Azeff, Yevno Fishelevich

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AZEFF, YEVNO FISHELEVICH (1869–1918), agent of the czarist secret police and simultaneously a leader of the Russian social revolutionary movement. Azeff was born in Lyskovo, Russia, into a poor family and studied in Rostov-on-Don until the age of 21. He wandered from one unremunerative job to another. In 1892, faced with arrest for alleged revolutionary activities, he fled to Germany. Azeff enrolled as a student at the Polytechnic in Karlsruhe, where he became a member of a socialist group. Reduced to poverty, he wrote a letter to the Russian secret police offering his services, and thus began his double life as a secret informer and an ardent advocate of the revolutionary struggle among Russian students abroad. In 1899, on receiving his diploma in electrical engineering at Darmstadt University, Azeff returned to Russia. During the 15 years that he was in the pay of the czarist secret police (1893–1908) he betrayed many revolutionaries. At the same time he acquired a reputation as a courageous leader of the Social Revolutionary Party and its "fighting organization." He planned a number of assassinations, including that of the Russian minister of the interior, von Plehve, in 1904. Though Azeff usually tended to ignore his Jewish background, he blamed von Plehve for the notorious Kishinev pogrom. In 1902 rumors of his double dealing began to circulate, but it was not until 1908 that his activities were revealed before a party court. This was the result of long investigations by V.L. Burtsev, a socialist historian of the revolutionary movement, who managed to obtain the testimony of Lopukhin, former director of the Russian secret police. Azeff fled abroad, and went into hiding. He was sentenced to death in absentia. In World War i he was incarcerated in a German prison as a dangerous revolutionary, and died there in April 1918.


R. Seth, Russian Terrorists (1966), index; B. Nikolaevsky, Aseff: the Russian Judas (1934).

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