Sergei Kravchinski

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Sergey Mikhaylovich Stepnyak-Kravchinsky (Russian: Серге́й Миха́йлович Степня́к-Кравчи́нский), known in the 19th century London revolutionary circles as Stepniak or Sergius Stepniak, was the Russian who killed the chief of that country's secret police with a dagger in the streets of St. Petersburg in 1878.


Early life

Stepniak was the son of an army doctor and of a Ukrainian noblewoman, born July 1, 1851 O.S. in Novy Starodub, Alexandrovsky Uyzed, Kherson Governorate of the Russian empire, now part of Ukraine.[1] He went on to attend Military academy and the artillery school before joining the Russian army. He was able to reach the rank of Second lieutenant before resigning his commission in 1871.

Revolutionary life

He received a liberal education, and, when he left school, became an officer in the artillery; but his sympathy with the peasants, among whom he had lived during his boyhood in the country, developed in him at first democratic and, later, revolutionary opinions. 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.

In 1874 Stepniak went to the Balkans and joined the rising against the Turks in Bosnia in 1876, and used that experience to write a manual on guerrilla warfare. He also joined the anarchist Errico Malatesta in his small rebellion in the Italian province of Benevento in 1877. He returned to Russia four years later joining Zemlya i volya (Land and Liberty) were he along with Nikolai Morozov and Olga Liubatovich edited the party journal.

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. His sympathetic nature was influenced by indignation against the brutal methods adopted towards prisoners, especially political prisoners, and by the stern measures which the government of the tsar felt compelled to adopt in order to repress the revolutionary movement.

His indignation carried him into accord for a time with those who advocated the terrorist policy. In consequence he exposed himself to danger by remaining in Russia, and in 1880 he was obliged to leave the country. He settled for a short time in Switzerland, then a favourite resort of revolutionary leaders, and after a few years came to London. He was already known in England by his book, Underground Russia, which had been published in London in 1882.

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