Curtis Dahlgren
THOSE SIXTIES HIPPIES (1860s Russia); "When Rascals Rule," continued
By Curtis Dahlgren
August 26, 2010

"With the impulsiveness of youth and the recklessness of inexperience, the students went in this direction [revolution] much farther than their elders, and their reforming zeal naturally took an academic, pseudo-scientific form." — Encyclopaedia Britannica, 11th Edition (1910)

THE FOLLOWING WORDS NEED VERY LITTLE COMMENTARY. They speak for themselves. I am going to quote the virtual entire article "Nihilism" from the Britannica. You can decide for yourselves whether we are seeing history repeated [my emphasis].

"Since the time of Peter the Great, Russia had been subjected to a wonderful series of administrative and social transformations, and it seemed to many people quite natural that another great transformation might be effected with the consent and cooperation of the autocratic power. The doctrines spread, therefore, with marvelous rapidity. In the winter of 1861-1862 a high official wrote to a friend who had been absent from Russia for a few months:

"'If you returned now you would be astonished at the progress which the opposition — one might say, the revolutionary party — has made . . . The revolutionary ideas have taken possession of all classes, all ages, all professions, and they are publicly expressed in the streets, in the barracks, and in the government offices. I believe the police itself is carried away by them.'

"Certainly the government was under the influence of the prevailing enthusiasm for reform, for it liberated all the serfs, endowed them liberally with arable land, and made their democratic communal institutions independent of the landed proprietors; and it was preparing other important reforms in a similar spirit, including extension of self-government in the rural districts and the towns, and the reorganization of the antiquated judicial system and procedure according to the modern principles adopted in western Europe.

"The programme of the government was extensive enough and liberal enough to satisfy, for the moment at least, all reasonable reformers, but the well-intentioned, self-confident young people to whom the term Nihilists was applied were not reasonable.

"They wanted an immediate, thorough-going transformation of the existing order of things according to the most advanced socialistic principles, and in their youthful, reckless impatience they determined to undertake the work themselves, independently of and in opposition to the government.

"As they had no means of seizing the central power, they adopted the method of endeavouring to bring about the desired political, social and economic changes by converting the masses to their views. They began, therefore, a propaganda mong the working population of the towns and the rural population in the villages . . .

"Landed proprietors and officials, it was suggested, should be got rid of, and then the peasants would have arable, pastoral and forest land in abundance, and would not [be required] to pay any taxes. To persons of a certain education the agitators wought to prove that the general economic situation was DESPERATE . . .

"On the whole the agitators had very little success, and not a few of them fell into the hands of the police, several of them being denounced to the authorities by the persons in whose interest they professed to be acting; but the great majority were so obstinate and so ready to make any personal sacrifices, that the arrest and punishment of some of their number did not deter others from continuing the work. Between 1861 and 1864 there were no less than twenty political trials, with the result that most of the accused were condemned to imprisonment, or to compulsory residence in small provincial towns under police supervision.

"The activity of the police naturally produced an ever-increasing hostility to the government, and in 1866 this feeling took a practical form in an attempt on the part of an obscure individual call Karakozov to assassinate the emporer. The attempt failed, and the judicial inquiry proved that it was the work of merely a few individuals, but it showed the dangerous character of the movement, and it induced the authorites to take more energetic measures.

"For the next four years there was an apparent lull, during which only one political trial took place, but it was subsequently proved that the Nihilists during this time were by no means inactive."


"An energetic agitator called Netchaiv organized in 1869 a secret association under the title of the Society for the Liberation of the People, and when he suspected of treachery one of the members he caused him to be assassinated. This crime led to the arrest of some members of the society, but their punishment had very little deterrent effect on the Nihilists in general, for during the next few years there was a recrudescence of the propaganda among the labouring classes. Independent circles were created and provided with secret printing-presses in many of the leading provincial towns — notably in Moscow . . [etc.]. . .

"Some of the Nihilists maintained that things were not yet ripe for a rising of the masses, that the pacific propaganda must be continued for a considerable time, and that before attempting to overthrow the existing social organization some idea should be formed as to the order of things which should take its place. The majority ['bolshevists'], however, were too impatient for action to listen to such counsels of prudence, and when they encountered opposition on the part of the government they urged the necessity of retaliating by acts of terrorism.

"In a brochure issued in 1874 one of the most influential leaders (Tkatchev) explained that the object of the revolutionary party should be, not the preparation of revolution in general, but the realization of it at the earliest possible moment, that it was a mistake to attach great importance to questions of future social organization, and that all the energies of the party should be devoted to 'a struggle with the government and the established order of things, a struggle to the last drop of blood and to the last breath.'

"In accordance with the fashionable doctrine of evolution, the reconstruction of society on the tabula rosa might be left, it was thought, to the spontaneous action of natural forces, or, to use a Baconian phrase, to natura naturans."


The Tkatchev brochure was published exactly 100 years prior to President Nixon's resignation, and the Nihilists proceeded to assassinate the Tsar Alexander II in March of 1881 — exactly 100 years to the month from the attempted assassination of President Reagan.

By the way, some university "history" courses on Russian and Soviet communism begin with the year 1881 — with the government in full gear against the assassins of the emporer. This is, evidently, intended to make the revolutionary Socialists look like the good guys ("victims"), and the government the Bad Guys.

The Russian/Soviet experience with Nihilism — culminating with the 1917 Revolution — is studied as a laboratory experiment by American socialist revolutionaries purporting to bring about "Fundamental Transformation" of society as we know it.


If history continues to "repeat," we have only seven years to wait for the anticipated centennial celebration of the 1917 "Union of Soviet Socialist" Revolutions.

© Curtis Dahlgren


The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.
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Curtis Dahlgren

Curtis Dahlgren is semi-retired in southern Wisconsin, and is the author of "Massey-Harris 101." His career has had some rough similarities to one of his favorite writers, Ferrar Fenton... (more)


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