Trial of the Nechaevtsy

Trial of the Nechaevtsy


the first public political trial in Russia. It was held in the St. Petersburg Judicial Chamber from July 1 (13) to Sept. 11 (23), 1871. Along with members of the People’s Summary Justice, a conspiratorial organization founded by S. G. Nechaev (who escaped abroad before the trial), people who did not share Nechaev’s views and who even had openly opposed him were brought in for investigation. A total of 152 persons were questioned, and 87 were indicted. Only 77 persons were finally tried, since several people died before the trial and some, freed on bail, went into hiding.

The main accusation against the defendants was participation in an “antigovernmental conspiracy.” The tsarist government sought to discredit the revolutionaries by using as evidence Nechaev’s works and documents, namely, his Revolutionary Catechism and his false credentials as an agent of the First International, and by exploiting his murder of the student Ivanov. The defendants condemned Nechaev’s methods and defended their own revolutionary views. They were strongly supported by the defense, which included V. D. Spasovich, D. V. Stasov, and A. M. Unkovskii, and by the democratic press, especially M. E. Saltykov-Shchedrin and N. K. Mikhai-lovskii.

The main defendants—P. G. Uspenskii, I. G. Pryzhov, A. K. Kuznetsov, and N. N. Nikolaev—were sentenced to seven to 15 years’ hard labor; two persons were sentenced to exile in Siberia, and 28 persons to prison terms ranging from seven days to 16 months. The remaining defendants were acquitted. The General Council of the First International rebuffed the efforts of European reactionaries to depict the trial as a trial of the International. The Trial of the Nechaevtsy definitively exposed Nechaev’s adventuristic tactics and contributed to the growth of revolutionary feeling among democratic youth.


Gosudarstvennye prestupleniia ν Rossii ν XIX v., vol. 1, 1903. Stuttgart. Pages 289–411.
Nechaev i nechaevtsy: Sb. materialov. Moscow-Leningrad, 1931. Saltykov-Shchedrin, M. E. “Tak nazyvaemoe ‘nechaevskoe delo’ i otnoshenie k nemu russkoi zhurnalistiki.” Sobr. soch., vol. 9. Moscow, 1970.
Ul’man, G. S. “Marks i Engel’s o Nechaeve i Nechaevskom protsesse.” Uch. zap. LGU, 1948, vol. 62.