Road to Revolution: A Century of Russian Radicalism

By Avrahm Yarmolinsky | Go to book overview

EPILOGUE

O FFICIAL reaction and public lethargy ruled the 'eighties. The drab decade contented itself, on the one hand, with what a contemporary satirist called 'pigsty ideals' and, on the other, with the brighten-the-corner-where-you-are philosophy. Nevertheless, the fires of rebellion continued to smoulder, if precariously. Here and there small, ephemeral revolutionary circles managed to carry on. Recruited for the most part from the student youth as well as from among army and navy officers and cadets, they were isolated from each other and in a state of flux.

Following in the footsteps of the Terrorist Section of the People's Will, certain groups advocated the tactics of political assassination, now a policy of despair, and did not limit themselves to talk about it. In 1888 at Züich several émigrés were conducting experiments with the preparation of bombs. These were to be smuggled into Russia and used by a nucleus of a projected nation-wide revolutionary organization. It owed its existence chiefly to the initiative and energy of a young woman by the name of Sophia Ginzburg. One February day in 1889, while staying in the capital, she happened to leave her purse in a store. The shopkeeper found in it the draft of a proclamation announcing the execution of the Czar, which he handed over to the police. Before long she was arrested together with several comrades, and since one of them turned informer, the entire group was wiped out, Sophia Ginzburg committing suicide in prison.

The making of bombs in Zürich ended disastrously, an explosion killing one man and wounding another. Thereupon the terrorists transferred their activities to Paris and established contact with another circle of conspirators at home. As one of the expatriate plotters was a secret service agent, arrests, in 1890, put an end to the activities of both groups.

In the ideological confusion that prevailed in those years two main trends were discernible. One was continuous with militant Populism as represented chiefly by the People's Will. Without accepting its entire platform, not a few activists and would-be

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