Murder Near the Cathedral
W. Bruce Lincoln explains how Russian terrorists decided that ‘by the will of the people’ the Tsar Alexander II must be assassinated.
On August 26th, 1879, a small group of Russian terrorists, who called themselves the ‘People’s Will’, met in a forest near Lesnoi to discuss future tactics in their struggle against the Russian autocracy. Within a few hours they reached a decision that would have immense consequences for Russia: the Emperor Alexander II must die. The ‘will of the people’ demanded it.
The decision this small band of dedicated young Russian revolutionaries reached was the result of many complex factors. At the root of their bitterness lay what they regarded as the failure of the Emancipation of 1861 to bring true freedom to the Russian peasants. For them, the Emancipation was an evil ruse, which had left Russia’s masses still in bondage. Of more immediate significance for these young men and women in reaching their decision to attack the Emperor himself was the brutal treatment many of their acquaintances and friends had suffered at the hands of the Tsarist police and in Tsarist prisons.