Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.


Decembrists, or Dekabrists, the participators in the Russian revolutionary outbreak of December 14 (26), 1825. The movement, although suppressed after a bloody scene in St. Petersburg in a single day, was a turning point of modern Russian policy, A secret commission, presided over by the new Czar's younger brother Michael (to whose presence is credited the loyalty of the artillery), condemned five of the leaders - Pestel, the poet Rileyef, Muravief-Apostol, Bestiazhef-Riunen, and Kakhovski - to be hanged; many others were banished. An amnesty on the coronation of Alexander II. liberated some of these exiles, and the memoirs of Baron Rosen and several others have been published in Russian. Almost half the noble houses were implicated in the revolt; few were quite unsympathetic. It had also a markedly democratic character. Since the fall of Napoleon, Alexander, now a convert to the ideas of the Metternich school, had been more and more dominated by reactionaries like Araktscheyef, hated as founder of the military colonies, and orthodox fanatics like Photi. In 1822 freemasonry was suppressed (Colonel Batenkof, one of the Decembrists, had been president of the Siberian lodges), and all but the strictest of religious societies were treated similarly. The censorship and regulation of universities became severer. On the other hand, since the granting of a constitution to Poland (1815), and the long stay of the armies in the West, the desire for reform, constitutional government, and the abolition of serfdom had grown rapidly. The death of Alexander, the mysterious renunciation of Constantine (who had married a Polish Roman Catholic lady), and the succession of Nicolas, gave at last an opportunity for an open demonstration. But many distinguished liberals, like Prince A. A. Suvorof (then in the Guards), would not go to this length; and some, like Prince Wyasemski, more interested in literature and the arts than politics, even continued in office afterwards. The result meant the complete loss of the already limited political power of the noble and cultured class. The successful reactionaries made short work of the remnants of Russian liberalism. Literature and art became mere appendages to court life. The Arsamass, a coterie of poets and writers like Pushkin, Griboiedof, and the Turgeniefs, was suppressed; the power of secret police surveillance was re-established; the famous "Third Division" became the most vital branch of the Government; and all the circumstances arose out of which in the next generation "Nihilism" was born.