The Socialist-Revolutionaries' Assassination of Interior Minister von Plehve, July 1904

The following text is a translation of a leaflet issued by the PSR CC in July 1904, explaining and justifying the assassination of von Plehve.

To the whole Russian peasantry

In struggle you will find your rights!

On 15 July 1904, in accordance with the decision of the Fighting Organisation of the Socialist-Revolutionary Party, the Minister of Internal Affairs Vyacheslav Konstantinovich von Plehve was killed.

Von Plehve had been a Minister for two years and 105 days. Before him the Minister had been Dmitriy Sipyagin. Sipyagin had been killed for his crimes against the people on 2 April 1902 by Stepan Valerianovich Balmashov, in accordance with the decision of the Socialist-Revolutionaries' Fighting Organisation.

In appointing von Plehve, the Tsar intended to put a halt to the people's revolution - the people's uprising against the tsar's, landowners' and bosses' oppression.

The Minister of Internal Affairs is invested with enormous power. All Russia is in his hands. All the governors, all the land captains, and the entire police are answerable to him, right down to the lowest village policeman. Above the Minister stands only the Tsar. The Minister is answerable to the Tsar alone.

This power was invested in von Plehve in order to keep the people in slavery. Von Plehve was the pillar which was supposed to prop up the crumbling wall of autocracy. And von Plehve earned the Tsar's trust. He did everything to suppress the people's dissatisfaction. He lavished the people's money on the police, on prisons, and on kangaroo courts. Nor did he spare the people's blood.

On von Plehve's orders, troops, Cossacks and the police were used to defend the factory owners and protect the autocracy against the robbed and oppressed people. Workers and peasants were beaten, cut down, shot, imprisoned, sent to Siberia and exiled. All this was because the people had ceased to bear the bosses' yoke patiently. All this was to reinforce the crumbling bastion of autocracy.

As soon as he had been appointed Minister, in April 1902, von Plehve set off for Khar'kov and Poltava, in order personally to oversee the retribution against the peasants for having tried to get their land and freedom.

At his insistence the peasants, pacified, humiliated, ruined and condemned, in addition to all the punishments already inflicted upon them, had to pay a tax to the landowners as a form of bail. Seeing the growing discontent in the countryside, von Plehve introduced a new village police force, the strazhniki. They have swarmed all over the countryside like locusts. Everywhere these bloodhounds sniff out the spirit of discontent, seize the true servants of the people, drive them into jail and thence into exile in northern hovels. Under von Plehve's rule the black cloud of oppression and arbitrariness has hung more heavily over the people than ever before. The all-powerful Minister's police have suppressed everyone and everything. It seemed as if justice had been driven off the face of the earth, and that the dark reign of injustice would last for ever in Russia. Von Plehve did what he liked, and it seemed that there was no force that could call him to account.

But the power of the people is great. Tsarist ministers cannot suppress the will of the people. The Minister did not want to reckon with the people, he did not want to give an account of himself or his actions. Surrounded by a thick wall of police, the Minister thought he was beyond the reach of the people's judgement.

But that judgement came. The thunder of the people's anger has struck this contemptible enemy of the people. Von Plehve has paid with his life for the hunger, the want, the robbery, the torture, the groans and the deaths of millions of working people.

The Party of Socialist-Revolutionaries, which fights in the front ranks of the awakening people, sentenced this villain to death in the name of and on behalf of the people. The sentence has been carried out by its Fighting Organisation.

Von Plehve was one of the pillars which held up the wall of autocracy, a wall which blocked the people's path to freedom and happiness.

If you chop down the pillars, the wall will fall.

But the death of von Plehve does not put an end to the struggle against oppression. Von Plehve was not the only one. He was just one of the most malicious enemies of the people. Only the people themselves can tear down the whole wall and destroy utterly all the evil which presses down on the people.

We, the Socialist-Revolutionaries, ceaselessly call on the people to struggle for the people's cause. We do so by word and by example. We invite into our ranks everybody who no longer wishes to wait, but who wants to win land and freedom for the people.

Let the explosion of 15 July thunder across all Russia and awaken all those who have not yet stirred for the great cause of the liberation of the people.

Down with the autocracy! We demand that elected representatives of the whole country should consider and decide upon the reconstruction of all our institutions in the interests of the working people. We demand the convocation of a Constituent Assembly!

Down with arbitrariness and violence! We demand full freedom of conscience, speech, the press, assembly, trade unions and strikes! We demand the repeal of all laws which restrict the rights of those nationalities forcibly imprisoned in the Russian Tsardom.

Down with the unaccountable bureaucracy! We demand that all in responsible positions be elected, removable and answerable before the courts!

Down with the landowners! We demand an end to the trade in our mother earth, and demand that all land pass into the control and use of the whole working agricultural population!

Down with the capitalists! We demand that everything created by the labour of the working people should pass to them, should be for the common benefit, and should not go into the pockets of a bunch of useless layabouts!

Down with the war! We demand peace and fraternity between the peoples, we demand that every people have the right freely to decide its own fate, we demand general disarmament and the replacement of standing armies by a people's militia. We demand an immediate end to this terrible, destructive and bloody war with Japan, of no use to the working people!

Comrades! The struggle continues! In struggle we will find our rights!

The Central Committee of the Party of Socialist-Revolutionaries!

July 1904

Source: N. D. Erofeev, compiler, Partiya sotsialistov-revolyutsionerov, dokumenty i materialy 1900-1907 gg., Rosspen, Moscow, 1996, pp. 153 - 155.