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Nechaev, Sergei (1847–1882)

Jeff Shantz

Subject History » Intellectual History
Legal and Political » Political Philosophy

Place Eastern Europe » Russia

Period 1000 - 1999 » 1800-1899

Key-Topics anarchism, bibliography, revolution, terrorism, violence

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405184649.2009.01081.x


Sergei Gennadiyevich Nechaev stands as an influential Russian anarchist who was controversial, and repudiated by many. Born under conditions of extreme poverty in Ivanovo, Russia in 1847, as a young adult Nechaev moved to Moscow, where he emerged in anarchist circles as a radical with charismatic appeal. For a short time, Russian anarchist leader Mikhail Bakunin found Nechaev's fervor, energy, and revolutionary zeal appealing. More nihilist than anarchist, Nechaev's most influential work is his notorious pamphlet of 1869, the Catechism of a Revolutionary , a primer on political violence and assassination. The Catechism justifies every act, no matter how heinous, that might contribute to the realization of revolution. The pamphlet implores all revolutionaries to abandon established societal norms and devote themselves entirely to a cold passion for pitiless destruction. For Nechaev, the revolutionary must abandon sentiments, attachments, and associations marking their lives in mainstream society, allowing no other concern to surpass revolution in importance. For Nechaev, making the revolution was “the work of extermination,” suggesting that lists of candidates to be targeted be drawn up. The Catechism takes the time to detail some of the means by which such work might be undertaken, including poison, the knife, and the rope. The revolution “sanctifies everything alike” and ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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