Assassination Attempts: Alexander II Czar of Russia Part 2

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.

FAMOUS ASSASSINATION ATTEMPTS

The Victim: ALEXANDER II, Czar of Russia.

In August of 1879, the leaders of the Will of the People decided to assassinate Czar Alexander. Their initial plan was to blow up the Czar's train. They split into 2 groups and, disguised as shopkeepers, rented 2 buildings along the Imperial route. They established businesses by day, and dug tunnels and mined the tracks at night.

On November 18, the Czar's train approached the 1st death trap, commanded by the respected leader Andrei Zhelyabov, born a serf and educated at the University of Odessa on a scholarship. The explosives failed to detonate here.

The back-up death trap, 24 hours down the line, was manned by Sophia Perovskaya and her comrades. According to the information they possessed, the Imperial entourage consisted of 2 trains, the 1st of which would be sent in advance to test the safety of the route; the 2nd would carry the Czar. Sophia let the 1st train go by and blew up the 2nd. The train was derailed, but no one was seriously injured. In any case, the Czar had been traveling in the 1st train.

After this setback, the revolutionaries embarked on a series of ambitious assassination attempts, including a huge bomb explosion under the dining room of the Winter Palace. All attempts were unsuccessful.

Finally, Zhelyabov and Perovskaya, now lovers, formulated the plot that eventuated in the successful March 1 tyrannicide. Their plan involved the purchase of a basement store front on Malaya Sadovaya Street, and the establishment of a bogus cheese shop. They dug a tunnel under the street and planted an explosive charge, hoping to blow up the Czar's carriage as it passed on its way to the palace. In addition, 4 bomb-carrying men were prepared to attack the Czar personally.

Immediately before the scheduled assassination, Zhelyabov was arrested. Perovskaya assumed the responsibilities of leadership. The Czar decided to travel along an alternate route, bypassing Malaya Sadovaya, and so the mined street plan had to be abandoned. A short while later, Ignaty Grinevitsky dashed out of the crowd and blew up both the Czar and himself. Apparently the revolution could now begin.

Not so. The expected uprisings failed to materialize. Numb confusion followed the assassination, and after the 6 principal conspirators were convicted and executed, their revolutionary organizations quickly deteriorated. The subsequent, ultrareactionary Government used this violent assassination to justify widespread repression of the citizenry, and the Russian revolutionary movement floundered for almost 10 years. As Edward Hyams said:

The lesson was clear: So long as there were heirs, so long as the monarchy itself continued to exist, it was useless to assassinate Czars unless you went on to seize, demolish, and replace the whole social-political system, from the ground upwards. Most reformers failed to learn that lesson; only the Bolshevik section of the Social Democratic movement took it to heart, and, in due course, acted on it.

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