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Chapter 3 The Student Movement Erupts, 1899–1901
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Chapter 3
The Student Movement Erupts, 1899–1901

The most important period in the history of the Russian student movement spanned the six years between the outbreak of the nationwide student strike of 1899 and the Revolution of 1905. During these years the student movement reached the high point of its political importance and internal intensity. Between 1899 and 1902 the students were the principal mass protest movement on the Russian scene. Many contemporary observers argued that the student movement acted as a major catalyst in the intensification of the revolutionary and liberal opposition movements before the outbreak of the Russo-Japanese War.

During this period, three major questions stood out. What did the students want? How did their self-image change? What impact did they make on the rest of Russian society? The obvious chronological guide-posts—the 1899 student strike; the government decision to draft protesting students; the street demonstrations in February and March 1901; the students' rejection of government concessions in late 1901; the protest strike in February 1902; the theoretical debate on the student movement which followed the apparent failure of the 1902 strike—all help the historian impose some kind of structure on a complex chain of events taking place in several different university towns. But there is the danger that such an orderly framework may fail to convey the very complicated process of self-definition the student movement was undergoing, a process which was hardly unilinear, logical, or predictable. Like Dostoevskii's Underground Man, the students often seemed to spend much of their time refusing to admit that two plus two equalled


four. Much to the consternation of their self-appointed leaders, they resisted direction or ideological definition. Some historians paint a neat picture tracing the evolution of the student movement at this time from "corporate" to "political" protest, from apolitical strikes to more radical street demonstrations to close collaboration with the revolutionary parties, all leading to the grand finale of 1905 when the students turned the universities over to the workers and then stopped being a major political force.[1] Such a scheme may be compelling, but it fails to explain what really happened.

The 1899–1905 wave of student protest confronted its participants with many more questions than answers and sparked an intense but ultimately unsuccessful search for an ideology of student activism. This search gained urgency from the fact that the student movement was making an impact, both on the urban public and on the revolutionary movement. It was, then, all the more natural for the students to ask what exactly it was that they were doing and how effective their actions really were.

Several issues, some not entirely new, faced the students during this period. The first and most important was whether their goal was "political" or "academic" protest. Should the students eschew demands for general legal and political reforms and confine their aims to the attainment of academic and corporate rights? This issue led to another: whether the attainment of corporate rights was at all possible within the framework of the traditional autocratic structure. Yet another major problem concerned the importance of the student movement. Had the students become a major political force, strong enough to wrest concessions from the government and politicize other social groups, or were they still a transient mass of little importance, unable to agree on goals or to mount a sustained protest? And if indeed the latter were the case, should the students abandon the student movement altogether?

There was also the question of tactics. In 1899 the students "discovered" a new weapon, the strike. The student strike made it easy to mobilize large numbers and publicize student demands. But critics quickly pointed out that apart from causing the government some embarrassment, student strikes harmed only the students themselves. Furthermore, these critics argued, the strike reinforced the students' isolation from the rest of urban society, especially the working class. By 1901,


radical students were advancing arguments in favor of street demonstrations: they frightened the government and made more of an impact on the general population. But the government dealt much more harshly with demonstrators than with strikers, and since few students were prepared to run such risks, it quickly became apparent that the more openly radical the student movement became, the fewer the number of students who were willing to participate. This tactical conundrum was closely related to the question of whether students should try to coordinate their protests with those of other social groups, especially workers. That issue in turn led to the controversy over student organizations. Should the students abandon their traditional all-student councils and zemliachestva in favor of new organizational forms based on political preference? Opponents of traditional student organizations argued that the unity of the studenchestvo was a myth, that the students should recognize the fact that they came from different social groups reflecting widely divergent goals. In turn, supporters of these organizations asserted that the studenchestvo was still alive, still able to mount effective protests in defense of its own interests.

The 1899 Strike

Russia's first nationwide student strike broke out over a seemingly unimportant incident in Saint Petersburg University. A few days before the traditional 8 February celebration of the founding of the university, rector V.I. Sergeevich warned the students that alcoholic binges or raucous processions down the Nevskii Prospekt would lead to severe punishment under the general provisions of the law concerning public hooliganism.

For some time the police had tolerated student rowdiness on 8 February, but recent incidents had strained the relationship between the authorities and the studenchestvo . In 1895 a public brawl had broken out between students and janitors in front of the Palkin restaurant, and the students had afterward accused the police of calling in the janitors to provoke them. In 1897 a crowd of five hundred students broke through police lines and marched on the Winter Palace, where they planned to conduct a public serenade. The gradonachal'nik (chief of police) persuaded them to disperse peacefully. In 1898, students had repeated their impromptu concert, refusing to disperse and clashing with the police.

Now the government was determined to maintain public order. In


posting his notice, rector Sergeevich was merely conveying a warning he had received from the Ministry of Education. But the rector's warning angered the Saint Petersburg students, who resented the implication that the whole studenchestvo, and not just a small number of troublemakers, was guilty of alcoholism and misconduct. What made things worse was the fact that the students, on their own, had already decided to act in a more decorous manner this year. The tone of the rector's notice offended their sense of corporate pride. Resentments flared when the warning appeared in the city's newspapers, a move that many students saw as a public humiliation.[2]

On 8 February the traditional anniversary ceremonies began in the usual setting: the main university auditorium packed with government dignitaries, professors, and thousands of students, all prepared to sit through the usual speeches in honor of the university and nauka . But when Sergeevich took the floor, a storm of howls and catcalls interrupted his speech. When the flustered rector sat down, the students quickly stopped their protest. All rose in respectful silence for the playing of the national anthem, and many students even demanded an encore.[3]

The real trouble began as the students left the crowded auditorium. Stung by the rector's insinuations that they did not know how to behave, the students had posted monitors outside all exits to ensure that all would leave the hall in small groups and then immediately disperse. But as the students tried to cross the Dvortsovyi Bridge connecting Vasilevskii Island to the central city, they found the way blocked by police, who had also closed off the river, by breaking the ice in the far channel.[4] A large crowd of uniformed students milled around the Dvortsovyi Bridge and then turned west, toward the Nikolaevskii Bridge. When the students reached Rumiantsev Square, two mounted policemen rode into the crowd. The crowd thought that they were on their way to block the Nikolaevskii Bridge and thus cut the students off from the central city. As the two riders found themselves surrounded by the crowd, a detachment of mounted police suddenly descended on the students from the direction of the Academy of Sciences. When the high-spirited students


responded with a volley of snowballs, the police unsheathed their nagaiki (whips) and began to beat students over the head. Several students and passersby suffered minor wounds.

The police had been issued the nagaiki the night before and apparently relished the prospect of settling scores with the students, who, they felt, "caused them too much trouble and extra work." One officer testified to the Vannovskii Commission that on the previous evening he had reminded one of his colleagues that "students are not workers." The colleague had replied that "the orders were to beat."[5]

The news of the beatings on Rumiantsev Square shocked students and general public alike. The strike about to break out proved an elementary but fundamental point: students in the imperial Russian capital at the beginning of the twentieth century agreed that the police had neither the moral nor the legal right to beat them in the streets. The strike was to be not a radical demonstration, but, rather, a mass movement aimed at reminding the government to respect basic rights the students assumed they already enjoyed as Russian subjects. The students did not want to be treated like peasants.

As excited students crowded into the dining hall on the Tenth Line to demand a protest skhodka for the next day, their more politically committed comrades shrugged off the whole episode. That night, as the more radical students gathered at the usual 8 February Marxist and populist evenings, to hear speakers and discuss politics, few expected anything to come out of the next day's skhodka .[6] Mogilianskii, for example, thought that the "green" students would pass a few resolutions, let off some steam, and then return to class. As radicals, the members of the kassa considered the beatings a logical outcome of the system, a reminder to the students that basic rights were incompatible with the autocracy. They certainly did not see them as an unexpected and heinous violation of guaranteed civil procedures.

Nikolai Iordanskii was still in his room the next day, 9 February, when a friend rushed in to tell him that three thousand students had broken into the main auditorium and that the skhodka was still going on. Iordanskii rushed to the university, which looked as if a "storm had


just hit it."[7] Without prior direction or organization the skhodka (which had recessed and then reconvened the following day) elected an Organization Committee and surprised the leftists by calling for a strike. The skhodka wanted to end the weary pattern of previous student protest—petition and deadlock—and voted a forcible closing of the university until its demands were met. The demands included publication of all circulars and rules governing police procedures for handling crowds, an official investigation of the 8 February beating, and confirmation that the principle of inviolability of person was a basic feature of Russian law.[8]

The Organization Committee elected on 10 February to direct the strike consisted mainly of kassa members with vague Marxist or populist: sympathies. According to Mogilianskii, however, none had made any definite commitment to a political group and the 1899 strike was their first important political experience.[9] This first Organization Committee was made up of Pavel Shchegolev, Vladimir Danilov, Ivan Ladyzhevskii, Sergei Saltykov, Vladimir Elpatevskii, Nikolai Perovskii, Nikolai Iordanskii, Sergei Volkenshtein, Gregorii Nosar, Alexander Korshunov, and Arkadii Velikopol'skii. Six were twenty-four years old or older, and only one had attended a Saint Petersburg gymnasium. Seven were nobles, one was the son of a civil servant, two were from the peasant estate, and one was from the merchant estate. Nine had been members of the kassa .[10] Nosar was to become president of the Saint Petersburg Soviet in 1905; Saltykov later served as a Menshevik Duma deputy; Iordanskii went on to a career as editor of the leftist journal Sovremennyi Mir .[11]

Although many members of the Organization Committee were also in the kassa, serious friction immediately clouded relations between the two groups. On 9 Feburary the kassa 's assembly met in emergency session to discuss the strike, and several speakers urged adherence to the basic Marxist line condemning the student movement as useless and self-destructive.[12] But the members of the Organization Committee told the kassa not to "ruin the students' mood" by trying to squelch a spontaneous mass protest against police brutality. After some debate the


kassa decided to "sanction" the strike and the Organization Committee. Committed Marxists on the kassa rationalized this decision by arguing that the strike might radicalize students and attract potential recruits to the revolutionary movement.

According to Iordanskii, the Organization Committee members of the kassa had to fight the influence of the Rabochaia Mysl', whose "economist" ideology argued that the working class would become a revolutionary force only after a long period of preparatory struggle based on economic issues. The "economists" therefore rejected the notions of establishing political coalitions between the workers and other social groups, allowing nonworkers to lead the labor movement, and, of course, attempting to forge an alliance between students and workers.[13] The upsurge of the student movement between 1899 and 1902 played a major role in the decline of "economism" and the concomitant rise of such new groups as Iskra and the Social Revolutionary party, groups that recognized the importance of political struggle against the autocracy based on coalitions of various social groups: the bourgeoisie, students, and workers.

Although the kassa hoped that the strike would quickly acquire political overtones, the majority of the student body wanted to steer clear of any hint of political protest. Despite their private views, the members of the Organization Committee respected their mandate from the students and especially their hostility to political demands.[14] When Mogilianskii told a skhodka in the university auditorium that their demands could not be attained without fundamental political changes, the students howled him down. And when a member of the Organization Committee made a joking reference to the tsar's portrait, the skhodka "raged like a wounded animal."[15]

It was clear that during the first stage of the strike most students saw neither contradiction nor incompatibility between the ideal of a Rechtsstaat and the Russian autocracy. As one student summed up the prevailing consensus, "we are fighting for the law, not against it."[16] While the Organization Committee was not as sanguine about the student view that the fight was for the recognition of legal guarantees that al-


ready existed, it carefully avoided raising political questions, which would not only have isolated the committee from the mass of students but would have also made it liable for prosecution under the articles of the criminal code spelling out the penalties for belonging to "revolutionary organizations."[17]

Meanwhile the Organization Committee redoubled its efforts to enlist public support and even government sympathy for the students' cause. A few days after the strike began, the committee published a detailed explanation of what the students wanted. Under existing Russian law, the committee explained, citizens found it difficult to file complaints against police abuses, especially since the Department of Police had to approve all such requests for investigation of police behavior. The committee emphasized that the students wanted all citizens to have the right to file complaints against the police in the courts without having to secure prior approval from the Department of Police. The committee also set forth its demands concerning time limits on investigations of police misconduct and the publication of all rules governing police behavior toward citizens.[18]

By focusing their demands on the issue of police brutality, the Saint Petersburg University students quickly secured the support of the city's other VUZy, including the higher technical institutes and the women's schools. All backed the university's basic demands.[19] Even the students at the elite Institute of Communications, who had never engaged in any form of protest, joined the strike, though only after dispatching a humble telegram to the tsar asking him to protect the students against police brutality.[20]

The strike soon spread across the country as Organization Committee envoys reached the provincial towns and worked to secure their students' support. The Organization Committee sent Sergei Saltykov to Moscow University. The response to his account of the Rumiantsev Square incident belied the fears expressed to him by a few student veterans that the Moscow students were too disorganized to join the strike. On 15 February the students of both Moscow University and the Moscow Technological Institute voted to halt classes. The university elected


an Executive Committee to direct the strike and maintain contact with other institutions of higher education.[21]

Vladimir Medem, a future leader of the Jewish Labor Bund, recalled years later how he and his fellow Kiev University students first heard the news from Saint Petersburg. Although the students did not like the police, they had assumed that, unlike peasants, students enjoyed a certain deference, an immunity against being beaten on the streets. When Saltykov arrived to address the Kiev students, the lecture hall was packed. "He spoke calmly and distinctly," Medem wrote, "and the hall began to seethe with indignation."[22] Kiev's student leaders were a little disappointed that the Organization Committee had failed to couch its demands in more radical terms (Iordanskii deprecated the well-known "verbal radicalism" of the Kiev students), but the students overwhelmingly voted to join the strike.[23]

Within two weeks, as the provincial universities and technical institutes joined the protest, the strike had become an impressive demonstration of nationwide student solidarity. Perhaps nothing better captures the mood of the 1899 strike than its anthem, "Nagaechka," written by an anonymous Saint Petersburg student shortly after the 8 February incident. The song became the symbol of the student movement and retained its popularity until the Revolution of 1917. In its clever puns comparing the pharaohs of ancient Egypt with Piramidov, the Okhrana chief whom the students blamed for the beating, the song captured that mixture of playfulness and seriousness that was so characteristic of the student movement:

Nad shirokoi rekoi
       molchalivoi chetoi
Para sfinksov sidit,

. . . . . . . . . . . .

Nagaechka, nagaechka, vos'movo fevralia,
Nagaechka, nagaechka, proslavim my tebia.


Faraony krugom
       vsekh collided knutom,

. . . . . . . . . . .

A na tekh, kto potom
       ne dovolen knutom,
Desiat' kaznei zaraz

. . . . . . . . . . .

Ves' narod pred bozhkom
        vozlegaet nichkom
I reka kazhdyi god

A odin krokodil nam
        nedavno tverdil
Chto zakonom strana

Over the broad wide river, like a silent couple a pair of sphinxes sit and smirk.

Little whip, little whip of February eighth, we will glorify you and make you famous.

The pharaohs all around beat everyone with a knout; the scoundrel Piramidov excels.

And those who are not content with the knout are heaped with punishment in one fell swoop.

All the people fall face down before the idol, and the river overflows its banks every year.

And one crocodile recently maintained to us that the country is ruled by law.[24]

As the 1899 strike spread into the provinces, the students there added their own grievances to the basic Saint Petersburg demands. Kharkov University adopted a resolution insisting that students receive "adult" treatment and corporate rights:

Our education is too narrow, too specialized; on the whole it is disappointing. There is a constant undercurrent of dissatisfaction in the studenchestvo


and even one incident could set off serious disturbances. . . . Financial aid should be decided by students, not by the inspectorate . . . only lackeys and grovellers get scholarships. . . . Recently police repression has become more frequent.[25]

Demands for a change in the inspectorate and reform of the system for determining financial aid became common features of the resolutions adopted by students joining the strike.[26]

Few defied the strike, for roving bands of students disrupted those few lectures that managed to meet. In Saint Petersburg University some professors tried to continue lecturing but gave up after police squads stationed themselves in the classrooms. By 15 February the police had arrested sixty-eight Saint Petersburg University students, including many members of the first Organization Committee. The committee, however, immediately replaced arrested members with substitutes selected in advance. More serious was the wave of arrests that decimated the provincial studenchestvo .[27] Yet the students held firm, showing no signs of ending the strike.

On 16 February the Saint Petersburg University Faculty Council, meeting in emergency session, asked for a temporary closing of the university, the release of all students arrested by the police, and the removal of the police from the university.[28] But the council gave no sign of supporting the students' wider demands. While many professors privately expressed sympathy with the students' cause, the professoriate as a whole failed to give collective support to the student movement, although several professors signed various petitions couched in the mild tone of the Saint Petersburg Faculty Council resolution. Years later, in the middle of the Revolution of 1905, Professor N. A. Gredeskul would confess in the authoritative liberal journal Pravo that in 1899 the professoriate should have done more to support the students, who had shown more insight into the true character of the autocracy than their teachers had.

Even in 1899, a few scholars managed to render the students some marginally effective help. On 17 February, Professors N. N. Beketov and


A. S. Famintsyn, both members of the prestigious Academy of Sciences, secured an audience with Tsar Nicholas to explain the student movement. Beketov, as he later smilingly explained to the amazed members of the Organization Committee, told the tsar that the students would have been "unworthy of bearing the name of Russian" had they meekly accepted the police beatings! While neither professor condoned the strike, they both urged the tsar to show leniency and understanding.[29]

Meanwhile the government bureaucracy was sharply divided. Seizing the opportunity to embarrass his arch-rival I. L. Goremykin, who headed the Ministry of the Interior, Finance Minister S. Iu. Witte despatched a memorandum to the tsar calling for an investigation of the Rumiantsev Square incident. Unlike previous student protests, Witte explained, the strike had no political overtones. Like young people everywhere, students were "touchy," especially when beaten; an investigation would probably end the whole matter.[30] Joining Goremykin in opposing Witte's idea were Minister of Education N. P. Bogolepov and Minister of War A. N. Kuropatkin. Outside the Committee of Ministers, in high court and bureaucratic circles, there was a general feeling that the police had gone too far.[31]

On 20 February the tsar took Witte's advice, appointing an investigatory commission, headed by General P. S. Vannovskii, to report on the 8 February affair. For some, like Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich, the announcement was a "terrible mistake . . . a dangerous concession to public opinion which would lead to further concessions . . . and an eventual plunge into the abyss."[32] As for the student leaders, the announcement of the commission left them in a quandary. While nobody on the Organization Committee knew Vannovskii, his reputation as the reactionary general whom Alexander III had appointed to stamp out liberalism in the army inspired grave apprehensions about how he would conduct the investigation.

The real question facing the Organization Committee was whether to end the strike. To be sure, the government had met one of the students' basic demands, the appointment of an investigatory commission. But the police had already arrested hundreds of students all over the em-


pire. Ending the strike meant breaking that bond of comradely solidarity so important to the studenchestvo . Yet fighting on was dangerous. Now that the government had announced the commission, it was difficult to justify the strike on the grounds that the students were fighting "for, not against, the law." To continue the strike could well be interpreted as a blatant challenge to the authority of the government.

What ensured the Organization Committee's decision to recommend continuing the strike was the failure of the government to promise quick release and readmission of arrested students.[33] Most students, however, were ready to give the Vannovskii Commission the benefit of the doubt. Pro-strike sentiment began to waver; on 23 February many of the Saint Petersburg higher technical institutes voted to end the strike. In Saint Petersburg University, the Organization Committee called a 1 March skhodka to decide whether to follow suit.

The week leading up to the 1 March skhodka saw an intense pamphlet campaign waged between pro- and anti-strike students.[34] Sup ported by the professors, anti-strike students argued that the Vannovskii Commission would correct the worst abuses in the government-student relationship and would finally tame the excesses of the police. Pro-strike pamphlets emphasized the students' moral obligation not to give up the struggle until the authorities released the hundreds of students expelled and arrested during the previous few weeks, especially in Moscow and Kiev.[35] Both groups freely used poetry as well as prose. One pro-strike broadsheet mocked the students' readiness to give up:

My zh dadim urok prekrasnyi
       pokoleniiam drugim,
Kak vesti protest otvazhnyi
       i chto znachit smelym byt'.
Eto znachit postoianno
       otstupat' ot slov svoikh
I, konechno, ne narochno,
       tseli dela pozabyt'.
Eto znachit kliatvy vernosti
        prinimat' lish' na slovakh,


A v delakh velikoi krainosti
       im bez strakha izmeniat'.[36]

We will give a wonderful lesson to other generations on how to make a daring protest and what it means to be courageous. It means always to retreat from your word and to forget (not intentionally, of course) the goals of the cause. It means to take the oath of loyalty and shamelessly betray it as soon as things get tough.

Meanwhile the Organization Committee, which was trying to mobilize pro-strike sentiment, tried going outside the university in order to convert nebulous public sympathy into more solid support. The committee decided to despatch Nikolai Iordanskii and S. N. Saltykov to a meeting of well-known writers and professors that consisted of L. F. Panteleev, Th. D. Batiushkov, V. G. Korolenko, V. A. Miakotin, and M. I. Sveshnikov. By this time the Okhrana was conducting an energetic dragnet for members of the Organization Committee. In order to move freely, Iordanskii rid himself of his beard and student uniform, donning dark glasses in the pious hope that this would render him inconspicuous.[37]

The meeting proved a bitter disappointment. The young emissaries realized that the student movement, for all its "moderation" and "naive" belief that the autocracy could be persuaded to act like a Rechtsstaat, was still far ahead of the rest of the Russian educated public in its willingness to undertake collective open protest against government policies. When Iordanskii asked the assembled writers what they advised the students to do, Korolenko replied that the answer to that question depended on what the students wanted to accomplish. If their major goal was protest, then they should continue the strike. But if they wanted to achieve specific, practical results, then they should return to classes. The delegates then asked whether the students could count on any degree of support, since the studenchestvo by itself was too weak to force significant concessions from the government. The answer was clear and disappointing: sympathy, yes; overt support, no.[38]

Much to the disgust of the Organization Committee, the 1 March skhodka voted to stop the strike. Indeed, a few days later Vannovskii managed to secure the return of those students arrested in Saint Petersburg, although he made no promises about the fate of students from the


provincial universities. In Moscow University on 5 March, the students disregarded a pro-strike appeal from Kiev University and voted to return to classes, after securing a promise from rector Tikhomirov that he would petition the police to return arrested students.[39]

Believing that the strike was finally over, the Saint Petersburg kassa, which until then had remained aloof, decided to issue a public statement on the political and theoretical significance of the student movement. The kassa had smugly expected the students to greet the Vannovskii Commission by ending their strike; nonetheless, the scope and intensity of the previous month's student protest had surprised many leftists who realized that the movement might be more important than they had thought. Perhaps the student action was a sign of impending changes in the relationship between the autocracy and the educated public.[40] A major reason for the kassa statement was the perception that a correct analysis of the student movement would have important implications for the debate just beginning within Russian Social Democracy as to whether workers' organizations and Social Democratic groups should participate in or aid nonproletarian political and social movements.[41]

Was the bourgeoisie ready to move? Based on his observations of the student movement, at least one of the kassa leaders, Mogilianskii, concluded that the answer was yes. If so, then the students were the best-organized group in the bourgeois camp. Furthermore, Mogilianskii argued, bourgeois political activism could have an important effect on the labor movement, leading the workers to strike for political and not just economic reasons.[42]

Immediately after the 1 March skhodka, Mogilianskii raised to the executive board of the kassa the question of issuing such a proclamation. The populist students rejected any attempt to issue a Marxist interpretation of the recent strike, and Iordanskii and other Organization Committee members warned that trying to attach political labels to the student movement was a mistake. It was still possible that the student masses would become disillusioned with the Vannovskii Commission—burning bridges was bad policy.[43] Mogilianskii, however, waved these


objections aside and issued his proclamation on 5 March, a few days after the students voted to end the strike.

The kassa proclamation represented an important departure from previous Marxist appraisals of the student movement. For the first time, a Marxist group emphasized its political significance, albeit as a bourgeois protest movement. By labeling the student movement bourgeois, Mogilianskii took dead aim at those comrades who preferred to think of the studenchestvo in traditional terms as the idealistic vanguard of the Russian intelligentsia. At the same time, Mogilianskii indirectly attacked the accepted Marxist line on the student movement; it was more than a temper tantrum staged by "insulted kids." It was, in fact, an important signal, the first sign of an imminent political struggle that would soon mobilize the entire Russian bourgeoisie against the autocracy. Of all the groups constituting the bourgeoisie, the students "were the most idealistic segment . . . and the most dedicated defenders of their class. For this reason, and with a fateful inevitability, they are in chronic, not sporadic, opposition to the arbitrariness [of the autocracy] and its attacks on the principle of human rights." Furthermore, the recent student strike showed that the students were ready to seize the initiative. Unlike their fathers, they were willing to take risks to defend the principles of their class. Thus the student movement was not only "political" but also "combative" (nastupatel'no boevoe ), one of "several budding social movements which will despatch Russian absolutism to its grave." Mogilianskii continued his analysis of the student movement:

The basic cause of the student movement is the bourgeois struggle for human dignity, dignity that was violated [by the recent policies of the police]. The ideals of the bourgeoisie always relate to the individual; they are permeated through and through with the concepts of freedom and property . Therefore the positive role of the bourgeoisie is its introduction into public life of the principles of personal inviolability, freedom of speech, and conscience, as well as other variants of the "natural rights of Man."[44]

There was another side to bourgeois political behavior: "liberal opportunism." The students had revealed this trait, the proclamation complained, when they decided to end the strike. The cause of the final paralysis of the student movement was quite clear: the students were not


revolutionaries. "A revolutionary mood," the kassa warned, "cannot be created just by words and proclamations." Now that the student movement was over (or so Mogilianskii thought), the kassa could invite the studenchestvo to consider its mistakes and ponder its future course. As far as the kassa was concerned, that course was clear: all individuals, regardless of social class, should join in a common struggle aimed at the overthrow of the autocracy.

The kassa proclamation was hardly an instant success: Saint Petersburg University students reacted with fury. In the university dining hall on the Tenth Line, infuriated students tore up and trampled copies of the proclamation. One of the most fervent protesters was Ivan Kaliaev, who later joined the Social Revolutionary Battle Organization and was hanged for the assassination of the Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich in 1905. By this time Kaliaev, along with future terrrorist Boris Savinkov, had joined the Organization Committee.[45]

Kaliaev mirrored the mood of a sizable minority who rejected both the "cowardice" that ended the strike and the Marxist "sectarianism" of Mogilianskii's tract. While continuing to steer clear of party politics, students were developing a new attitude that stressed a fundamental incompatibility between the autocracy and the students' demand for a system based on the rule of law.

Political Fall-Out

In short, after the 1 March skhodka, three major trends developed in Saint Petersburg University. The first, reflected in the 1 March vote to end the strike, was marked by a refusal to see the student movement as a protest against the autocratic system, and by a readiness to trust in the Vannovskii Commission. The second, represented by the kassa group around Mogilianskii, emphasized the political importance of the student movement but regarded it as representing a larger class, the Russian bourgeoisie. Only revolution, not reform, would change the system, but in the meantime the student movement could play a useful role, since the students were the best-organized segment of the bourgeoisie. The third trend argued that the studenchestvo should admit, that the strike was not just an isolated incident, but was really aimed at a law-


lessness and arbitrariness endemic in the political system. But unlike the Marxists, these students rejected the assertion that the studenchestvo was just a subgroup of the bourgeoisie. For many, the 1899 strike was indeed a radicalizing experience. In time, some would join the revolutionary parties, but few had embraced, during the period of the strike, either Marxism or populism. Yet within this group there was a growing tendency to equate liberalism with cowardice.

The major representative of this trend was the Organization Committee, which issued a manifesto shortly after the 1 March skhodka .[46] Not knowing whether the strike would ever resume, the Organization Committee resolved to make public its own interpretation of the student movement. The manifesto was a hard-hitting document which admitted that, regardless of what many students thought they were doing, the Organization Committee had from the beginning seen the strike as a protest against the entire system. If the committee had refrained from openly stating that fact before, that was only because its goal had been to sustain the widest possible degree of support from the student masses, many of whom had not yet broken with certain illusions about the true nature of the autocracy. "We were not just protesting against the 8 February beating. The latter was just a particular manifestation of the present Russian system, a system based on arbitrariness, secrecy and the total . . . absence of the most necessary . . . sacred rights essential for the development of the human personality." The manifesto reported that during the first period of the student strike, the Organization Committee had managed to keep the students united by carefully avoiding demands or programs "linked to narrow party platforms." Unfortunately, the unanimity of purpose which had at first united the student movement vanished after the naming of the Vannovskii Commission:

The student masses trusted in the Vannovskii Commission and forgot the initial and more fundamental significance of their protest. They also forgot about their initial demands. The students have chosen the slippery path of submitting petitions and asking for favors. . . . If the student masses had really been serious and conscientious about the movement . . . they would have realized that the movement was really aimed at an order of things where rights and law mean nothing, where only petitions and appeals count. Educated and emasculated under the dead regime of the eighties and nineties, the student masses . . . did not rise to the occasion.


The manifesto excoriated not only the students but also the apathy and cowardice of the Russian public, and especially the fecklessness of the "liberal 'well-wishers' who tore the control of the movement from our hands after the announcement of the Vannovskii Commission. They tell us that our strength lies in public sympathy for our cause. Yes, we counted on it but we were mistaken. The liberal hogwash we heard at the beginning of the strike clouded our vision, and we lost sight of the star which should have guided us forward. Sure, the public sympathizes . . . but doesn't dare express its sympathy openly."

Nonetheless, the initial impulse of the Organization Committee had been sound. The student movement was not yet over. Many students were soon disappointed in the Vannovskii Commission. Reports from interrogated students reinforced the impression that the aim of the commission was not to investigate the Rumiantsev Square incident but to prove that the student movement was the product of outside manipulation. The general himself, however, impressed the students as an honest if simple soldier, especially after he began to give credence to their denials of a hidden political hand behind the strike. Indeed, as Vannovskii began to believe that the students were defending, however wrong-headedly, the "honor of their uniform" or their "comrades" sitting in provincial jails, he began to show the students a certain sympathy.[47] Kleigels, the police chief, felt Vannovskii's hostility so keenly that he protested in a personal letter to Tsar Nicholas that the commission was biased against the police.[48] Yet most students shared Iordanskii's impression that while Vannovskii meant well he lacked the power to put the Department of Police in its place. The fact that Iordanskii had to elude a police dragnet in order to meet an appointment with the general did not help create an impression that Vannovskii could really do very much to change things.[49]

Even more disquieting to most students in Saint Petersburg was the continuing police repression in the provinces, especially in Warsaw and Kiev. While in Moscow and Saint Petersburg arrested students could re-


turn to their VUZy, mass arrests continued in those provincial cities. The Kiev students taunted their Saint Petersburg comrades for leaving them in the lurch, "firing the first shot and then deserting the battlefield." The Kiev United Council, which directed the strike there, also criticized the Saint Petersburg kassa proclamation as reckless and stupid, because it jeopardized provincial students who now were bearing the full brunt of the police repression:

Your decision to declare that the student movement was "political," once you decided that the strike was over, was a tactical blunder. While the movement may be over in Saint Petersburg, it is still going on in the provinces. . . . We'll do our best to keep your proclamation from getting wide circulation. . . . By basing the student movement on the general principle of the defense of human rights [instead of sectarian political doctrines] we were able to unite students of differing political views. Also, espousing such a principle saves us from even worse repression.[50]

The news from the provinces led to heated discussions in Moscow and Saint Petersburg; as usual, the student dining halls were the centers of debate and pamphleteering, places where students who wanted to resume the strike could meet in a relatively secure atmosphere.

The Saint Petersburg Organization Committee finally responded to Kiev's appeals, calling a skhodka on 16 March at the university to consider the question of resuming the strike.[51] After the usual ritual of breaking down locked doors, approximately a thousand students stormed the university auditorium and voted to resume the strike. But anti-strike forces argued that the vote did not reflect the real mood of the student body and demanded a second skhodka, which met the following day. The university became the scene of intense activity, as students crowded around bulletin boards to read exhortatory poems hung by the Organization Committee and to argue about resuming the strike. On 17 March Sergei Volkenshtein, the president of the skhodka and a member of the first Organization Committee, opened the meeting by asking the students to reaffirm their vote of the previous day.

There was a clear difference in mood between these skhodki of mid-March and the tumultuous meetings that followed the beating in Rumiantsev Square. If they resumed the strike, the students knew, they would be coming closer to political protest, openly challenging the gov-


ernment by an implicit declaration of "no confidence" in the Vannovskii Commission and taking the student movement in a new, uncharted direction. Volkenshtein reminded the students not to harbor illusions about the seriousness of their position or about the implications of a vote to resume the strike.[52] The students could no longer contend, as they had in February, that they were protesting the Saint Petersburg police department rather than a general political system that made such outrages possible. A second strike carried little guarantee of success and certainly offered much less prospect of outside sympathy.

The clear differences between the February and the March skhodki in Saint Petersburg University hinted at important and complex changes taking place in the student movement. In February the outrage stood out more clearly; more students came to the skhodki and the near-unanimous dislike of the police, along with the expectation of public support, led to a jubilant, festive attitude. The students had then felt that there was little danger in striking, especially for a just cause that even important circles in the government could support.

Now, in March, the situation was different. Fewer students attended the skhodki, but those who did seemed more receptive to political speeches, although they still opposed any attempt to inject specific ideological or party platforms. The skhodka even applauded when one speaker read letters from Berlin and Lausanne hailing the political importance of the student movement and openly attacking the autocratic system.[53] According to Iordanskii, who attended the March skhodki, the political temper of the crowd came as a complete surprise to the Organization Committee, who remembered the cautious mood of the previous month. But he quickly discerned a crucial nuance, an ambivalence that would become a crucial and constant feature of the Russian student movement right up to the Revolution of 1917: the tension between verbal, formal radicalism and the reluctance to make any specific activist commitment on behalf of actual political parties or ideologies.[54] The same crowd that applauded the Lausanne student letter containing the slogan "Down with the Autocracy" avidly protested the reading of Mogilianskii's manifesto, partly because of its Marxism, and partly, as we have seen, because the students preferred to see themselves as intelligenty rather than as the "vanguard of the Russian bourgeoisie."


The students were actually acting in a revolutionary way [delali revoliutsiiu ] but were afraid to tell themselves that they were doing so, in part because they did not want to lose the advantage of "legality," their supposed "legal" right to protest the police action. But it seems to me that the students were not so much afraid of embarking on a revolutionary course as they were mistrustful of old-style conspiratorial revolutionary organizations. In the effort to create a "political" rather than a "revolutionary" movement, the students were not only reflecting the influence of "liberal-oppositional" ideology but also attempting to find a new form of revolutionary struggle that would permit the possibility of a mass movement.[55]

In a few years the students would lose their fear of passing revolutionary resolutions, but their ambivalent relationship to the organized revolutionary left would remain a constant feature of student unrest in late imperial Russia. The student movement, by its nature a mass movement, would find itself in an ambiguous and tense relationship to the leftist political parties pushing to impose ideological and organizational coherence on mass protest. Nevertheless, as Iordanskii himself noted, the student movement would drift slowly leftward; the political and legal realities of the Russian empire undercut the February 1899 position that student protest could be "legal" or "nonoppositional." This was to be a slow process, with many reversals along the way, but, in the end, exhibiting striking continuities. As an oppositional protest movement, essentially dependent on the readiness of the student masses to take part, the student movement would soon face important ideological and tactical problems. Could an oppositional mass movement resist party domination or function without a preconceived ideological and/ or tactical doctrine? Could the students devise an ideology that could exert a broad enough appeal to unite a critical mass yet at the same time retain enough coherence to provide a theoretical underpinning for student protest? These issues, which moved to the center of attention in 1901 and 1902, first began to surface in 1899, as the student movement underwent an inchoate, subtle, yet important change in mood.

The Strike Resumes

After long arguments between the pro-strike and anti-strike forces, the 17 March skhodka reaffirmed the decision to resume the strike, by a vote of 825 to 601.[56] The next day the administration closed the univer-


sity and suspended the student body. Students had five days to petition for readmission; the price was a promise not to participate in skhodki or "illegal" student groups. On 20 and 21 March, the Okhrana—without consulting Vannovskii, who felt that he had given his word to Saint Petersburg student leaders that they were safe from arrest—apprehended all suspected members of the Organization Committee and expelled them from Saint Petersburg.[57]

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Education decided to break the strike, which by this time had resumed in the provincial universities, by forcing all students to take their regular oral examinations during the last week of March. In Saint Petersburg, pro-strike students responded by disrupting the examinations; university authorities then called in police to keep order. Tension escalated as clashes broke out between pro-strike and anti-strike students. The government tried to minimize the impact of the disorders by forbidding the press to publish anything on the student movement and by issuing a 2 April communiqué in Pravitel'stvennyi Vestnik asserting that secret revolutionary organizations were behind the academic turmoil.[58] This move further undercut Vannovskii's credibility, although the general had had nothing to do with the report. A few days earlier, pro-strike students in Saint Petersburg University called a street demonstration in front of the main university buildings to protest the presence of police at lectures and exams. On 31 March the police encircled the crowd of students and arrested 540 of them. By the first week of April about one-third of the student body of Saint Petersburg University had been arrested. The police quickly released all these students to the custody of their parents, which meant that all those who were not natives of Saint Petersburg had to leave the capital. By means of these repressive measures, the government had managed by mid-April to impose a rough kind of "order" on the city's VUZy . Similar scenes characterized the course of student protest in the provinces.[59]

In Moscow University the students also decided to resume the strike. There were two principal reasons. On 8 March rector Tikhomirov angered the student body by posting an announcement forbidding student meetings without his permission. The second reason was, of course, the students' anger over the persistent failure of the police to release students in Kiev and Warsaw.[60]





the Strike

the Strike

History and philology
















Natural sciences




SOURCE : TsGIA, f. 733, op. 151, d. 48, l. 201.
a The figures for final-year law students are not indicated.

The results of the strike vote conducted by the Moscow University Student Executive Committee provide some interesting insights into the mood of the Moscow students. The overall vote in the university was 2 to 1 for resuming the strike. Students voted as indicated in Table 6. About half of the enrolled students voted. These figures show that younger students tended to be more combative; older students tended to be either less willing to resume the fight, or, as in the case of last-year medical students, downright determined not to let the strike disrupt the beginning of their professional careers.[61]


As in Saint Petersburg and other university towns, in Moscow University the authorities met this second strike with mass arrests and expulsions. The administration forced all students in the university to petition for readmission and then refused to readmit 778 of them. Counting previous arrests and expulsions, a total of 840 students were expelled by the university administration and an additional 199 were sent out of Moscow by police order.[62] A list of these students has been preserved in the archives of the Ministry of Education.[63]

An analysis of this list affords some insight into the types of students who participated in the 1899 disorders. Of the 888 students on the summary list, 269 were from the medical faculty, 285 from the juridical faculty, 207 from natural sciences, 95 from mathematics, and 32 from the history and philology faculty. Almost 21 percent of the medical students, 16.4 percent of the law students, 25 percent of the natural sciences and mathematics students, and 14 percent of the history students were listed as participants. Thirty-two percent of the listed students were freshmen and 31 percent were second-year students, while first-year students comprised 30.5 percent and second-year students 25.6 percent of overall enrollment. About 23 percent of the entire student body had attended Moscow secondary schools, but only about 11 percent of the listed students appear to have done so.[64] The list included 20 percent of all sons of civil servants enrolled at the university, 23 percent of nobles' sons, 18 percent of those of merchants and honorary citizens, 20 percent of the sons of meshchane, 20 percent of the peasants' sons, 23 percent of those of the clerical estate, and 26 percent of officers' sons.[65] Nineteen percent of the students had a record of previous involvement in student disorders. Although 50 percent of the entire student body received some form of financial aid, only 28 percent of the listed students were scholarship recipients.[66] Ten percent of the listed students were Roman Catholic and 5 percent Jewish, compared to a general Roman Catholic percentage of 5.8 and a Jewish representation of 3.5 percent. Assuming that most of the Catholic students were Poles, the high degree of involvement of these students indicates that feelings of student solidarity led them to ignore nationalist calls to avoid the


strike on the grounds that a Russian student movement had nothing to do with them.[67]

Although the social composition of the active students did not differ significantly from that of the general student population, the above analysis suggests certain differences between the profile of the activists in 1899 and that of the general student body. The activists tended to be first- or second-year students, although their overrepresentation was not overwhelming—64 percent of the activists as opposed to 55 percent of the general student population. Students on the natural sciences faculty, Roman Catholics, and nonscholarship recipients were overrepresented among the activists, and students who had attended Moscow high schools were underrepresented. Since Moscow students probably lived with their parents instead of with fellow students, their striking under-representation in the activist group suggests a clear relationship between student activism and living arrangements that helped create a student subculture. Younger students from the provinces relied more on their comrades for emotional support and were more likely to respond to a call for student solidarity. It is possible to surmise as well that many students not receiving scholarships may have harbored grudges against the university inspectorate, which made such decisions, and thus were more likely to protest.

By April the 1899 student strike was clearly on the wane. The mass arrests and expulsions were having an obvious effect. In an effort to chart a general strategy for the student movement, the Moscow University Executive Council called an All-Russian student conference to meet at the end of April. But before it could convene, the Okhrana arrested all the students present, including delegates from Moscow, Tomsk, Kazan, Warsaw, Odessa, Kharkov, Kiev, Iur'ev, and Saint Petersburg. These arrests completed the process of ending the student strike.[68]

The 1899 student strike forced the government to reexamine its higher-education policy. In its final report the Vannovskii Commission


contradicted the official government communiqué by emphasizing that the student movement was not the work of a handful of conspirators or outside agitators, but was, rather, the result of the students' deep dissatisfaction with their living conditions and with the academic system.[69] The report also lambasted the police for negligence in their handling of the Rumiantsev Square incident. The commission made a number of specific recommendations. The VUZy should admit no more students than they could properly educate. Professors should assign more work to their students and supervise their studies more closely. The commission recommended abolishing the honorarium on the grounds that it encouraged professors to court popularity by espousing liberal ideas in the lecture hall. It also urged an increase in the university inspectorate and the repeal of those articles in the 1884 Statute that denied the students a corporate identity and the right to form student organizations. The commission concluded that the universities should emulate the specialized technical institutes and permit the students to have libraries and zemliachestva and to elect course representatives.

In June the Ministry of Education responded by issuing circulars expanding the professoriate, announcing plans to build more dormitories and, in a move that would arouse much resentment, forcing students to attend the university closest to the educational district of their secondary school.[70] The ministry also announced plans to raise the educational level of the inspectorate and urged the inspectors to establish close relationships with their student charges.

At the same time the government went beyond the Vannovskii Commission recommendations by issuing the 29 July 1899 Temporary Rules, which empowered special boards to conscript students involved in disorders, for varying periods of military service. The idea for the rules was Witte's. Witte carefully counterbalanced his earlier liberalism by urging a move that even the arch-reactionary K. P. Pobedonostsev had opposed a few years earlier.[71] The Temporary Rules ran up against the solid opposition of Minister of War Kuropatkin, who told the tsar that the army resented any implication that the barracks were a reform school. None-


theless, the tsar approved the rules, not anticipating the trouble they would later cause the government.[72]

The Temporary Rules, Bogolepov's circulars, and the Vannovskii report all showed that government circles were sharply divided in their perceptions of the student movement and how to deal with it. While Vannovskii denied that the student movement had any political overtones, the Ministry of Education issued a secret circular in April 1900 warning all curators that the major purpose of the student movement was to foment anti-government political agitation.[73]

The Moscow Okhrana meanwhile argued that it should no longer investigate student disorders, on the grounds that the student movement was academic rather than political. Furthermore, the Okhrana contended, the 29 July Temporary Rules covered all student protesters and thus superseded previous procedures whereby some student demonstrators had been prosecuted under Article 1035 of the Criminal Code or Article 318 of the Statute of Punishments. After all, the Temporary Rules implied that the government now regarded student protests as a separate category of disturbance. S. V. Zubatov listed another reason why the Okhrana should no longer investigate student protests. By its very nature, the student movement differed from the revolutionary movement, in that student protests were of a mass character. They were spontaneous outbursts, with many participants, unlike the revolutionary movement, and student matters overloaded the strained resources of the Political Police.[74]

At the same time Minister of the Interior D. S. Sipiagin issued a directive to the local police on how to deal with the students. He warned them to avoid a repetition of the 1899 Rumiantsev Square incident by exercising a "lenient" attitude toward ordinary rowdiness during the 1900 student holidays. But he told the police to suppress any large street demonstrations and to hand over students apprehended in such disturbances to the special boards established by the Temporary Rules.[75]

In short, the 1899 strike produced a potentially disruptive countermeasure—the draft—but no fundamental consensus within the government about basic policy toward the student movement. Overall the reaction to the strike was surprisingly mild. Most students arrested in 1899


were allowed to return to their studies. The tsar, disregarding the advice of his uncle, accepted the spirit of the Vannovskii report, that the strike reflected police stupidity and structural problems within the universities rather than outside revolutionary agitation. Such an appraisal of the student movement strengthened the case against the 1884 Statute and especially against those provisions that denied the corporate identity of the student body.

There was, however, another side to the strike. Unlike previous student disturbances, the 1899 strike focused on fighting for a presumption of right stemming not only from status as a student but also from status as a Russian subject. For the first time students engaged in nationwide and sustained collective protest over an issue—inviolability of person—that transcended narrow corporate concerns. It was ironic, but from the point of view of the government potentially disquieting, that the furious reaction to the Rumiantsev Square incident broke out not because of, but, rather, in opposition to revolutionary political sentiments. (It will be recalled that the first reaction of politically committed students was to ignore the episode; because they did not expect a Rechtsstaat, evidence of police arbitrariness enraged them less.) The strike was a mass movement, not the work of an ardent minority. What this showed was that a relatively large group, concentrated in the major cities of the empire, had developed certain expectations and was prepared to fight for them. If the government chose to ignore these expectations, the student movement could well take a more radical turn.

Although the 1899–1900 academic year passed quietly, without major student disorders, the 1899 strike made a clear impression on the studenchestvo . For some students, including many former members of the Saint Petersburg Organization Committee, the experience of the strike steered them toward a personal commitment to the revolutionary movement. Iordanskii emphasized the role played by veterans of the strike in preparing the way for the demise of economism in Saint Petersburg Social Democratic circles.[76] The student strike showed even the vast majority who shunned politics that their protest could make a public impression and force the government to listen to their demands. As a Riga student pamphlet proclaimed:

1899 showed us that (1) the Russian studenchestvo can successfully and intelligently function as a clearly defined and separate group, (2) that active protest from this group can arouse strong concern and confusion in government


circles, and (3) that the Russian government correctly perceives in the student movement symptoms of discontent which it must suppress at all costs. For the government the studenchestvo is an especially dangerous enemy.[77]

The 1899 strike left another legacy. Those who had consigned the glories of the studenchestvo to history now had to admit that the students had shown unexpected vitality. Such songs as "Nagaechka" entered the student subculture as new symbols of comradeship and defiance. If not a victory, the 1899 strike at least came to be seen as a comforting reminder that the Russian studenchestvo was still unready to follow the bourgeois path of its West European counterparts.

The strike also renewed student efforts to develop an ideology of the student movement. In October 1899 the Kiev University United Council published an "Open Letter to the Kiev Studenchestvo" analyzing the significance of the 1899 strike and outlining possible directions for the student movement.[78] The council admitted that it was still difficult for students to understand the broader significance of what they had done but argued that the 1899 strike had proven two points. First, the breadth and intensity of the strike, as well as the ability of the studenchestvo to unite around a liberal-political rather than a narrow corporate platform, belied the Marxist assertion that student protest was unimportant or that students were too heterogeneous to count as a political force. Second, the student strike gave the Russian general public an example of how citizens could fight for their rights. The students had shown that the political task of the hour was to forge broad coalitions based on widely acceptable demands such as legal rights or administrative accountability—coalitions that, by ignoring potentially divisive issues, could unite wide sections of Russian society into a powerful political force. In this regard the studenchestvo could play the decisive role. To a certain extent, therefore, the Kiev students accepted Mogilianskii's tactical conclusions, outlined in his kassa manifesto, while rejecting his characterization of the studenchestvo as a bourgeois group.

The letter asked the students to ponder some basic questions. Was it possible to unite the student movement on a liberal-political or even on a corporate platform? Could either a central student bureau, a newspaper, or periodic national student conferences serve as a focal point for the student movement? (The council recommended a student journal


that would propagandize left-wing views but pay more attention to student life than journals such as Rabochaia Mysl' or Vpered .) Finally, how could the zemliachestva and other student organizations adapt themselves to the lessons of the 1899 strike?

"What now?" was also a question that bothered students at other universities. In Moscow the 1899–1900 academic year saw growing tension between the zemliachestva, who wanted to keep the student movement within corporate bounds, and leftists, who tried to create political organizations and forge links to Social Democratic and workers' groups outside the university. In early 1900, radicals grouped in the Chernigov and Voronezh zemliachestva elected an Executive Committee to organize a national student conference and lay the groundwork for a coordinated student movement, with a newspaper and central organization.[79] The new Executive Committee was headed by the twenty-five-year-old Nikolai Rudniev, a landowner's son from Voronezh who had already been arrested for participating in the 1896 and 1899 disturbances. Rudniev and his friends succeeded in convening a national student conference, which met in Odessa on 16 June 1900. Unfortunately for the twenty-nine delegates, however, the police knew all about their plans and arrested the entire group on the first day of the conference. The documents confiscated by the police showed that two major issues preoccupied the conference: what, if any, relationship should there be between the workers' and student movements; and how should left-wing students react to the unwillingness of the majority to go beyond corporate or broadly liberal concerns?[80]

One memorandum, written by twenty-one-year-old Archid Dzaparidze, a reservoir manager's son from Tiflis, questioned the hostility of his fellow Moscow University delegates to student corporatism. The determination with which students fought for issues they cared strongly about promised more long-term results than doctrinaire attempts to deny the legitimacy of student protests on the grounds that the workers were allegedly more important. After all, Dzaparidze argued, there was nothing wrong with any group fighting for its own concerns. If other social groups emulated the students and defended their own rights, then in time the autocracy would face a serious situation. The student movement had its own particular character and purpose, one created by the


overall position of the universities in Russian society: "[The task of student organizations] is to maintain a spirit of protest . . . against the efforts of the government to turn us into civil servants devoid of any sense of public responsibility, who carry out orders from on high without even daring to criticize them. . . . The task of . . . the student movement is to protect those ideals . . . against [government attempts to destroy them] by promises of careers and material rewards."[81] The memorandum also cautioned student organizations against trying to link student protest with the labor movement. While Dzaparidze praised "those few" students who were trying to make contact with the workers, he would have reminded the conference that a vast gap separated the world of the student from that of the worker and that the two strands of social protest were fundamentally different.

From Strike to Street: The 1901 Demonstrations

For obvious reasons, the 1900 conference was stillborn. Although no clear answers emerged to the questions raised by the Kiev United Council and the delegates to the 1900 conference, student protest continued to take its own unpredictable course. On 23 November 1900, a group of Saint Petersburg students disrupted Sons of Israel, an anti-Semitic play being staged at the Malyi Theater.[82] The management knew that it faced trouble and refused to sell tickets to anyone in a student uniform. But enough students made their way into the theater to cause a scene, which led to the suspension of thirty demonstrators by the university administration. Skhodki met in the university to discuss possible student reactions, but the majority of participants rejected a sympathy strike on the grounds that the Malyi Theater demonstration, albeit for a good cause, took place outside the university and did not affect the direct corporate interests of the students.[83] But these November skhodki had an important consequence: the students elected an Organization Committee to direct any future protests by the student body.

In Kiev University, the fall term had seen a number of lively skhodki, none of which appeared to have the sanction of the university's United Council. Politically radical students complained about the "narrow cor-


porate character" of these skhodki .[84] For example, on 13 November 1900, the Kiev students met to discuss two comrades who had allegedly beaten up a cab driver after refusing to pay him. Some students complained that the two had "violated the honor of the student uniform," and the skhodka demanded their expulsion from the university. Other skhodki met to protest the poor lectures of Professor O. O. Eikhelman on the juridical faculty, and the actions of two students who had allegedly stolen a gold ring from a singer at a local restaurant.[85]

The university inspectorate took down the names of several students at the 13 and 15 November skhodki . A university court then sentenced four students to confinement in the kartser, the university jail. Much to the consternation of the district curator, who complained that Russian students lacked the good sportsmanship of their German counterparts (who accepted the kartser as a hallowed part of university life), two students, Tseretelli and Pokotilov, refused to enter the kartser . The authorities then expelled them.[86]

The expulsion touched off an immediate reaction from the Kiev students: a well-attended skhodka took over the main university auditorium on 7 December to demand the return of Pokotilov and Tseretelli and the abolition of the kartser . After the students refused orders to disperse, the Kiev governor-general asked the university rector if he could handle the situation on his own. When he replied that he could not, the governor-general sent an infantry battalion and a Cossack mounted detachment to the university. The students finally left the building after presenting their demands to the rector. The university authorities noted the names of 406 students attending the skhodka . Of these, a special disciplinary board sentenced 183 to immediate military service on the basis of the July 1899 Temporary Rules. Two hundred and seventeen students received less severe punishments.[87]

By applying the July 1899 Temporary Rules for the first time, the government showed the studenchestvo that its new strategy for quelling student disorders was no empty threat. Minister of the Interior Sipiagin clearly expected a lot of trouble when the studenchestvo heard the news from Kiev and seemed to welcome the opportunity to hurl down the


gauntlet. In a secret circular issued immediately after the Kiev affair, he warned the local authorities in university towns to quell any street demonstrations as quickly as possible, employing all means up to and including military force.[88]

When the students returned from their Christmas holidays to take stock of the situation, they found themselves caught between their sense of duty to their Kiev comrades and their fear of military induction. Adding to the general feeling of helplessness was the widespread belief that the Russian public would do no more to help the students than it had in 1899. The Kharkov University United Council told the students there that "we can rely only on ourselves," a sentiment echoed practically everywhere else.[89] But alongside the confessions of weakness, two themes emerged in the dozens of hastily prepared proclamations issued in January 1901: moral duty, and comradely solidarity. The Odessa Organization Committee urged the students not to recognize the Temporary Rules, which "deprive us of the right to discuss our corporate concerns and which subject us to demeaning punishment for the expression of comradely and corporate solidarity."[90] A group of Moscow University medical students warned:

If we don't do anything, then both the government and the public will see that all that is needed to extinguish the student movement are the Temporary Rules. Then the government will manage to convince the public that if the Temporary Rules suffice to cow the students, they can't be really serious [about their various demands]. As a result the public will come to think that the whole student movement was nothing more than the work of a few troublemakers. The students would then lose public sympathy, their only hope for eventual success. . . . We must act now.[91]

Another pamphlet, signed by "267 women students," foreshadowed the important role women would play in the student demonstrations that would soon be mounted against the Temporary Rules. The pamphlet echoed once again the common theme that "if in the best years of our lives we think about 'caution and moderation,' then what will we be like later on?" Only the students, not the oppressed masses, could fight against arbitrariness (proizvol ). Moreover, the pamphlet declared, Mos-


cow's students faced the moral obligation of "restoring to the studenchestvo the general respect it used to enjoy."[92]

The pamphlets reveal many conflicting emotions: anxiety about the students' public image, loneliness, fear, despair that the public would once again leave the students to fight alone. The students were afraid of fighting but knew that somehow the tradition of the studenchestvo demanded that they must do so. At bottom was the nagging question: if we do not fight now, what will we be like as adults?

About this time a long poem began circulating around Saint Petersburg. Entitled "Togda i Teper'," the poem (quoted at the beginning of Chapter 2) appealed to the students to live up to their traditions.[93] Such appeals had no immediate effect. Most Moscow University students seemed cowed by the Temporary Rules. In the third week of January, skhodki at Kharkov, Kiev, and Moscow universities called for protest strikes, but most students ignored the resolutions and continued to attend classes.[94]

In Saint Petersburg University the Organization Committee elected after the November Malyi Theater incident tried to organize a protest strike. But it ran into the opposition of the kassa, whose current leadership had reverted to the pre-1899 view that student disorders were futile; the Kiev affair proved that they were dangerous as well.[95] When the Organization Committee issued an appeal to the Saint Petersburg public to support the students, the kassa published a counterappeal rejecting the Organization Committee's flirtation with the liberals and its efforts to organize a student protest against the Temporary Rules:

Students! Two hundred of our comrades have been sent into the army. We should protest. But how? We're told to start disorders [bezporiadki ]. But in fact disorders lead to passivity [molchalinstvo ]. The majority participates unwillingly because they are afraid of being called cowards. But they hope to squirm away at the first opportune moment, leaving the most talented and dedicated comrades to bear the brunt of the danger. For most students disorders provide an education in TREACHERY . It is not true that disorders strengthen the oppositional spirit. The latter is the cause, not the result, of disorders and is created by the general conditions of life. The student dis-


orders are valves . . . through which the accumulated energy of the students drains away. The proof of this is that even successful disorders, like the Vetrova demonstration and the first 1899 strike, are followed by a period of passivity. . . . The political development of the studenchestvo proceeds not BECAUSE OF BUT DESPITE DISORDERS .[96]

The kassa tried to convince the Saint Petersburg students that the only real beneficiary of the student disorders was the police, who were able to score an impressive series of cheap victories at the expense of the students. It was time to realize that students had to transcend their own corporate concerns and start struggling against the system as a whole.

We should protest not with impotent flickers of rage but with STRUGGLE —struggle against the political system in Russia. . . . Comrades! Is it really true that we can protest only when they beat us or send us into the army? Is it true that we can protect only our own corporate interests and remain indifferent to the sufferings of those who don't wear a student uniform? . . . Is it true that the student with all his bourgeois narrowness can turn a deaf ear to the voice of the times and remain satisfied with the miserable demand that the rule of law should apply only to students? Is it true that the Russian student will not join the general battle for freedom, equality and brotherhood?[97]

The kassa ended its proclamation by reminding students that joining the revolutionary movement was not only most useful but also safest. The chances of being caught by the police and getting sent into the army were much higher for those participating in skhodki or strikes. If students wanted to change their tactics, the kassa suggested, they could make a useful beginning by giving 5 percent of their monthly income to the revolutionary parties.

Although the kassa proclamation was an interesting restatement of the conventional Marxist position on the student movement, its practical effect was small, since most Saint Petersburg students were already too frightened by the Temporary Rules to protest the fate of the Kiev comrades. They had good reason to be afraid. When the Organization Committee called a protest skhodka for 25 January, the administration sentenced twenty-eight ringleaders to varying terms in the army. One of these students, E. K. Proskuriatov, soon committed suicide.[98]


What was left of the Organization Committee issued a frantic appeal on 6 February, entreating the Saint Petersburg University student body to remember the glorious student generation of the 1860s and uphold the traditions of the studenchestvo: "Comrades, we are living through a critical moment! It is now a question of 'to be or not to be' for the Russian studenchestvo which for so many years has been the only vibrant force amid . . . the ugliness of Russian life."[99] But this appeal was no more successful than that of the 25 January skhodka in convincing the student body to strike.

By the beginning of February, some students were writing home that "the time had come to bury the student movement."[100] The Temporary Rules had made their point, and the promising new tactic of 1899, the strike, had failed to mobilize student support for the 210 already drafted into the army. It was at this point that the student movement took another major turn. Since the calls for a strike met with little success, various students trying to organize a protest movement began thinking about street demonstrations against the Temporary Rules. Even if most students stayed away, enough might come to ensure an impressive turnout, especially in large centers such as Saint Petersburg. Furthermore, demonstrations offered the prospect of encouraging other social groups to express solidarity with the students.

As was the case with the 1899 strike, the idea to organize the February and March 1901 demonstrations cannot be traced to any specific individual or group. What is clear is that by the beginning of February the Saint Petersburg University Organization Committee had been able to establish an informal network of student representatives from several men's and women's VUZy in the city.[101] A figure who would play an important part in the organization of the demonstrations was the young Vladimir Levitskii, then beginning his career in the revolutionary movement. Another important participant was Pokotilov, one of the two Kiev students whose refusal to enter the kartser had sparked the crisis.

By Levitskii's account, Pokotilov at this time was a rather neurotic character, an alcoholic whose face was heavily scarred with eczema. Like many others who came to take an active role in the student move-


ment, Pokotilov had no clearly formed political views except an obsession with "comradeship."[102] By the beginning of February, Pokotilov had arrived in Saint Petersburg, where he began intense agitation to get the Saint Petersburg students to support their Kiev comrades. At one gathering he took violent exception to those who said that the student movement was finished—leaping onto a chair, he screeched, "We need a demonstration!" and then fell off the chair in hysterics.[103]

In contrast, the hostile stance of the economist Soiuz Bor'by dlia Osvobozhdeniia Rabochevo Klassa, still the largest Social Democratic group in Saint Petersburg, complicated preparations for the demonstration.[104] The Soiuz Bor'by maintained its suspicious attitude toward the student movement and told its members not to cooperate with students who came asking for help in organizing a public demonstration.

Unlike the situation in 1899, however, there was now a new trend in Russian Social Democracy, expressed in the journal Iskra. Iskra welcomed the student movement and urged Social Democrats and workers to ignore the Soiuz Bor'by and give the students active support. The student movement became a focal point in the argument between the Soiuz Bor'by and Iskra . In an important Iskra article entitled "Conscription of the 183 Students," Vladimir Lenin urged Social Democrats and workers to support the student movement:

The working class has already begun the struggle for its liberation. But it should understand that this important struggle carries with it important obligations. The worker cannot free himself without having at the same time liberated all the people from despotism. Above all he must respond to and support every political protest. The best members of our educated classes have proven with the blood of thousands of revolutionaries their willingness to shake off the dust of bourgeois society and join the socialist ranks. That worker who can look on with equanimity as the government uses the army against the students is not worthy of bearing the name socialist . The student has [in the past] gone to the aid of the worker—the worker must go to the aid of the student.[105]

In conclusion, Lenin urged workers to participate in street demonstrations.


In January and February 1901 there was as yet no Iskra group in Saint Petersburg. In March two smaller socialist groups, the Rabochee Znamia and Sotsialist, would proclaim their allegiance to the Iskra line, but until then, they too opposed the idea of actively helping the student movement and collaborating in a public demonstration.[106]

Meanwhile, events began to move at a more rapid pace. On 14 February Peter Karpovich, a disgruntled ex-student, showed up for an appointment with Minister of Education Bogolepov, calmly pulled out a revolver, and shot him fatally in the chest. News of the assassination exacerbated the tension in the atmosphere. At the same time certain student members of the Soiuz Bor'by rejected the economists' negative attitude toward the student movement and began agitating for street demonstrations. One such student, A. N. Karasik, founded an organization entitled the Soiuz Spravedlivykh. It consisted of himself and a hectograph machine, but he succeeded in fooling the Okhrana and many students into thinking that there was a formidable organization ready to take the student movement on a new tactical course.[107] Leadership was coming from other sources as well. Vladimir Fridolin, one of the few members of the Saint Petersburg University Organization Committee who had escaped the arrests of late January, started making the rounds of the city's VUZy and recruited a Delegate Conference to discuss tactical options available to the students. Like Pokotilov (who was now working on his own, because other students found him too hysterical to include in their plans), Fridolin had no specific political views. Levitskii described him as "an idealist, a little unworldly, trusting and impractical, burning with the desire to 'suffer' and share the fate of his comrades."[108]

After a few inconclusive meetings, the Delegate Conference met on 16 February to decide whether to call a student demonstration at the Kazan Cathedral for 19 February, the anniversary of the emancipation of the serfs. To reach the apartment where the meeting took place, the sixteen delegates had to pass several cages housing the inmates of a mental institution located on the first floor. To the accompaniment of a strange assortment of sounds, the argument about the demonstration began. V. V. Filatov, the delegate from the Mining Institute, attacked the idea, arguing that the demonstration would fail and demoralize the stu-


denchestvo even further. He counseled abandoning purely student-based protests in favor of working with revolutionary groups. Opposing Filatov was Vasilii Adamov, an army officer and a friend of Fridolin's, who argued that a student street demonstration would have a major impact on the public and would undermine the government's political position.[109]

After long and inconclusive debate, the delegates decided to make a rough count of the students they thought would be ready to take to the streets, two thousand being the agreed-upon minimum necessary to ensure the success of a demonstration. The count came up five hundred short. At that point, the police broke in and led the whole group to jail, past the cages of the screaming inmates.

Much to the surprise of the police, the arrests disrupted but did not cripple the plans for a student demonstration. One student, a certain Baumstein, escaped arrest and distributed flysheets calling for students to assemble at Kazan Square at noon on the nineteenth. Rumors that the demonstrations had been called off kept the turnout low, but about four hundred students, mostly women, assembled at the appointed time. The police ringed the small group (some accounts speak of beatings) and arrested 244 students and onlookers, who were released after the police recorded their names. Of the 244, 128 were female students, 71 were male students, and 45 were nonstudents.[110]

Although the turnout for the 19 February demonstration was relatively small, those student leaders who had managed to escape arrest were encouraged by the public sympathy the demonstration attracted, especially since the demonstration had not been widely publicized and many students erroneously believed it had been postponed at the last minute. After the arrest of the Delegate Conference, the Saint Petersburg University Organization Committee issued an appeal to "all classes of society" to join in a public demonstration in front of Kazan Cathedral on 4 March, a Sunday. The Organization Committee called the demonstration to defend "basic human rights" and invited the public to join forces with the students. One veteran of the student movement noted two distinct tendencies among the proponents of the Sunday demonstration. Whereas the Organization Committee appealed to the middle-class educated public, other students, Marxists who did not agree with the negativism of the Soiuz Bor'by, attempted to win workers' support for the


demonstrations.[111] Although these efforts were generally unsuccessful, the students did succeed in publicizing the planned demonstration.

Contemporary police reports, as well as some leading historians, ascribed the major role in the preparation and organization of the 4 March demonstration to the revolutionary movement.[112] But available evidence fails to support this contention.The impetus for the demonstration came from the students. And Iskra itself attacked Social Democratic organizations for not participating in planning the demonstrations—not only in Saint Petersburg, but in Kharkov and Kiev as well.[113]

The 4 March Kazan Square protest, one of the largest street demonstrations the Russian capital had ever seen, made a profound impact on the Russian public and showed once again the ability of the Russian student movement to embarrass the government and raise the political temperature of the nation.

All morning, crowds of students streamed toward Kazan Cathedral. One eyewitness, the writer R. V. Ivanov-Razumnik, who was then a student at Saint Petersburg University, responded to the call of the University Organization Committee to protest the Temporary Rules and made his way to the square:

Time of action—midday on the fourth of March 1901; scene of action—Kazan Cathedral Square in Saint Petersburg. A vast crowd overflows the square: students of every branch of learning, the majority regular members of the university but also including a large number of post-graduates—technologists, mining and railway engineers. There are young girls from the higher courses for women. There are also many ordinary members of the public, not a few of whom are middle-aged. In the crowd I catch sight of the grey-bearded figure of the well-known journalist and writer, N. F. Annensky, with his usual expression of gaiety and enthusiasm. Standing near me are two rising stars of the Marxist firmament, P. B. Struve and Professor M. I. Tugan-Baranovskii of our university. . . . But youth is predominant, thronging the whole huge square in a closely packed mass. Other spectators jostle on the pavements of the Nevskii Prospekt, some simply out of curiosity, some out of secret sympathy. All are aware that exactly at noon, when the cannon fires from the Petropavlovsky fortress, the students are due to march down the Nevskii Prospekt in a demonstration.[114]


Another participant in the 4 March demonstration, Ariadna Tyrkova-Williams, recalled nearly fifty years later the deep impression made by the students:

For the first time in my life I saw a large street demonstration. When politics hits the streets, it can produce noisy flashes of human freedom or it can peter out in silence. . . . The beginning of that Sunday was quiet. But as soon as we reached the Nevskii, we could see right away that something had deeply disturbed the life of Saint Petersburg. The gates of all the buildings . . . were shut tight, as if it were the middle of the night. The trams didn't run. From time to time a cab-driver appeared . . . but quickly turned onto a side street. . . . Everybody was heading toward Kazan Cathedral. They went in small groups, composed mainly of students. Their young faces shone with a proud sign: WE ARE GOING TO PROTEST .[115]

Accompanied by the noted economist Mikhail Tugan-Baranovskii, Tyrkova-Williams disregarded the friendly advice of a mounted Cossack to go home. She edged her way through the crowd toward the steps of the cathedral, where students raised a large sign: "Down with the Temporary Rules." The sea of student caps and sheepskin hats, the "unofficial uniform" of the kursistki, left no doubt that the overwhelming majority of the demonstrators were students. Buoyed by the large turnout and rumors of successful student street demonstrations in Moscow and Kharkov, the crowd was in high spirits.[116]

Riding into the crowd without warning, the Cossacks pushed hundreds of people against the steps of the cathedral, blocking all avenues of escape. Then the beatings began. The government communiqué later said that the students started the violence by throwing rocks at the Cossacks' horses, but most onlookers believed that the attack on the crowd was unnecessary and unprovoked.

A girl was hanging on to the bridle of a Cossack horse . . . the rider knocked her hat off with his nagaika . Her hair streamed out around her face, blood flowed down her cheek. Not far away two students were fending off the nagaiki, covering their faces with bloody arms. Two policemen were dragging off a screaming girl.[117]


As Tyrkova-Williams and her companion watched the chaotic scene, wanting to help but not knowing what to do, Peter Struve, the well-known writer and political thinker, bumped into them. He was waving his arms and yelling frantically:

"The devil take them! How dare they? How dare they hit me on the legs with a nagaika? You understand?—me!" He pounded his coat to show where the nagaika had left its dirty marks. We were . . . horrified by what was going on around us. But life loves to mix tragedy with comedy. As I looked at his dishevelled red hair and red beard . . . and kept hearing his repetitive, disjointed, ridiculous cry, "me! me!" it was all I could do to keep from laughing.[118]

Soon it was over. By the bloodier standards of a later era, the demonstration of 4 March was a tame affair. Although there were wild rumors to the contrary, no one died or even suffered serious wounds. Under police escort, 775 people marched through a cold drizzle to jail. Most of the detainees were students, the numbers almost equally divided between men and women; the Russian kursistka was carrying a disproportionate share of the fight against the Temporary Rules.[119]

Their treatment in prison reflects the curious mixture of deference, paternalism, and repression that marked the old regime's attitude toward the studenchestvo . Ivanov-Razumnik recalls a not unpleasant experience: the jailers allowed the students to organize a theater, give lectures attended by the prison governor, hold chess championships, and receive ample parcels. One student's father, the well-known tobacco manufacturer Shapsal, sent in several shipments of ten thousand cigarettes each. "From the very first days of our stay we took so many liberties with the regulations that our prison life was converted into a kind of student picnic. Every cell resounded with shouts, laughter, songs, and choruses."[120] The prison also allowed the students liberal visiting rights:

Men-students who had no relations in the city were visited by fictitious "fiancées," girl-students had their "fiancés." One of our company was visited by three "fiancées" at one and the same time, whereupon the Chief of Prison sent for the fortunate young man and begged him to state which of his "fiancées" was the real one. But that was the whole difficulty—none of them was. So after that the girls decided they would take turns to visit him. Noise and hilarity prevailed throughout these unusual prison visits.[121]


But the authorities drew the line when Ivanov-Razumnik asked for an evening's furlough to attend a subscription performance of the Moscow Art Theater. He told the Chief of the Prison that he promised "on his word of honor as a student" to return by midnight.

The Chief of the Prison—a man of some irony—explained with great politeness and every appearance of gravity that he had all possible confidence in Mr. student's word of honor, but did not Mr. student think that out of some hundreds of men and women students there might be dozens whose pockets also contained identical tickets? He would readily release Mr. student on his word of honor, but in that case he would also have to release a whole crowd of people on the same basis. Did not Mr. student think that in many respects this would be inconvenient and for him, the Chief of Prison, even impossible?[122]

After a week all the arrestees appeared for cursory interrogations at which they were asked whether they belonged to revolutionary organizations and why they had participated in the 4 March demonstration. Almost all the students were expelled from their VUZy and forbidden residence in university towns for periods from one to three years.[123] The government was, however, clearly having second thoughts about applying the Temporary Rules. Furthermore, the apparent harshness of the penalties suffered by the Kazan Square demonstrators was mitigated by their speedy annulment. That summer the government allowed most conscripted and expelled students to reenter the VUZy for the fall term.[124]

If the students had wanted to stage a successful demonstration, win public sympathy, and exert pressure on the government to abrogate the Temporary Rules, then they had certainly succeeded. The demonstration proved that even a small minority of students could make an impact on the general public and the government:

Exaggerated rumors flew across the city about a vicious attack by the Cossacks and police on the demonstrators. Saint Petersburg seethed with indignation. Saint Petersburg supported us. This was the first outburst of the liberation movement [obshchestvennovo dvizheniia ]. Especially affected were the central quarters of the city, where the wealthier classes and the intelligentsia lived. We were later told that the workers were also angry. Maybe. I saw no workers either on the square or among the arrestees . . . the demonstration was a student affair, far from the concerns of the workers, but it deeply touched the educated public. Public opinion supported the students so unanimously that the government became confused. It realized that a certain turn-


ing point had been reached on Kazan Square, that the opposition movement had received a new impetus.[125]

The news of the police brutality in Kazan Square, widely disseminated in a series of somewhat exaggerated bulletins put out by the Saint Petersburg University Organization Committee, finally touched off an academic strike in the capital's VUZy .[126] At the same time 150 writers, lawyers, and professional people sent a petition to the Ministry of Justice charging premeditated police brutality and asking for the punishment of those responsible.[127]

The Kazan Square demonstration also intensified conflicts within Russian Social Democracy. Iskra seized on the absence of workers at the demonstration to step up its attacks on economism and press its claims for hegemony in the Russian Social Democratic movement:

There is no doubt that instead of a simple beating of the people by the authorities, the demonstration would have been the scene of a real battle between the people and the government if only the socialist groups . . . had appealed to the workers [to join the demonstration] and organized separate demonstrations on the outskirts of the city. . . . Some workers finally did come but they arrived too late.[128]

Events in other university towns—Moscow, Kharkov, Kiev, Tomsk—followed roughly the same pattern as the development of the student movement in Saint Petersburg. When the majority of students balked at striking to protest the Temporary Rules, a more committed minority embraced the idea of street demonstrations as a way out of a tactical dilemma.[129] Repression of the demonstrations or news of police brutality in other cities then induced the other students to strike. In all these cases there seemed to be no coordination between university towns, no prior plan, and certainly little or no collaboration with revolutionary groups or workers' organizations. Once again the student movement was following its own distinct rhythm.

In Kharkov, for example, the United Council made several unsuccessful appeals in January for a strike to support the drafted Kiev students. After these appeals failed, some radical students planned a street


demonstration on 19 February and secured the support of local Social Democratic groups that were more sympathetic to the Iskra line than were their counterparts in Saint Petersburg.[130] But, as if to underscore the independence of the student movement, the students disregarded the advice of the Social Democrats to hold the demonstration in the evening so that more workers could participate. When a small group of students assembled in front of the main cathedral at noon on the nineteenth, the anniversary of the emancipation of the serfs, they distributed pamphlets couched in remarkably moderate tones: besides demanding the repeal of the Temporary Rules, they praised the "Tsar Liberator" Alexander II. When the small crowd of students started marching to the university, mounted Cossacks encircled and beat them. Pro-strike forces in the university and the Technological Institute began to gain the upper hand, and a strike finally broke out after news of the Kazan Square demonstration reached Kharkov.[131]

In Moscow University an Executive Committee formed at the end of January to direct the student protest against the Temporary Rules. Although this committee included several students who would in later life join the revolutionary movement, it at first proceeded quite cautiously, waiting until events elsewhere made the Moscow students more willing to fight.[132] When news came of the 19 February demonstrations in Saint Petersburg and Kharkov, the Executive Committee distributed a questionnaire asking how many students would appear at a skhodka on 23 February. Nine hundred and seventeen said they would, although far fewer actually came.

As soon as the skhodka began, a large crowd of students and their relatives and friends gathered in front of the university and watched the students inside hang out a large banner proclaiming "Down with the Temporary Rules!" A crowd of gendarmes then stormed into the auditorium and began to escort out the three hundred students who refused to disperse to the Manezh, a large exhibition hall and cavalry barracks across the square from the university. (The authorities hastily cleared out the bird show then running in the hall.) A long chain of police separated the arrested students from the enthusiastic crowd of well-wishers.


A member of the Executive Committee, N. V. Korshun (a future member of the Social Revolutionary party), climbed a street lamp and called on the students in the crowd to join the group being led to the Manezh. About two hundred students then broke through the police lines and joined their arrested comrades.[133] After a boisterous and rowdy night in the Manezh, where a crowd of sympathizers stayed all night and entertained those inside with choruses of "Nagaechka," "Dubinushka," and other student songs, the police transferred the male students to the Butyrka prison and released the women.

Of the 358 Moscow University students on the arrest list, 32.5 percent were juridical students, 8.6 percent came from the history and philology faculty, 8.6 percent were mathematics students, 24.3 percent were students of the natural sciences, and 26 percent were medical students. (In other terms, 9.8 percent of the students from the history faculty, 6.7 percent of those from mathematics, 13.9 percent from the natural sciences, 6.9 percent of the juridical students, and 8.1 percent of the medical students went to the Manezh.) Of the students' fathers, 15.2 percent were nobles, 22 percent were middle-level civil servants, and 11.3 percent were either lower-level civil servants or civil servants of unspecified rank; 17.2 percent of the arrested students came from the meshchanstvo, 9 percent from the kupechestvo, 7 percent from the priestly estate, 7 percent from the honorary citizenry, and 5 percent from the peasantry.[134] Eighty-six percent had graduated from high schools outside Moscow. Once again the natural sciences faculty was significantly overrepresented, as were students from provincial backgrounds. More than 60 percent were either first-course or second-course students, but this reflected the general proportion of these students in the university population. As was the case in 1899, students from all estates were involved in the movement. The students on the arrest list this time were, however, a smaller proportion of the general student body than in 1899, representing that minority which was clearly ready to defy the express orders of the police and go to jail. Police interrogation reports show that the major reason for these students' decision to protest was comradely solidarity and anger at the Temporary Rules.[135]


The events at the Manezh stirred up the city and led to an unexpected but sizable street demonstration the following Sunday, 25 February. Crowds of students gathering in front of the governor-general's house on the Tverskoi Bul'var were soon joined by several hundred onlookers, including a few workers. The crowd marched up and down the central streets of the city, singing songs and ignoring the repeated demands of the police that they disperse.[136] The Executive Committee was heartened by the public support, especially the alleged turnout of "many workers," but obviously felt that the crowds came to support the students' specific grievances rather than to make a general political protest against the regime.[137] The next day the committee asked the students to refrain from further demonstrations, since the public had already shown its sympathy and more street outbursts would only result in needless arrests. This position provoked a sharp retort from Iskra:

These partisans of a "purely student movement" naively assume that the crowd demonstrated, sacrificed itself, and took risks only to . . . influence the government to accept the students' demands and that it will stop its agitation as soon as the students get what they want. . . . The Executive Committee is afraid that the student movement might turn into a political movement.[138]

Why did the nonstudents in fact come? Specific motives are, of course, hard to establish, but the truth lies somewhere between the Iskra position that they came to demonstrate against the government and the Executive Committee view that their main motive was to support the students. As was the case with the Kazan Square demonstration, some of the participants were probably onlookers who got carried away by the excitement of the crowd. It should be remembered that demonstrations on this scale were, to put it mildly, a novelty, especially in the central districts of Russia's major cities. Both the 4 March Kazan Square and the 25 February Moscow demonstrations took place on Sundays on main thoroughfares, the Nevskii Prospekt and the Tverskoi Bul'var. Although these streets were close to the universities and the student districts, they were far removed from the working-class areas. Therefore


workers who did come to demonstrate probably had a specific political purpose in doing so. The nonstudents arrested at the Kazan Square demonstration were professionals and intelligentsia, but the profile of the nonstudent arrestees in Moscow is somewhat different. More workers came to the Moscow demonstrations, and even more "employees"—shop clerks and such—nonetheless, to quote one eyewitness, "most workers were untouched by the student demonstrations."[139]

It should be reiterated that, as was the case in Kharkov and Saint Petersburg, the Moscow students were divided into several groups. Most sympathized with the Kiev students drafted into the army but, out of fear, refrained from striking or demonstrating. A smaller number of student activists, quite conscious of the traditions of the student movement, wanted to organize some sort of student protest in reaction to the Kiev incident. At first this group favored the strike, which had enjoyed such success in 1899. But these students soon despaired of convincing their comrades and began to espouse the idea of street demonstrations. When the demonstrations finally began in Moscow, however, they were an unplanned reaction to the arrest of the 23 February skhodka . And although these student activists wanted to attract public support for their demonstrations, they balked at advancing political demands that went beyond the 1899 platform. There was also a smaller group of radical activists who wanted to establish close links between the students and the labor movement. This group was itself split into two factions. One faction recognized the political potential of the student movement, whereas the other faction agreed with the economists that the student movement was useless.[140]

An academic strike broke out in most VUZy by the beginning of March, but this did not happen in Moscow University, mainly because of the intervention of the university's faculty council. The faculty council made a direct appeal to the students to avoid strikes or demonstrations: student disorders were self-defeating. The 1899 strike had produced nothing but the Temporary Rules; by demonstrating against them now, the studenchestvo was backing the government into a corner, forcing the authorities to defend their prestige by retaining the draft. Nor was it appropriate for the students to strike. After all, the faculty council argued, the universities were not factories.[141]


In a sharp reply, the students' Executive Council accused the professors of cowardice; they worried only about keeping their jobs and did little to defend either student or academic interests. "What did you do for us in 1899? Which of you followed the example of Kovalevskii, Menzbir, and Miliukov? . . . How can we see you as 'pillars of science' when your lectures get filtered through ten layers of censorship? How can we believe that you professors are even in a position to help us when your very appeal to us is illegal according to the University Statute?"[142]

What most distinguished Moscow from other universities was the decision of P. A. Nekrasov, the curator of the Moscow educational district, to head off a student strike by allowing the faculty council to appoint a commission to investigate and report on the causes of student unrest. The commission's deliberations mollified most Moscow students, averted a strike, and confirmed that most students would still respond well to any hint of reforms from above.[143]

Tsar Nicholas seemed to be reaching the same conclusions: a change in educational policy might succeed where the Temporary Rules had failed, in ending the student movement. On 16 March the tsar convened an interministerial conference on higher-education policy.[144] Four days later, on 20 March, he wrote a telling letter to his uncle, Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich, the Moscow governor-general, sharply disagreeing with the latter's gloomy assessment of the situation created by the student movement. Sergei Alexandrovich, discouraged by the February and March demonstrations, had told Nicholas that he wanted to resign. The tsar was more sanguine. Perhaps the root cause of student unrest was bad educational policy. If so, then the time had come to correct it. "I think a real government is strong when, openly admitting its mistakes, it immediately corrects them without worrying about what others will think or say." Yes, the student movement was troublesome, but the


vast majority of the population was loyal. "Don't think I am minimizing the importance of these disorders but I sharply distinguish disorders within the universities themselves from street demonstrations. The time has come, though, to reform our entire academic structure . . . things can't get worse." The tsar ended his letter by disclosing that he intended to give the job of reforming Russian education to a "military man": General P. S. Vannovskii.[145]

News of Vannovskii's appointment seemed to restore the faith of most students that the government would abrogate the Temporary Rules and overhaul the whole system of higher education. Indeed, the rescript that accompanied Vannovskii's appointment promised such reforms and a softer line toward the students. The rescript asked teachers and administrators to "enter into close association with the students and . . . further the moral education of youth on the basis of heartfelt concern [serdechnoe popechenie ] for their well-being."[146]

At the beginning of April, Vannovskii announced a thorough review of the University Statute of 1884 as well as a reconsideration of the 29 July Temporary Rules. In fact the government did not apply the rules to the hundreds of students arrested during the spring demonstrations; that August the authorities released the Kiev and Saint Petersburg students who had already been conscripted.

In April it was clear that the spring wave of student protests had run its course. An April skhodka resolution at Saint Petersburg University expressed the general attitude: a 1,675 to 271 vote passed the resolution that "the studenchestvo trusts the good intentions of the government" but asked Vannovskii to put off the spring exams until the fall so that students arrested that spring would not suffer. After some initial reluctance Vannovskii agreed.[147]

As the students went home for summer vacations many pondered the lessons of this latest episode in the student movement. Most agreed on one point: they had won. The Temporary Rules were gone, and Vannovskii promised further reforms. Moreover, it all came as something of a surprise. They had begun the semester frightened of the Temporary Rules, unable to repeat an 1899-style strike in support of their conscripted comrades. But, just as in 1899, an unforeseen tactical inno-


vation had confounded the pessimists and cynics who denigrated the importance of the student movement.

Compared to the 1899 strike, the 1901 street demonstrations certainly carried some tactical advantages. First, of course, a far lower level of student participation sufficed to convey an illusion of success. Fewer students actually participated in the demonstrations, but the sense of victory was greater. Second, street demonstrations forged links between the student movement and other social groups. The 1901 street disorders were mainly student demonstrations, but they nevertheless made a major impression on Russian urban society and gave students the feeling that the student movement counted after all.

As Allan Wildman has perceptively observed:

The street demonstrations of March 1901 in the major cities of Russia marked the advent of yet another phase in the long conflict of radical society with the prevailing order. The heroism and initiative of the students in combatting the "provisional regulations" of 1899 gave the revolutionary intelligentsia and their liberal fringe a new focal point for their political hopes and helped free them from the spell of the working masses. With the defection of such leading theoreticians as Struve, Tugan-Baranovskii and Bulgakov, the intellectual pre-eminence of Marxism had rapidly dwindled. The once captive authors and scholars, the impressionable ex-Populists and liberals, the Worker-phile students, lawyers and zemstvo employees now responded to new strategies and theoretical justifications for their mounting aspirations for change. In exposing themselves to the blows of Cossack whips, to the dangers of arrest and the loss of social position, they developed a new sense of their own dignity and social import which Marxism had denied them.[148]

As they reflected on the import of the 1901 student demonstrations, many former participants in the student movement believed that the outbreak of student protest also influenced the shift in Russian Social Democracy away from economism. Once again Wildman, a leading historian of Social Democracy during this period, agrees:

To be sure they still regarded the working class and their Social Democratic champions as important "allies" in the shaping struggle, but other social factors now entered their political computations. The overly simple view, so popular a few years before, that the momentum of the workers' movement would of itself burst the shackles of the autocracy, gave place to the feeling that "all live forces" should now join in the battle for political liberty. . . . In response to these events, which momentarily put the workers' movement in the shadow, Russian Social Democracy rapidly completed its shift from "economics" to "politics."[149]


In short, the 1901 spring demonstrations showed the studenchestvo that the student movement could be important. It could influence other social groups and even force the government to meet student demands.

The events of the spring also underscored the key role played by women students, the kursistki, especially in the capitals. Women's higher education was gaining increasing acceptance not only from the elite but also from more conservative merchant groups. In addition to the problems faced by their male counterparts, women students had to contend with special obstacles—their inferior legal status, nettlesome discrimination in employment, government harassment of women's institutions of higher education—which guaranteed a tense relationship with the state. During the 1890s the long battle for women's rights to higher education and the slow development of mutual aid groups and networks finally began to bear fruit. The 1897 Vetrova demonstration made a powerful impression on women students, and the 1899 strike showed that the Russian kursistka was now ready to join her male counterpart in the student movement.[150] In the battle against the Temporary Rules, feelings of comradely solidarity merged with the special nature of the issue. After all, if women were exempted from the draft, it is not illogical to assume that they felt an added responsibility to support their comrades who were not exempt.

Underneath this illusion of victory, the tactical and ideological questions facing the student movement still remained, to reemerge in full force in the following academic year. Tactically, the street demonstration, for all its advantages, had a major drawback. Once demonstrators had made their stand on the street, what could they then do except passively await arrest? And "ideologically" the apparent success of the 1901 demonstrations—Vannovskii's promises of corporate reforms and the de facto abrogation of the Temporary Rules—now raised a new problem for the student movement. Should students accept academic or corporate reforms in isolation, or should they link their own demands to more general political reforms of the autocracy? The relationship of academic to political reforms had surfaced in the 1899 strike. In the fall of 1901 it would become the major issue of the student movement.

The Kassa Vzaimopomoshchi of Saint Petersburg University, ca. 1900.
(V. V. Mavrodin and V. A. Ezhov, eds.,  Leningradskii Universitet
v vospominaniiakh sovremennikov,
 volume 2 [Leningrad, 1982])

A group of Saint Petersburg University students drafted into the army,
1901. (V. V. Mavrodin and V. A. Ezhov, eds.,  Leningradskii Universitet
v vospominaniiakh sovremennikov,
 volume 2 [Leningrad, 1982])

G. I. Chulkov, in student uniform, awaiting transport to Siberia, 1902.
(G. I. Chulkov,  Gody stranstvii: Iz knigi vospominanii  [Moscow, 1930])

G. I. Chulkov and fellow students in the  taiga,  1902. (G. I. Chulkov,
Gody stranstvii: Iz knigi vospominanii  [Moscow, 1930])

Transporting students by barge up the lenisei, 1902. Note the red flag at the front.
(G. I. Chulkov,  Gody stranstvii: Iz knigi vospominanii  [Moscow, 1930])

The Moscow Ispolkom and the Saint Petersburg Kassa Radikalov,
Alexandrovsk Central Prison, 1902. (G. I. Chulkov,  Gody stranstvii:
Iz knigi vospominanii
[Moscow, 1930])

The Alexandrovsk Central Prison, 1902. (G. I. Chulkov,  Gody
stranstvii: Iz knigi vospominanii
 [Moscow, 1930])

Moscow students in Butyrka Prison, 1902. ( Istoriia Moskovskovo
M. N. Tikhomirov, ed., volume 1 [Moscow, 1955])


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