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1911 Encyclopedia Britannica

Sergius Stepniak

SERGIUS STEPNIAK (1852-1895), Russian revolutionist, whose real name was Sergius Michaelovitch Kravchinski, was born in South Russia, of parents who belonged to a noble family. He received a liberal education, and, when he left school, became an officer in the artillery; but his sympathy with the peasants, among whom he had lived during his boyhood in the country, developed in him at first democratic and, later, revolutionary opinions. Together with a few other men of birth and education, he began secretly to sow the sentiments of democracy among the peasants. His teaching did not long remain a secret, and in 1874 he was arrested. He succeeded in making his escape - possibly he was permitted to escape on account of his youth - and immediately began a more vigorous campaign against autocracy. His sympathetic nature was influenced by indignation against the brutal methods adopted towards prisoners, especially political prisoners, and by the stern measures which the government of the tsar felt compelled to adopt in order to repress the revolutionary movement. His indignation carried him into accord for a time with those who advocated the terrorist policy. In consequence he exposed himself to danger by remaining in Russia, and in 1880 he was obliged to leave the country. He settled for a short time in Switzerland, then a favourite resort of revolutionary leaders, and after a few years came to London. He was already known in England by his book, Underground Russia, which had been published in London in 1882. He followed it up with a number of other works on the condition of the Russian peasantry, on Nihilism, and on the conditions of life in Russia. His mind gradually turned from belief in the efficacy of violent measures to the acceptance of constitutional methods; and in his last book, King Stork and King Log, he spoke with approval of the efforts of politicians on the Liberal side to effect, by argument and peaceful agitation, a change in the attitude of the Russian government towards various reforms. Stepniak constantly wrote and lectured, both in Great Britain and the United States, in support of his views, and his energy, added to the interest of his personality, won him many friends. He was chiefly identified with the Socialists in England and the Social Democratic parties on the Continent; but he was regarded by men of all opinions as an agitator whose motives had always been pure and disinterested. Stepniak was killed by a railway engine at a level crossing at Bedford Park, Chiswick, where he resided, on the 23rd of December 1895. He was cremated at Woking on the 28th of December. (H. H. F.)


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Bibliography Information
Chisholm, Hugh, General Editor. Entry for 'Sergius Stepniak'. 1911 Encyclopedia Britanica. http://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/bri/view.cgi?number=29453. 1910.

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