The development of the revolutionary movement in the south of the Russian empire, 1873-1883
The thesis is concerned with the central question of the revolutionary
movement: why the methods used by the revolutionaries developed as
they did? Specifically, it considers why the method of revoluti,~nary
action used by the Southern revolutionaries changed frou; one characterised
by a weak interest in propagandising the peasantry to a full-blooded
commitment to political terrorism, and why this change took place so
early in the 1870' s. The common explanation is that the revolutionaries
chose their methods because of extrinsic factors: influence exerted by
St.Petersburg and Moscow revolutionaries; the backwardness of the
provinces; the lack of response from the peasants; persecution by the
government, sparking off a violent response from the hot blooded
The thesis criticises some of these reasons and suggests
Underpinning this 'common explanation' for its development is a
particular understanding of the wture of the revolutionary movement
itself. This understanding is examined in Chapter I since it implicitly
denies the possibility of some of the other reasons for the development
of the revolutionary movelEent which are advanced 113 ter.
Chapter II considers if the Southern revolutionary movement was
'backward' , susceptible to influence from the North, and how this
influence coul d ha ve opera ted.
ChaptL'r TIl and IV are mainly concerned to examine the composition
of the kruzhoks involved in, respectively, propagandist activity amongst
the peasants and political tprrorism. Chapter TIl tries to as sess and
explain the limited nature of Southern involvement in the 'v narod'
movement and to establish the characteristics of those kruzhoks which
did or did not participate in it, 1873 - 1876/7. In Chapter IV those
revoluti(maries who chose political terrorism are studied. It emerges
that a different type of revolutionary was attracted to this method of
activity; the supporters of political terrorism were generally likely
to be more 'provincial', less well educated etc., than their predecessors.
However this does not establish any cau3lil relationship between 'type'
of revolutionary and method of acti vi ty, because acti vi ty amongst the
peasants and political terrorism dominated the revolutionary movement at different times during the decade under consideration, and so it may
have been that the type of revolutionary that was prorr;inent at the end
of the seventies and the start of the eighties was unable for some
reason to participa,te in rural propagandist activity at the beginning
of the seventies. Cons equently, particular attention is pa id in
Chapter IV to those revolutionaries who composed the first kruzhoks
which turned to political terrorism, and to what they had been doing in
the early seventies. Such analysis is of little value for the later
kruzhoks since their members had usually been too young in the early
seventies to have had the opportunity to go amongst the peasants.
Wherever possible, the reasons which these revolutionaries gave for
practising political terrorism, rather than propaganda activity amongst
the peasantrj, are also examined.
Chapter V, VI, and VII look at three areas in which the Southerners
were heavily involved: propaganda amongst urban workers, liberal 'society'
and Ukrainophilism, and suggest that the revolutionaries were influenced
in their choice of revolutionary tactic by the se groups.
The thesis is based on an extensive use of memoir material (although
little reference has been made to two Southern memoir sources which
have been grossly over-exploited), on published documents and on contemporary
writings by the revolutionaries in their papers and elsewhere.
The originality of the thesi s 1 ies however not so much in the rna terial
which sustains it as uiJon its subject and the treatment of that subject.
The reasons for the revolutionary movement developing in the South in
the way in which it did, over this eleven year period, has not previously
been subjected to serious examination. Consequently, a number of those
causes which are identified here - the relationship with Ukrainophiles,
liberal society, kruzhoks' finances etc., - have also not been scrutinised
in detail before. Soviet historians have exardned the leadership of the
Chaykovtsy, 'Zemlya i Volya' and the }<;xecutive Committee of 'iJarodnaya
Volya', but a systematic longitudinal study - within the severe limits
imposed by the sources - of the membership of the kruzhoks which composed
the revolutionary movement, is a new approach.