Assassination Attempts: Alexander II Czar of Russia Part 1

About the assassination of Alexander II Czar of Russia by a group of revolutionaries in an effort to begin an uprising, history of the event.


The Victim: ALEXANDER II, Czar of Russia.

The Date: March 1, 1881.

The Event: Sophia Perovskaya commanded the group of assassins. Armed with bombs, 4 men were deployed along the Czar's route (to and from the Winter Palace). Perovskaya stood at the site of a planned military parade. When they saw that the Czar was not going to drive over their mined street, they moved to alternate positions. The Czar's carriage was delayed, but at last it appeared. A 19-year-old student named Rysakov rushed forward and tossed a bomb. He was apprehended. The Czar alighted to determine the situation. A 2nd man charged the Czar and there was another explosion. Both the Czar and his assassin, Ignaty Grinevitsky, were mortally wounded, and died a few hours later.

The Assassins: In Russia in the late 1870s, social unrest had reached a full boil. Alexander's grandfather Paul I, the despotic son of Catherine the Great, had been assassinated in 1801. Enforced poverty and police persecution turned the populace against the Czars' regimes, and created a revolutionary movement advocating violence against the totalitarian monarchies because no other avenues of effective dissent were available.

A mood of wrath and rebellion swept across Russia. In January of 1878, Vera Zasulich, a young typesetter for the underground paper Land and Liberty, shot General Trepov, the St. Petersburg chief of police, in retaliation for his severe maltreatment of a political prisoner. According to one source, Trepov was gravely wounded, but ". . . he did not die, and the trial of his would-be assassin in March was turned by her defense lawyer into a vigorous indictment of police brutality. To the surprise of everyone, Zasulich was acquitted. The Czar immediately issued an order that she be arrested again, but an enthusiastic crowd-which had formed around her in the street after her release--spirited her away from the oncoming police. She left the country and settled in Germany amidst worldwide acclaim for her heroism."

Czar Alexander II was more liberal than his predecessors. He partially "emancipated" the serfs (offering them the opportunity to purchase their own lands and to pay crushing taxes), and he promoted various feeble reforms.

The Left, however, pushed hard for basic demands: freedom for the serfs, public education, free speech, jury trials. The Left--students, pre-communists, peasants--became extremely impatient with the continuing repression of the Czars, and upped the revolutionary ante by adopting a policy of violence directed at the Government. General Mezentzev, another high officer in the St. Petersburg police, was stabbed to death in broad daylight by Sergei Kravchinsky, the editor of Land and Liberty, who got away and escaped into exile. Harsh police reaction escalated.

The revolutionary movement was divided on the issue of violence. The nonviolent socialists were called Chornyi Peredel (Black Repartition; i.e. redivision of the soil), and the militants were called Narodnaya Volya (The Will of the People).

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