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"..the key slowly turned to one o'clock, then to two o'clock, and Nikolai Apollonovich…made an involuntary entrechat: flew off somewhere to the side; having flown off somewhere to the side, he squinted back at the desk again: the little tin box continued to lie on the desk: it was a sardine can, with oily sardines (he had once eaten too many sardines and had never touched them since); a sardine tin, like any other sardine tin, shiny, with round corners… No-no-no! Not a sardine tin, but a sardine tin with dreadful contents!"
-Bely, Petersburg**

Building the Bomb

The Party of Socialist Revolutionaries (PSR), which was founded in 1901, was unique in its official endorsement of terrorism as a political tactic. Many SRs understood terrorism as a more effective and more humane method for spurring political change then mass revolution, where the number of victims could run into the thousands.

To curb this violence, tsarist officials implemented strict controls on the production and proliferation of gunpowder and other explosive materials. As such, the Socialist Revolutionaries (SRs) typically procured materials abroad until tsarist authorities began to tighten border controls. Undaunted, the terrorists began to manufacture explosive materials themselves.

The bomb that was thrown at Plehve's carriage was a dynamite bomb, which weighed approximately 12 pounds. The Combat Organization had within its ranks several budding specialists in manufacturing processing of nitration and chemical stabilization of nitroglycerine and nitrocellulose. They included: Dora Brilliant, Aleksei Pokotilov, and Maksimilian Shveitser. Both Pokotilov's and Shveitser's lives were claimed by accidents in bomb making. After the successful assassination of Plehve, the SRs began to use dynamite bombs with increasing frequency; in 1905 they perpetrated more than 30 acts of terrorism using such explosives.

Although figures and sources vary, conservative estimates by scholar Dmitry M. Aleksenko suggest that, between 1902 and 1911, Russian revolutionaries (the SRs foremost among them) committed around 263 terrorist acts. Their victims included: 2 ministers, 33 governors, 16 local officials, 7 generals or admirals, 15 colonels, 8 barristers, and 26 spies. The majority of the perpetrators were workers, yet members of the intelligentsia, students, and some peasants also took part. The images on this page are taken from the popular press, which regularly covered these attacks.*


*Material for this page was drawn from: Dmitry M. Aleksenko, "From the Experience of the Intelligence Services of the Russian Empire in Combating Terrorists," High Impact Terrorism: Proceedings of a Russian-American Workshop. Washington, D.C. : National Academy Press, 2002, 69-75.

This source is available on-line at: http://books.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=10301&page=69

For more information on the significance of terrorism and bomb-making, please visit the "The Bomb" on "Russian Modernism and Its International Dimensions." free on-line constructivist courseware produced by The Labyrinth Project at the University of Southern California at: http://college.usc.edu/rm/pop_up_swf/bomb.html.


**Petersburg, 314-315.