July 01, 2016

August Days

What could be better than August? The sun and warmth of summer may be briefly interrupted by the occasional storm, but the weather soon recovers. The solstice is far enough in the past that the stars stand out against a dark sky, which is occasionally illuminated by flashes of summer lightning. You can stay out late in the sultry air watching meteor showers and waiting for a shooting star to wish on. In the countryside, the crops are being harvested, but for most city folk it’s a time of carefree vacations. Political life quiets down, cities empty – peace and tranquility reign!

But for some reason, over the course of the twentieth century, August developed a reputation as a time when Russians could expect something dreadful to happen. And whenever something dreadful did happen, people simply shrugged their shoulders and said, “What did you expect? It’s August.”

At two o’clock on the afternoon of August 12, 1906, Prime Minister Pyotr Stolypin was just beginning to receive visitors at this dacha on Aptekarsky Island outside St. Petersburg. Although he was spending time with his family at their vacation home, he was still taking time to deal with affairs of state. At approximately half past two a carriage pulled up to the home’s entrance. Terrorists disguised as officers of the security police emerged carrying briefcases filled with explosives. They tried to gain admittance to see Stolypin, but when they realized that would not be simple, they threw the briefcases and ran for the door. The explosion killed 28 people and injured many more, including the prime minister’s three-year-old son and, more severely, his teenage daughter, both of whom were tossed from the house’s balcony by the blast. The daughter remained disabled for the rest of her life.

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