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(en) Italy, FDCA, Cantier #24: THE CONSPIRATORS. - Russian revolutionaries of the late nineteenth century. Letters and memories of Olimpia Kutuzova Cafiero. - Martina Guerrini - BFS editions, 2016. (ca, de, it, pt, tr)[machine translation]

Date Tue, 9 Apr 2024 07:53:49 +0300

The events of the Russian revolutionary movement of the mid-nineteenth century seem to come out of a Dostoevsky plot, while they were themselves an inspiration to the great literature of the time. ---- The historiography of social movements has often betrayed the role of female revolutionaries, eluding their protagonism, or on the contrary celebrated their presence to underline the aspects of conflict, open or implicit, with the male revolutionary side. ---- Although both of these perspectives are sometimes true, what is lost is the overall vision that appears in the relationship, difficult or equal, depending on the historical contexts analyzed, between revolutionaries and revolutionaries. The attempt of this work of mine is therefore to restore the depth of the anti-tsarist Russian revolutionary process - in particular between 1860 and 1881 - by intertwining all the protagonists who were stirring underground.

Historical research confirms the relevance and originality of this experience, and my text, divided into three parts, offers a significant insight into it, through two essays and the autobiographical stories of the Russian anarchist Olimpia Kutuzova Cafiero.

The social background of that unitary process which takes the name of Russian populism is that of o bshcina, the community and cooperative tradition of the Russian peasant world which was a completely new reality for the rest of nineteenth-century Europe. This social nucleus was characterized by a rigid patriarchal structure which also exerted a fascination on the political avant-gardes who saw in it the concrete and possible substratum of a society of equals outside and against state oppression.

It was at the center of the ideal debate between Marx, who had different positions on it to the point of proposing its defense by the revolutionary side, and Bakunin who immediately and with greater critical sense underlined the negative and reactionary aspects of its conservative and explicitly patriarchal.

The relationship with the Russian peasant world became the heart of the reflections and practices of a new generation of young women and men, committed to raising the people against the tsarist yoke.

In the feminist world, in particular, irreconcilable conflicts split and worsened between the nihilists and the liberals: the latter, directed by the triumvirate of Marja Vasil'evna Trubnikova, Nadezhda Vasil'evna Stasova and Anna Pavlovna Filosofova, tried to reform the school system , combating female illiteracy, through constant pressure on the tsar to obtain access to higher education for the most educated women; on the contrary, the young radicals with a nihilistic orientation, such as the mathematician Sof'ja Vasil'evna Kovalevskaja and the future tsarist Sof'ja Perovskaja, used girls' schools to propagate revolutionary ideas among women, in an individual revolt that would involve the family and marriage, defined as the source of "years of disappointing boredom and domestic tyranny".

In both cases, thanks to the commitment of these feminist groups, dense networks of self-help associations began to intertwine, albeit with different purposes, such as schools, publishing initiatives, professional clubs, self-managed printing houses, which were immediately subject to very harsh state repression.

The open clash with the liberal reformists had at its center the nihilistic rejection of the dimension of charity and charitable philanthropism, "moving the reflection in depth within the private sphere, in the family, within marriage, in sexual relations", and at a later time, in social ones. «Who needs philanthropists and patronesses?» the nihilists asked themselves sarcastically.

It is indisputable that the liberal project had no chance of making an impact, due to its inability to address, even before resolving, the dramatic living conditions of poor women, as he admitted in front of his two daughters - now convinced revolutionaries - the Marja Trubnikova herself, recognizing the futility of reformist pressure groups in an autocratic and reactionary regime like the tsarist one.

Meanwhile, the radicalization of men and women, following the ferocious persecution of the Russian state, accelerated the urgent demands for social justice and liberation from tsarism, which will be the heart of the nascent populism.

The best known, and among the most significant, event of the birth of Russian populism is undoubtedly the "going to the people" of 1874, that is, the summer in which students poured into the Russian countryside, organizing a very active propaganda campaign among the peasants to raise them against the tsar. That campaign, also known as the Crazy Summer, became the first step of the Russian revolutionary movement, and had its culmination with Vera Zasulich's assassination attempt on the hated brutal governor of Petersburg, General Trepov, in 1878.

Vera Zasulich's gesture, far beyond her will, opened the conspiratorial, clandestine and terrorist phase of the movement - its descent into the underground - which would end with the assassination in March 1881 of Tsar Alexander II, and with the noose for his attackers.

The attack, carried out using partisan guerrilla techniques, will be organized and directed by women, who represented a third of the leadership of the clandestine movement of the Narodanja Volja, to which they also contributed from a theoretical point of view, on predominantly anti-Jacobin positions , not denying in any way the need for an armed struggle.

The story of the Russian nihilists and populists has undoubtedly had a cosmopolitan and transnational character. The biography of Olimpia Kutuzova, known as Lipa, is perhaps one of the most clarifying examples of the link between the Russian and Italian revolutionary movements. She belongs to the close circle of Bakunin's associates - a context in which she will meet and become romantically linked to the young revolutionary Carlo Cafiero - she Lipa will be among the protagonists of the "going to the people" and of the actions of connection and support of the anti-tsarist terrorist attacks.

His life - also reported by the unpublished publication, within my research work, of two autobiographical stories, accompanied by photographs and reproductions of the letters and some postcards - will be divided between Russia and Italy, a country in which he daringly returned in 1883, after an incredible escape from forced residence in Ishim , in a last-ditch attempt to avoid Cafiero being sent to a mental hospital.

In conclusion, it is possible, through the reconstruction of the biographies of Russian revolutionaries of the second half of the nineteenth century, to understand the international link of a complex history that develops and unravels through the origins of Russian radical feminism, the birth of the European revolutionary movement and the development of socialism in Italy.

Martina Guerrini

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