Zasulich, Vera Ivanovna

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(18491919), Russian revolutionary.

Born into a relatively poor noble family, Vera Ivanovna Zasulich became a populist as a young woman. She had a keen sense of social justice, sympathized with the downtrodden and the oppressed, and opposed autocracy. An active participant in the populist movement, she was imprisoned from 1869 to 1871 and was in administrative (internal) exile from 1871 to 1875. She spent most of her life in poverty and poor health, with a bohemian lifestyle. Her partner, Lev Deich, was arrested in 1884 for smuggling revolutionary literature to Russia and was exiled to Siberia, where he remained until 1901. While in Siberia, he married another woman. Zasulich achieved fame and heroine status for shooting Fyodor Trepov (Governor of St. Petersburg) in 1878, in an assassination attempt (Trepov survived). Acquitted at a jury trial, she fled abroad to escape rearrest and lived in political exile (in Switzerland, France, the United Kingdom, and Germany) from 1878 to 1905 (with the exception of two brief returns to Russia for four months in 18791880 and for three months in 18991900). She corresponded with Karl Marx and was a friend of Friedrich Engels. She was one of the founders of the first Russian Marxist organization, the Liberation of Labor (Osvobozhdenie truda ) group in Geneva in 1883. Author of numerous books, articles, and translations, she was an editor of Iskra ("Spark") from 1900 to 1905. A participant in the 1903 second congress of the Russian Social-Democratic Labor Party, she helped found the Menshevik movement and made frequent attempts to reconcile factions of the revolutionary movement. After 1905 Zasulich retired from revolutionary activities. She was in her late fifties, in poor health, and there was an amnesty for political exiles. She subsequently supported Russian participation in World War I. As an old Menshevik and supporter of the war, she naturally opposed the October Revolution.

See also: engels, friedrich; marxism; mensheviks


Bergman, Jay. (1983). Vera Zasulich. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Shanin, Teodor, ed. (1983). Late Marx and the Russian Road: Marx and "The Peripheries of Capitalism." New York: Monthly Review Press.

Michael Ellman

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Zasulich, Vera Ivanovna

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