Underground Russia: Revolutionary Profiles and Sketches from Life Sergius Stepniak

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238 pages


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Underground Russia: Revolutionary Profiles and Sketches from Life  by  Sergius Stepniak

Underground Russia: Revolutionary Profiles and Sketches from Life by Sergius Stepniak
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Sergey Mikhaylovich Stepnyak-Kravchinsky (1851 – 1895), known in the 19th century London revolutionary circles as Stepniak or Sergius Stepniak, was a Russian revolutionary.Together with a few other men of birth and education, he began secretly to...

MoreSergey Mikhaylovich Stepnyak-Kravchinsky (1851 – 1895), known in the 19th century London revolutionary circles as Stepniak or Sergius Stepniak, was a Russian revolutionary.Together with a few other men of birth and education, he began secretly to sow the sentiments of democracy among the peasants. His teaching did not long remain a secret, and in 1874 he was arrested. He succeeded in making his escape, possibly being permitted to escape on account of his youth, and immediately began a more vigorous campaign against autocracy. In 1880 he was obliged to leave the country.To not a few this book will come as a surprise.

With many, socialism might stand in the poets line for vice—A monster of such hideous mien, that to be hated needs but to be seen. But when we learn that the socialistic movement in Russia draws to itself men and women from all classes- that aristocrats and landowners have cheerfully laid down their fortunes, and at last their lives, for what they conceived to be a grand idea—the emancipation of the down-trodden and miserable—we find our first conceptions insensibly modified.

It is not the mere raving of wildbeasthood, of physical-force outrage, but a well-connected if misdirected effort to secure more efficiently the good of the whole, as these agitators regard it.We need to take into account the condition of the country for ages past—the suffering, the oppression, the ignorance, and degradation which has been caused by tyranny, and a strong military system- and however much we may disapprove and condemn some of the means by which the revolutionists seek to cure all this, it is impossible not to be moved by the accounts we have of the self-denials and privations they willingly undergo, and the risks they run in order to benefit the great mass and to improve their condition.

The address of the Executive Committee to the Emperor Alexander III., published ten days after the Czar Alexander the II. had been put to death, and here given as an appendix, seems moderate, and a mere demand for some of the conditions of Constitutionalism- and the violent and sanguinary means, it is stated, which the party is now compelled to adopt, are solely caused by the Government preventing it from employing pacific means to secure the emancipation of the largest and most unhappy class of mankind.The present book is certainly vigorous and readable- the writer understands how to condense, and to make his leading points effective.

He has presented us with a widely-contrasted group of characters, both men and women- and, as we read, we are forced to reflect once more how strangely the threads of good and evil are mingled in the perplexing web of human nature.The condition of society cannot be admirable which produces women like Jessy Helfmann the Jewess, and Sophia Perovskaia—an aristocrat, and descendant of the morganatic husband of the Empress Elizabeth, daughter of Peter the Great. Both were cultured, and cast from them all the comforts and high prospects of life, to be proscribed and hunted.

Jessy Helfmann was condemned to death, but respited to be tortured with hopes of extracting revelations from her in the most miserable condition- and Sophia Perovskaia was executed after unspeakable indignities and sufferings.

The stories of these as of others are vigorously and pathetically told- and we cannot withhold a tribute of admiration from those who could face their sad fate with such dignity and calmness, however erring and mistaken they may have been. The Russian revolutionists at all events are not all of the canaille, and some of them are assuredly individualities of interest. The author of Underground Russia makes the most of this fact, and his portraits and narratives are from a literary point of view simple, efficient, and attractive.



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