Russia eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 819 pages of information about Russia.

CHAPTER XXXV

SOCIALIST PROPAGANDA, REVOLUTIONARY AGITATION, AND TERRORISM

Closer Relations with Western Socialism—­Attempts to Influence the Masses—­Bakunin and Lavroff—­“Going in among the People”—­The Missionaries of Revolutionary Socialism—­Distinction between Propaganda and Agitation—­Revolutionary Pamphlets for the Common People—­Aims and Motives of the Propagandists—­Failure of Propaganda—­Energetic Repression—­Fruitless Attempts at Agitation—­Proposal to Combine with Liberals—­Genesis of Terrorism—­My Personal Relations with the Revolutionists—­Shadowers and Shadowed—­A Series of Terrorist Crimes—­A Revolutionist Congress—­Unsuccessful Attempts to Assassinate the Tsar—­Ineffectual Attempt at Conciliation by Loris Melikof—­Assassination of Alexander II.—­The Executive Committee Shows Itself Unpractical—­Widespread Indignation and Severe Repression—­Temporary Collapse of the Revolutionary Movement—­A New Revolutionary Movement in Sight.

Count Tolstoy’s educational reform had one effect which was not anticipated:  it brought the revolutionists into closer contact with Western Socialism.  Many students, finding their position in Russia uncomfortable, determined to go abroad and continue their studies in foreign universities, where they would be free from the inconveniences of police supervision and Press-censure.  Those of the female sex had an additional motive to emigrate, because they could not complete their studies in Russia, but they had more difficulty in carrying out their intention, because parents naturally disliked the idea of their daughters going abroad to lead a Bohemian life, and they very often obstinately refused to give their consent.  In such cases the persistent daughter found herself in a dilemma.  Though she might run away from her family and possibly earn her own living, she could not cross the frontier without a passport, and without the parental sanction a passport could not be obtained.  Of course she might marry and get the consent of her husband, but most of the young ladies objected to the trammels of matrimony.  Occasionally the problem was solved by means of a fictitious marriage, and when a young man could not be found to co-operate voluntarily in the arrangement, the Terrorist methods, which the revolutionists adopted a few years later for other purposes, might be employed.  I have heard of at least one case in which an ardent female devotee of medical science threatened to shoot a student who was going abroad if he did not submit to the matrimonial ceremony and allow her to accompany him to the frontier as his official wife!

Strange as this story may seem, it contains nothing inherently improbable.  At that time the energetic young ladies of the Nihilist school were not to be diverted from their purpose by trifling obstacles.  We shall meet some of them hereafter, displaying great courage and tenacity in revolutionary activity.  One of them, for example, attempted to murder the Prefect of St. Petersburg; and another, a young person of considerable refinement and great personal charm, gave the signal for the assassination of Alexander II. and expiated her crime on the scaffold without the least sign of repentance.

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Russia from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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