Angel of Vengeance : The ‘Girl Assassin’, the Governor of St Petersburg, and Russia’s Revolutionary World
This volume focuses on the life of a woman revolutionary in Tsarist Russia, Vera Zasulich, who in 1878 shot the governor of St. Petersburg in retaliation for the flogging of a political prisoner. The trial of the would-be assassin (the governor survived) received worldwide attention, and the Russian regime was found guilty in the court of public opinion. Zasulich was set free and treated as a heroine. Her action inspired other revolutionaries to embrace terror, martyrdom, bombing and assassination as viable political tactics. Indeed, in 1881, the Tsar himself was murdered.
The trial scenes and vivid characterization of a large cast of characters is as absorbing as a superb historical novel. The author excels in painting a picture of Russia in upheaval, spawning violent political sects with visions of utopia. We get a sense of a motley stew of true idealists, disturbed revolutionary “saints,” and Manson-like psychopaths, and see the beginning of a progression that ended in Stalin’s gulags. When the October Revolution occurred, in fact Zasulich herself was appalled by the regime her actions had helped pave the way for.