Narodnaia Volia

Narodnaia Volia (Народная воля; People's Will). A conspiratorial Russian revolutionary populist organization that was formed in the summer of 1879 following a split in the organization Zemlia i Volia. Advocates of political struggle through the use of terror formed Narodnaia Volia, and those opposed to it formed Chernyi Peredel (Black Repartition). Narodnaia Volia never grew to be a large organization; it probably had no more than several dozen members at any given time. As its immediate aim the organization sought the destruction of autocracy, and the assassination of high-ranking government officials was chosen as a means of achieving that goal. The killing of the tsar soon became an idée fixe of the group, and on 1 March 1881, after numerous attempts, they succeeded.

Much of Narodnaia Volia's activities took place in Ukraine. Groups existed at one time or another in Kyiv, Kharkiv, Odesa, Mykolaiv, Nizhyn, Romny, Yelysavethrad, and Kamianets-Podilskyi. Despite the heavy concentration of activities in Ukraine Narodnaia Volia was a Russian organization and did not consider the rights of non-Russian nations important (although some of its manifestos and declarations were written in Ukrainian). A number of Ukrainians belonged to Narodnaia Volia, among them Andrei Zheliabov, Oleksii Bakh, and Mykola Kybalchych, who made the bomb that killed Alexander II.

Representatives of the Ukrainian national populist movement did not generally support Narodnaia Volia, although in the early 1880s Volodymyr Malovany, Mykhailo Kotsiubynsky, and Ivan Karpenko-Kary (Ivan Tobilevych) maintained ties with or helped Narodnaia Volia groups. Mykhailo Drahomanov wrote several articles and a major work, Istoricheskaia Pol’sha i velikorusskaia demokratiia (Historical Poland and Great Russian Democracy, 1881–2), in which he strongly criticized the Russian revolutionaries' use of terror. He also disapproved of their centralist tendencies, accused them of Jacobinism, and condemned them for disregarding the national rights of non-Russian nations.

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Bohdan Klid

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

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