Pestel, Pavel

Pestel, Pavel [Pestel’], b 5 July 1793 in Moscow, d 25 July 1826 in Saint Petersburg. (Portrait: Pavel Pestel.) Leader of the Decembrist movement in Ukraine; son of a Russian senator and governor-general of Siberia (a Russified German). With other Russian officers who believed that Russia should become a democratic republic, he founded the clandestine Union of Salvation (1816) and Union of Welfare (1818) and headed the Tulchyn council of the latter group. In 1821 the council's members founded the revolutionary Southern Society, and Pestel wrote its constitutional program, Russkaia pravda (Russian Justice), which was adopted at a secret meeting in Kyiv in 1823. The society called for the overthrow of tsarism, the abolition of serfdom and oppressive military settlements, and the establishment of a republic similar to that of the United States of America. Pestel did not, however, recognize the right to self-determination for the empire's non-Russians (except for the Poles), opposed the idea of a federal structure, and was consequently hostile to the separatist Little Russian Secret Society. He was arrested on the way to Tulchyn on 25 December 1825 (the eve of the Decembrist revolt) and was tried and hanged with four other Decembrist leaders in the Peter and Paul Fortress. L. Medvedska's book about him was published in Kyiv in 1964.

[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 3 (1993).]

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