Road to Revolution: A Century of Russian Radicalism

By Avrahm Yarmolinsky | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XV
A PYRRHIC VICTORY

T HE more sanguine among the terrorists had hoped that the execution of the Czar would touch off a mass uprising. The soberer souls had expected that the authorities would be frightened into liberal reforms, which would facilitate the work of the Party. On the other hand, conservatives had predicted that should the plot against the Emperor succeed, the enraged populace would exterminate the revolutionaries and indeed make short shrift of the educated class from which they stemmed. The course of events belied all expectations.

Immediately after the explosions there was great excitement in the streets of the capital, but it was brief, and before midnight Nevsky Prospekt had assumed its usual look. At first the officers in charge of the troops garrisoned in the city were vaguely apprehensive of trouble in the ranks. Nothing untoward happened. The soldiers cursed the assassins, and by ten o'clock all were snoring. On 2 March Count Valuyev wrote in his diary: 'Our army is still healthy....'

In the days that followed, a few students were manhandled by ruffians, perhaps not without police connivance. Two men who bought a portrait of the deceased monarch and tore it up in the street were beaten within an inch of their lives by passers-by. A group of shopkeepers, in a letter published in the newspapers, dared the terrorists to come out into the open and promised to lynch them. For a while students avoided wearing their uniforms in the street, while young women let their hair grow and put on kerchiefs. Wild reports about plots and reprisals were in circulation. But both rumours and acts of violence soon ceased. Moscow and the provincial cities remained quiet. Of course, there was a plethora of protestations of loyalty to the throne on the part of public bodies.

In the countryside on the whole the news was met with puzzlement or composure verging on indifference. A widespread notion was that the Czar had been murdered by the gentry

-290-

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Road to Revolution: A Century of Russian Radicalism
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • List of Illustrations ix
  • Foreword xi
  • Chapter I - The Ancestor: Radishchev 1
  • Chapter II - The Decembrists: The Secret Societies 15
  • Chapter III - The Decembrists: Insurrection 36
  • Chapter IV - The Coasts of Utopia 57
  • Chapter V - Freedom? 86
  • Chapter VI - 'Get Your Axes!' 111
  • Chapter VII - 'Men of the Future' 131
  • Chapter VIII - Force and Fraud 149
  • Chapter IX - Populism 170
  • Chapter X - The Children's Crusade 189
  • Chapter XI - Land and Liberty 210
  • Chapter XII - The People's Will 230
  • Chapter XIII - Man Hunt 250
  • Chapter XIV - Sic Semper Tyrannis 269
  • Chapter XV - A Pyrrhic Victory 290
  • Chapter XVI - The Agony Of The People's Will 311
  • Epilogue 334
  • Select Bibliography 343
  • Index 355
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