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Black Hundred


The Black Hundred was a far-right monarchist movement that emerged during the 1905 Revolution in an effort to defend the autocracy against increasing civil unrest. Some Black Hundred groups were composed of upper-class officials and nobles who concentrated on lobbying the tsar and the government to resist demands for liberal reform. A more radical tendency was prevalent among right-wing lower- and middle-class urban elements such as shopkeepers, merchants, and workers, who staged pogroms against Jews and attacked perceived revolutionaries.

The movement grew rapidly with the creation of the main Black Hundred organization, the Union of the Russian People (URP; Soyuz russkogo naroda ). This group was formed by the physician Alexander Dubrovin after continuing unrest forced the tsar to issue the October Manifesto, which conceded most basic civil liberties and provided for power sharing with an elected Duma. The URP subsumed many other monarchist organizations and smaller pogrom groupings and succeeded in uniting upper-class nobles, middle-class professionals, and lower-class workers in a common organization. Although estimates of the URP's membership vary widely, it probably totaled several hundred thousand at its peak from late 1905 to 1907.

The URP propagated its ideology through its newspaper, Russkoye Znamya (The Russian banner). Coarsening the ideas of previous generations of pan-Slavs and Slavophiles, the URP mixed Russian chauvinism with virulent anti-Semitism, hostility to the intelligentsia and capitalism, and die-hard support for the autocracy. The fight against revolutionaries was always a paramount task, relegating international issues to a relatively unimportant role. The URP's anti-Semitic message drew the most support in Russia's western provinces of the Pale of Settlement, where many Jews resided.

Under Dubrovin's direction, the URP headquarters in St. Petersburg created a paramilitary force that assassinated two Jewish-born Duma members from the liberal Kadet Party, Mikhail Gertsenshtein and Grigory Iollos, and undertook a failed attempt to kill former finance minister Sergei Witte. Local branches also formed paramilitary forces that engaged in violent crimes like pogroms. In cities like Odessa, the state used URP groups as a virtual auxiliary police force to help fight revolutionaries in the streets.

The URP was vehemently opposed to the First Duma, which was dominated by socialists and liberals. It nevertheless organized a campaign and got a handful of deputies elected to the Second Duma. The election of a loyalist majority to the Third Duma thanks to a change in the electoral law caused the Black Hundred movement to begin fracturing. URP Vice President Vladimir Purishkevich, who now accepted the Duma, formed a rival organization due to personal and ideological conflicts with Dubrovin, who still opposed the Duma. In 1910 Dubrovin was driven from his own organization by Duma member Nikolai Markov, who gained control of the URP, forcing Dubrovin to form his own splinter group. The schisms cost the Black Hundred much of its power and influence. Membership declined from 1908, although the various factions were kept afloat by substantial subsidies from various state organs, especially from the Internal Affairs Ministry. Public knowledge of these subsidies and their refusal to countenance criticism of the tsar gave Black Hundred leaders the reputation of being government lackeys, even though they often bitterly condemned the government and the bureaucracy for displaying insufficient vigor in fighting revolutionaries.

After 1908 the Black Hundred was mostly active in fighting for right-wing causes in the political arena. Members were key agitators for the anti-Semitic prosecution of the Mendel Beilis case, and Purishkevich gained a final bit of notoriety for the movement when he helped kill Grigory Rasputin, the royal family's spiritual advisor whom Purishkevich believed to be discrediting the tsar. The Black Hundred lost its raison d'etre when the autocracy was overthrown. Black Hundred branches immediately closed, and some were burnt down. Markov went into hiding and later emigrated to Germany, where he worked with the budding far-right movement there. The Bolsheviks shot Dubrovin after they seized power, while Purishkevich, the only Black Hundred leader to stay politically active in Russia after the February Revolution, died from typhus in 1920 while agitating for the White armies.

See also: duma; jews; revolution of 1905


Brock, John. (1972). "The Theory and Practice of the Union of the Russian People, 19051907: A Case Study of Black Hundred Politics." Ph.D. diss., University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

Rawson, Don. (1995). Russian Rightists and the Revolution of 1905. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Rogger, Hans. (1964). "The Formation of the Russian Right, 19001906." California Slavic Studies 3:6694.

Rogger, Hans. (1964). "Was there a Russian Fascism? The Union of Russian People." Journal of Modern History 36:398415.

Jack Langer

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