Narodnaya Volya

   The most powerful revolutionary movement of the 1860–1880s was populism, narodnichestvo, which saw Russia’s future as democratic and village centered. In the 1870s young, idealistic Russian students took their message “to the people,” traveling to the provinces to spread their doctrine of village-centered revolution. The peasantry distrusted these young intellectuals and either ignored them or turned them over to the local authorities. In 1875 the Third Section, the tsar’s secret police, issued 750 arrest warrants for men and women engaged in populist political activities. Populism was not defeated by the Third Section; rather it was driven underground and became increasing tempted by violence. The most revolutionary wing of populism was Narodnaya volya, the “People’s Will,” which believed that only violence against the ruling class could liberate the country. The leadership of Narodnaya volya believed that their primary target was Tsar Aleksandr II. Beginning in 1879, the group repeatedly tried to kill the tsar, planting bombs on train tracks and in the Winter Palace, the tsar’s residence. The incompetence of the Third Section is nowhere better illustrated than in its failure to protect the sovereign.
   On 13 March 1881, Narodnaya volya assassins ambushed the tsar and mortally wounded him. The assassins were quickly rounded up. After a trial, five of them were publicly hanged. The tactics of Narodnaya volya were adopted by the Socialist Revolutionary Party’s Battle Organization, which saw political assassination as a crucial ingredient of liberation of the Russian people.

Historical dictionary of Russian and Soviet Intelligence. . 2014.

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