On Sunday, March 1, 1881, Alexander II, Autocrat of all the Russias, the Czar Emancipator of the serfs, was reported in high spirits. He had Just signed a decree on constitutional reforms, saying "I do not hide from myself the fact that it is the first step towards a constitutional. Moreover, on the previous day he had received word of the arrest or the redoutable terrorist, Zholyabov, the leader of a bold and fanatical group which had made several attempts on his life in preceeding months and had reduced the Emperor to the position of a prisoner in his own Empire. This was great news. With their leader gone, the rest of the terrorists would soon be rounded up. Furthermore, the constitutional reforms, although perhaps granting little in reality, would win the intelligentsia over to the Czarist cause and undercut sympathy for the rebels. The Emperor would be occurs in his realm. Count Veluyev, who had had an audience with him that morning, noted in his diary that he "hadn't seen the sovereign looking so well in a long time."

In this mood, with the fear of assassination lifted, the Emperor decided to go ahead with his plan to review his troops in Manège Square. At one o'clock he left the Palace in a two-seater sled, but, bowing before his wife's apprehensions, he agreed to change his planned route. After reviewing his Guards with obvious pleasure, he decide to pay a surprise visit on his cousin, the Grand Duchess Catherine. Emerging From the Duchess' palace, his party turned onto the quay. At about two-fifteen p.m., a thickset youth in a fur cap moved forward and threw an object between the horse's legs. There was a terrific explosion. Two men were mortally wounded, but the Czar was miraculously unhurt. Colonel Dvorzhitzky, the chief of police, urged the Emperor to return to the palace with him. But the sovereign wished to look at his assailant and examine the spot where the explosion had taken place. Five to six minutes passed. His curiosity satisfied, the Czar was about to return home when a man came toward him and made a sudden gesture. There was a second explosion. This time there was no miraculous escape.

March 1, 1881 is a pivotal date in the history of the Russian, and consequently of the worldwide revolutionary movement. It marks the end of the long duel between the handful of members of the radical intelligentsia who formed the terrorist wing of the Naroddnaya Volya or Peoples' Will party on the one hand, and the forces of the autocracy on the other. The March 1 victory of the Peoples' Will, if it may be so called, was a Pyrrhic one. The Czarist autocracy had been decapitated, but, in the absence of a mass uprising timed to coincide with the assassination, it was able to gather the forces of reaction under its banner and live on until 1917; whereas, on the revolutionary side, the Peoples' Will party was truly decapitated with the arrest and death of its outstanding leaders. Two months after the assassination, on April 3, 1881 at eight-forty a.m., four men and a woman -- members of the terrorist "Executive Committee" Or the Peoples' Will -- were hanged in Smenovsky Square. Their names were Rysakov, Milkhailov, Zhelyabov, Sofya Perovskaya, and N. I. Kibalchich. Kibalchich, the calm and genial chemist who had designed the group's infernal machines, was the first to be hanged. Kibalchich's young relative and co-conspirator, Leon Kibalchich, an officer of the guard, escaped detection and moved to the south where he continued the revolutionary work. When the police destroyed the southern revolutionary organization, Leon Kibalchich went into exile. His son, Victor Lvovitch Kibalchich born in Belgium on December 30, 1890, returned from this long exile to a revolutionary Russia in 1919 as "Victor Serge."

Victor Serge: The Making of a Novelist (1890-1928), by Richard Lawrence Greeman, Columbia University, Ph. D., 1968, Language and Literature, modern.