The Story of the Decembrists

Russia went through a number of rebellions in its past, but somehow the Decembrist Rebellion of 1825 had a different feel to it than some other rebellions. Maybe it was that the philosophy and nature of the rebellion was different from what one is often accustomed to.

I, for one, am accustomed to looking at peasant rebellions like the Pugachev Rebellion of 1773-1774, but the Decembrists were demographically the absolute opposite of the Pugachev Rebellion. The Decembrists, in other words, were actually a group of intellectual elites rebelling over the fact that the ideals of the French Revolution have not infiltrated into Russia.[1] Another demographic note about the Decembrists (and a striking one as well) was the fact that many of them were very young, so young that they were viewed as being child-like in a lot of ways.[2]

The best way to describe the Decembrists’ aims was this: they wanted the political system in Russia to change drastically. From their wanting to rid the government of certain elements of autocracy, to wanting to eliminate serfdom, the Decembrists clearly wanted to shake the Russian government up.[3]

These aims were not achieved by the Decembrists. Yet, in spite of their failures, Nicholas did not execute them all. To the contrary, many of the Decembrists were allowed to live on an talk freely about their experiences.[4] Raeff thinks that maybe the decision to allow the Decembrists to live on transformed the fate of their actions from an obscure part of Russian history to a really important part of Russian history.

[1] Marc Raeff, The Decembrists: 11

[2] Ibid., 25.

[3] Ibid., 9.

[4] Ibid., 27.


Raeff, Marc. The Decembrists.

1 thought on “The Story of the Decembrists

  1. I find the Decemberists very interesting and I appreciate how you highlighted their unique revolutionary nature when compared to past rebellions. I see the Decemberists as the perfect clash between the ideology and actions of Peter and Catherine. As you pointed out, these were educated and enlightened youths. The intellectual progress initiated by Peter and Catherine eventually caught up to the backward systems of serfdom and aristocracy that they had simultaneously entrenched. My question is whether or not there are any other countries besides for France and Russia where such revolution occurred – whether successful or not – during the same period?

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