The Decembrists

The Decembrists

The Decembrists

The Decembrists

Excerpt

The Decembrist revolt of 1825 sometimes is being referred to as the "first Russian Revolution."

It was, in fact, the first attempt at overthrowing the absolute royal power in modern Russian history. And yet, it is rather difficult to establish either organizational or programmatic continuity between this attempt and that revolutionary movement which eventually culminated in the great upheaval of 1917. While the latter-day revolutionaries revered the memory of the Decembrists as pioneers of freedom in Russia, there was a world of difference between their own approach and psychology and that of their predecessors.

Men of the world and gentlemen--revolutionaries, the Decembrists hardly would understand the concept of a "professional revolutionary" as it developed in Russia during the second half of the nineteenth century. They certainly would feel out of place in the peculiar atmosphere of the revolutionary underground, with its isolation from the ordinary human life that was going on around it, its spirit of fanaticism and its highly developed technique of revolutionary behavior.

In the art of the revolution, they had remained novices and amateurs, and this, of course, was one of the reasons for their tragic failure. But this same weakness also makes them so much more human and attractive than any of their professionally efficient successors, and thus so much more interesting to get acquainted with.

It was from this human angle that Mr. Zetlin approached his subject. He based his book on a thorough knowledge of documentary material and historical literature, but to this he added the creative writer's intuitive insight into the style of . . .

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