November 01, 2021

Russian Terrorists with Febrile Dreams of Flight

Russian Terrorists with Febrile Dreams of Flight
Boris Savinkov (center) meeting with then Prime Minister Alexander Kerensky (second from right) in September 1917.

This is excerpted from To Break Russia’s Chains: Boris Savinkov and his Wars Against the Tsar and the Bolsheviks, published by Pegasus Books in September.

It’s hard not to think of the 9/11 attacks as defining an entirely new and horrific chapter in the history of terrorism and in the fight against it. But, in fact, the attacks themselves and their consequences were all prefigured ninety-four years earlier, when a handful of vengeful Russians began to dream of transforming the airplane – a mechanical marvel that had just been invented to help liberate humankind from the tyranny of time and space – into a tool of death and destruction in the service of revolution.

At the beginning of the twentieth century, Tsar Nicholas II and his grandees trembled at the name of Boris Savinkov, who was the most famous and notorious terrorist in the Russian Empire. A leading member of the Socialist Revolutionary Party, and second-in-command of its Combat Organization, he organized the assassinations of Minister of the Interior Vyacheslav von Plehve in 1904 and Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich, the tsar’s uncle, in 1905. The Party had sentenced them to death for their numerous crimes against the Russian people, and both were blown to bits with bombs – the first on a street in St. Petersburg, the second inside Moscow’s Kremlin walls. The assassins managed to get past the cordons of guards, and close enough to throw their heavy bombs from only several feet away, by disguising themselves as street peddlers, cabbies, and workmen. Both deaths were resounding thunderclaps in the revolutionary storm growing in Russia and, as the terrorists had intended, shook the foundations of the autocratic imperial regime.

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See Also

1917 Diary

1917 Diary

In which we look at the revolutionary year through the eyes of the people living through it.

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