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"Even if they were to arrest him and put him in...the Peter and Paul Fortress, they would at least be human beings - not them. 'That's them looking for you...'"
-Bely, Petersburg*

Dora Vladimirovna Brilliant (1800-1906)

Dora Brilliant lived in the apartment on Zhukovsky Street, posing as a retired nightclub singer. Brilliant was born in Kherson to an Orthodox Jewish family. In 1900, while studying at Yur’evsky University in Kiev, she became involved in progressive student groups and spent some time incarcerated in Luk’ianovskaia prison for her role in student demonstrations. Shortly thereafter, and still under police surveillance, Brilliant joined the ranks of the Combat Organization.

Brilliant joined the Combat Organization as a dynamite manufacturer, but after her lover, conspirator Alexander Pokotilov, died in an explosives accident, Brilliant became deeply depressed and fatalistic. She longed to take an active role as a bombthrower in the assassination plot. Because of her mental instability, Savinkov denied Brilliant a more active role in the assassination, and he ordered Brilliant to stay in apartment and keep watch. The fragility of her mental state, however, did not prevent Savinkov from seducing her. According to coconspirator, Praskoviia Ivanovskaia--a veteran of The People’s Will who played the cook on Zhukovsky Street--Brilliant’s health began to deteriorate under these confining conditions. In 1906, Ivanovskaia described how Brilliant suffered from this inactive and lonely post:

"Why- she often asked bitterly- do they not want to let me leave? I have enough courage not to compromise the party. I have enough pride so as to not to fold my arms, to tremble, or to show the enemy the tiniest weakness or slightest shyness." (77)**

After Plehve’s assassination, Brilliant escaped abroad and returned to Moscow only briefly to work on the plan for assassinating Grand Prince Sergei in 1905. Only days after returning to Moscow in December 1905, Brilliant (along with coconspirators Moiseenko, and Rutenberg) was arrested and imprisoned in the Peter and Paul Fortress (above) and in Litovsky Castle, where her physical and mental health deteriorated. According to Ivanovskaia, who inhabited the ajoining cell, Brilliant was tortured by the guards on a nightly basis:

"At night, the electric light would suddenly go out in Dora’s cell. It had been burning all night long. Quietly, in a flash something jingled and the door was noisly thrown open. With a lighted candle, something unclear, some wild figures burst in towards the lonely prisoner. The moment that the appearance of this particular light escaped from one’s field of vision, this kind of dark, monstrous mass approached her. The unspeakable horror swept over all existence and the inhuman scream was carried along the enormous walls of the Peter and Paul Fortress. From this night on, until they took her off to the hospital, my neighbor [Brilliant] never stopped blazoning the fortress archways with her desperate screams." (77)**

She was moved to an asylum, where she died on 27 October 1906. She was buried in Preobrazhensky cemetery.


*Petersburg, 395.
**O.V. Budnitsky, Zhenshchiny-terroristki v Rossii: Sostavlenie, vstupitel'naia stat’ia i primechaniia. Rostov-na-Donu: Feniks, 1996, 77. Translation by author's of this website.