Southern Society of Decembrists
Southern Society of Decembrists
the largest Decembrist organization in the Ukraine, founded in March 1821 as a successor to the Tul’chin regional board of the Union of Welfare. The society was headed by a “directory” consisting of P. I. Pestel’, A. P. Iushnevskii, and N. M. Murav’ev. According to the bylaws of 1821, members of the society were divided into three categories depending on their familiarity with organizational matters. A congress of the society’s leaders held in Kiev in 1823 ratified the division of the society into regional boards—namely, the board of Tul’chin, headed by Pestel’; of Kamenskoe, headed by S. G. Volkonskii and V. L. Davydov; and of Vasil’kov, headed by S. I. Murav’ev-Apostol and M. P. Bestuzhev-Riumin. The congress also adopted a program, later called Russkaia pravda.
The Southern Decembrists favored the establishment of a single centralized republic, the abolition of serfdom, the transfer, without compensation, of a great part of the landowners’ land to the peasants, the abolition of estate privileges, the introduction of civil liberties, and the enfranchisement of adult males. The Southern Decembrists’ chief goal was the establishment of a strong conspiratorial organization that would overthrow the autocracy through armed revolution in the South and in St. Petersburg, exterminate the royal family, and install a “provisional supreme administration” made up of the society’s directors; this provisional administration, as the organ of a revolutionary dictatorship, was to introduce a new state system over a period of several years.
A St. Petersburg branch of the Southern Society of Decembrists, consisting of officers of the Kavalergardy and headed by F. F. Vadkovskii, was founded in 1823–24. The society maintained contacts with the Northern Society of Decembrists through M. I. Murav’ev-Apostol. In the spring of 1824, at a meeting in St. Petersburg between leaders of the Northern Society and Pestel’, a compromise was reached; the Northern Decembrists agreed in principle to a republic, while Pestel’ accepted the idea of a constituent assembly instead of the dictatorship of the provisional supreme administration. It was decided to call a unity congress to be held no later than the year 1826. From 1823 to 1825 the Southern Decembrists discussed the possibility of joint action with representatives of the Patriotic Society of Poland. In September 1825 the Society of the United Slavs joined the Southern Society as its Slavic board.
In the spring of 1825 the Southern Society of Decembrists, with the Northern Society’s concurrence, decided to go into action in May 1826. The date of the action, which was to start with the seizure of the Second Army’s staff headquarters, was changed to Jan. 1, 1826—this change being forced on the Decembrists by rumors that the government had discovered the secret organization, the death of Emperor Alexander I, and the conditions of the interregnum. After the arrest of Pestel’ and Iush-nevskii (Dec. 13, 1825), the collapse of the uprising in St. Petersburg (December 14), and the suppression of the Chernigov Regiment Uprising, the Southern Society of Decembrists ceased to exist.
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Dvizhenie dekabristov: Ukazatel’ literatury, 1928–1959. Compiled by R. G. Eimontova. Moscow, 1959.
A. G. TARTAKOVSKII