Union of Salvation


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Union of Salvation

 

the first secret political society of the Decembrists. The Union of Salvation was founded in February 1816 by A. N. Murav’ev and a group of young officers of the guard who had fought in the Patriotic War of 1812 and the foreign campaigns of 1813–14. It had about 30 members, including N. M. Murav’ev, S. I. Murav’ev-Apostol, M. I. Murav’ev-Apo-stol, S. P. Trubetskoi, I. D. Iakushkin, P. I. Pestel’, E. P. Obo-lenskii, I. I. Pushchin, M. S. Lunin, and M. N. Novikov.

Early in 1817 the Union of Salvation adopted a charter and a new name (Society of the True and Faithful Sons of the Fatherland). The organization aimed to abolish serfdom and to introduce a constitutional monarchy by taking action as soon as the throne became vacant. In preparation for a revolutionary coup the society attempted to increase its membership, to occupy important military and civil posts, and to mold public opinion, particularly among the progressive nobility.

The Union of Salvation was divided into three ranks, referred to as boyars (boliare), men (muzhi), and brothers (brat’ia). It was organized as a highly conspiratorial group, with strict discipline and unquestioning subordination of the lower ranks to the higher. Only the top rank knew of the society’s ultimate aims. The admission of new members and advancement from a lower rank to a higher one were permitted only with the consent of the supreme council of the boyar group and took place by means of an elaborate system of rituals and vows borrowed from Masonry.

Within the Union of Salvation there were radical and moderate tendencies. Disputes took place over the society’s tactics and its rigid and complex structure. The disagreements became exacerbated in the autumn of 1817 in Moscow, where the union’s leaders had been transferred with their regiments. Several plans for assassinating the tsar were proposed, but they were rejected owing to insufficient means and the society’s unreadiness for decisive action. Under these conditions, the prevailing view was to disband the Union of Salvation and found a new, broader organization that would be more capable of action. The Military Society was founded as an intermediary nucleus, and in early 1818 the Union of Welfare (Soiuz Blagodenstviia) was founded.

REFERENCE

Nechkina, M. V. “Soiuz Spaseniia.” In the collection Istoricheskie zapiski, vol. 23. Moscow, 1947.

A. G. TARTAKOVSKII

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