Five Sisters: Women Against the Tsar
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Edition: 2, reprint with new introduction and bibliography
Label: Northern Illinois University Press
Manufacturer: Northern Illinois University Press
Publisher: Northern Illinois University Press
Studio: Northern Illinois University Press
Violent movements that opposed the existing political order erupted all over Europe in the course of the 19th century. Nowhere was revolutionary violence more visible and dramatic than in Russia. There, revolutionaries took the lives of dozens of people, most, though not all of them, high officials. Accepting the label “terrorist” as a badge of honor, the revolutionaries insisted upon the morality and justice of their cause, and they were fully prepared to sacrifice their own lives for the sake of it. Unlike most people considered terrorists today, Russian revolutionaries selected their targets carefully, focusing on those whom they regarded as responsible for the oppressive political and social order and mourning unanticipated civilian casualties. The goal: the replacement of the current order by one that would genuinely represent and serve the people.
The daring young women who tell their stories in this book shared this goal and participated actively in efforts to realize it. Vera Figner presided over the remnants of the People’s Will after it assassinated Tsar Alexander II. Vera Zasulich’s attempt to assassinate the governor of St. Petersburg made her a heroine to Western European leftists as well as much of the Russian public. Olga Liubatovich belonged to one of the first groups of revolutionary propagandists to take jobs as factory laborers. Praskovia Ivanovskaia became a typesetter for the printing press that presented the movement’s goals to a broader public. Elizaveta Kovalskaia, a peasant by birth, envisioned terror as the means to relieve economic oppression. Along with a new introduction, Barbara Engel and Clifford Rosenthal provide an updated list of suggested readings in this edition of their classic work of translation. Students and specialists of Russian history and women’s studies, as well as general readers, will find these memoirs to be a fascinating record of a tumultuous time.
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