Alexander III & Lenin

So, on March 13, 1881, Czar Alexander II (1818-1881) was assisinated.*

Well, six years later, in 1887, a 20-year-old student-terrorist took part in a plot organized by the Will of the People (same group as before) to assassinate Alexander II’s son, Czar Alexander III (1845-1894), who was now on the throne. It was planned for the anniversary of Alexander II’s assassination (March 13). This 20-year-old was arrested and condemned to death. His mother applied for permission to visit him in prison.

“I think it would be advisable to allow her to visit her son,” Alexander III had scribbled on the margin of the letter that the despairing woman had sent him, “so that she might see for herself what kind of person this precious son of hers is.” [primary document! ^^]

Explaining his act at his trial — or, rather his intended act, for he had not commited an act; he had just taken part in the plot that had been uncovered by the secret police — the 20-year-old student said, “Under a system that permits no freedom of expression and crushes every attempt to work for the people’s welfare and enlightenment by legal means, the only instrument that remains is terror.”

The young 20-year-old man was hanged alongside four of his fellow conspirators in the courtyard of the Shlisselburg Fortress on the morning of May 20, 1887. That 20-year-old’s name was Alexander Ulyanov and he had a 17-year-old brother, Vladimir.

Vladimir Ulyanov (b. 1870), we all know, later became a conspirator himself and took the pen name “Nikolai Lenin.”

(Interesting side note: Another subsequently famous personage involved in the case of 20-year-old Alexander Ulyanov was Jozef Pilsudski, the future liberator of Poland, who was arrested as an accomplice in the plot against the czar, but got off with merely a prison term.)

Back to Lenin.

It was a brutal, psychological shock for the adolescent Lenin to learn that his loved and admired older brother had died like a criminal; and for a crime he had merely planned to commit; with a black hood over his head and his neck broken by a hangman’s noose.

Mind you, as for the target, Alexander III, it was a shock for him, too, back in 1881, when _his_ father (Alexander II), whom he loved and admired, had been carried back into his palace, a blood-soaked, smoke-blackened pulp.*

The two men reacted in the same way to the same tragic experience. Neither would ever after show mercy to the Enemy, and the Enemy was a dangerously indefinite abstraction called Revolution, or the Autocracy, or even the Bourgeousie. Each cherished the martyr’s memory, but turned his back on the martyr’s example. Alexander III rejected his father’s policy of reform. Lenin repudiated the basically intelligentsia revolutionary idealism of his brother, along with his brother’s strategy of terrorism, in favor of a more “scientific” and pitliess doctrine of revolution ideologically grounded in the economic theories of an obscure German economist, Karl Marx.

Source: “The Fall of the Dynasties — The Collapse of the Old Order: 1905-1922” (1963) by Edmond Taylor, p. 54. Edited for social media.


*Interestingly, on the day Alexander II was assisinated, it took two bombs. The first bomb went off under an officer on horseback, stopping the entourage. The czar got out of his carriage to check on the wounded officer up front. Another assassin in the crowd then threw a second bomb at the czar, shattering his legs, ripping open his stomach, the explosion scarring and burning his flesh.

Later in 1914 in Sarajevo when Archduke Franz Ferdinand (1863-1914) was assisinated, it _also_ required two bombs. One bomb went off earlier in the day, puncturing a tire in Ferdinand’s entourage. They stopped at city hall, talked for a bit, then got back in their cars and drove through the crowd again. Again, a second assassin was then able to shoot Ferdinand and his wife through an open car window.

So what have we learned here today, kids? Make sure your assassins work in teams. You always need more than one.

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