The Degaev Affair: Terror and Treason in Tsarist Russia

The Degaev Affair: Terror and Treason in Tsarist Russia

by Richard Pipes
     
 
Sergei Degaev (1857-1921), a leading political terrorist in tsarist Russia, disappeared after participating in the assassination of the chief of Russia's security organization in 1883. Those who later knew and admired the quietly learned mathematics professor Alexander Pell at the University of South Dakota never guessed this was actually Degaev, who had

Overview

Sergei Degaev (1857-1921), a leading political terrorist in tsarist Russia, disappeared after participating in the assassination of the chief of Russia's security organization in 1883. Those who later knew and admired the quietly learned mathematics professor Alexander Pell at the University of South Dakota never guessed this was actually Degaev, who had triple-crossed friends and associates while entangled in the revolutionary movement of his homeland. This book is the first in any language to tell in extensive detail the extraordinary story of one of the world's most intriguing revolutionaries, his role in building and betraying the earliest political terrorist network, and his subsequent conventional academic career in America. Richard Pipes, a leading historian of the Russian Revolution, uses previously unexplored Russian archives to draw a brilliant psychological, political, and sociological portrait of Degaev. Pipes pursues his protagonist on a twisting journey that begins with Degaev's participation in the original Russian terrorist organization, the People's Will, and his rise in the group as others were arrested. Degaev himself was soon imprisoned, but by turning police informant and betraying those he knew in the revolutionary movement, he negotiated his own release. When later he confessed his duplicity, he avoided execution at the hands of revolutionaries by helping to murder the head of the tsar's secret police, Colonel Georgii Sudeikin, following which he escaped to the United States to begin a new life with a new identity. An intricate tale of changing loyalties, fateful collaborations, and a man whose double life can only be described as amazing, The Degaev Affair places the history and nature of political terrorism in Russia in an absorbing new perspective.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Pipes (history, emeritus, Harvard) has mined the available archives to paint a complex picture of a terrorist and police officer in a game of mutual self-advancement, beginning with his involvement in the People's Will, an early terrorist group that was responsible for the March 1881 assassination of Tsar Alexander II. Sergei Degaev (1857-1921) played his part by helping to dig the tunnel in which the assassins hid. The next year, while in prison, he turned police informant, revealing identities of group members; the resulting mass arrests of those members decimated the group. The following year, Degaev also betrayed his police handler, revealing the identities of other police informants to the remaining leadership of People's Will. Then, he assassinated the police handler. Degaev is mentioned briefly in works on 19th century Russian radical groups (e.g., Adam Bruno Ulam's In the Name of the People and Avraham Yarmolinksy's Road to Revolution), but this is the first full-length work on him. It focuses on his first 35 years, with brief mention of his quiet second career as a mathematics professor in the United States. Essential for collections on Russian history and terrorism.-Marcia L. Sprules, Council on Foreign Relations Lib., New York Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
From the Publisher

"An amazing story, part Dostoevsky, part Conrad. . . . Remarkable.”—Michael J. Ybarra, Wall Street Journal

“One of the most distinguished historians of Russia . . . [gives] us a real-life thriller that is also a cautionary tale rich with insight into depths of the human psyche.”—David Pryce-Jones, Commentary

“Absorbing, brilliantly researched. . . . [A] fascinating display of scholarly detective work.”—Raymond Carr, Spectator

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780300098488
Publisher:
Yale University Press
Publication date:
03/11/2003
Pages:
176
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.25(h) x (d)

Meet the Author

Richard Pipes is Baird Professor of History, Emeritus, Harvard University. He is the author or editor of twenty-six books, including The Unknown Lenin: From the Secret Archive and Vixi: Memoirs of a Non-Belonger, both published by Yale University Press.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >