Zhelyabov was ringleader of the small group of young Nihilistz, who assassinated Czar Alexander II in 1881. Carefully, almost drily written, meticulously documented, this will appeal to careful students rather than to the general public. The facts are strange and fascinating, but Footman was apparently interested in exact events, rather than drama and color, or even narrative skill. He leans over backwards to be dispassionate. Certain conclusions are inescapable -- as true today as in 1870:- the Russians accept naturally an authoritarian government, they have an ancient tradition of bureaucracy, they assume the existence of a secret police. Between the poles of hatred of tyranny and reverence for authority, the Russians circulate in dynamic confusion. Red Prelude shows the seeds of the 1917 Revolution. Little has been written prior to this on the mystic peasant Zhelyabc who only escaped being a murderer by falling into a police trap the night before the killing, and who was hung with the terrorists who carried it through.