IN THE NAME OF THE PEOPLE: Prophets and Conspirators in Prerevolutionary Russia by Adam B. Ulam
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IN THE NAME OF THE PEOPLE: Prophets and Conspirators in Prerevolutionary Russia

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Ulam, who has written so much and so well about Russia, now digs deeper into the undercurrents of tsarist Russia in the critical period between 1855 and 1885. The Russian revolutionary, by 1863, had moved from intellectual radicalism to regicide, an ironic development considering Alexander's penchant for reform. Ulam demonstrates how Populism and radical intellectualism, feeding on illusions rather than precise ideology, failed; how the Land and Freedom movement, dominated by the Populists, faltered; and how The People's Will movement succeeded with a brand of political terrorism that, in the end, would lead to the assassination of the tsar. Throughout, Ulam is fascinated with the cult of violence these movements exemplify. He is careful, however, to distinguish between sociopaths, such as Nechayev and Karakozov, and political terrorists, such as Tikhomirov and Figner. The former--""murderers"" and ""con men""--killed and terrorized at random. The latter, including Zasulich, committed acts of terrorism that were politically motivated and designed to broaden the ranks of radicals in the protest against despotic rule. Herzen and Cherneshevsky, initiators of revolutionary thought, had by this time long ceased wielding any tempering influence on either the government or the new generation of Russians. Ulam returns again and again to his central point that, when all else had failed, political terrorism became acceptable, even to these revolutionaries who at first had spurned it. A government that refused to listen would have to be overthrown. Like the country which so intrigues Ulam, his book is vast, sensitive, heroic, and vital.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1976
Publisher: Viking