Sofia Lvovna Perovskaia

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Perovskaia, Sofia L’vovna


Born Sept. 1 (13), 1853, in St. Petersburg; died there Apr. 3(15), 1881. Russian revolutionary and Narodnik (Populist). Descended from the dvo-rianstvo (nobility or gentry).

In 1869, Perovskaia enrolled in the Alarchin Women’s Courses in St. Petersburg. Late in 1870 she broke with her father and left home. In 1871 and 1872 she was among the organizers of the Chaikovskii circle. In 1872 and 1873 and from 1874 to 1877 she prepared herself for “going to the people,” working in Samara, Tver’, and Simbirsk provinces, earning a diploma as a public school teacher, and completing feldsher training. She maintained secret apartments in St. Petersburg in 1873 and conducted propaganda work among the workers. In January 1874 she was arrested and incarcerated in the Peter and Paul Fortress but was acquitted in the Trial of the 193 (1877–78). She participated in the unsuccessful attempt to free I. N. Myshkin.

Shortly after joining Land and Liberty in the summer of 1878, Perovskaia was again arrested and administratively exiled to Olonets Province. On the way to her place of exile, however, she escaped and went underground. As a member of Land and Liberty, she traveled to Kharkov to organize the freeing of political prisoners from the central prison. In 1879 she attended the Voronezh Congress and in the autumn of that year became a member of the executive committee of People’s Will. She was involved in the party’s organizational affairs, conducted propaganda work among students, soldiers, and workers, helped organize Rabo-chaia gazeta, and maintained communications with political prisoners in St. Petersburg. She helped prepare the attempts on the life of Alexander II near Moscow (November 1879), in Odessa (spring of 1880), and in St. Petersburg (Mar. 1, 1881). She was the closest friend of A. I. Zheliabov, whom she married. Arrested on Mar. 10, 1881, she was sentenced at the trial of the March 1 conspirators to be hanged. Perovskaia was the first woman in Russia to be executed in a political case.


Pavliuchenko, E. A. S. Perovskaia. Moscow, 1959.
Segal, E. A. S. Perovskaia. Moscow, 1962.


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