Stavropol in November 1848. He studied at the St. Petersburg Institute of Technology and in 1871 entered the Petrovskoe Agricultural Academy in Moscow.

Frolenko became involved in revolutionary politics and in 1873 he became a member of the Moscow branch of the Circle of Tchaikovsky. According to the The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979): "He went underground in 1874 and from 1875 to 1877 was aligned with the Southern Rebels. Frolenko helped V. F. Kostiurin escape in 1877 and V. Stefanovich, L. G. Deutsch, and I. V. Bokhanovskii escape in 1878. He took part in an attempt to free P. I. Voinaraliskii and in the digging of a passage under the Kherson Treasury in 1879."

In 1878, Frolenko became a member of Land and Liberty and attended the organization’s Lipetsk and Voronezh congresses. After the formation of the People’s Will, he was sent to tour southern Russia in search of recruits. Frolenko, a member of the Executive Committee, agreed with the decision to try to assassinate Tsar Alexander II. A directive committee was formed consisting of Frolenko, Andrei Zhelyabov, Timofei Mikhailov, Lev Tikhomirov, Vera Figner, Sophia Perovskaya and Anna Yakimova. Zhelyabov was considered the leader of the group. However, Figner considered him to be overbearing and lacking in depth: "He had not suffered enough. For him all was hope and light." Zhelyabov had a magnetic personality and had a reputation for exerting a strong influence over women.

Zhelyabov and Perovskaya attempted to use nitroglycerine to destroy the Tsar train. However, the terrorist miscalculated and it destroyed another train instead. An attempt the blow up the Kamenny Bridge in St. Petersburg as the Tsar was passing over it was also unsuccessful. Figner blamed Zhelyabov for these failures but others in the group felt he had been unlucky rather than incompetent.

In November 1879 Stefan Khalturin managed to find work as a carpenter in the Winter Palace. According to Adam Bruno Ulam, the author of Prophets and Conspirators in Pre-Revolutionary Russia (1998): "There was, incomprehensible as it seems, no security check of workman employed at the palace. Stephan Khalturin, a joiner, long sought by the police as one of the organizers of the Northern Union of Russian workers, found no difficulty in applying for and getting a job there under a false name. Conditions at the palace, judging from his reports to revolutionary friends, epitomized those of Russia itself: the outward splendor of the emperor's residence concealed utter chaos in its management: people wandered in and out, and imperial servants resplendent in livery were paid as little as fifteen rubles a month and were compelled to resort to pilfering. The working crew were allowed to sleep in a cellar apartment directly under the dining suite."

Khalturin approached George Plekhanov about the possibility of using this opportunity to kill Tsar Alexander II. He rejected the idea but did put him in touch with the People's Will who were committed to a policy of assassination. It was agreed that Khalturin should try and kill the Tsar and each day he brought packets of dynamite, supplied by Anna Yakimova and Nikolai Kibalchich, into his room and concealed it in his bedding.

On 17th February, 1880, Stefan Khalturin constructed a mine in the basement of the building under the dinning-room. The mine went off at half-past six at the time that the People's Will had calculated Alexander II would be having his dinner. However, his main guest, Prince Alexander of Battenburg, had arrived late and dinner was delayed and the dinning-room was empty. Alexander was unharmed but sixty-seven people were killed or badly wounded by the explosion.

The People's Will contacted the Russian government and claimed they would call off the terror campaign if the Russian people were granted a constitution that provided free elections and an end to censorship. On 25th February, 1880, Alexander II announced that he was considering granting the Russian people a constitution. To show his good will a number of political prisoners were released from prison. Mikhail Loris-Melikof, the Minister of the Interior, was given the task of devising a constitution that would satisfy the reformers but at the same time preserve the powers of the autocracy. At the same time the Russian Police Department established a special section that dealt with internal security. This unit eventually became known as the Okhrana. Under the control of Loris-Melikof, undercover agents began joining political organizations that were campaigning for social reform.

The People's Will became increasingly angry at the failure of the Russian government to announce details of the new constitution. They therefore began to make plans for another assassination attempt. Those involved in the plot included Frolenko, Sophia Perovskaya, Andrei Zhelyabov, Vera Figner, Anna Yakimova, Grigory Isaev, Gesia Gelfman, Nikolai Sablin, Ignatei Grinevitski, Nikolai Kibalchich, Nikolai Rysakov, Timofei Mikhailov, Tatiana Lebedeva and Alexander Kviatkovsky.

Isaev and Yakimova were commissioned to prepare the bombs that were needed to kill the Tsar. Isaev made some technical error and a bomb went off badly damaging his right hand. Yakimova took him to hospital, where she watched over his bed to prevent him from incriminating himself in his delirium. As soon as he regained consciousness he insisted on leaving, although he was now missing three fingers of his right hand. He was unable to continue working and Yakimova now had sole responsibility for preparing the bombs.

During this period Frolenko married Tatiana Lebedeva to help them in the plots against Tsar Alexander II. According to Cathy Porter: "Frolenko and Tatiana moved to Tula, where they were married. For the first few days in Odessa they had remained on formal 'terms with each other, although the situation demanded that they keep up a show of marital intimacy for the benefit of their neighbours. In the week they spent together however they learnt to overcome their mutual distrust. Tatianaa emerged not as a sentimental idealist but as a modest worker, with a subtle sarcastic sense of humour, a passion for poetry and remarkable powers of endurance. She was not a tender woman, but she seems to have impressed everyone with her intense loyalty and integrity. Frolenko now no longer appeared to her as a heartless manipulative terrorist. They grew passionately fond of one another, and vowed to work together whenever possible. Shortly after their marriage they returned to the capital together."

The Okhrana discovered that their was a plot to kill Alexander II. One of their leaders, Andrei Zhelyabov, was arrested on 28th February, 1881, but refused to provide any information on the conspiracy. He confidently told the police that nothing they could do would save the life of the Tsar. Alexander Kviatkovsky, another member of the assassination team, was arrested soon afterwards.

The conspirators decided to make their attack on 1st March, 1881. Sophia Perovskaya was worried that the Tsar would now change his route for his Sunday drive. She therefore gave the orders for bombers to he placed along the Ekaterinsky Canal. Grigory Isaev had laid a mine on Malaya Sadovaya Street and Anna Yakimova was to watch from the window of her flat and when she saw the carriage approaching give the signal to Mikhail Frolenko.

Tsar Alexander II decided to travel along the Ekaterinsky Canal. An armed Cossack sat with the coach-driver and another six Cossacks followed on horseback. Behind them came a group of police officers in sledges. Perovskaya, who was stationed at the intersection between the two routes, gave the signal to Nikolai Rysakov and Timofei Mikhailov to throw their bombs at the Tsar's carriage. The bombs missed the carriage and instead landed amongst the Cossacks. The Tsar was unhurt but insisted on getting out of the carriage to check the condition of the injured men. While he was standing with the wounded Cossacks another terrorist, Ignatei Grinevitski, threw his bomb. Alexander was killed instantly and the explosion was so great that Grinevitski also died from the bomb blast.

Nikolai Rysakov, one of the bombers was arrested at the scene of the crime. Sophia Perovskaya told her comrades: "I know Rysakov and he will say nothing." However, Rysakov was tortured by the Okhrana and was forced to give information on the other conspirators. The following day the police raided the flat being used by the terrorists. Gesia Gelfman was arrested but Nikolai Sablin committed suicide before he could be taken alive. Soon afterwards, Timofei Mikhailov, walked into the trap and was arrested.

Thousands of Cossacks were sent into St. Petersburg and roadblocks were set up, and all routes out of the city were barred. An arrest warrant was issued for Sophia Perovskaya. Her bodyguard, Tyrkov, claimed that she seemed to have "lost her mind" and refused to try and escape from the city. According to Tyrkov, her main concern was to develop a plan to rescue Andrei Zhelyabov from prison. She became depressed when on the 3rd March, the newspapers reported that Zhelyabov had claimed full responsibility for the assassination and therefore signing his own death warrant.

Perovskaya was arrested while walking along the Nevsky Prospect on 10th March. Later that month, Mikhail Frolenko, Nikolai Kibalchich and Grigory Isaev were also arrested. However, other members of the conspiracy, including Vera Figner and Anna Yakimova, managed to escape from the city. Perovskaya was interrogated by Vyacheslav Plehve, the Director of the Police Department. She admitted her involvement in the assassination but refused to name any of her fellow conspirators.

The trial of Zhelyabov, Perovskaya, Kibalchich, Rysakov, Helfman and Mikhailov, opened on 25th March, 1881. Prosecutor Muraviev read his immensely long speech that included the passage: "Cast out by men, accursed of their country, may they answer for their crimes before Almighty God! But peace and calm will be restored. Russia, humbling herself before the Will of that Providence which has led her through so sore a burning faith in her glorious future."

Sophia Perovskaya, Andrei Zhelyabov, Nikolai Kibalchich, Nikolai Rysakov, Gesia Gelfman and Timofei Mikhailov were all sentenced to death. Gelfman announced she was four months pregnant and it was decided to postpone her execution. Perovskaya, as a member of the high nobility, she could appeal against her sentence, however, she refused to do this. It was claimed that Rysakov had gone insane during interrogation. Kibalchich also showed signs that he was mentally unbalanced and talked constantly about a flying machine he had invented.

On 3rd April 1881, Zhelyabov, Perovskaya, Kibalchich, Rysakov and Mikhailov were given tea and handed their black execution clothes. A placard was hung round their necks with the word "Tsaricide" on it. Cathy Porter, the author of Fathers and Daughters: Russian Women in Revolution (1976), has pointed out: "Then the party set off. It was headed by the police carriage, followed by Zhelyabov and Rysakov. Sophia sat with Kibalchich and Mikhailov in the third tumbril. A pale wintry sun shone as the party moved slowly through the streets, already crowded with onlookers, most of them waving and shouting encouragement. High government officials and those wealthy enough to afford the tickets were sitting near to the scaffold that had been erected on Semenovsky Square. The irreplaceable Frolov, Russia's one and only executioner, fiddled drunkenly with the nooses, and Sophia and Zhelyabov were able to say a few last words to one another. The square was surrounded by twelve thousand troops and muffled drum beats sounded. Sophia and Zhelyabov kissed for the last time, then Mikhailov and Kibalchich kissed Sophia. Kibalchich was led to the gallows and hanged. Then it was Mikhailov's turn. Frolov was by now barely able to see straight and the rope broke three times under Mikhailov's weight." It was now Perovskaya's turn. "It's too tight" she told him as he struggled to tie the noose. She died straight away but Zhelyabov, whose noose had not been tight enough, died in agony.

Gesia Gelfman remained in prison. According to her friend, Olga Liubatovich: "Gesia languished under the threat of execution for five months; finally her sentence was commuted, just before she was to deliver. At the hands of the authorities, the terrible act of childbirth became a case of torture unprecedented in human history. For the delivery, they transferred her to the House of Detention. The torments suffered by poor Gesia Gelfman exceeded those dreamed up by the executioners of the Middle Ages; but Gesia didn't go mad - her constitution was too strong. The child was born live, and she was even able to nurse it." Soon after she gave birth her daughter was taken from her. Gelfman died five days later on 12th October, 1882.

Frolenko, Anna Yakimova, Grigory Isaev, Tatiana Lebedeva and sixteen other party members were arrested and tried. Although they were all found guilty, because of the international protests by Victor Hugo and other well-known figures, they were not sentenced to death. Instead they were sent to Trubetskov Dungeon. As Cathy Porter has pointed out: "Those sentenced in the Trial of the 20 were sent to the Trubetskov Dungeon, one of the most horrible of Russian prisons. Few survived the ordeal; torture and rape were everyday occurrences in the dungeons, through whose soundproofed walls little information reached the outside world.... After a year in Trubetskoy, during which most of the prisoners had died or committed suicide."

Anna Yakimova had her baby in the prison and had to watch over him night and day to protect him from rats. In 1883 she and Frolenko's wife, Tatiana Lebedeva were transferred to the Kara Prison Mines. The journey north, which was on foot, lasted two years, was hardly better than life in Trubetskov Dungeon. As it was clear that her baby would not survive the long journey, Yakimova gave it away to "some well-wishers who had come out to greet the prisoners with messages of support and tears of sympathy"

The women joined other revolutionaries such as Catherine Breshkovskaya and Anna Korba at Kara. Anna was twenty-five years old by the time she reached the prison mines. Tatiana, three years older, was in a poor state of health and was described as a "semi-blind, shaven-headed, prematurely aged cripple". Despite being cared for by Korba, who was a qualified doctor, she died, aged 34, in 1887.

Frolenko remained in prison until the 1905 Russian Revolution. He was freed in October 1905 and went to live in Gelendzhik, where he contributed to the journal Byloe. Frolenko moved to Moscow in 1922, where he became a member of the Society of Former Political Prisoners and Exiles and served on the editorial board of the journal Katorga Issylka. He joined the Russian Communist Party in 1936.

Mikhail Frolenko died in Moscow on 15th February, 1938.

The son of a retired sergeant major, Frolenko graduated from the Stavropol’ Gymnasium in 1870. Petersburg Institute of Technology and in 1871 entered the Petrovskoe Agricultural Academy in Moscow. In 1873 and 1874 he was a member of the Moscow branch of the Chaikovskii circle; he carried on propaganda among the workers and took part in the “going to the people” movement in the Urals. He went underground in 1874 and from 1875 to 1877 was aligned with the Southern Rebels. Kostiurin escape in 1877 and la. Voinaral’-skii and in the digging of a passage under the Kherson Treasury in 1879.

In 1878, Frolenko became a member of Land and Liberty and attended the organization’s Lipetsk and Voronezh congresses. After the formation of the People’s Will, he served on its Executive Committee and took part in attempts to murder Emperor Alexander II in November 1879, near Odessa, and on Mar. 1, 1881. He was arrested on Mar. 17, 1881, in St. Petersburg and in the Trial of the 20 was condemned to death, a sentence that was commuted to hard labor for life.

Frolenko and Tatiana moved to Tula, where they were married. For the first few days in Odessa they had remained on formal terms with each other, although the situation demanded that they keep up a show of marital intimacy for the benefit of their neighbours. Shortly after their marriage they returned to the capital together.


Биография

Он был сыном фельдфебеля в отставке. В 1870 г. окончил Ставропольскую гимназию, затем учился в Петербургском технологическом институте, с 1871 г. - в Петровской сельскохозяйственной академии в Москве.

В 1873–1874 годах Фроленко состоял в московском кружке чайковцев , вел агитацию среди рабочих, участвовал в «хождении в народ» на Урале. С 1874 года он находился в нелегальном положении. С 1878 г. член общества « Земля и свобода », участник Липецкого и Воронежского съездов.

С появлением «Народной воли» - член ее исполкома, участник покушений на императора Александра II в ноябре 1879 г. под Одессой и 1 марта 1881 г. Арестован 17 марта 1881 г. в Санкт-Петербурге. На «Процессе 20-ти» Фроленко был приговорен к смертной казни, замененной вечными каторжными работами, которые он отбыл в Алексеевском равелине с 1884 года в Шлиссельбургской крепости. Выпущен в октябре 1905 г.

В 1908–1917 жил в Геленджике под надзором полиции, сотрудничал в журнале « Белое ».

С 1922 г. - в Москве, член Общества бывших политзаключенных и ссыльных переселенцев и редакции журнала «Каторга и ссылка».


Contents

The formation of Land and Liberty, in Saint Petersburg in 1876, was preceded by the analysis of the "call to the people" campaign (Хождение в народ, or Khozhdeniye v narod) of 1873-1875. As a result, the members of Land and Liberty defined the basics of the political platform, which would be called narodnicheskaya (народническая, or "close to the people", populist). They admitted a possibility of a special, non-capitalist way of development of Russia with peasantry as its basis. The members of Land and Liberty considered necessary to adapt the purposes and slogans of the movement to independent revolutionary aspirations that had already existed among the peasants, as they believed. These requirements, generalized in the slogan "Land and Liberty!", were designed to allow for the transition of all the lands "into the hands of the rural working strata", even distribution of the land, "full communal self-management" and division of the Russian empire into parts "in accordance with the desires of the locals". Land and Liberty stood for the creation of permanent "revolutionary settlements" in the countryside for the purpose of preparing a people’s revolution. [ citation needed ]

The members of Land and Liberty saw peasantry as the principal revolutionary force, as opposed to the working class, which would have to play a part of the "second fiddle". Proceeding from the inevitability of a "forced coup d'état", the revolutionaries considered agitation and organization of revolts, demonstrations and strikes to be very important. Land and Liberty represented a "rebellious" current of the revolutionary movement of the 1870s. Vladimir Lenin said that Land and Liberty’s merit was its desire to ". attract all of the discontent and direct the organization towards decisive struggle against autocracy". Discipline, mutual comradely control, centralism and conspiracy became this organization’s principles. [ citation needed ]

Land and Liberty’s most prominent members from the times of its inception were Mark Natanson, Alexander Mikhailov, Aleksei Oboleshev, Georgi Plekhanov, Aleksandr Kvyatkovsky, Dmitry Lizogub, Valerian Osinsky, Osip Aptekman, Nikolai Rusanov and others. Later, Sergey Kravchinsky, Dmitry Klements, Nikolai Morozov, Sophia Perovskaya, Lev Tikhomirov, Mikhail Frolenko (all of them - Chaikovtsi) would later join Land and Liberty. The club of Vera Figner shared the views of and cooperated with Land and Liberty. The organization had close ties with the revolutionaries in Kyiv, Kharkiv and Odessa. [ citation needed ]

The revolutionaries chose to "settle" in the provinces of Saratov, Nizhny Novgorod, Samara, Astrakhan, Tambov, Pskov, Voronezh, the Don region and others. They also attempted to spread their revolutionary activities in the Northern Caucasus and the Urals. Land and Liberty organized clandestine publishing and distribution of the revolutionary literature, conducted propaganda among workers and took part in several strikes in Petersburg in 1878-1879. It also influenced the development of the student movement by organizing or supporting demonstrations in Petersburg and other cities, including the so-called Kazan demonstration of 1876, where they would openly admit the organization’s existence for the first time. [ citation needed ]

The Program of Land and Liberty also envisioned a course of actions, aimed at "disorganization of the state", in its members opinion. In particular, it allowed for physical elimination of "the most harmful or prominent members of the government". The most famous terrorist act of Land and Liberty was the assassination of the Chief of the Gendarmes Nikolai Mezentsov in 1878. However, Land and Liberty didn’t yet consider terror a means of political struggle against the existing regime, perceiving it as revolutionary self-defense and their revenge towards the government. [ citation needed ]

Land and Liberty’s disappointment with the revolutionary activity in the countryside, intensification of the governmental repressions and political discontent during the Russo-Turkish War, 1877-78 and ripening of the revolutionary situation favored the conception and development of the new sentiments in the organization itself. By spring of 1879, the faction of political terrorists was formed in Land and Liberty

Disagreements between the supporters of the former strategy of inciting the countryside called derevenschiki, or "villagers" (Georgi Plekhanov, Mikhail Popov [ru] , Osip Aptekman etc.) and defenders of transition towards political struggle by means of systematic terrorist methods called politicians (Aleksandr Mikhailov, Aleksandr Kvyatkovsky, Nikolai Morozov, Lev Tikhomirov etc.) led to the convocation of the Voronezh Congress of Land and Liberty in June 1879, where the two rival groups would reach a short-term compromise.

In August 1879, however, Land and Liberty broke up in two independent organizations: Narodnaya Volya and Chernyi Peredel. [ citation needed ]


ExecutedToday.com

He has gone to his death through an oversight on my part. It was a foolish thing for me to have drawn the revolver, but I was in liquor or I would have never done it. I could not control the event. I went there purely on a matter of business and my business was very simple and very plain. The result was as it was. I am prepared to die.

-George Bennett

George Bennett hanged at Toronto on this date in 1880 for murdering George Brown.

By far the more consequential figure in the transaction was the victim. One of the Fathers of Confederation, the visionary Scottish emigre bequeathed to the country he helped to shape such institutions as the Liberal Party and the Toronto Globe (now the Globe and Mail, after a 20th century merger with a rival newspaper). His personal and political rivalry with Conservative lion John A. Macdonald, and the “Great Coalition” formed by these two to steer a faltering polity deadlocked by the mutual vetoes Anglophones and Francophones towards the Canadian Confederation, is the subject of a fine 2011 CBC film, John A.: Birth of a Country.

Brown’s killer, and our date’s principal, was Brown’s employee for five-ish years, as an engineer in the boiler room. He had a dissolute, chaotic life, marked by frequent domestic disturbances and heavy drinking. It was his propensity for turning up to work drunk that set in motion the tragedy, for his mishandling of the boiler one night early in 1880 led to his dismissal by the foreman.

A great scribbler of words, Bennett in this time produced copy by turns vengeful and despairing, and of course he kept hitting the bottle. On March 25, he turned up at his former workplace where he rantingly accosted several former coworkers. By late afternoon he’d found his way to George Brown’s office, and inviting himself in he proceeded to importune the publisher with his disordered grievances. At last he pressed Brown to sign a paper affirming his length of employment. Brown had little idea who this impertinent drunk was, and still less that the impertinent drunk was armed the boss’s attempts to redirect Bennett to his supervisor or the business administrators to address his paperwork request enraged his ex-employee, who suddenly produced a pistol and through a scuffle put a ball into George Brown.

One wouldn’t think the injury pictured above would be fatal indeed, the next day’s Globe exulted that “Yesterday afternoon one of the most seditious and dastardly attempts at murder ever made in this city took place in the private office of the Hon. George Brown in the Globe Building. Fortunately, owning mainly to Mr. Brown’s presence of mind and superior physical strength, the attempt was unsuccessful, the only results being a severe flesh wound to the thigh and the nervous prostration which is the inevitable result of such an encounter. Had the miscreant who made the murderous assault been a little more prompt in taking his aim, or had the pistol been of a different construction, the attempt could hardly have resulted so favourably, for he persisted in his efforts to effect his bloody purpose until he was overpowered and the weapon was wrenched from his grasp.” But the relief proved premature when the leg wound torn by Bennett’s bullet turned gangrenous and eventually — seven weeks later — killed Brown.

Monuments to the murdered statesman abound in Canada, including the Second Empire home he built and died in, preserved as the historic George Brown House, and George Brown College. His whiskered statue strides on Parliament Hill.

Brown’s widow returned to Scotland with her children, and the Canadian hero’s son George Mackenzie Brown followed his father’s career in both printing and politicking: per Wikipedia, “As a publisher, he produced Arthur Conan Doyle’s books as a politician, he beat him to win election to the House of Commons.”


Vera Figner — Nacht über Rußland

Alle reden wieder von Revolution. Ja es braucht eine Revolution. Wieder eine Revolution, doch ist die Aufgabe zu grandios. Die Revolution wird zu ungewöhnlich, und wir werden uns seriös dafür vorbereiten müssen. Was macht es für einen Sinn, wenn sich wieder die Unterdrückten an die Stelle der ehemaligen Unterdrücker setzen? Sie werden selber zu Raubtieren, und wahrscheinlich sogar schlimmeren [. ]. Wir müssen heute anfangen mit seriöser Erziehungsarbeit an uns selber, und andere dazu einladen [. ]. Wenn der Mensch endlich erkennt, daß der Mensch eine Hoheitliche Individualität besitzt, daß er einen enormen Wert hat, daß er ebenso frei ist wie jeder andere, erst dann vollzieht sich die letzte, schillernde und geistige Revolution und für immer werden die „rostigen Ketten“ abfallen.

VERA FIGNER, the child of prosperous parents, was born in Kazan, Russia, on 25th June, 1852. The oldest of six children, she was sent away to a private school in 1863. Her uncle had liberal views and encouraged her to be concerned about the poor.

Vera wanted to go to university but this was not allowed in Russia at this time. In 1872, along with her sister, Lydia Figner, she decided to study medicine in Zurich. She told a friend: "In my opinion in order to be more useful one should know more, but where can you learn what you want to do? I think only the university is worth so much that a woman could sacrifice everything for it. But in Russia this way is closed to women. Therefore. I have decided to go to Zurich. We shall return to our country and organize life in a fine way. I shall organize a hospital and open a school or a handcraft institute. I shall stop at nothing because this whole plan is not the mere product of an idle fantasy but my whole flesh and blood, and my motivation will be the three needs or targets of my existence: economic independence, the formation of my intelligence, and usefulness to others."

While in Zurich she met a group of women who held radical political views. This included Sophia Bardina and Olga Liubatovich. The anarchist Peter Kropotkin met Figner and her friends during this period: "They lived as most students do, especially the women, that is on very little. Tea and bread, some milk and a thin slice of meat, amidst spirited discussions of the latest news from the socialist world and the last book read - that was their regular fate. Those who had more money than was needed for such a way of life donated it to the common cause . As to dress, the most parsimonious economy reigned in that direction. Our girls in Zurich seemed defiantly to throw this question at the population there: can there be a simplicity of dress which does not become a girl if she is young, intelligent and full of energy?" Another observer, Franziska Tiburtius, provided a less complimentary picture of this group of radicals: The short-cut hair, the enormous blue spectacles, the short quite unadorned dress which resembled umbrella lining, the round glossy matelot, the cigarette, the dark and supercilious countenance all came to be considered as characteristic of the woman student."

The activities of these young women began to concern the Russian authorities. The Russian Government Herald published an article on 21st May, 1872, claiming: "Several Russian girls set off abroad to attend lectures at Zurich University. At first there were only a very few of them, but now there are more than a hundred women there. Largely because of this increase in Russian women students, the ring-leaders of the Russian emigration have chosen this town as a centre for revolutionary propaganda, and have done all in their power to enlist into their ranks these young women students. Under their influence, women have abandoned their studies for fruitless political agitation. Young Russians of both sexes have formed political parties of extreme shades. In the Russian Library they hold lectures of an exclusively revolutionary nature. It has become common practice for the girls to attend workers' meetings. Young and inexperienced minds are being led astray by political agitators, and set on the wrong course. And to cap it all, meetings and party struggles throw the girls into such confusion that they accept this fruitless and fraudulent propaganda as real life. Once drawn into politics the girls fall under the influence of the leaders of the emigration, and become compliant weapons in their hands. Some of them go from Zurich to Russia and back two or three times a year, carrying letters, instructions and proclamations and taking an active part in criminal propaganda. Others are led astray by communist theories about free love, and under pretext of fictitious marriages carry to the most extreme limits their rejection of the fundamental laws of morality and feminine virtue. The immoral conduct of Russian women has aroused the indignation of the local citizens against them, and landladies are even refusing to accept them as lodgers. Some of the girls have sunk so low as to practise that branch of obstetrics which is judged a criminal offence, and deserves the utter contempt of all honourable people."

Mikhail Bakunin meet this group of women when he visited Zurich. He urged them, to return to Russia and to carry out propaganda work. Vera Figner refused as she wanted to complete her degree but Sophia Bardina, Lydia Figner, Anna Toporkova, Berta Kaminskaya, Alexandra Khorzhevskaya, Evgenia Subbotina and Nadezhda Subbotina agreed and arrived in their homeland and found work in factories. In January 1875 the women began distributing the newspaper, Rabotnik (The Worker), that was being produced by Bakunin in Berne. It was the first Russian-language paper to focus serious attention on the urban proletariat. However, it had little impact on the largely illiterate workers. However, the Russian secret police was informed and in August 1875, Bardina, Lydia Figner and Anna Toporkova, were arrested. Soon afterwards, Olga Liubatovich and Gesia Gelfman were taken into custody.

The trial took place on 14th March, 1877. Sophia Bardina stated in court: "All of these accusations against us would be terrible if they were true. But they are based on misunderstanding. I do not reject property if it is acquired by one's own labour. Every person has a right to his own labour and its products. So why do our masters give us only one-third of our labour-value? As for the family, I also do not understand. Is it the social system that is destroying it, by forcing a woman to abandon her family and work for wretched wages in a factory, where she and her children are inevitably corrupted a system that drives a woman into prostitution through sheer poverty, and which actually sanctions this prostitution as something legitimate and necessary in any well-ordered society? Or is it we who are undermining it, we, who are attempting to eliminate this poverty, which is the chief cause of all our social ills, including the destruction of the family? As to religion, I have always been true to the principles established by the founder of Christianity, and have never propagandized against these principles. I am equally innocent of attempting to undermine the State. I do not believe any one individual is capable of destroying the State by force. If it is to be destroyed, it will be because it bears within it the embryo of its own destruction, holding as it does the people in political, economic and intellectual bondage." Bardina and Olga Liubatovich were sentenced to nine years hard labour in Siberia, whereas Gesia Gelfman and Lydia Figner got five years's hard labour in factories.

Vera Figner now returned to Russia and joined the Land and Liberty group. Most of the group, and also Vera Figner, shared Bakunin's anarchist views and demanded that Russia's land should be handed over to the peasants and the State should be destroyed. The historian, Adam Bruno Ulam, has argued: "This Party, which commemorated in its name the revolutionary grouping of the early sixties, was soon split up by quarrels about its attitude toward terror. The professed aim, the continued agitation among the peasants, grew more and more fruitless."

In October, 1879, the Land and Liberty split into two factions. The majority of members, who favoured a policy of terrorism, established the People's Will (Narodnaya Volya). Others, such as George Plekhanov formed Black Repartition, a group that rejected terrorism and supported a socialist propaganda campaign among workers and peasants. Elizabeth Kovalskaia was one of those who rejected the ideas of the People's Will: "Firmly convinced that only the people themselves could carry out a socialist revolution and that terror directed at the centre of the state (such as the People's Will advocated) would bring - at best - only a wishy-washy constitution which would in turn strengthen the Russian bourgeoisie, I joined Black Repartition, which had retained the old Land and Liberty program."

Vera Figner, Anna Korba, Andrei Zhelyabov, Timofei Mikhailov, Lev Tikhomirov, Mikhail Frolenko, Grigory Isaev, Sophia Perovskaya, Nikolai Sablin, Ignatei Grinevitski, Nikolai Kibalchich, Nikolai Rysakov, Gesia Gelfman, Anna Yakimova, Sergei Kravchinskii, Tatiana Lebedeva and Alexander Kviatkovsky all joined the People's Will. Figner later recalled: "We divided up the printing plant and the funds - which were in fact mostly in the form of mere promises and hopes. And as our primary aim was to substitute the will of the people for the will of one individual, we chose the name Narodnaya Volya for the new Party."

Michael Burleigh, the author of Blood & Rage: A Cultural History of Terrorism (2008), has argued that the main influence on this small group was Sergi Nechayev: "The terrorist nucleus of Land and Freedom had already adopted many of Nechayev's dubious practices, including bank robberies and murdering informers. People's Will also borrowed his tactic of suggesting to the credulous that it was the tip of a much larger revolutionary organisation - the Russian Social Revolutionary Party - which in reality was non-existent. There was an imposing-sounding Executive Committee all right, but this was coterminous with the entire membership of People's Will. In fact, People's Will never had more than thirty or forty members, who would then recruit agents for spectific tasks or to establish affiliate cells within sections of society deemed to have revolutionary potential."

Soon afterwards the People's Will decided to assassinate Alexander II. According to the historian, Joel Carmichael: "Although this populist organization retained the same humane vocabulary - revolving around socialism, faith in the people, the overthrow of the autocracy, and democratic representation - its sole objective was, in fact, the murder of the tsar. The preparation for this demanded boundless zeal, painstaking diligence, and great personal daring. In fact, the idealism of these young assassins was perhaps the most impressive thing about the whole populist movement. Though a few populist leaders were of peasant origin, most were drawn from the intelligentsia of the upper and middle classes. The motives of the latter were quite impersonal one of the things that baffled the police in stamping out the movement - in which they never succeeded - was just this combination of zeal and selflessness. The actual membership of the populist societies was relatively small. But their ideas attracted wide support, even in the topmost circles of the bureaucracy and, for that matter, in the security police as well. The upper-class origins of many of the revolutionaries meant a source of funds many idealists donated their entire fortunes to the movement."

A directive committee was formed consisting of Vera Figner, Andrei Zhelyabov, Timofei Mikhailov, Lev Tikhomirov, Mikhail Frolenko, Sophia Perovskaya and Anna Yakimova. Zhelyabov was considered the leader of the group. However, Figner considered him to be overbearing and lacking in depth: "He had not suffered enough. For him all was hope and light." Zhelyabov had a magnetic personality and had a reputation for exerting a strong influence over women.

Zhelyabov and Perovskaya attempted to use nitroglycerine to destroy the Tsar train. However, the terrorist miscalculated and it destroyed another train instead. An attempt the blow up the Kamenny Bridge in St. Petersburg as the Tsar was passing over it was also unsuccessful. Figner blamed Zhelyabov for these failures but others in the group felt he had been unlucky rather than incompetent.

In November 1879 Stefan Khalturin managed to find work as a carpenter in the Winter Palace. According to Adam Bruno Ulam, the author of Prophets and Conspirators in Pre-Revolutionary Russia (1998): "There was, incomprehensible as it seems, no security check of workman employed at the palace. Stephan Khalturin, a joiner, long sought by the police as one of the organizers of the Northern Union of Russian workers, found no difficulty in applying for and getting a job there under a false name. Conditions at the palace, judging from his reports to revolutionary friends, epitomized those of Russia itself: the outward splendor of the emperor's residence concealed utter chaos in its management: people wandered in and out, and imperial servants resplendent in livery were paid as little as fifteen rubles a month and were compelled to resort to pilfering. The working crew were allowed to sleep in a cellar apartment directly under the dining suite."

Khalturin approached George Plekhanov about the possibility of using this opportunity to kill Tsar Alexander II. He rejected the idea but did put him in touch with the People's Will who were committed to a policy of assassination. It was agreed that Khalturin should try and kill the Tsar and each day he brought packets of dynamite, supplied by Anna Yakimova and Nikolai Kibalchich, into his room and concealed it in his bedding. Cathy Porter, the author of Fathers and Daughters: Russian Women in Revolution (1976), has argued: "His workmates regarded him as a clown and a simpleton and warned him against socialists, easily identifiable apparently for their wild eyes and provocative gestures. He worked patiently, familiarizing himself with the Tsar's every movement, and by mid-January Yakimova and Kibalchich had provided him with a hundred pounds of dynamite, which he hid under his bed."

On 17th February, 1880, Stefan Khalturin constructed a mine in the basement of the building under the dinning-room. The mine went off at half-past six at the time that the People's Will had calculated Alexander II would be having his dinner. However, his main guest, Prince Alexander of Battenburg, had arrived late and dinner was delayed and the dinning-room was empty. Alexander was unharmed but sixty-seven people were killed or badly wounded by the explosion.

The People's Will became increasingly angry at the failure of the Russian government to announce details of the new constitution. They therefore began to make plans for another assassination attempt. Those involved in the plot included Vera Figner, Sophia Perovskaya, Andrei Zhelyabov, Anna Yakimova, Grigory Isaev, Gesia Gelfman, Nikolai Sablin, Ignatei Grinevitski, Nikolai Kibalchich, Nikolai Rysakov, Mikhail Frolenko, Timofei Mikhailov, Tatiana Lebedeva and Alexander Kviatkovsky.

Kibalchich, Isaev and Yakimova were commissioned to prepare the bombs that were needed to kill the Tsar. Isaev made some technical error and a bomb went off badly damaging his right hand. Yakimova took him to hospital, where she watched over his bed to prevent him from incriminating himself in his delirium. As soon as he regained consciousness he insisted on leaving, although he was now missing three fingers of his right hand. He was unable to continue working and Yakimova now had sole responsibility for preparing the bombs.

It was discovered that every Sunday the Tsar took a drive along Malaya Sadovaya Street. It was decided that this was a suitable place to attack. Yakimova was given the task of renting a flat in the street. Gesia Gelfman had a flat on Telezhnaya Street and this became the headquarters of the assassins whereas the home of Vera Figner was used as an explosives workshop.

Nikolai Kibalchich wanted to make a nitroglycerine bomb but Andrei Zhelyabov regarded it as "unreliable". Sophia Perovskaya favoured mining. Eventually it was decided that the Tsar's carriage should be mined, with hand grenades at the ready as a second strategy. If all else failed, one of the members of the assassination team should step forward and stab the Tsar with a dagger. It was Kibalchich's job to provide the hand grenades.

The Okhrana discovered that their was a plot to kill Alexander II. One of their leaders, Andrei Zhelyabov, was arrested on 28th February, 1881, but refused to provide any information on the conspiracy. He confidently told the police that nothing they could do would save the life of the Tsar. Alexander Kviatkovsky, another member of the assassination team, was arrested soon afterwards.

The conspirators decided to make their attack on 1st March, 1881. Sophia Perovskaya was worried that the Tsar would now change his route for his Sunday drive. She therefore gave the orders for bombers to he placed along the Ekaterinsky Canal. Grigory Isaev had laid a mine on Malaya Sadovaya Street and Anna Yakimova was to watch from the window of her flat and when she saw the carriage approaching give the signal to Mikhail Frolenko.

Tsar Alexander II decided to travel along the Ekaterinsky Canal. An armed Cossack sat with the coach-driver and another six Cossacks followed on horseback. Behind them came a group of police officers in sledges. Perovskaya, who was stationed at the intersection between the two routes, gave the signal to Nikolai Rysakov and Timofei Mikhailov to throw their bombs at the Tsar's carriage. The bombs missed the carriage and instead landed amongst the Cossacks. The Tsar was unhurt but insisted on getting out of the carriage to check the condition of the injured men. While he was standing with the wounded Cossacks another terrorist, Ignatei Grinevitski, threw his bomb. Alexander was killed instantly and the explosion was so great that Grinevitski also died from the bomb blast.

The terrorists quickly escaped from the scene and that evening assembled at the flat being rented by Vera Figner. She later recalled: "Everything was peaceful as I walked through the streets. But half an hour after I reached the apartment of some friends, a man appeared with the news that two crashes like cannon shots had rung out, that people were saying the sovereign had been killed, and that the oath was already being administered to the heir. I rushed outside. The streets were in turmoil: people were talking about the sovereign, about wounds, death, blood. I rushed back to my companions. I was so overwrought that I could barely summon the strength to stammer out that the Tsar had been killed. I was sobbing the nightmare that had weighed over Russia for so many years had been lifted. This moment was the recompense for all the brutalities and atrocities inflicted on hundreds and thousands of our people. The dawn of the New Russia was at hand! At that solemn moment all we could think of was the happy future of our country."

The evening after the assassination the Executive Committee of the People's Will sent an open letter announcing it was willing to negotiate with the authorities: "The inevitable alternatives are revolution or a voluntary transfer of power to the people. We turn to you as a citizen and a man of honour, and we demand: (i) amnesty for all political prisoners, (ii) the summoning of a representative assembly of the whole nation".

Nikolai Rysakov, one of the bombers was arrested at the scene of the crime. Sophia Perovskaya told her comrades: "I know Rysakov and he will say nothing." However, Rysakov was tortured by the Okhrana and was forced to give information on the other conspirators. The following day the police raided the flat being used by the terrorists. Gesia Gelfman was arrested but Nikolai Sablin committed suicide before he could be taken alive. Soon afterwards, Timofei Mikhailov, walked into the trap and was arrested.

Thousands of Cossacks were sent into St. Petersburg and roadblocks were set up, and all routes out of the city were barred. An arrest warrant was issued for Sophia Perovskaya. Her bodyguard, Tyrkov, claimed that she seemed to have "lost her mind" and refused to try and escape from the city. According to Tyrkov, her main concern was to develop a plan to rescue Andrei Zhelyabov from prison. She became depressed when on the 3rd March, the newspapers reported that Zhelyabov had claimed full responsibility for the assassination and therefore signing his own death warrant.

Perovskaya was arrested while walking along the Nevsky Prospect on 10th March. Later that month Nikolai Kibalchich, Grigory Isaev and Mikhail Frolenko were also arrested. However, other members of the conspiracy, including Vera Figner and Anna Yakimova, managed to escape from the city. Perovskaya was interrogated by Vyacheslav Plehve, the Director of the Police Department. She admitted her involvement in the assassination but refused to name any of her fellow conspirators.

The trial of Zhelyabov, Perovskaya, Kibalchich, Rysakov, Gelfman and Mikhailov, opened on 25th March, 1881. Prosecutor Muraviev read his immensely long speech that included the passage: "Cast out by men, accursed of their country, may they answer for their crimes before Almighty God! But peace and calm will be restored. Russia, humbling herself before the Will of that Providence which has led her through so sore a burning faith in her glorious future."

Prosecutor Muraviev concentrated his attack on Sophia Perovskaya: "We can imagine a political conspiracy we can imagine that this conspiracy uses the most cruel, amazing means we can imagine that a woman should be part of this conspiracy. But that a woman should lead a conspiracy, that she should take on herself all the details of the murder, that she should with cynical coldness place the bomb-throwers, draw a plan and show them where to stand that a woman should have become the life and soul of this conspiracy, should stand a few steps away from the place of the crime and admire the work of her own hands - any normal feelings of morality can have no understanding of such a role for women." Perovskaya replied: "I do not deny the charges, but I and my friends are accused of brutality, immorality and contempt for public opinion. I wish to say that anyone who knows our lives and the circumstances in which we have had to work would not accuse us of either immorality or brutality."

Sophia Perovskaya, Andrei Zhelyabov, Nikolai Kibalchich, Nikolai Rysakov, Gesia Gelfman and Timofei Mikhailov were all sentenced to death. Gelfman announced she was four months pregnant and it was decided to postpone her execution. Perovskaya, as a member of the high nobility, she could appeal against her sentence, however, she refused to do this. It was claimed that Rysakov had gone insane during interrogation. Kibalchich also showed signs that he was mentally unbalanced and talked constantly about a flying machine he had invented.

On 3rd April 1881, Zhelyabov, Perovskaya, Kibalchich, Rysakov and Mikhailov were given tea and handed their black execution clothes. A placard was hung round their necks with the word "Tsaricide" on it. Cathy Porter, the author of Fathers and Daughters: Russian Women in Revolution (1976), has pointed out: "Then the party set off. It was headed by the police carriage, followed by Zhelyabov and Rysakov. Sophia sat with Kibalchich and Mikhailov in the third tumbril. A pale wintry sun shone as the party moved slowly through the streets, already crowded with onlookers, most of them waving and shouting encouragement. High government officials and those wealthy enough to afford the tickets were sitting near to the scaffold that had been erected on Semenovsky Square. The irreplaceable Frolov, Russia's one and only executioner, fiddled drunkenly with the nooses, and Sophia and Zhelyabov were able to say a few last words to one another. The square was surrounded by twelve thousand troops and muffled drum beats sounded. Sophia and Zhelyabov kissed for the last time, then Mikhailov and Kibalchich kissed Sophia. Kibalchich was led to the gallows and hanged. Then it was Mikhailov's turn. Frolov was by now barely able to see straight and the rope broke three times under Mikhailov's weight." It was now Perovskaya's turn. "It's too tight" she told him as he struggled to tie the noose. She died straight away but Zhelyabov, whose noose had not been tight enough, died in agony.

Gesia Gelfman remained in prison. According to her friend, Olga Liubatovich: "Gesia languished under the threat of execution for five months finally her sentence was commuted, just before she was to deliver. At the hands of the authorities, the terrible act of childbirth became a case of torture unprecedented in human history. For the delivery, they transferred her to the House of Detention. The torments suffered by poor Gesia Gelfman exceeded those dreamed up by the executioners of the Middle Ages but Gesia didn't go mad - her constitution was too strong. The child was born live, and she was even able to nurse it." Soon after she gave birth her daughter was taken from her. Gelfman died five days later on 12th October, 1882.

Anna Yakimova, who was also pregnant, probably by Grigory Isaev, managed to escape to Kiev. She was soon arrested and she was tried alongside Isaev, Mikhail Frolenko, Tatiana Lebedeva and sixteen other party members. Although they were all found guilty, because of the international protests by Victor Hugo and other well-known figures, they were not sentenced to death. Instead they were sent to Trubetskov Dungeon. As Cathy Porter has pointed out: "Those sentenced in the Trial of the 20 were sent to the Trubetskov Dungeon, one of the most horrible of Russian prisons. Few survived the ordeal torture and rape were everyday occurrences in the dungeons, through whose soundproofed walls little information reached the outside world. After a year in Trubetskoy, during which most of the prisoners had died or committed suicide."

Vera Figner was the one remaining leader of the People's Will who initially escaped capture. She claimed that the "harvest was plentiful, the reapers were few". She tried to recruit "reapers" but with little success. Geoffrey Hosking, the author of A History of the Soviet Union (1985), wrote that ultimately the efforts of the People Will ended in failure: "In 1881 it actually succeeded in assassinating the Emperor Alexander II. But setting up a different regime, or even putting effective pressure on Alexander's successor - that proved beyond their capacities. Their victory was a pyrrhic one: all it produced was more determined repression.

Vera Figner was arrested on 10th February 1883. Tsar Alexander III commented, "Thank God that terrible woman has been caught." The year she spent in pretrial imprisonment in the Peter and Paul Fortress was spent learning English and writing her memoirs. She was interrogated by Vyacheslav Plehve, Director of the Police Department and Dmitry Tolstoy, the Minister of the Interior. Tolstoy told her: "What a pity there is so little time or I would have been able to convince you of the uselessness of terror." She replied "I am sorry sorry too. I expect I would have been able to turn you into a narodovolnik."

Figner's trial began on 28th September, 1884. She was found guilty and sentenced to death. However, it was commuted at the last moment to life imprisonment in the Schlusselberg Fortress. According to one source the "solitary confinement and semi-starvation in airless unheated cells was the nearest conceivable approximation of death." Figner wrote that: "The strain under which I had been living during my years of freedom, which had before been subdued and repressed, now left me there was no task for my will, and the human being woke within me."

Figner was released in 1904 and joined the Socialist Revolutionaries but left after discovering that Evno Azef had been working as a double agent. Figner welcomed the Russian Revolution in 1917 and for a short time worked for the People's Commissariat for Social Security under Alexandra Kollontai. She also joined the Writers' Union when it was formed in 1924.

In 1927 she published an autobiography, Memoirs of a Revolutionary. By this time she was highly critical of Joseph Stalin and Victor Serge later revealed that Figner was closely watched by the Communist Secret Police and for many years was in danger of being arrested.


Narodnaya Volya

Narodnaya Volya (Народная Воля in Russian, known as People’s Will in English) was a Russian organization it was a supporter of the political struggle against autocracy. It created a centralized, well disguised, and most significant organization in a time of diverse liberation movements in Russia. Narodnaya Volya was led by its Executive Committee: Alexander Mikhailov, Aleksandr Kvyatkovsky, Andrei Zhelyabov, Sophia Perovskaya, Vera Figner, Nikolai Morozov, Mikhail Frolenko, Lev Tikhomirov, Alexander Barannikov, Anna Yakimova, Maria Oshanina and others.

The Executive Committee was in charge of a network of local and special groups (composed of workers, students, and members of the military). In 1879&ndash1883, Narodnaya Volya had affiliates in almost 50 cities, especially in Ukraine and the Volga region. Though the number of its members never exceeded 500, Narodnaya Volya had a few thousand followers.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Narodnaya Volya" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.


ExecutedToday.com

On this date in 1880,* Russian revolutionaries Alexander Kvyatkovsky and Andrei Presnyakov were hanged at St. Petersburg’s Peter and Paul Fortress.


Kvyatkovsky (left) and Presnyakov.

Kvyatkovsky, 28, and Presnyakov, 24, had each spent the whole of their brief adulthoods agitating, police ever at their heels. As Russia’s “season of terror” opened in the late 1870s, both immediately cast their lot with the violent Narodnaya Volya movement. They were found by police at their respective arrests to have each had more than a passing interest in Narodnaya Volya’s ongoing project to assassinate Tsar Alexander II — an objective that it would indeed achieve a few months later.

Their fellow-traveler Mikhail Frolenko would remember the mass trial they featured at not for any glorious martyr-making but as a propaganda debacle for his movement.

The Trial of the Sixteen** in October 1880 was a model of judicial procedure — the government had learned, planned carefully and conducted the trial with absolute decorum. The sixteen accused included three of the most important figures in the Movement: Shiraev, who had been arrested in Moscow a year before with two suitcases of dynamite, Presnyakov and Kvyatkovsky. The last two were old friends of Andrei Zhelyabov. The evidence against the accused was provided by Grigory Goldenberg the prosecution’s case was unanswerable. The sixteen were allowed to address the court and their speeches were reported. The prosecutors questioned them with a mix of deliberate courtesy and provocation: the sixteen were given enough rope to hang themselves. They followed no clear line and contradicted each other on endless details. They improvised counter-accusations, became mired in irrelevancies, and exploded in fits of petulance. They made a miserable impression, highlighted at every stage by the correctness of the proceedings. In its sentence the court was lenient, another propaganda victory: fourteen were sentenced to hard labor two, Presnyakov and Kvyatkovsky, were sentenced to be hanged. We lost sixteen good people, which was bad enough. But worse was our irreparable loss of public esteem. One small sign of this was the fate of the word terror. Hitherto we had freely called ourselves terrorists it had much the same ring as revolutionary. Terror was simply the first phase of the revolution. Overnight the word became a term of abuse and the exclusive property of the government. That alone might have told us we were following the wrong path. (Excerpted from Saturn’s Daughters: The Birth of Terrorism

Kvyatkovsky’s son, also named Alexander, was a Bolshevik close to Lenin in the early Soviet years.

* November 16 by the Gregorian calendar it was still November 4 by the archaic Julian calendar still then in use in the Russian Empire.

** Not to be confused with at least two distinct Soviet-era mass trials also respectively designated the “Trial of the Sixteen”.

On this day..

Possibly related executions:

1864: Nikolay Chernyshevsky’s “civil execution”

On this date in 1864, the Russian writer Nikolay Chernyshevsky was publicly executed in St. Petersburg.

Then he was shipped to Siberia.

Chernyshevsky’s punishment was only a pantomime “civil execution,” somewhat akin to the symbolic executions by effigy elsewhere in Europe. In this case, the faux death penalty was imposed not upon a peeling portrait but on Chernyshevsky’s actual person: “The hangmen led Chernyshevsky to the scaffold on Mytninskaya Square in St. Petersburg, made him kneel down, broke a sword over his head and then chained him to the pillory. Chernyshevsky stood calmly under the rain waiting for this mockery to come to an end.” (Source)

The pillory, exposed to the hoots and brickbats of an offended populace, was supposed to be a humiliation to its sufferer occasionally, it even proved lethal. Not so for Chernyshevsky: the crowd stood silently. Someone threw a bouquet of flowers.

This ludicrous theater was enacted to punish Chernyshevsky for his leadership of the St. Petersburg intellectual circle that gave birth to the Narodnik movement. Literally “going to the people,” this was a peasant-focused populist-democratic-socialist philosophy paradoxically germinated among Russia’s small coterie of intellectual elites.

Think Marxism for a feudal society here: the Narodnik adaptation was the hope that Russia’s vast peasantry could be roused to serve the part of a revolutionary working class, and skip Russia directly to a socialism still preserving communal traditions unsullied by that interim period wherein (per Marx in the Communist Manifesto) capitalism had “pitilessly torn asunder the motley feudal ties … [and] left remaining no other nexus between man and man than naked self-interest.”

This is why Chernyshevsky and the Narodniks viewed the “emancipation” of serfs of 1861 with a gimlet eye: it was a shift towards capitalist property relations, in which the feudal shackles were merely replaced with new, and heavier irons. Chernyshevsky subversively urged his “emancipated” countrymen to view the move as a heist.

It is of course unlikely that many of the actual peasant malcontents stirred up in the wake of the emancipation perused Chernyshevsky’s “To the Manorial Peasants from Their Well-Wishers, Greetings”. But other bourgeois radicals who did read that sort of thing would in due time — after the suppression of the Narodniki in the 1860s and 1870s drove its underground remnants to terrorism — spawn the revolutionary network Narodnaya Volya, and assassinate the tsar who enacted that emancipation, Alexander II.

Chernyshevsky was more a writer than a fighter. He spent his pre-“execution” imprisonment in Peter and Paul Fortress forging his definitive contribution to the movement — the novel What Is To Be Done?.*

(Our own Sonechka regards What Is To Be Done? as quite possibly Russia’s single worst literary product, but the didactic novel imagined (in the dreams of its principal character, Vera Pavlovna) an egalitarian future, including for women. Chernyshevsky himself wrote that he “possess[ed] not one bit of artistic talent … any merit to be found in my tale is due entirely to its truthfulness.”)

Whatever its artistic shortcomings, What Is To Be Done? entered the revolutionary literary canon. Vladmir Ilyich Ulyanov — better known as Lenin — wasn’t even born until 1870 but as a young man he admired What Is To Be Done? In 1902 Lenin himself published a political pamphlet under that same title.

Far less impressed were the likes of Dostoyevsky, himself a former radical who also underwent mock execution in his time. Unlike Chernyshevsky, Dostoyevsky apostasized from his revolutionary credo Dostoyevsky’s 1864 Notes from the Underground is “a bitter artistic answer” to (and in several spots a direct parody of) Chernyshevsky’s magnum opus.

* What Is To Be Done? responds to Turgenev‘s Fathers And Sons. A previous Narodnik classic by Alexander Herzen asked the parallel question Who Is To Blame?.


ExecutedToday.com

On this date in 1880,* Russian revolutionaries Alexander Kvyatkovsky and Andrei Presnyakov were hanged at St. Petersburg’s Peter and Paul Fortress.


Kvyatkovsky (left) and Presnyakov.

Kvyatkovsky, 28, and Presnyakov, 24, had each spent the whole of their brief adulthoods agitating, police ever at their heels. As Russia’s “season of terror” opened in the late 1870s, both immediately cast their lot with the violent Narodnaya Volya movement. They were found by police at their respective arrests to have each had more than a passing interest in Narodnaya Volya’s ongoing project to assassinate Tsar Alexander II — an objective that it would indeed achieve a few months later.

Their fellow-traveler Mikhail Frolenko would remember the mass trial they featured at not for any glorious martyr-making but as a propaganda debacle for his movement.

The Trial of the Sixteen** in October 1880 was a model of judicial procedure — the government had learned, planned carefully and conducted the trial with absolute decorum. The sixteen accused included three of the most important figures in the Movement: Shiraev, who had been arrested in Moscow a year before with two suitcases of dynamite, Presnyakov and Kvyatkovsky. The last two were old friends of Andrei Zhelyabov. The evidence against the accused was provided by Grigory Goldenberg the prosecution’s case was unanswerable. The sixteen were allowed to address the court and their speeches were reported. The prosecutors questioned them with a mix of deliberate courtesy and provocation: the sixteen were given enough rope to hang themselves. They followed no clear line and contradicted each other on endless details. They improvised counter-accusations, became mired in irrelevancies, and exploded in fits of petulance. They made a miserable impression, highlighted at every stage by the correctness of the proceedings. In its sentence the court was lenient, another propaganda victory: fourteen were sentenced to hard labor two, Presnyakov and Kvyatkovsky, were sentenced to be hanged. We lost sixteen good people, which was bad enough. But worse was our irreparable loss of public esteem. One small sign of this was the fate of the word terror. Hitherto we had freely called ourselves terrorists it had much the same ring as revolutionary. Terror was simply the first phase of the revolution. Overnight the word became a term of abuse and the exclusive property of the government. That alone might have told us we were following the wrong path. (Excerpted from Saturn’s Daughters: The Birth of Terrorism

Kvyatkovsky’s son, also named Alexander, was a Bolshevik close to Lenin in the early Soviet years.

* November 16 by the Gregorian calendar it was still November 4 by the archaic Julian calendar still then in use in the Russian Empire.

** Not to be confused with at least two distinct Soviet-era mass trials also respectively designated the “Trial of the Sixteen”.

On this day..

Possibly related executions:

1882: Stepan Khalturin, Winter Palace bomber

On this date in 1882* Stepan Khalturin** was hanged in Odessa, Ukraine … but not for his most (in)famous crime.

Khalturin (English Wikipedia entry | Russian) came from a well-off peasant family near the city of Vyatka (today, Kirov it was renamed for an assassinated Bolshevik). As a young carpenter in 1870s St. Petersburg, he fell in with revolutionary circles and became a distinguished propagandist and organizer. Khalturin helped found the first political labor labor organization in Russia, the “Northern Russian Workers’ Union”.

He’s said by other leftist agitators who knew him to have “persuaded his student workers with tears in his eyes to continue propagandizing, but in no event go down the path of terror. From this, there is no return.”

If that used to be his sentiment, Khalturin’s thinking … evolved.

By February 1880, Khalturin was for all intents and purposes in on the terrorism strategy. He took advantage of a workman’s gig at the Winter Palace to pack the cellar full of dynamite,&dagger two floors below the imperial dining room.

But Tsar Alexander II and party had not yet returned when it blew. Eleven people, mostly guardsmen in the intervening room below the dining hall, died in the blast dozens of others were injured.

Khalturin watched in frustration from the iron gates of the Winter Palace, and slipped away — never detected. His co-conspirator Zhelyabov consoled him with the prospects of mass recruitment sure to be unleashed by this spectacular propaganda of the deed. “An explosion in the king’s lair — the first attack on the autocracy! Your deed will live forever.” (Russian source)

The tsar, at any rate, was running out of luck.

A year later, Narodnaya Volya finally succeeded in assassinating Alexander II in St. Petersburg. Zhelyabov and five others hanged for that.

Khalturin wasn’t involved in that plot: he had escaped to Odessa.

There, he shot a police officer named Strelnikov. He was captured and hanged under a bogus alias, nobody realizing that they were also executing the mysterious Winter Palace bomber.

Unusually considering Lenin’s distaste for terrorism and Narodnaya Volya, Khalturin was elevated in post-Soviet times into an officially-approved revolutionary exemplar. The street Millionnaya running to the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg was cheekily renamed for him (it’s subsequently been changed back). Public monuments went up for the bomber, especially in the environs of his native soil around Kirov.

* April 3 by the Gregorian calendar March 22 by the Julian calendar still in use in 19th century Russia.

** Appropriately given Khalturin’s Winter Palace work, khaltura is Russian for an item of shoddy construction. The word has no etymological connection to our man, however. (Linguistic tip courtesy of Sonechka.)

&dagger He was able to manage the feat by bringing in explosives little by little and secreting them in the room where he bunked on-site.


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