Vera Ivanovna Zasulich

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Zasulich, Vera Ivanovna


(party and literary pseudonyms—Velika, Velika Dmitrievna, Vera Ivanovna, V. Ivanov, N. Karelin, Starshaia sestra [Older Sister], Tetka [Auntie], and V. I., among others). Born July 27 (Aug. 8), 1849, in the village of Mikhailovka, Smolensk Province; died May 8, 1919, in Petrograd. Important in the Russian revolutionary movement. Born a member of the dvorianstvo (nobility or gentry).

In 1867, Zasulich graduated from a boarding school in Moscow and passed the qualifying examination for teachers. Upon arriving in St. Petersburg in 1868, she involved herself in revolutionary circles. In connection with the Nechaev case she was imprisoned in 1869 and then sent into exile upon release in 1871. She went underground in 1875. When the group of Narodnik-oriented buntars (Bakuninists) which she had joined in Kiev was destroyed, she moved in 1877 to St. Petersburg. On Jan. 24, 1878, Zasulich fired a shot at the St. Petersburg governor, F. F. Trepov, on whose orders the imprisoned revolutionary Bogoliubov (A. Emel’ianov) had been flogged. She was found not guilty by a jury (A. F. Koni, chairman of the jury; P. A. Aleksandrov, counsel for the defense) on Mar. 31, 1878, a verdict that won the unanimous approval of public opinion. Not wanting to be arrested again (the order for her arrest was issued shortly after the verdict), Zasulich emigrated. In 1879 she returned to Russia and aligned herself with Black Partition. Emigrating again in 1880, she became the foreign representative for the Red Cross and People’s Will.

In 1883, Zasulich, shifting to Marxism, became a member of the Liberation of Labor group; she translated works by K. Marx and F. Engels and carried on a correspondence with them. At the end of 1899 she entered Russia, illegally, to establish ties with Social Democratic groups. She became a member of the editorial staffs oflskra andZaria in 1900 and participated in the congresses of the Second International. At the Second Congress of the RSDLP (1903) she aligned herself with the Iskraists from the minority; after the Congress she became one of the leaders of Menshevism. During the years of reaction (1907-10) she was a “liquidator.” She was a social chauvinist during World War I. In 1917 she was a member of the Menshevik group Edinstyo (Unity). She received the October Revolution of 1917 with hostility.

Zasulich wrote a history of the International Workingmen’s Association, works on J.-J. Rousseau and Voltaire, and articles, in the form of literary critiques, on D. I. Pisarev, N. A. Dobroliubov, N. G. Chernyshevskii, and S. M. Kravchinskii (Stepniak). Her works of literary criticism carried on the traditions of revolutionary-democratic literature. V. I. Lenin, while strongly criticizing Zasulich’ s Menshevik position, offered high praise of her earlier services to the revolutionary cause.


Vospominaniia. Moscow, 1931.
Stat’i o russkoi literature. Moscow, 1960.


Lenin, V. I. Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed. (See Index Volume, part 2.)
K. Marks, F. Engel’s i revoliutsionnaia Rossiia. Moscow, 1967.
Koni, A. F. “Vospominaniia o dele V. Zasulich.”Sobr. soch., vol. 2. Moscow, 1966.
Stepniak-Kravchinskii, S. M. Soch., vol. 1. Moscow, 1958.

B. S. ITENBERG [9-1 134-5]

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