APOSTLES INTO TERRORISTS: Women and the Revolutionary Movement in the Russia of Alexander II by Vera Broido
Kirkus Star

APOSTLES INTO TERRORISTS: Women and the Revolutionary Movement in the Russia of Alexander II

Email this review


Those college women canvassing in the rural South, summer of '68, the bluestocking radicals at factory gates in the Thirties, had their antecedents in ""backward, rigidly patriarchal"" mid-19th-century Russia, and here's why. In an amplified essay as relaxed and assured and involved as personal history, Vera Broido--whose mother was a Menshevik leader--describes the nihilist espousal of women's liberation (""next to peasants. . . the most underprivileged part of society"") and the new living arrangements--within and outside formal marriage--that put women on a par with men: unlike women in more progressive countries, ""Their bid for emancipation coincided with a parallel claim by men, and they were welcomed as partners and comrades in arms."" Subsequently, when Alexander II's reign failed to bring the expected reforms, radicalism erupted among the students, male and female alike. Communes were formed out of ""the desire to live as simply as the Russian poor""; the first attempts were made to organize factory workers; and, in the spring of 1874, the desire to ""go to the people"" became a mass movement, bearing swarms of students (""the old ones"" were over twenty) across the countryside--until police repression caught the revolutionaries unawares and sent them into exile, abroad, or underground. The next scene is set in Zurich, where a group of young women students, the Frichi, team up with several young Georgian men and trickle back into Russia to take up the conspiratorial work that--after a brutal prison incident--will turn ""apostles into terrorists"" and lead, in 1880, to the assassination of the Tsar. The interpretation of these events--in the last two of which women figured prominently--accords with that in Ulam's recent study of the period (1976, p. 1299); what is special here is not only the attentiveness to women (their contribution, their effect) but also the open-hearted simplicity with which Broido speaks of ""our heroes and heroines.

Pub Date: Sept. 26th, 1977
Publisher: Viking