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Narodnaya Volya (Russian: Наро́дная во́ля, IPA: [nɐˈrodnəjə ˈvolʲə], lit. 'People's Will') was a 19th-century revolutionary political organization in the Russian Empire which conducted assassinations of government officials in an attempt to overthrow the autocratic system and stop the Government reforms of Alexander II of Russia. The organization declared itself to be a populist movement that succeeded the Narodniks. Composed primarily of young revolutionary socialist intellectuals believing in the efficacy of terrorism, Narodnaya Volya emerged in Autumn 1879 from the split of an earlier revolutionary organization called Zemlya i Volya ("Land and Liberty").

Based upon an underground apparatus of local, semi-independent cells co-ordinated by a self-selecting Executive Committee, Narodnaya Volya continued to espouse acts of revolutionary violence in an attempt to spur mass revolt against Tsarism, culminating in the successful assassination of Tsar Alexander II in March 1881—the event for which the group is best remembered.

It favored the use of secret society-led terrorism as an attempt to violently destabilize the Russian Empire and provide a focus for popular discontent against it for an insurrection, justified "as a means of exerting pressure on the government for reform, as the spark that would ignite a vast peasant uprising, and as the inevitable response to the regime's use of violence against the revolutionaries". The group developed ideas—such as assassination of the "leaders of oppression"—that were to become the hallmark of subsequent violence by small non-state groups, and they were convinced that the developing technologies of the age—such as the invention of dynamite, of which they were the first anarchist group to have made widespread use—enabled them to strike directly and with discrimination.

Much of the organization's philosophy was inspired by Sergey Nechayev and "propaganda by the deed"-proponent Carlo Pisacane. The group served as inspiration and forerunner for other revolutionary socialist and anarchist organizations that followed, including in particular the Russian Socialist Revolutionary Party (PSR).

Mykolaj Kybalchych being executed with other revolutionaries

The Tsar had been formally sentenced to death by the Executive Committee of Narodnaya Volya on August 25, 1879, on the heels of the execution of former Zemlevolets Solomon Wittenberg, who had attempted to build a mine to sink a ship carrying the Tsar into Odessa harbor the previous year.[34] An initial plan called for the use of The Tsar had been formally sentenced to death by the Executive Committee of Narodnaya Volya on August 25, 1879, on the heels of the execution of former Zemlevolets Solomon Wittenberg, who had attempted to build a mine to sink a ship carrying the Tsar into Odessa harbor the previous year.[34] An initial plan called for the use of dynamite to destroy a train carrying the Tsar, which ended with an explosion that destroyed a freight car and led to a derailment.[35] A February 1880 attempt used a quantity of dynamite to attempt to blow up the Tsar in a palace dining room. The resulting explosion killed 11 guards and soldiers and wounded 56, but missed the Tsar, who was not in the dining hall as expected.[36]

A state of siege followed, during which the demoralized Tsar avoided public appearances amidst sensational rumors in the press of additional attacks in the offing.[37] One French diplomat likened the Tsar to a ghost—"pitiful, aged, played out, and choked by a fit of asthmatic coughing at every word".[38] In response to the security crisis the Tsar established a new Supreme Commission for the Maintenance of State Order and Public Peace, under the command of Mikhail Loris-Melikov, a hero of the Russo-Turkish War.[37] One French diplomat likened the Tsar to a ghost—"pitiful, aged, played out, and choked by a fit of asthmatic coughing at every word".[38] In response to the security crisis the Tsar established a new Supreme Commission for the Maintenance of State Order and Public Peace, under the command of Mikhail Loris-Melikov, a hero of the Russo-Turkish War.[39] Just over a week later, a Narodnovolets terrorist attempted to assassinate Loris-Melikov with a handgun, firing a shot but missing, only to be hanged two days later.[39] Repression was ratcheted upwards, with two Narodnaya Volya activists executed in Kiev the following month for the crime of distributing revolutionary leaflets.[39]

After the assassination of Alexander II, Narodnaya Volya went through a period of ideological and organizational crisis. The most significant attempts at reviving Narodnaya Volya are associated with the names of Gherman Lopatin (1884), Pyotr Yakubovich (1883–1884), Boris Orzhikh, Vladimir Bogoraz, Lev Sternberg (1885), and Sofia Ginsburg (1889). Organizations similar to Narodnaya Volya in the 1890s (in St. Petersburg and abroad) largely abandoned the revolutionary ideas of Narodnaya Volya.

Narodnaya Volya's activity became one of the most important elements of the revolutionary situation in late 1879–1880. However, ineffective tactics of political conspir

Narodnaya Volya's activity became one of the most important elements of the revolutionary situation in late 1879–1880. However, ineffective tactics of political conspiracy and preference for terrorism over other means of struggle failed. At the turn of the century, however, as increasing numbers of former members of Narodnaya Volya were released from prison and exile, these veteran revolutionaries helped to form the Socialist Revolutionary Party, which revived many of the goals and methods of the former narodniki, including peasant revolution and terror.

Vladimir Lenin's elder brother, Alexander Ulyanov, was a later member of a subsequent incarnation of Narodnaya Volya, and led a cell that plotted to assassinate Tsar Alexander III.