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Just Assassins

The Culture of Terrorism in Russia


Publication Year: 2010

Just Assassins examines terrorism as it’s manifested in Russian culture past and present, with essays devoted to Russian literature, film, and theater; historical narrative; and even amateur memoir, songs, and poetry posted on the Internet. Along with editor Anthony Anemone’s introduction, these essays chart the evolution of modern political terrorism in Russia, from the Decembrist uprising to the horrific school siege in Beslan in 2004, showing how Russia’s cultural engagement with its legacy of terrorism speaks to the wider world.

Published by: Northwestern University Press


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii

An earlier version of Sally A. Boniece’s article appeared in Kritika: Explorations in Russian and Eurasian History (“The Spiridonova Case, 1906: Terror, Myth and Martyrdom,” 4, no. 3 (2003): 571–606) and appears here by gracious permission of the publisher. An earlier version of Stephen Hutchings’s essay, “Russia’s 9 / 11: Performativity and Discursive Instability in Television ...

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Editor’s Note

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pp. ix

Because this volume is intended both for general readers and specialists, we are using a hybrid form of transliteration. To make the text more readable, we have adapted and simplified the standard scholarly transliteration system. Personal names are usually given in their standard English form, if such exists: thus, Alexander instead of Aleksandr, Dostoevsky instead of ...

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Introduction: Just Assassins?

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pp. 3-23

Even in the best, most peaceful and secure of circumstances, the subject of terrorism is remarkably resistant to rational discourse. In the aftermath of major terrorist attacks on the American homeland, and in the midst of an ongoing “global war on terrorism” with no end in sight, devising a generally acceptable definition of terrorism would seem to be a hopeless task. As ...

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Historical Models of Terror in Decembrist Literature

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pp. 25-52

On December 14, 1825, a small group of noblemen and elite officers led their troops into Senate Square in St. Petersburg in an attempt to overthrow the autocracy and abolish serfdom.1 Taking advantage of the confusion resulting during the interregnum after the death of Alexander I, who left no ...

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All of a Sudden: Dostoevsky’s Demonologies of Terror

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pp. 53-72

According to a Sufi tradition, Iblis, Islam’s version of Lucifer, is the embodiment of the perfect lover, an angel who fell because he had clung to absolute monotheism even after Allah had asked that his angels bow before Adam. Perhaps no other story better captures the intersection of desire, rebellion, intolerance, and ideological purity that gives rise to evil in its ...

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Fool or Saint? Writers Reading the Zasulich Case

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pp. 73-95

In 1873, in The Diary of a Writer, Dostoevsky off ered the following explanation for the behavior of his misled revolutionaries in The Devils:...

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The Terrorist as Novelist: Sergei Stepniak- Kravchinsky

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pp. 97-126

At around 9:00 a.m. on August 4, 1878,1Adjutant General Nikolai Mezentsev, chief of Russia’s gendarmes and head of its secret police, was assassinated in Mikhailovsky Square in St. Petersburg. Coming a little more than six months after Vera Zasulich’s sensational attempt..

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The Spiridonova Case, 1906: Terror, Myth, and Martyrdom

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pp. 127-162

Reflecting in the early 1950s on the “legitimization of murder” that had “culminate[d] in . . . the Hitlerian apocalypse,” Albert Camus upheld the Russian Socialist Revolutionary (SR) terrorists of the early twentieth century as “fastidious assassins” whose “voluntary assumption of guilt and death” and “respect for human life in general and contempt for their own ...

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The Byronic Terrorist: Boris Savinkov’s Literary Self- Mythologization

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pp. 163-189

In January 1909, the appearance of the serialized novella The Pale Steed (Kon’ blednyi) in the well- respected liberal journal Russian Thought (Russkaia mysl’) caused a brief furor among the reading public and won favorable notice in modernist literary circles for the unknown and pseudonymous author, V. Ropshin. In the temporal quagmire of the..

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Andrei Bely’s Petersburg and the Dynamics of Political Response

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pp. 191-208

Near the middle of Petersburg and at the peak of its narrative tension, after Nikolai Apollonovich Ableukhov has read a letter demanding that he assassinate his father (the reactionary Senator Apollon Apollonovich Ableukhov) using a bomb already in his possession, and after he has rather inexplicably started the bomb’s timing mechanism, he confronts his friend, the ...

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Exile’s Vengeance: Trotsky and the Morality of Terrorism

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pp. 209-228

Moral arguments justifying and condemning the use of tactical violence to achieve desired political ends have been advanced and discussed for more than two centuries. In the modern era of European history, Maximilien Robespierre and his ideological theoretician Louis- Antoine de Saint- Just were among the first to formulate the notion of justifiable state violence in ...

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The Afterlife of Terrorists: Commemorating the People’s Will in Early Soviet Russia

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pp. 229-246

The phenomenon of Russian revolutionary terrorism has received extensive treatment in recent studies, but scholars have devoted comparatively little space to the image of Russian terrorists during the early Soviet period. Despite the Bolsheviks’ traditional opposition to methods of revolutionary terrorism, analyzed by Martin A. Miller in...

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“Everyone Here Was Carrying Out Orders”: Songs of War and Terror in Chechnya

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pp. 247-260

“Fighting international terror” has become a convenient catchphrase for many politicians, including Vladimir Putin, who has consistently presented Russia’s war in Chechnya under the banner of fi ghting terrorism.1 Putin started the Second Chechen War as Russia’s response to brazen acts of Chechen terrorism in the fall of 1999, including the bombing of an....

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Narrating Terror: The Face and Place of Violence in Valery Todorovsky’s My Stepbrother Frankenstein

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pp. 261-276

For those acquainted with modern military history, the phrase coined by the Bush administration, “global war on terror,” has a distinctly oxymoronic ring, insofar as war and terror for most of the twentieth century formed a mutually defining opposition, delineating very real differences in terms of the conduct of operations and the treatment of combatants....

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Stage(d) Terrorism

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pp. 277-296

On November 8, 2002, the play Terrorism by the Presnyakov Brothers,1the leaders of Russia’s New Drama movement,2 opened at the MoscowArt Theater, the country’s most prestigious theater, founded in 1898 by Konstantin Stanislavsky. Barely two weeks before the premiere, however, terrorism had struck Moscow’s theater scene in a different..

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Russia’s 9/11: Performativity and Discursive Instability in Television Coverage of the Beslan Atrocity

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pp. 297-316

When New York’s Twin Towers fell, news broadcasts struggled to convey the enormity of this strike at the symbolic heart of the world’s sole superpower. Since 9 / 11, however, concrete features have been ascribed to the faces of the perpetrators of the Evil, stories of bravery have emerged from the rubble of the...

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Afterword: Russia, a Revolutionary Life

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pp. 317-326

Russia has always been a “revolutionary” country. Historically, it moves forward not through evolution, the slow, step- by- step development in which progress occurs over time, but through perpetual revolutions, with their attendant upheavals, crises, and terror. In this sense, as judged by the two epigraphs to this essay, Russia can be considered...


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pp. 327-329

E-ISBN-13: 9780810164789
Print-ISBN-13: 9780810126923
Print-ISBN-10: 0810126923

Page Count: 528
Publication Year: 2010

Edition: New
Volume Title: 1

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Russia (Federation) -- Politics and government.
  • Terrorism -- Russia (Federation) -- History.
  • Terrorism in literature.
  • Terrorism and mass media -- Russia (Federation) -- History.
  • Russian literature -- History and criticism.
  • Russia (Federation) -- Social conditions.
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