The Decembrist movement, named after the month of the failed revolution, was a movement championed by military men of higher standing from educated backgrounds. The leaders of the movement were officers who couched their positions in the military amidst assumed political responsibility derived from positions in secret societies. The “Northern Society,” responsible for the formation in the Senate Square in St. Petersburg, kept the rank and file men supporting them unaware of the purpose for their insurrection. The “Southern Society,” in Ukraine, was much more inclusive, ideologically speaking, allowing the soldiers at the bottom to understand their goals in rebellion.
The Decembrists sought general improvements of government administration and the betterment of the lives of commoners, but lacked specific plans to achieve these goals. The Decembrists intended to lessen the burden of serfdom on the lowest levels of society, but failed to actually craft plans to that end. The movement featured a belief in the responsibility of the soldiers to serve the state as an entity separate to the ruler, marking the first time in Russian history a major political group marked a difference between the two.
For all its lofty ideals, the movement ultimately saw only failure. The defiance in St. Petersburg was hindered by confusion and failure to receive support from additional units, while uprisings in Southern Russia met only slaughter at the hands of loyalist units. Given the confusion surrounding the whole affair, it is understandable that so little success was borne out by the revolutionaries, who were largely isolated, both physically and in terms of the information available to them.