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Narodnaya Volya

Narodnaya Volya (Russia. Narodnaya Volya was led by its Executive Committee: Alexander Mikhailov, Aleksandr Kvyatkovsky, Andrei Zhelyabov, Sophia Perovskaya, Vera Figner, Nikolai Morozov, Mikhail Frolenko, Lev Tikhomirov, Alexander Barannikov, Anna Yakimova, Maria Oshanina and others. Vladimir Lenin's elder brother, Alexander Ulyanov was a later member of a subsequent incarnation of Narodnaya Volya, and led a cell that plotted to assassinate Tsar Alexander III.

The Executive Committee was in charge of a network of local and special groups (composed of workers, students, and members of the military). In 1879–1883, Narodnaya Volya had affiliates in almost 50 cities, especially in Ukraine and the Volga region. Though the number of its members never exceeded 500, Narodnaya Volya had a few thousand followers.


  • Programme 1
  • Resort to terrorism 2
  • Aftermath 3
  • Modern usage of the name 4
  • In Fiction 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7


Narodnaya Volya’s Program contained the following demands: convocation of the Constituent Assembly (for designing a Constitution); introduction of universal suffrage; permanent people’s representation, freedom of speech, press, and assembly; communal self-government; exchange of the permanent army with a people’s volunteer corps; transfer of land to the people; gradual placement of the factories under the control of the workers; and granting oppressed peoples of the Russian Empire the right to self-determination.

Narodnaya Volya's Program was a mix of narodnik Zemlya i volya, in that its members had come to believe that a social revolution would be impossible in the absence of a political revolution; the peasantry could not take possession of the land as long as the government remained autocratic. Given Zemlya i Volya's failures in its propaganda efforts among the peasants in the movements "to the people" in the early 1870s, Narodnaya Volya turned its energies against the central government. However, unlike Marxists, they continued to believe that Russia could achieve socialism through a peasant revolution, bypassing the stage of capitalism.

The members of Narodnaya Volya were not in complete agreement about the relationship between the social and political revolutions; some believed in the possibility of achieving both simultaneously, relying on the socialist instincts of the Russian peasantry, as demonstrated in the traditional peasant commune. Other members believed that a political revolution would have to take place first and, after the autocracy had been overthrown and democratic liberties established, revolutionaries would prepare people for the socialist revolution. The Liberal faction of Narodnaya Volya (which had no real influence) proposed to limit their demands to getting a Constitution from the tsarist government.

Narodnaya Volya spread its propaganda through all strata of the population. Its newspapers, "Narodnaya Volya" and “The Worker’s Gazette”, attempted to popularize the idea of a political struggle with the autocracy. Their struggle to topple autocracy was crowned by the slogan “Now or never!” Narodnaya Volya did not succeed in enlisting the peasantry in its work, which would later lead Soviet historians to charge it with Blanquism; these historians would argue that Narodnaya Volya understood political struggle only in terms of conspiracy and, therefore, looked more like a sect.

Resort to terrorism

The assassination of Alexander II of Russia, 1881

As time went by, O.S. 1 March] 1881 perpetuated autocratic oppression. Alexander III would take no chances with reform or with liberal ideas. In many ways the Narodnaya Volya convinced the tsar that he must use an iron fist, not an unclenched hand, to save the monarchy.


After the assassination of Alexander II, Narodnaya Volya went through a period of ideological and organizational crisis. The most significant attempts at reviving Narodnaya Volya are associated with the names of St. Petersburg and abroad) largely abandoned the revolutionary ideas of Narodnaya Volya.

Narodnaya Volya’s activity became one of the most important elements of the revolutionary situation in the late 1879–1880. However, ineffective tactics of political conspiracy and preference for terrorism over other means of struggle failed. At the turn of the century, however, as increasing numbers of former members of Narodnaya Volya were released from prison and exile, these veteran revolutionaries helped to form the Socialist Revolutionary Party, which revived many of the goals and methods of the former narodniki, including peasant revolution and terror.

Modern usage of the name

In December 2001, a small nationalist party led by a veteran Russian nationalist politician Sergey Baburin was created under the name Party of National Revival "Narodnaya Volya". Later Narodnaya Volya joined Rodina coalition which performed surprisingly well in the 2003 State Duma elections. Narodnaya Volya is seen by many as the most nationalist element in mostly leftist Rodina and a number of its members in the past were associated with Russian far right movements. When Rodina merged into the new party Fair Russia, Narodnaya Volya left the Rodina coalition instead.

In Assassin's Creed: The Fall (an American comic book mini-series set in the fictional universe of the historical action-adventure video game series called Assassin's Creed), the Narodnaya Volya were the Russian branch of the Assassin Order. They were responsible for a number of acts of sabotage and murder; their most well known being the assassination of Tsar Alexander II of Russia with a bomb, after five separate attempts on his life.[2]

In episode nine, season four, of the televised show Warehouse 13 a tatouage referencing Narodnaya Volya appears throughout the episode.

In Fiction

The assassination of Alexander II by Narodnaya Volya has been fictionalized several times:

  • Les Vies parallèles de Nicolaï Bakhmaltov by Sébastien Doubinsky (1994), p. 41 and ff.
  • The People's Will by Eric Berbig (2010)
  • To Kill a Tsar by Andrew Williams (2011)
  • The People's Will by Jasper Kent (2013)


  1. ^ "Narodnaya Volya" is sometimes translated as People's Freedom, according to another common meaning of the Russian word Воля; see Bruce Hoffman, Inside Terrorism, "Defining Terrorism", however some claim that the intended meaning was "People's Will", see Yarmolinsky, Avrahm, Road to Revolution: A Century of Russian Radicalism, 1956. Chapter 12. The People's Will.
  2. ^ WildStorm | Comics
  • Berlin, Isaiah, "The Populists' Moral Condemnation of Russia Political and Social Systems," in Problems of European Civilization: Imperial Russia after 1861, Arthur E. Adams, ed. D. C. Heath and Company, 1965.
  • Maynard, Sir John, Russia in Flux: Before the October Revolution, Collier Books, 1962.
  • Yarmolinsky, Avrahm, Road to Revolution: A Century of Russian Radicalism, 1956. Chapter 12. The People's Will.

External links

  • """Official website of modern Russian political party named "Narodnaya Volya (in Русский). Retrieved May 6, 2006. 
  • "Memorial plaque in Odessa, Ukraine for members of Narodnaya Volya". 2odessa. Retrieved May 6, 2006. 
  • People's Will, from Spartacus educational encyclopedia
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