Vera Zasulich: A Biography

Vera Zasulich: A Biography

Vera Zasulich: A Biography

Vera Zasulich: A Biography

Excerpt

The story of Vera Zasulich will not alter completely our perceptions of the Russian revolutionary movement. Compared with Lenin or Plekhanov or Martov, Zasulich is a relatively minor figure, and there is nothing in the pages which follow to suggest that this estimation of her significance should be revised. Her attempts at theoretical analysis were mostly amateurish, and her skills as a revolutionary agitator were very nearly nonexistent.

Zasulich's story, nevertheless, deserves to be told. In many ways her life embodied all the important aspects of revolutionary politics in Russia in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries: one can see in her youth in microcosm the forces which turned against the state the energy, intelligence, and creativity of a large segment of the educated elite, the very people whose loyalty and knowledge were essential to the survival of the government; one can see in her attempted assassination of Trepov the moral passion and dedication of the intelligentsia, that elusive social category so peculiarly Russian in its penchant for extending ideas to their ultimate conclusions; one can see in her populism and Marxism how radical dogma equating poverty and virtue could fascinate men and women possessed by an altruism which demanded that the affluent and educated help redistribute the material and intellectual resources of society; and one can see in the turbulence of her personality how revolution could often ravage beyond repair the lives of those who adopted it as a profession, leaving as its most immediate conse-

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