October 31st, 2012 Headsman
On this date in 1907* an audacious would-be suicide bomber was executed by tsarist Russia.
Thousands of Russians immersed themselves in the late 1900s in revolutionary struggle after the Romanovs bloodily stopped the 1905 revolution. So many of them were executed that the gallows became known as “Stolypin’s Necktie”, after the sitting Prime Minister.
Twenty-one-year-old conservatory pianist and singer Evstolia Ragozinnikova got involved in a plot to assassinate the said Stolypin. (It was only one among several such plots, one of which finally succeeded in 1911.)
But “Tolia” feigned madness and then escaped the psychiatric hospital where she’d been confined. She rejoined her Socialist-Revolutionary conspirators, some of whom tried to get her to flee to Milan to further her musical studies.
Instead of concert houses, Ragozinnikova raised the curtain on her magnum opus on October 28* with a bid to land a Guy Fawkes-like blow against the autocracy.
Communist-turned-anticommunist Whittaker Chambers would, much later, remember in his correspondence with William F. Buckley the power that deeds like Ragozinnikova’s had to inspire, notwithstanding Lenin’s eventually-orthodox disavowal of terrorism. For Chambers, it was not material immiseration but spiritual disinheritance, existential despair — the sort that made artists into suicide bombers — that was the true midwife of Communism.
I may presume in supposing that the name of Ragozinikova is unknown to you. But the facts are these. In 1907, the Russian government instituted a policy of systematically beating its political prisoners. One night, a fashionably dressed young woman called at the Central Prison in Petersburg and asked to speak with the commandant, Maximovsky. This was Ragozinikova, who had come to protest the government’s policy. Inside the bodice of her dress were sewed thirteen pounds of dynamite and a detonator. When Maximovsky appeared, she shot him with her revolver and killed him. The dynamite was for another purpose. After the murder of Maximovsky, Ragozinikova asked the police to interrogate her at the headquarters of the Okhrana. She meant to blow it up together with herself; she had not known any other way to penetrate it. But she was searched and the dynamite discovered. She was sentenced to be hanged.
Awaiting execution., she wrote her family: ‘Death itself is nothing, … Frightful only is the thought of dying without having achieved what I could have done How good it is to love people. How much strength one gains from such love.’
Chambers aside, she’s not so well attested on the English-lanuage Internet; there’s a bit about her in Russian here and here, as well as some references to both Ragozinnikova and her peers in an academic pdf, “Women in the World of Gender Stereotypes: The Case of the Russian Female Terrorists at the Beginning of the 20th Century” by Nadezda Petrusenko in International Journal of Humanities and Social Science, April 2011.
* Gregorian dates. By the local Julian calendar in Russia, she committed her murder on October 15, and was hanged on October 18.
On this day..
- 1862: Thomas Sanders, rapist - 2016
- Deathed Up to the Nines: Executed Today's Ninth Annual Report - 2016
- The Eight Pains: Executed Today's Eighth annual report - 2015
- 1460: Tiburzio di Maso, Roman brigand - 2015
- Seven-Out: Executed Today's Seventh Annual Report - 2014
- 1814: Private John McMillan, deserter - 2014
- Six Years Under: Executed Today's Sixth Annual Report - 2013
- 1698: The last Streltsy executed in October - 2013
- Executed Today's Fourth Annual Report: Wrung, Wan and Quartered - 2011
- 1893: Bertha Zillmann, completely prostrate - 2011
- Executed Today's Third Annual Report: Third Time Lucky - 2010
- 1492: Sir Nicholas de Mimsy-Porpington, Nearly Headless Nick - 2010