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Road to Revolution: A Century of Russian Radicalism

By Avrahm Yarmolinsky | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XIV
SIC SEMPER TYRANNIS

A S has been stated, during the first months of Loris- Melikov's ascendancy there were two additional and equally abortive attempts on the life of Alexander II. One occurred in Odessa. Rumour had it that he would pass through the city in the spring on his way to Livadia. Accordingly a couple, consisting of Sofya Perovskaya and a nominal husband of hers, opened a grocery on the street along which the Czar was bound to be driven on his way from the railway station to the harbour. The plan was to dig a tunnel from the store and lay a mine under the roadway. The work was actually begun, with the help of half a dozen men and women, including Vera Figner. In the latter part of May, however, it became known that the Emperor was not likely to go south just then, since the Empress lay on her deathbed (she died on 22 May). As a result, the operations were discontinued.

The conspirators then proposed that the work be completed to the end of doing away with Todleben, Governor General of the Odessa region. He had earned the hatred of the revolutionaries by his ruthlessness, and in any case there was a plan afoot to force the authorities to abolish the office of Governor General by systematically obliterating its incumbents. The Executive Committee decided, however, that the mine, as a method of assassination, should be reserved for the Czar. And so, traces of excavation having been removed, the grocery was abandoned. According to Vera Figner, Todleben escaped alive because he soon left the city for a post in Vilna.

The other attempt on the Czar's fife was made that summer in the capital. It involved blowing up the Kamenny Bridge, as he crossed it on his way from the Tsarskoe Selo railway station to the Winter Palace. A team of activists, headed by Zhelyabov, managed to place in the water under the bridge four rubber sacks containing some two hundred and fifty pounds of dynamite and provided with detonators and wires. They fastened the loose ends of these to a float anchored nearby, on which women did

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