Road to Revolution: A Century of Russian Radicalism

Road to Revolution: A Century of Russian Radicalism

Road to Revolution: A Century of Russian Radicalism

Road to Revolution: A Century of Russian Radicalism

Excerpt

This book, intended for the common reader as well as for the student, chronicles the Russian revolutionary tradition. The account covers a little more than a hundred years, from the first serious questionings of the established order to the emergence, toward the close of the past century, of two major rival parties committed to a violent break with the past. It was first in the eighteen-thirties that a few Russian heads were turned by socialist theory, and the present work naturally records its fortunes under three czars. The development of Populism, the native variety of Socialism, is a dominant theme. The mutinies and popular rebellions of earlier times, among them the jacqueries headed by the Cossack firebrands, Stepan Razin and Yemelyan Pugachev, in the reigns of Czar Alexis and Catherine the Great respectively, do not belong to the story.

Of necessity the socio-political setting, changing with the passage of time, has been sketched in. Only thus could the sequence of events, including those of the intellectual order, be intelligible. Cut off by the autocracy from political experience, with no opportunity to subject theory to the harsh test of practice, the radical movement was to a large extent a matter of doctrine and dogma, the product of minds given to pursuing ideas à outrance. Hence the close attention to ideological trends and to the men who were responsible for them or gave them currency. Throughout emphasis falls, however, on clandestine activities, whether executed or merely planned, whether they took the form of peaceful propaganda or political assassination.

The men and, from the sixties on, the women, behind these efforts and exploits include a variety of human types. They illustrate what Pascal called 'the glory and the baseness in man,' and, of course, a mixture of the two, as also of insight and dunderheadedness. Along with zealots and triflers, there are a few crackpots and many innocents. And there is the sinister premonitory shadow of a being less than human that lies across these pages. In . . .

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