© | Alexis Peri & Christine Evans

On 15 July 1904, the notoriously oppressive and unpopular Minister of the Interior, Viacheslav Konstantinovich von Plehve stepped into his armored carriage, complete with an entourage of bicycle detectives, and set off from his dacha to the Warsaw Station on his way to regular meeting with Tsar Nicholas II, now residing at his summer palace in Peterhof. Plehve, who had already survived several attacks on his life, probably took this trip in stride, but as he approached his destination, a young man, Egor Sazonov darted towards his carriage and threw a bomb underneath its speeding wheels. Sazonov was just one of several assassins that day who were poised and ready to trade their own lives for the Minister's. They were members of the Combat Organization (Boevaia Organizatsiia), the terrorist branch of the Socialist Revolutionaries who ultimately murdered a number of prominent political figures, most notably of Tsar Alexander II.

In his classic modernist novel, Petersburg (Peterburg) (1913), Andrei Bely created a fictional assassination plot modeled on this one in order to depict the atmosphere of crisis that pervaded the city at the turn-of-the-century. In the novel, there are strong resemblances between Plehve and the protagonist Apollon Apollonovich Albeukhov, who is targeted by the assassins. As Albeukhov himself explains:

"I, my good sirs, am a man from the school of Plehve... And I know what I am doing...".*

The key men who directed the attack, Boris Savinkov and Evno Azef, both have fictional analogues in Bely's novel and are represented by the characters Dudkin and Lippachenko. Moreover, Bely’s description of this conspiracy and his depiction of the city more generally--then undergoing the painful transition into modernization, wracked by war, and threatened by revolution--stand as emblems of the uncertainty of this age.

Follow along with one of the head conspirators, Boris Savinkov as he guides you through the intricacies of the assassination plot and the precise movements of the assassins on the day of the murder. Savinkov will introduce you to some very memorable revolutionary personalities as well as explain to you how it was possible that such a central figure as Plehve--constantly protected by police and paranoid about attacks on his life--could have been killed in a crowded public place and in a city crawling with agents secret political police, okhrana. Stroll with Savinkov to the exact spot of the explosion and hear about how he made such a miraculous escape. See Petersburg from this unique perspective, through the eyes of Socialist Revolutionary Boris Savinkov.

*Andrei Bely, Petersburg: A Novel in Eight Chapters with a Prologue and an Epilogue. David McDuff, Trans. New York: Penguin Books, 1995, 481. All quotations from Bely's novel are taken from this edition.

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