The target had no chance.

Tsar Alexander II of Russia had already survived eight serious assassinations by the beginning of 1881;

six of them alone since February 1880. But he never escaped the ninth attack on his life.

Half a dozen men with bombs, pistols and knives were on him on Sunday, March 1st, 1881.

A woman was in command: Countess Sofia Perovskaya (1853–1881).

A homemade grenade, thrown by the student Ignati Ioachimowitsch Grinewizki, exploded at the Tsar's feet as he was leaving his carriage - the almost 63-year-old had no chance.

The countess had given the order to attack.

The attack on Tsar Alexander II

Source: picture-alliance / akg-images

She was 29 years old at the time of the attack.

Her father, the long-time governor of St. Petersburg Lev Nikolayevich Perovsky, had so brutally oppressed his entire family that they grew unrestrained hatred of the ruling regime.

Sofia joined one of the numerous anarchist groups that flourished in Russia's petty bourgeoisie at the time.

She was arrested, sentenced, and went to the provinces to work as a medical assistant.


But that wasn't enough for her.

Perovskaya returned to St. Petersburg and from June 1879 grew into the leading role of the terrorist group Narodnaja Wolja (about: people's will).

The choice of their victim shows that their fanaticism was hardly tarnished by reason.

After all, Alexander II had initiated numerous reforms, including the abolition of serfdom.

But that wasn't enough for the terrorists.

Their goal was the annihilation of the tsarist autocracy.

Perovskaya organized the attack of March 1, 1881, in which six assassins waited in pairs for the Tsar's carriage - because he could take three different routes.

This portrait of the fallen countess was apparently made in prison in 1881

Source: Sofia Perovskaya_

The partner of the assassin Grinewizki, who was killed in the detonation, a certain Nikolai Ryssakov, had been arrested and quickly collapsed during interrogation, which was certainly violent.

Now, in a few days, the Tsarist police lifted the entire cell.

Sofia Perovskaya was also arrested on March 10.

Shortly before the hastily scheduled trial, she wrote her mother in a letter: “I beg you to keep calm and not mourn me.

My fate does not hit me in the least, and I will meet it with complete calm, because I expected it for a long time and knew that sooner or later it had to come like this. "She added the confession:" I have lived by my conviction, and it would have been impossible for me to live otherwise. "

The execution of Sofia Perovskaya and her co-conspirators on April 3, 1881

Source: De Agostini via Getty Images


Together with four accomplices, including her husband Andrei Ivanovich Scheljabow, Sofia Perovskaya was sentenced to death, as expected, in a four-day trial in St. Petersburg.

A sixth defendant escaped the maximum sentence because she was pregnant and her fate was discussed in Western European newspapers.

On April 3, 1881, the fallen countess had to climb the gallows at Scheljabow's side.

In the Soviet Union, she was considered a model heroine, but was always in the shadow of her husband.

It was not until May 30, 2018 that the “New York Times” dedicated an obituary to her - as an act of reparation after “white men” had dominated the obituary page of the most important US newspaper for more than 150 years.

Whether it was wise to give this gesture to a fanatical terrorist of all people remains to be seen.

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