Jacobins, Russian

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Jacobins, Russian


supporters of the conspiratorial political current known as Jacobinism that developed within Narodnichestvo (Populism). In spite of the article of faith that prevailed in the revolutionary milieu—namely, belief in the possibility of a victorious peasant revolution—the Russian Jacobins had doubts about the peasantry’s revolutionary potential; they held that the revolution must start with a coup d’etat carried out by the organized revolutionary minority and that the latter, having seized power, would establish a revolutionary dictatorship and decree social changes. Unlike the French Jacobins, the Russian Jacobins were Utopian socialists; organizationally and ideologically they were close to the French Blanquists.

Certain aspects of Jacobinism can be found among earlier revolutionaries—specifically, among the Decembrists (P. I. Pestel’) and in the Petrashevskii circle (N. A. Speshnev). The first manifesto of the Russian Jacobins was Young Russia, a proclamation by P. G. Zaichnevskii whose ideas were shared, for example, by some members of the Ishutin circle and of S. G. Nechaev’s Narodnaia Rasprava (People’s Vengeance).

The first circle of Russian Jacobins, known as the Slavic Circle, was formed in Zürich in the early 1870’s; it included Nechaev, K. M. Turski, K. Ianitskii, and E. N. Iuzhakova. Among those who joined the circle in the mid-1870’s were P. N. Tkachev, P. V. Grigor’ev, and M. N. Shreider. The Slavic Circle published the journal Nabat (The Tocsin) and maintained contacts with Polish, French, and Balkan revolutionaries. A Jacobin group, the Society for the Liberation of the People, was founded in Switzerland in late 1877. In Russia, Jacobin groups were formed in Orel (the group known as the “eaglets’ circle” [after orel—“eagle” in Russian], which included Zaichnevskii and M. N. Oshanina), in Odessa (I. M. Koval’skii’s circle), in Kiev, and in St. Petersburg.

The Russian Jacobins had little influence among the Russian revolutionaries of the 1860’s and 1870’s; their propaganda, however, contributed to the Populists’ ideological preparation for the shift from Bakuninism toward recognition of the necessity of political struggle. The idea of the seizure of power through conspiracy was reflected in the program of the People’s Will; L. A. Tikhomirov, Oshanina, E. D. Sergeeva, and G. F. Cherniavskaia, who were members of the executive committee of the People’s Will, shared the views of the Russian Jacobins.

Russian Jacobin groups were operating in Moscow, Kursk, Smolensk, and Orel during the 1880’s. After the People’s Will was disbanded, certain elements of Jacobinism appeared in the programs of various Populist organizations, from the Terrorist Faction of the People’s Will to the People’s Right Party. In the 1890’s some of the Russian Jacobins, including V. P. Artsybushev, M. P. Golubeva, S. I. Golubev, and S. I. Mitskevich, became Social Democrats.


Kusheva, E. “Iz istorii ’Obshchestva narodnogo osvobozhdeniia.’” Katorga issylka, 1931, no. 4.
Grosul, V. Ia. “O balkanskikh sviaziakh russkikh ’iakobintsev’ (70-e gody XIX v.).” In the collection Balkanskii istoricheskii sbornik, fasc. 4. Kishinev, 1974.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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