THE "DECEMBRISTS" [ID]
(work in progress)
Table of Contents =
United Slavs, their Oath
Pavel Pestel', Konstitutsiia
Pavel Pestel', Russkaia prava
Nikita Murav'ev's Constitutional projects
Mikhail Lunin on tnx.obx (and other Decembrist memoirs)
<>1818:Russian voluntary society, Union of Welfare (Decembrists), composed bylaws [Raeff3:117-24]
<>1818:UNITED SLAVS, their OATH =
Upon joining the United Slavs for the liberation of myself from tyranny and for the restoration of freedom, which
is so precious to the human race, I solemnly pledge on these arms brotherly love, which is to me divine and from which I "expect
the fulfillment of all my desires. I swear to be always virtuous, always loyal to our aim, and to observe the deepest secrecy. Hell
itself with all its horrors will not be able to compel me to reveal to the tyrants my friends and their aims. I swear that only
when a man proves undoubted desire to become a participant, will my tongue reveal the Society. I swear, to the last drop of my
blood, to my last breath, to assist you, my friends, from this sacred moment. Special activity will be my first virtue, and mutual
love and aid my sacred duty. I swear that nothing in the world will be able to move me. With sword in hand I shall attain the aim
designated by us. I will pass through a thousand deaths, a thousand obstacles I will pass through, and dedicate my last breath to
freedom and the fraternal union of the noble Slavs. Should I violate this oath, then let remorse be the first vengeance for my
hideous offense. Let the point of this sword turn against my heart and fill it with hellish torment.
Let the moment of my life that is injurious to my friends, be the last one. Let my existence be transformed into a chain of unheard misery from the fatal moment that I forget my pledge.
May I see all that is dear to my heart perish by this weapon and in horrible suffering, and this weapon, reaching me, the criminal, cover my body with wounds and cast infamy upon me. And the accumulated burden of physical and moral evil shall impress on my forehead the sign of a monstrous son of Nature.
<>1820s:Pestel',Pavel I| Konstitutsiia
Russkaia pravda [Russian truth] [LDH:51-8]
*--Pestel’ opposed convening a Constituent Assembly and proposed instead a dictatorship of a Provisional Supreme revolutionary Authority [Vremennogo verkhovnogo revoliutsionnogo pravleniia]. This contributed to the prestige of Pestel' in Soviet historiography [GO 1918:Constituent Assembly]. The pravlenie was to take power after the revolution and create on its own authority a constitutional state, a Russian republic in which the land would be distributed to peasants.
*--The agrarian program was, however, contradictory =
Russkaia prava, transliterated Russian text not yet "Englished" =
((A set of laws to guide Russia through temporary transition from TSR stt to new order: “vremennoe verxovnoe pravlenie”
Attentive to “minority rights” [pravo narodnosti]
fdr gvt = Federativnymi je nazyvayutsya te gosudarstva, v kotoryx oblasti, ix sostavlyayuwwie, xotya i priznayut obwwuyu nad soboi verxovnuyu vlast’ i obyazyvayutsya sovokupno deistvovat’ vo vsex snoweniyax vnewnix, no pri vsem to pravo svoe soxranyayut zakony delat’ i postanovleniya izdavat’ dlya sobstvennogo svoego vnutrennego grajdanskogo i politiqeskogo obrazovaniya i ustraivat’ svoe pravlenie po qastnomu svoemu usmotreniyu. 
Constitutional projects [Konstitutsiia]
GRV:161-8 | (( 2nd Draft [Raeff1:103-18 |
*--Murav'ev allowed a degree of class interest to influence his constitutional design. He foresaw a constitutional monarchy, organized on federalist lines, like USA. He divided Russia into fifteen states [Derzhavy]. Serfdom was to be altered unconditionally, but freed peasants would receive as their own only their dwellings and house plots [usad'ba], plus 2 desiatiny of plowland [pakhotnaia zemlia]. The rest remained under gentry or state ownership. Sosloviia were to be eliminated. All citizens were to be equal before the law, but property limitations were placed on suffrage. Each Derzhava had a two-house parliament. The central government was in the form of a two-house People's Veche [Narodnoe veche]. The Emperor was granted limited veto power, but no final authority to block laws. Like Pestel', Muravev provided for basic civil liberties, freedom of expression, the press, assembly, religious belief, movement, etc.))
<>1824:Kiev fair | Mikhail Bestuzhev-Riumin learned about some formal agreements between the Southern Society and Polish independence activists [MFR:281-2 Appendix, from the *1826:Testimony]
At the Kiev fair in 1824 I learned from Chodkiewicz that there existed a Society, which, upon finding that we had a similar organization, wished to enter into negotiations. I reported this to the Directory, which gave me instructions to conclude an agreement. This agreement consisted :
ON OUR PART :
ON THE PART OF THE POLES :
The Poles are obligated to :
<>1825de13Anonymous Manifesto (found among Sergei Trubetskoi's papers)| “Manifest k russkomu narodu” [GRV: | Raeff1:101-3 | MFR:283-4 Appendix]
The Manifesto of the Senate should proclaim :
The Provisional Government is instructed to :
<>1825de:AN APPEAL written by Sergei Muraviev-Apostol and Mikhail Bestuzhev-Riumin [MFR:284-5]
The Lord took pity on Russia and sent death to our tyrant. Christ said : you shall not be slaves of men, for you were redeemed by my blood. The world did not listen to this sacred command and fell into misery. But our suffering moved the Lord, and today He is sending us freedom and salvation. Brethren ! Let us repent of our long servility and swear : let there be a sole Tsar in Heaven and on Earth, Jesus Christ.
All misfortunes of the Russian people derived from autocratic government. It broke down. By the death of the tyrant the Lord signifies His will that we throw off from ourselves the chains of slavery, which are repugnant to Christian law. From now on Russia is free. But as true sons of the Church, let us not attempt any crime, but, without civil strife, establish a government of the people, based on the law of God which proclaims : "And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant."
The Russian army hopes to establish a government of the people, based upon sacred law. And so, let this pious people of ours remain in peace and tranquility and pray the Lord for the most speedy accomplishment of our sacred undertaking. The servants of the altar who have been forsaken in poverty and scorned to this day by the impious tyrant now pray the Lord for us in restoring in all glory the Temples of God.
<>1825de28:Yakubovich,A letter to Nicholas I (extract) [MFR:280 Appendix]
Your Highness !
... In describing the condition of Russia I did not reproach the authorities, but pointed out the source of present-day evils and those which threaten us in the distant future. Sovereign! The antiquated structure of the state administration demands important changes. The Empire, in the little over a hundred years since it emerged from the darkness of crude ignorance, has undergone every quarter of a century complete changes in the formation of ideas and in moral demands. Grant equal advantages to Your soldiers by lowering the term of military service ; by decisive legislative measures and strict execution make everyone fulfill his duties, spread the light of science and education, give liberty to commercial activities, and the restless or the Carbonari will vanish like darkness in the face of the sun. You will be the benefactor and savior of the Fatherland from many calamities, and the love of Your grateful fifty-two million subjects will only be the beginning of Your immortal glory.
Devoted subject of Your
1825, December 28
Peter and Paul Fortress ALEKSANDR YAKUBOVICH.
Cell No. 3
<>1826wi:Bestuzhev,Aleksandr letter to Nicholas I (extract) [MFR:277-9 Appendix]
Your Imperial Highness !
Convinced that You, Sovereign, love the truth, I dare to lay before You the historical development of free thinking in Russia and in general of many ideas which constitute the moral and political basis of the events of December 14. I shall speak in full frankness, without concealing evil, without even softening expressions, for the duty of a loyal subject is to tell his Monarch the truth without any embellishment. I commence.
The beginning of the reign of Emperor Alexander was marked with bright hopes for Russia's prosperity. The gentry had recuperated, the merchant class did not object to giving credit, the army served without making trouble, scholars studied what they wished, all spoke what they thought, and everyone expected better days. Unfortunately, circumstances prevented the realization of these hopes, which aged without their fulfillment. The unsuccessful, expensive war of 1807 and others disorganized our finances, though we had not yet realized it when preparing for the national war of 1812. Finally, Napoleon invaded Russia and then only, for the first time, did the Russian people become aware of their power j only then awakened in all our hearts a feeling of independence, at first political and finally national. That is the beginning of free thinking in Russia. The government itself spoke such words as "Liberty, Emancipation!" It had itself sown the idea of abuses resulting from the unlimited power of Napoleon, and the appeal of the Russian Monarch resounded on the banks of the Rhine and the Seine. The war was still on when the soldiers, upon their return home, for the first time disseminated grumbling among the masses. "We shed blood," they would say, "and then we are again forced to sweat under feudal obligations. We freed the Fatherland from the tyrant, and now we ourselves are tyrannized over by the ruling class." The army, from generals to privates, upon its return, did nothing but discuss how good it is in foreign lands. A comparison with their own country naturally brought up the question, "Why should it not be so in our own land ?
At first, as long as they talked without being hindered, it was lost in the air, for thinking is like gunpowder, only dangerous when pressed. Many cherished the hope that the Emperor would grant a constitution, as he himself had stated at the opening of the Legislative Assembly in Warsaw, and the attempt of some generals to free their serfs encouraged that sentiment. But after 1817 everything changed. Those who saw evil or who wished improvement, thanks to the mass of spies were forced to whisper about it, and this was the beginning of the secret societies. Oppression by the government of deserving officers irritated men's minds. Then the military men began to talk : "Did we free Europe in order to be ourselves placed in chains ? Did we grant a constitution to France in order that we dare not talk about it, and did we buy at the price of blood priority among nations in order that we might be humiliated at home?" The destructive policy toward schools and the persecution of education forced us in utter despair to begin considering some important measures. And since the grumbling of the people, caused by exhaustion and the abuses of national and civil administrations, threatened bloody revolution, the Societies intended to prevent a greater evil by a lesser one and began their activities at the first opportunity. . . .
You, Sovereign, probably already know how we, inspired by such a situation in Russia and seeing the elements ready for change, decided to bring about a coup d'etat Here are the plans we had for the future. We thought of creating a Senate of the oldest and wisest Russian men of the present administration, for we thought that power and ambition would always have their attraction. Then we thought of having a Chamber of Deputies composed of national representatives For enlightenment of the lower classes we wished everywhere to establish Lancasterian schools. And in order to bring about moral improvement we thought of raising the standard of the clergy by granting to them a means of livelihood. Elimination of nearly all duties, freedom from distillation and road improvement for the state, encouragement of agriculture and general protection of industry would result in satisfying the peasants. Assurance and stability would attract to Russia many resourceful foreigners. Factories would increase with the demand for commodities, while competition would stimulate improvement, which rises along with the prosperity of the people, for the need of commodities for life and luxury is constant
Most devoted servant of
Your Imperial Highness, [No date] ALEKSANDR BESTUZHEV.
<>1826ja11:EXTRACT FROM A LETTER OF V. STEINGEL TO NICHOLAS I [MFR:279-80 Appendix]
. . . No matter how many members there may be found of the secret Society or those who had only known of it; no matter how many may be deprived of freedom on account of it, there still remain a great many people who share those ideas and sentiments. Russia is already so educated that even shopkeepers read newspapers and newspapers report what is said in the Chamber of Deputies in Paris. Is not the first thought to occur in everyone's mind, "Why cannot we discuss our rights?" The greater number of professors, literary men, and journalists have to join wholeheartedly with those who wish a constitutional government, for freedom of the press is to their personal advantage. So do booksellers and merchants. Finally, all those who were in foreign countries, and some who were educated there, and all those who served or serve now in the Guard hold the same opinions. Who of the young men, even somewhat educated, have not read and have not been fascinated with the works of Pushkin [ID], which breathe freedom? Who has not cited the fables of Denis Davydov, such as his "Head and Feet"? Perhaps among those who have the fortune to surround Your Honor, there are such. Sovereign ! In order to eradicate free thinking, there is no other means than to destroy an entire generation, born and educated in the last reign. But if this is impossible, there remains one thing to win hearts by kindness and attract minds by decisive and evident means toward the future prosperity of the state.
BARON VLADIMIR IVANOVICH SHTEINGEL'.
January llth day 1826
<>1826fe24:EXTRACT PROM A LETTER OF PETR KAKHOVSKII TO GENERAL LEVASHEV [MFR:274-7 Appendix]
Your Excellency, Dear Sir !
The uprising of December 14 is a result of causes related above. I see, Your Excellency, that the Committee established by His Majesty is making a great effort to discover all the members of the secret Society. But the government will not derive any notable benefit from that. We were not trained within the Society but were already ready to work when we joined it. The origin and the root of the Society one must seek in the spirit of the time and in our state of mind. I know a few belonging to the secret Society but am inclined to think the membership is not very large. Among my many acquaintances who do not adhere to secret societies very few are opposed to my opinions. Frankly I state that among thousands of young men there are hardly a hundred who do not passionately long for freedom. These youths, striving with pure and strong love for the welfare of their Fatherland, toward true enlightenment, are growing mature.
The people have conceived a sacred truth that they do not exist for governments, but that governments must be organized for them. This is the cause of struggle in all countries ; peoples, after tasting the sweetness of enlightenment and freedom, strive toward them ; and governments, surrounded by millions of bayonets, make efforts to repel these peoples back into the darkness of ignorance. But all these efforts will prove in vain ; impressions once received can never be erased. Liberty, that torch of intellect and warmth of life, was always and everywhere the attribute of peoples emerged from primitive ignorance. We are unable to live like our ancestors, like barbarians or slaves.
But even our ancestors, though less educated, enjoyed civil liberty. During the time of Tsar Aleksei Mikhailovich the National Assembly [ID Zemskii sobor], including representatives of various classes of the people, still functioned and participated in important affairs of the State. In his reign five such Assemblies were summoned. Peter I [ID], who killed everything national in the State, also stamped out our feeble liberty. This liberty disappeared outwardly but lived within the hearts of true citizens ; its advancement was slow in our country. Wise Catherine II [ID] expanded it a little ; Her Majesty inquired from the Petersburg Free Economic Society [ID] concerning the value and consequences of the emancipation of peasants in Russia. This great beneficial thought lived in the heart of the Empress, whom the people loved. Who among Russians of her day and time could have read her INSTRUCTION [ID] without emotion? The INSTRUCTION alone redeems all the shortcoming of that time, characteristic of that century.
Emperor Alexander promised us much; he, it could be said, enormously stirred the minds of the people toward the sacred rights of humanity. Later he changed his principles and intentions. The people became frightened, but the seed had sprouted and the roots grew deep. So rich with various revolutions are the latter half of the past century and the events of our own time [ID] that we have no need to refer to distant ones. We are witnesses of great events. The discovery of the New World and the United States, by virtue of its form of government [ID], have forced Europe into rivalry with her. The United States will shine as an example even to distant generations. The name of Washington, the friend and benefactor of the people, will pass from generation to generation ; the memory of his devotion to the welfare of the Fatherland will stir the hearts of citizens. In France the revolution which began so auspiciously turned, alas, at the end from a lawful into a criminal one [ID]. However, not the people but court intrigues and politics were responsible for that. The revolution in France shook all the thrones of Europe and had a greater influence upon the governments and peoples than the establishment of the United States.
The dominance of Napoleon and the war of 1813 and 1814 [ID] united all the European nations, summoned by their monarchs and fired by the call to freedom and citizenship. By what means were countless sums collected among citizens ? What guided the armies ? They preached freedom to us in Manifestoes, Appeals, and in Orders ! We were lured and, kindly by nature, we believed, sparing neither blood nor property. Napoleon was overthrown. The Bourbons were called back to the throne of France [ID] and, submitting to circumstances, gave that brave, magnanimous nation a constitution, pledging themselves to forget the past. The Monarchs united into a Holy Alliance [ID] ; congresses sprang into existence [ID], informing the nations that they were assembled to reconcile all classes and introduce political freedom. But the aim of these congresses was soon revealed ; the nations learned how greatly they had been deceived.
The Monarchs thought only of how to retain their unlimited power, to support their shattered thrones, and to extinguish the last spark of freedom and enlightenment.
Offended nations began to demand what belonged to them and had been promised to them. Chains and prisons became their lot ! Crowns transgressed their pledges, the constitution of France was violated at its very base. Manuel, the representative of the people, was dragged from the Chamber of Deputies by gendarmes ! Freedom of the press was restricted, the army of France, against its own will, was sent to destroy the lawful liberty of Spain. Forgetting the oath given by Louis XVIII, Charles X compensates émigrés and for that purpose burdens the people with new taxes. The government interferes with the election of deputies, and in the last elections, among the deputies only thirty-three persons were not in the service and payment of the King, the rest being sold to the Ministers. The firm, courageous Spanish people at the cost of blood rose for the liberty of their country, saved the King, the Monarchy, and the honor of the Fatherland. Of their own volition the people themselves received Ferdinand as King. The King took the oath to safeguard the rights of the people. As early as the year 1812, Alexander I recognized the constitution of Spain.
Then the Alliance itself assisted France by sending her troops in order to facilitate an invasion of Spain and, thus, dishonoring her army. [...] Instead of the promised liberty the nations of Europe found themselves oppressed and their educational facilities curtailed. The prisons of Piedmont, Sardinia, Naples, and, in general, of the whole of Italy and Germany were filled with chained citizens. The lot of the people became so oppressive that they began to regret the past and to bless the memory of Napoleon the conqueror! These are the incidents which enlightened their minds and made them realize that it was impossible to make agreements with Sovereigns. [...] The story told to Your Excellency that, in the uprising of December 14 [ID] the rebels were shouting "Long live the Constitution !" and that the people were asking "What is Constitution, the wife of His Highness the Grand Duke ?" is not true. It is an amusing invention. We knew too well the meaning of a constitution and we had a word that would equally stir the hearts of all classes LIBERTY!
The events of December are calamitous for us and, of course, must be distressing to the Emperor. Yet the events of this date should be fortunate for His Imperial Highness. After all, it was necessary sometime for the Society to begin its activities, but hardly could it have been so precipitate as in this instance. I swear to God, I wish the kind Sovereign prosperity ! May God aid him in healing the wounds of our Fatherland and to become a friend and benefactor of the people. . . ,
Most obedient and devoted servant of Your Excellency,
[signed=] PETR KAKHOVSKII.
February, 24th day.
<>1826+: Pestel',Pavel I| Testimony after arrest
[extract MFR:273], along with that of
V.I. Shteingel', and
Petr I. Borisov
[VSB,2:513-16, 518-22 | DIR2:191-4]
EXTRACTS FROM PESTEL’S, TESTIMONY [MFR:273 Appendix]
QUESTION 6 : How did the revolutionary ideas gradually develop and become implanted in men's minds ? Who first conceived these ideas and continued to preach and spread them throughout the State?
ANSWER 6 : This question is very difficult to answer, for it must go beyond the realm of discussion about the secret Society. However, in order to fulfill the demand of the Committee I shall try so far as I can to explain it.
Political books are in the hands of everyone; political science is taught and political news spread everywhere. These teach all to discuss the activities and conduct of the Government, to praise one thing and assail another. A survey of the events of 1812, 1813, 1814, and 1815, likewise of the preceding and following periods, will show how many thrones were toppled over, how many others were established, how many kingdoms were destroyed, and how many new ones were created ; how many Sovereigns were expelled, how many returned or were invited to return and were then again driven out ; how many revolutions were accomplished ; how many coup d'etats carried out all these events familiarized the minds of men with the idea of revolutions, with their possibilities, and with the favorable occasions on which to execute them. Besides that, every century has its peculiar characteristic : ours is marked by revolutionary ideas. From one end of Europe to the other the same thing is observed, from Portugal to Russia, without the exception of a single state, not even England or Turkey, those two opposites. The same spectacle is presented also in the whole of America. The spirit of reform causes mental fermentation. Here are the causes, I think, which gave rise to revolutionary ideas and which have implanted them in the minds of people. As to the cause of the spread of the spirit of reform through the country, it could not be ascribed to the Society, for the organization was still too small to have any popular influence
<>1826jy13:Russian Emperor Nicholas I (Speranskii,MM actual author)| “Vysochaishii manifest 13 iiulia 1826 g.”| GRV:170-2
((N-1 stt vs.rvs reaction to prs of DKB|
Casting my gaze over these miserable events, I must say, bunt is unnatural for the Russian. Ne v svoistvax, ne v nravax rossiiskix byl sei umysel. Sostavlennyi gorstiyu izvergov, on zarazil blijaiwee ix soobwwestvo, serdca razvratnye i meqtatel’nost’ derznovennuyu; no v desyat let zlonamerennyx usili ne pronik, ne mog proniknut’ dalee. Serdce Rossii dlya nego bylo i budet nepristupno. Ne posramitsya imya russkoe izmenoyu prestolu i Oteqestvu. Naprotiv, me videli pri sem samom sluqae novye opyty priverjennosti, videli, kak otce ne wadili prestupnyx detei svoix, rodstvenniki otvergali i privodili k sudu podozrevaemyx, videli vse sostoyaniya soedeinivwimisya v odnoi myysli, v odnom jelanii: suda i kazni prestupnikam.  ... Da obratyat roditeli vse ix vnimanie na nravstvennoe vospitanie detei. Ne prosvewweniyu, no prazdnnosti uma, bolee vrednoi, nejeli prazdnost’ telesnyx sil, -- nedostoatku tverdyx poznanii doljno pripisat’ sie svoevol’stvo myslei, istoqnik buinyx strasei, siyu pagubnuyu roskow’ polupoznanii, sei poryv v meqtatel’nye krainosti, koix naqalo est’ porqa nravov, a konec – pogibel’. Twwetny budut vse usiliya, vse pojertvovaniya pravitel’stva, esli [171-2] domawnee vospitanie ne budet priugotovlyat nravy i sodeistvovat’ ego vidam. || Dvoryanstvo [dvr], ograda prestola i qesti narodnoi, da stanet i na sem popriwwe, kak na vsex drugix, primerom vsem drugim sostoyaniya [sSs]. Vsyyakii ego podvig k usoverweniyu oteqestvennogo, ne qujezemnogo vospitaniya my primem s priznatel’nost’yu i odovol’stviem. Dlya nego otversty v Otechestve nawem vse puti qesti i zaslug. Pravyi sud, voinskie sily, raznye qasti vnutrennego upravleniya – vse trebuet, vse zavisit ot revnostnyx i znayuwwix ispolnitelei. || Vse sostoyaniya da soedinyatsya v doverii k pravitel’stvu. V gosudarstve, gde lyubov’ k monoarxam i predannost’ k prfestolu osnovany na prirodnyx svoistvax naroda, gde est’ oteqestvennye zakony i tverdost’ v upravlenii, twwetny i bezumy vsegda budut vse usiliya zonamerennyx; oni mogut tait’sya vo mrake, no pri pervom poyavlenii, otverjennye obwweim negodovaniem, oni sokruwatsya siloyu zakona.
<>1826no22:Pestel' was remembered fondly in his old Viatka regiment
Report of Yaretskii, Secretary of the Zaslavskii Lower Court, November 22, 1826
Since my appointment I have had nothing worth while to report to you, but, at the moment the Viatka Infantry Regiment was quartered in the town of Zinkov, I tried to investigate what rumors were popular among the military men, and I have found as follows.
(1) All privates and officers are sorry for Pestel, their former commander, saying that they were well off under him, and that they had been expecting something even better. Should any one among the military men happen to recall Pestel, suddenly everyone with a heavy sigh and in tears replies that such a commander there never was nor ever will be. I have heard this myself from many ; and Jews, almost all of them, who also heard it from military men, have reported the same to me.
(3) The head musician who is quartered at the home of the Jewess Dreizee, while drunk in the presence of many Jews, scolded Maiboroda for having reported Pestel, praised the latter, and expressed sorrow for him. At the same time, he said that Pestel before his death made a statement to the effect that what he, Pestel, had sown, would sprout, nay, it would necessarily have to sprout. Filatov repeated this before Volee Zeilikovich and other privates as well as many Jews.
(4) On the whole, all officers and privates hate the new commander terribly, revile him behind his back, and call him stupid, a fool, a boor, and other epithets.
<>1827wi: "Committee of December Sixth" summarized RUS conditions that influenced DKB [Raeff1:32-43]
<>1820s:1840s; Mikhail Lunin [TXT]