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From the Experience of the Intelligence Services of the Russian Empire in Combating Terrorists Dmitry M. Aleksenko * Commonwealth of Independent States Antiterrorist Center The Latin word terror, meaning fear or horror, was known to residents of the Russian Empire as far back as the first half of the nineteenth century. But words arising from this root, such as terrorism and terrorists, have been applied differently in Russia in different historical eras. In encyclopedias, dictionaries, and criminal codes, definitions of terrorism have appeared and continue to appear, varying in accordance with the demands of the time and in relation to which infringements of societal values evoke "fear" or "horror" in the majority of citizens. At first, these concepts included only the "sacred person of the sovereign emperor" and members of the imperial family. Later, they encompassed the concept of power (imperial, Soviet, state), and fi- nally man, his rights and freedoms, which is recorded in the majority of the constitutions of members of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). Despite the fact the modern scholarship has not yet developed a universal internationally accepted definition of terrorism, the essence of such occurrences remains practically unchanged even after such a long period. In the Commonwealth of Independent States, law enforcement agencies make almost no use of the experience that the intelligence services of the Rus- sian Empire amassed in their struggle against terrorism up to 1917. The scale of terrorism in those times was enormous. It bears recalling that during the prorevolutionary period in Russia, terrorists killed or wounded about 4500 government employees of various ranks. As for private citizens, terrorists killed 2180 and wounded 2530. * Translated from the Russian by Kelly Robbins. 69
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70 HIGH-IMPACT TERRORISM Today, there may be a certain value in the almost forgotten experience of the intelligence services of the Russian Empire in the struggle against the so-called bombers from among the ranks of the Socialist-Revolutionaries and anarchists. The Socialist-Revolutionary Party began in late 1901, when various "neopopulist" groups both within Russia and outside its borders joined together in a unified organization. It was the only party that officially included terrorist tactics in its program and itself became the embodiment of terror.) The member- ship of the Socialist-Revolutionary (SR) Party varied at different times, but dur- ing the revolutionary uprising of 1917, it counted up to 700,000 members.2 Adhering to the opinion common at that time in radical circles regarding the need for professionalism in revolutionary and military activities, the Central Committee of the SR Party in late 1901 organized a special detachment for carrying out terrorist acts. It was known as the Combat Organization. This was a conspiratorial organization created on the basis of strong convictions, in which its members' loyalty to each other was valued more highly than their devotion to the party. In the first terrorist acts carried out by members of the Combat Organization (the murder of Internal Affairs Minister Sipyagin on April 22, 1902, by Kiev University student S.V. Balmashev; the attempt on the life of Chief Procurator of the Holy Synod K.P. Pobedonostsev at Sipyagin's funeral; the attempt on the life of Kharkov Governor-General I.M. Obolensky on July 29, 1902; and others), the militants used firearms and targeted those specific Russian imperial officials whom the party's Central Committee felt were guilty of crimes against the people. This raised the authority of the SRs in revolutionary circles and created in the eyes of the common people an image of the "SR hero-terrorist, sacrificing his life in the struggle for the people's happiness." The word "terrorist" took on a positive aspect. Hundreds of young revolutionaries in Russia dreamed of becoming terror- ists and joining the Combat Organization of the Socialist-Revolutionaries. In their newspapers, brochures, and proclamations, SR theoreticians argued that the "crowd" was powerless against the autocracy. Against the "crowd," the autocracy could use the police and gendarmes, but against individual "uncatch- able" terrorists, there was no force that could help.3 Terrorism in those years was for many simple and understandable, a most rational and even humane method, and terrorist revolution was more democratic and even humane. Indeed, if the choice were between thousands of victims of mass revolution, or a precisely inflicted strike on those individuals specifically responsible for the people's sufferings .... At that time, the tsarist authorities focused serious attention on matters re- garding the protection of gunpowder and other explosives produced in Russia, which practically ruled out the possibility of their theft from military facilities, plants, and laboratories. Therefore, foreign countries were the primary source from which terrorists could obtain explosives. But getting explosives across the border was extremely difficult, so terrorists began manufacturing the substances
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TERRORISM AND THE LAW 71 themselves. The membership of the Combat Organization began to include spe- cialists in manufacturing dynamite bombs, such as Dora Brilliant, Aleksei Poko- tilov, Maksimilian Shveitser, and others. However, their poor knowledge of chemistry and particularly of the fine points of the processes of nitration and chemical stabilization of nitroglycerine and nitrocellulose, the basic components of dynamite, made it impossible for the terrorists to make high-quality explosive devices. Sometimes, this even led to the deaths of the terrorists themselves. Thus, on March 31, 1904, Aleksei Pokotilov was killed while making a bomb in the Northern Hotel in St. Petersburg. The same fate befell Maksimilian Shveitser on February 26, 1905, at the Bristol Hotel. In both cases, the destruc- tive force of the explosions was enormous: the rooms in which the bomb makers were located were destroyed, along with the adjoining rooms, and the bodies of the terrorists were blown to pieces.4 However, this did not stop the terrorists. In July 1904, they used a dynamite bomb in the assassination of Minister of Internal Affairs V. Plehve. This terrorist act was planned under the direct leadership of Azef who headed the Combat Organization after the arrest of Gershuni. Because of his policies, Plehve was universally hated by the revolutionar- ies, who scornfully called him "Cain" in their circles. He was accused of harsh- ly suppressing peasant uprisings in Poltava and Kharkov provinces, imposing strict programs of Russification, and organizing pogroms against the Jews. On June 15, 1904, when Plehve was heading off for his latest audience with the Tsar, the militant Yegor Sazonov (known by the nickname "Avel"J threw a bomb into the minister's carriage. Plehve and his driver were literally blown to pieces. Seven other people were injured in the blast, including guards, random passersby, and the terrorist himself 5 In order to justify this barbaric act, the SR Central Committee issued several appeals in connection with Plehve's murder: "To All Workers, " "July 15, " "To the Entire Russian People, " and "Eulogy for a Court Favorite. " In these documents, the SRs attempted to justify the terror and viewed the acts as capable of inspiring revolutionary activity even among the less active elements of society. The next "big" terrorist act of the Combat Organization was the murder of the Governor-General of Moscow, Grand Duke Sergei Aleksandrovich, the uncle of Nicholas II. The SRs decided to carry out this act as revenge against the governor for the so-called Khodyn disaster, at which 1389 people were killed and 1300 injured during the coronation of Nicholas II in 1896, and for the mass arrests, antisemitism, and persecution of the progressive press. The leaders of the SR Party's Central Committee understood that random casualties resulting from a terrorist act involving the use of explosive devices would reduce its political effect. However, the great destructive power of dynamite bombs guaranteed
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72 HIGH-IMPACT TERRORISM success and practically ruled out the possibility that the victims marked by the terrorists would receive only minor injuries. This therefore determined the se- lection of dynamite as the main weapon in the struggle for "democracy. " On February 2, 1905, the SR militant Ivan Kalyuev was standing in front of the Bolshoi Theater and already had his bomb in hand and his arm raised, ready to make the fatal throw into the Grand Duke's carriage. However, seeing that the Grand Duke was accompanied by his wife Elizabeth and children Mar- ia and Dmitry, he decided to postpone the terrorist act. Two days later, at the Spassky Gates, he threw the bomb into the window of the Grand Duke's car- riage, blowing up Sergei and seriously wounding the driver and Kalyuev him- self The terrorist was arrested, condemned, and on April 5, 1905, hung at the Schlusselberg Fortress. At his trial, Kalyuev spoke out with accusations against the government and declared that acts of terrorism "are history's judgment against you .... " Kalyuev's speech at the trial was widely distributed by the SRs for propaganda purposes.6 These two powerful explosions were in fact the last major successful acts by the Combat Organization of the Socialist-Revolutionary Party. They spurred the creation and activization of combat units in the Bialystok, Volyn, Dvinsk (Daugavpils), Vitebsk, Odessa, Gomel, Krasnoyarsk, Ufa, Nizhny Novgorod, Moscow, and Tbilisi committees of the Socialist-Revolutionary Party. These brigades became actively involved in the revolutionary uprisings that swept Rus- sia in 1905, and they used dynamite bombs fairly frequently. According to police data, they carried out more than 30 terrorist acts during this period.7 Besides the Socialist-Revolutionaries, the widespread practice of using ex- plosive devices was also observed among the anarchists, who advanced and put into practice the slogan "Death to the Bourgeoisie." The most famous instance in which this slogan was carried out occurred on December 17, 1905, in the city of Odessa, when anarchists threw bombs into the Libman Cafe, a place where, in their opinion, the bourgeoisie gathered. As a result, about a dozen people were killed, many were wounded, and the building itself suffered enormous damage. In 1905-1906, in the defense of workers' rights, anarchists made a practice of throwing bombs into streetcars and trains that were operating during strikes. They also blew up several merchant steamers and killed two captains whom the workers disliked.8 The use of explosive devices objectively led to the killings not only of those whom the revolutionaries had "condemned to death, " but also of guards, adju- tants, drivers, and random passersby, which was considered a grave sin even among the revolutionaries who believed in God. This gave the police both a moral and a religious basis for the recruitment and re-recruitment of God- fearing revolutionaries as secret agents. In the struggle against the terrorist bombers, the police and gendarmes used all the resources of the state and its fundamental institutions. Their most impor-
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TERRORISM AND THE LAW 73 tent basic method was infiltration and the recruitment of agents within revolu- tionary organizations. According to incomplete calculations, there were about 6500 agents, provocateurs, and other political investigations specialists operat- ing in various political parties and organizations in the Russian Empire at the start of the twentieth century. The difficult situation in which the intelligence services of the time found themselves was occasioned by the fact that the imperi- al ruling circles were not always able to define their political goals or the means of achieving them, even under the intensifying crisis conditions. Therefore, the police and gendarmes often set priorities themselves, at times even at the risk of the lives of high-ranking government officials and members of the imperial fam- ily. Matters concerning the security of the secret agents were of top priority, and maintaining the strong positions of agents within the terrorist organizations of the Socialist-Revolutionaries was considered more important than preventing assassinations, even against officials of the government.9 One example of this was the case of the agent Evno Azef who operated in revolutionary circles for about 15 years. From 1893 on, he was an agent of the police department. As a student in a German polytechnic school, he took the initiative of offering his services to the police department at the rate of 50 rubles per month, after which he attached himself to a foreign group calling itself the Union of Russian Socialist-Revolutionaries. He knew about the major- ity of terrorist acts being planned by the Sits, but he did not always report to his bosses about them. Nevertheless, the police paid him well for his services. In 1905, Azef's base salary from the police department totaled 600 rubles per month, and with "travel per diem" and "bonuses" the total exceeded 1000 rubles, which at that time was even higher than the salary of the governor. As a "professional" revolutionary, Azef received 120 rubles per month from the Socialist-Revolutionary Party. In this sense he could in all honesty be called a "professional agent" for the police, as he received almost ten times more per month from his job as an agent than from his "official source of income .... " After he was exposed as an agent in 1908, Azev J?ed to Germany, where he married a German woman and lived comfortably on the money he "earned" from the police and stole from the Combat Organization of the Socialist-Revo- lutionaries. He died there in Germany in 1918.1° Another method used in fighting the terrorists was the monitoring of the basic flow of information in the Russian Empire. The police department man- aged an efficiently operating system for inspecting the correspondence of for- eigners and Russian subjects suspected of harboring antigovernment sentiments. Inspection of correspondence was one component in the fight against terrorism. So-called black offices, in which police personnel inspected letters, operated in the post offices of St. Petersburg, Moscow, Warsaw, Kiev, Odessa, Kharkov, Vilnius, Tbilisi, Tobolsk, Tomsk, and Irkutsk. On average, the police opened up to 380,000 envelopes per year in their search for operational information on the activities of revolutionary terrorists. ~ ~
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74 HIGH-IMPACT TERRORISM Terrorist acts involving the use of explosive devices also spurred the tsarist authorities to apply radical legislative measures, which may be categorized as a third method in the fight against the terrorist bombers. On August 12, 1906, an attempt was made on the life of Council of Ministers Chairman and Minister of Internal Affairs P. Stolypin, in which 25 people were killed (including even the terrorists) and 32 injured (including Stolypin's 3-year- old son and 14-year-old daughter) by the explosion of dynamite bombs thrown by terrorists into the drawing room of the minister's dacha. In the wake of this inci- dent, the government took advantage of Article 87 in the Fundamental Laws, which permitted the issuance of urgent decrees in the absence of ratification by legislative organs (since the Second Duma had not yet been elected). Thus, on August 19, 1906, the government, with the tsar's approval, passed on an emergen- cy basis a law making civilians subject to trial by military field courts. According to this law, governors and military district commanders in areas under martial law or a state of emergency had the right to hold for military trial those individuals whose participation in such crimes as production, storage, or use of explosive devices, terrorist attacks and murders, armed attacks on govern- ment officials, or other acts of resistance was so obvious that it did not require detailed investigation. Each such militaryfield court consisted of five officer judges appointed by the local commander. Defendants had the right to call witnesses, but they did not have a right to legal assistance. Court sessions were held behind closed doors. Cases in such courts were heard within 24 hours from the time of arrest, sentences were handed down within 48 hours, there were no appeals, and sen- tences were carried out within 24 hours after verdicts were rendered. In the majority of cases, these courts issued sentences of either death or a long period of hard labor. In the eight months from the time this law was enacted until its validity was terminated in April 1907, over a thousand terrorists were shot or hung. Along with the military field courts, the regular military and civilian courts continued to function. Although their sentences were lighter, especially in cases involving women and minors, they too, at Stolypin's order, instituted harsher trial procedures. The intensity of the struggle against revolutionary terrorism may be judged from the following data: in 1908 and 1909 in Russia, 16,440 civilians and military personnel were convictedfor political crimes, including armed attacks, of whom 3682 were condemned to death and 4517 to hard labor.12 The scale of the revolutionary terror that gripped the Russian Empire in the early twentieth century may be judged by the following data from the Police Department. From 1902 to 1911, revolutionaries carried out 263 terrorist acts. The victims of these acts were 2 ministers, 33 governors, governors-general, or vice-gover- nors, 16 town governors, district division heads, police chiefs, public prosecu- tors, assistant prosecutors, or heads of police investigations divisions, 7 gener-
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TERRORISM AND THE LAW als or admirals, 15 colonels, 8 barristers, and 26 spies or provocateurs. Among the direct perpetrators of terrorist acts were 62 workers, 14 representatives of the intelligentsia, 9 peasants, and 18 high school or university students. 75 Placed in opposition to the terrorists by the police and gendarmes, this sys- tem of measures included both means of obtaining operational information and strengthening agents' positions in revolutionary circles (to break them down from the inside) as well as means for implementing legislative and judicial poli- cies and practices merciless to terronsts. By 1910, it allowed the tsanst govern- ment to seriously break the wave of revolutionary terror and explosions that had gripped Russia at the start of the twentieth century. The political results of the terror earned out by the Socialist-Revolutionanes turned out to be zero. The exposure of the agent Azev was an especially strong blow to the SR Party, after which it in fact broke apart into separate uncoordinat- ed groups. After this, some of the SRs took up mysticism, engaging in "God- seeking" or "God-building." In particular, this category included Azef's deputy in the Combat Organiza- tion of the Socialist-Revolutionary Party, B. Savinkov, who under the pseudonym V. Ropshin published a novel in Paris entitled Pale Horse. In the book, he heaps scorn on the revolution and depicts the terrorists themselves in an unfavorable light. B. Savinkov took the name of the book from the Apocalypse, in which the description of the Last Judgment mentions the appearance of a "pale horse" whose rider will be death . . 13 . . NOTES 1. Geifman, op. cit., p. 75. 2. Razakov, F. 1997. Century of Terror. Moscow, p. 10. 3. Gusev, K.V. 1992. Knights of Terror. Moscow, p. 19. 4. Gusev, K.V. 1995. The SR Party from Petit Bourgeois Revolutionarism to Counterrevolu- tion. Moscow, p. 59. 5. Geifman, op. cit., p. 192. 6. Kuras, L. 1998. Stories from the History of the State Security Agencies of the Republic of Buryatia. Ulan-Ude-Irkutsk, p. 19. 7. Aldanov, M.A. 1991. Collected Works. Moscow, Vol. 6, pp. 449-486. 8. Bolsheviks. Documents from the History of Bolshevism from 1903 to 1916 from the Former Moscow Police Department. 1990. Moscow, p. 8. 9. Geifman, op. cit., p. 317. 10. Gusev, K. V. 1995. The SR Party from Petit Bourgeois Revolutionarism to Counterrevolu- tion. Moscow, p. 75. 11. Bolsheviks. Documents from the History of Bolshevism from 1903 to 1916 from the Former Moscow Police Department. 1990. Moscow, p. 8. 12. Geifman, op. cit., p. 317. 13. Gusev, K.V. 1995. The SR Party from Petit Bourgeois Revolutionarism to Counterrevolu- tion. Moscow, p. 75.
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