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Vera Figner

Vera Nikolayevna Figner (Filippova) (Russian:

( ), July 7 [O.S. June
25] 1852 June 15, 1942) was a Russian revolutionary
and narodnik born in Kazan Governorate, Russian Empire.

tee of Narodnaya Volya (The Will of the People), conducting propaganda activities among intelligentsia, students and military in St.Petersburg, Kronstadt and southern parts of Russia. Figner took part in the creation of
the paramilitary wing of Narodnaya Volya and its activities. She participated in planning the assassination of
Alexander II in 1880 in Odessa and in 1881 in St. Petersburg.
After the successful assassination attempt on
1 Biography
the tsar on March 1, 1881, Figner conducted revolutionary activities in Odessa. Being the only member of the
Vera Figner was the oldest of six children of a well-to-do Executive Committee left in Russia, she tried to resurforester of noble German descent.[1] When she was eleven rect Narodnaya Volya starting in 1882, which had been
she was sent to the Rodionovsky Institute for Women in eliminated by the police.
Kazan for the following six years. When she returned
to her rural home she was inuenced by her liberal uncle,
and began to aspire to help the poor. She decided to study 1.1 Arrest and exile
medicine, which was not permitted for women in Russia
at the time, in Switzerland. Figners father forbade her As a result of the betrayal by Sergey Degayev, a pofrom going, so she married Alexei Filippov, saved money lice informer who had inltrated her circle, Figner was
and sold her dowry, and traveled to Zurich.[2]
arrested at Kharkov, on February 10, 1883 and a year
From 1872-1875, she was a student of Department of later sentenced to death, during the Trial of the FourMedicine at the University of Zurich. In 1873, Figner teen. The sentence, however, was commuted, through
joined the Fritsche circle, which was composed of thir- the intercession of Niko Nikoladze, to perpetual penal
teen young Russian radical women, some of whom would servitude in Siberia. She spent the 20 months bebecome important members of the All-Russian Social fore her trial in solitary connement at the Peter and
Revolutionary Organization. She had trouble reconcil- Paul Fortress and was then imprisoned for 20 years at
ing her new political view of herself as a parasitic mem- Schlsselburg. In 1904, Figner was sent into internal exile
ber of the gentry with her previous view of herself as a to the Arkhangelsk guberniya, then Kazan guberniya, and
good, innocent, person. A directive banning all Russian nally Nizhny Novgorod. In 1906 she was allowed to go
women students from remaining in Zurich was published abroad, where she organized a campaign for political prisin the Government Herald, accusing them of using their oners in Russia. She spoke in dierent European cities,
medical knowledge to perform abortions on themselves, collected money, published a brochure on Russian prisons
in 1873.[2] Most of the Fritsche decided to return to Rus- translated into many languages. From 1907-1909, Figner
sia and spread socialist propaganda among the Russian joined the Esers, but left the party after the Azef scandal.
peasantry, but Figner decided to remain in Switzerland to In 1915 she returned to Russia.
nish her studies. In 1875, Mark Natanson told her that
the Fritsche desperately needed her help in Russia. She
returned to Russia that year without getting her degree,
but found herself unable to help the circle and so got a
license as a paramedic and divorced her husband. A year
later became one of the separatist narodniks (Yuri Bogdanovich and others among them), who had been siding
with Zemlya i volya.

1.2 Post-revolution
After the October Revolution (she never accepted the
way it had happened), Figner published her book called
Memoirs of a Revolutionist (" "),
which is still considered one of the best examples of
the Russian memoir genre. The book made her famous worldwide and was translated into many languages. Figner was also a member of the Society of
the Former Political Prisoners and Exiles (o
). She
took active part in a magazine called Katorga and Exile (" "). Figner authored a number of
biographies of several narodniks and articles on history

Figner took part in the Kazan demonstration in St. Petersburg in 1876. From 1877-1879, working as a doctors assistant, she conducted revolutionary propaganda in
the villages around Samara and Saratov. In 1879, Figner
took part in the Voronezh Congress of Zemlya i volya
(Land and Liberty). After the split of Zemlya i volya in
1879, she became a member of the Executive Commit1

of the Russian revolutionary movement from the 1870s1880s.


[1] http://www.rusdeutsch-panorama.ru/jencik_statja.php?
[2] Five Sisters: Women Against the Tsar, eds. Barbara A.
Engel, Cliord N. Rosenthal, Routledge, 1975, reprinted
in 1992, ISBN 0-415-90715-2


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