Narodnaya volya assassinates Alexander II, 1 March 1881

From the Executive Committee - to the European public

On 1 March, in accordance with a resolution of the Executive Committee of the Russian social-revolutionary party, the execution of the Russian Emperor Alexander II was carried out.

His long years of tyrannical rule have been ended with a just punishment. The Executive Committee, which defends the rights of the person and of the Russian people, addresses itself to public opinion in Western Europe to explain what has happened. Imbued with the ideas of humaneness and right, the Russian revolutionary party for a long time based itself on peacefully spreading its convictions. Its activities did not overstep the boundaries permitted for private or public activity in any other state in Europe without exception. When it set its main obligation as working with the Russian workers and peasants, developing the consciousness and raising the economic well-being of the Russian people, the Russian revolutionary party was turning a blind eye to the political oppression and lack of rights which ruled in its own country, and paid no attention at all to political forms and questions. The Russian government responded to this sort of activity with terrible persecution. It was not just ones and twos, nor even tens and hundreds, but thousands of people who were tormented with prison, exile and hard labour. Thousands of families were ruined and cast into a whirlpool of misery with no escape. At the same time, the Russian government was multiplying. It increased the bureaucracy to an incredible extent, and with a series of measures directed against the people, allowed the plutocracy to develop widely. Impoverishment, hunger, corruption of the people with examples of easy profits, thereby altering the people's world outlook from one based on labour to the egotistical, money-grubbing outlook of the plutocracy - all this, together with a terrible repression of the people's spirit, was the result of the government's policy. People die everywhere, in every country, but nowhere do they die for such petty reasons as in Russia. Everywhere the interests of the people are sacrificed to the ruling classes, but nowhere are those interests trampled on with such cruelty and cynicism as in our country. Persecuted, calumnied, deprived under present circumstances of any possibility of spreading its ideas, the revolutionary party slowly turned onto the path of active struggle against the government. At first, it limited itself to armed resistance to attacks by government agents. The government responded to that with executions. It became impossible to live. The choice was between moral or physical death. Spurning the shameful existence of slaves, the Russian revolutionary party resolved either to perish or to break the centuries-old despotism which is smothering Russian life. Aware of the rightness and greatness of its cause, aware of how damaging the autocratic system is - not only for the Russian people, but for all humanity, for whom this system threatens all the rights, freedoms and achievements of civilisation - the Russian social-revolutionary party has undertaken to organise a struggle against the foundations of despotism. The catastrophe with Alexander II is one episode in that struggle. The Executive Committee has no doubt that the thinking, honest elements in Western European society will understand the full significance of that struggle, and will not condemn the way in which it is being waged. That form of struggle has been brought about by the inhumanity of the Russian authorities; Russian people have no other way, apart from bloody struggle.

The Executive Committee, 8 March 1881

Source: Partiya sotsialistov-revolyutionerov, Literatura sotsial'no-revolyutsionnoy partii "Narodnoy voli", Tipografiya PSR, n.p., 1905; reprinted Leipzig 1977, pp. 901-903.