path 2 > page 3

"Petersburg streets possess an indubitable quality: they turn passersby into shadows; while Petersburg streets turn shadows into people."
-Bely, Petersburg*

The Assassin’s Apartment at 31 Zhukovsky Street

Before the Assassination: The Conspirators in Cognito, in Petersburg

In order to monitor Plehve's movements, most of the assassins spent their days roaming about the city center disguised as peddlers, newspaper vendors, and cabbies. Until May 1904 they occupied an apartment on Zhukovsky Street.

"Because the minister was so strictly guarded, this surveillance plan required that there were people whose occupations required them to spend a lot of their time on the streets - news vendors, cabbies, peddlers and so on. It was therefore decided that one of our comrades would buy a horse and cab and work as a cabbie in Petersburg, while another would get his tobacco peddler’s license and would follow Plehve around while selling his cigarettes. I was to coordinate the information we obtained and to direct the observation work while doing my own share of observing."**

In his memoirs, Savinkov remarked that the "cabbies" were surprised how often they were hailed by unsuspecting customers. They made an unexpected amount of money for the Combat Organization in this way.

Interestingly, the "street vendor" disguise was also used by members of okhrana, the secret police (pictured below, right).

One conspirator, who was selling tobacco near the Ministry of Internal Affairs, had a great deal of trouble avoiding the suspicious eyes of both the police and from the other peddlers. As Savinkov explained:

"He also told me that the position of a tobacco peddler was becoming increasingly difficult - not only because of the police pursuing him, but also because competition with other peddlers. Areas of the street were already claimed and one had to fight with those who had long possessed them. Moreover, a peddler did not have the right to stop in the street; police regulations required him to always be moving. My comrade felt that it was easier for a cabbie to do observation work, based on the experiences of another comrade who had hardly encountered any difficulties moving about the city. When I met the latter I discovered that in fact he did have one major challenge [...] he was constantly being hailed by fares to drive them about town. His surveillance work, therefore, had few results."**

Savinkov had his own adventures too. "Azef proposed the following plan. Matseevsky, Kaliaev, and Egor Olimpevich Dulebov, who killed Bogdanovich, the governor of Ufa, in 1903, but whom we have not yet met, to follow Plehve in the streets. Kaliaev and new member of our organization, were to be tobacco peddlers. Dulebov and Joseph Matseevsky cabbies. I was to rent a wealthy apartment in Petersburg and live there with my ‘wife - Dora Brilliant and a few servants: Sazonov, my butler, and the veteran revolutionist P.S. Ivanovskaya as the cook. There were two reasons for renting the apartment. First, it was thought that Sazonov the butler and Ivanovskaya the cook would be useful for surveillance work. Second, I was to buy a car which Azef thought necessary for mounting the attack on Plehve. Borishansky was to be the chauffer."

"I rented an apartment was on Zhukovsky Street, number 31, apartment 1. The landlady was a German woman. I played the part of a wealthy Englishman. Dora Brilliant was a former singer from the ‘Bouffe’ (pictured above). I claimed that I was representing a big English bicycle firm."**

Their landlady was skeptical of the couple and questioned Brilliant as to why she was with such an Englishman:

"Later, while I was gone our landlady—who believed our story completely—went to Dora and urged her to leave me for some other man, whom the landlady had kindly found for her. She took pity on Dora, asked about how much money I deposited at the bank in her name, and expressed her surprise that Dora wore no jewelry. Dora answered that she was living with me for love, not for money. These visits were frequent."**

Concerned that perhaps the police had discovered Savinkov's incognito, McCullough, as well as this residence, the boeviki abandoned apartment in May 1904. Savinkov took up a new residence in Sestroretsk and a new disguise as a Polish dentist named Konstantin Chernetsky.


*Petersburg, 37.
**Vospominaniia terrorista, 32-33, 35, 57, 59.