Origins of Socialist terroism in Russia. Organized multiple assassinations of government officials.

Mark Natanson was born in 1850 in Švenčionys, Lithuania to a Lithuanian Jewish family.He graduated from the Kaunas men’s grammar school in 1868, studied in St Petersburg at the Medical and Surgical Academy (1868–71) and then at the Institute of Agriculture (1871). During this time, he became involved in radical student 1878 was called “Land and Liberty.” In December 1876, together with Georgi Plekhanov, he organized a demonstration in Kazan square. In 1877, he was once again arrested and, after serving his term in the Peter and Paul Fortress, he was exiled to Eastern Siberia. Upon returning from exile in 1889, he settled in Saratov, where he got a job on the local railway.

After ‘Land and Liberty’ split, he once again began work on the unification of disparate revolutionary circles. He set himself the goal of uniting the populist, social democratic and liberal movements in the Russian liberation movement. In September 1893,  at the constituent congress in Saratovhe helped found a single party, ‘The People’s Will’ (Narodnaya Volya), was created. The organization’s headquarters were in Oryol and they ran a printing house in Smolensk, which printed the group’s manifesto and revolutionary brochures.Narodnaya Volya also endorsed political terrorism as a tactic and in 1881, they assassinated Tsar Alexander II.

Natanson was not directly involved in any terrorist act. In April 1894, Narodnaya Volya was liquidated by the police administrator Sergei Zubatov, and its leaders were arrested. In 1904 he emigrated to Switzerland, where he met none other then  Vladimir Lenin. After In 1902, the followers of the Narodniks united into the Party of Socialist Revolutionaries. After some hesitation, Nathanson joined the Socialist Revolutionaries and became one of their leaders. After the successful assassination of the Minister of the Interior Vyacheslav von Plehve, Natanson began to support the terrorist tactics of the Socialist Revolutionaries. During the 1905 Russian Revolution, Natanson moved in Finland.

At the first congress of the Socialist-Revolutionary Party in early 1906, he was elected a member of the Party Central Committee. After the revolution was put down, he returned to exile in Switzerland. After the February Revolution broke out, Natanson returned to Russia through German territory “in a sealed wagon” . He became one of the most prominent leaders of the left wing of the SRs, which became increasingly disenchanted with the Provisional Government and with Alexander Kerensky and sharply criticized the defensive position of the SR central committee. Natanson advocated the “deepening” of the revolution – the transfer of all land to peasants, and power to the Soviets. He founded the Party of Revolutionary Communism, which supported the Bolsheviks and eventually merged with the Communist Party of the USSR.In July 1919, Mark Natanson died in Switzerland from complications (thromboembolism and purulent pneumonia) after a surgical operation for a prostate tumor. He is buried in Bern.


1.The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition, Moscow, 1970–1979.

2.Figner, V. N. “M. A. Natanson.” Poln. sobr. soch. vol. 5. Moscow, 1932

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