Road to Revolution: A Century of Russian Radicalism

By Avrahm Yarmolinsky | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VI
'GET YOUR AXES!'

T HE belief in the imminence of a mass revolt persisted, though Chernyshevsky himself was greatly discouraged. The Government's arbitrary actions, it was argued, were driving the country to revolution. The point was made in a leaflet, copies of which were scattered in the chapel of the Winter Palace during the services on Easter Monday, 1862. It addressed itself to the army officers, urging them to side with 'the poor oppressed people' in the coming upheaval.

Then one morning in May people in Moscow and in the capital discovered on their doorsteps or in their mail a piece of underground literature entitled Young Russia that made their hair stand on end. ' Russia,' it ran, 'is entering the revolutionary period of its existence.' The interests of the masses are irreconcilable with those of 'the Imperial party': the landowners, the officials, the Czar. Their plundering of the people can only be stopped by 'a bloody, implacable revolution'. 'We are not afraid of it, although we know that a river of blood will flow and that innocent victims will perish; we greet its coming, we are prepared to lay down our lives for the sake of it, the long desired!' If necessary, the Russians would shed three times as much blood as the Jacobins. The Romanovs have failed to understand 'modern needs'. Some of these are: a federal republic; expropriation of the manor lords and assignment of the land to peasant communes; socialized factories run by elected managers; a national guard to replace the standing army; emancipation of women and public education of children; abolition of inheritance and, indeed, of marriage and the family; the closing of monasteries and nunneries, 'the chief sink of corruption'. To achieve these objectives, 'the revolutionary party' must seize power, set up a dictatorship and 'stop at nothing'. Elections to the National Assembly must take place 'under the influence of the Government, which shall see to it that no partisans of the present order, if any of them remain alive, become members of the Assembly'. Though the masses are relied upon, initiative is to be

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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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