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The chapters on Bogrov and the assassination of Stolypin are preceded by a chapter in which Bogrov's motives are discussed in lively manner by two of Solzhenitsyn's fictional characters, the old revolutionaries "Aunt Adalia" and "Aunt Agnessa" in the presence of their niece, Xenia, a young woman much more attracted to the aesthetic movement that was sweeping through Russia at the time:

'"Of course it was historic: in its results, its consequences, the act of 14 September [assassination of Stolypin - PB] surpasses all other acts, it is the crowning achievement of Russian terrorism! There is nothing to equal it except the bomb of 13 March [assassination of Alexander II in 1881 - PB]. And as an act of retribution -"

'Aunt Adalia shook her head doubtfully.

'"You know, I somehow feel that Bogrov's deed owes nothing to us. The public is not so wholeheartedly enthusiastic about 14 September as about 13 March. The action on 13 March was carried out by our own hands, and People's Will took responsibility for it. Whereas that of 14 September was carried out by an ambiguous figure, an alien soul, a creature of the shadows. And nobody claimed responsibility for it, then or later."

'"And that is a disgrace to the revolutionary parties! Bogrov's action was a tremendous event! In three respects, you might say. It was carried out in a year when terrorism was supposed to have been crushed once and for all. It was organised by a single person. And the victim was the biggest and most dangerous bull in the reactionary herd."

'Aunt Adalia drew in her bony little elbows with a shiver.

'"You're wrong, I tell you. Honour is more important than all else! You have been arguing that a terrorist can be forgiven for many things, and I agree. But there is one sin for which no court of honour will ever forgive a revolutionary, and that is collaboration with the security services."

'"Only it wasn't collaboration! You have to distinguish between collaboration and involuntary contact in the course of an operation, between working for them and using them for the sake of the revolution."' (pp.438-9)

Solzhenitsyn complains that, perhaps not with quite the same enthusiasm as Xenia's aunts, this was the approach of almost the whole of the intelligentsia and liberal elite, starting with Bogrov's father:

'Neither the estimable Bogrov senior, nor the worthy corporation of lawyers whose sole vocation was to see justice done, nor yet a single one of the respectable newspapers, the "professorial" press included, could spare time from the extremely important question of whether Bogrov was an honest revolutionary to consider another one: did a bumptious twenty-four-year-old have the right to decide all by himself what was best for the people and shoot at the heart of the state, to kill not only the Prime Minister but his whole programme, to change the course of history for a country of a hundred and seventy million people.'

He continues

'But a louder sound than any of these rolled over Russia - the sound of prayer. Some people had gone straight from the theatre to the Monastery of St Michael for a service of intercession that very night. There were countless services in the churches of Kiev on 15 September. Prayers were offered continuously in the crowded cathedrals of St Sophia and St Vladimir and many of the congregation wept undisguisedly [...] A series of services was commissioned at the Cathedral of of our Lady of Kazan by the Octobrists (12), the nationalists, the State Council, the War Ministry, the Ministry of the Interior, the Ministry of Agriculture ...'

(12) Politicians who supported the Tsar's 1905 October Manifesto which allowed a certain element of democracy in the Russian system. Recognising this as insufficient they still supported it as a basis for further evolution.

But he concludes, as many the chapters in The Red Wheel do, with a folk saying:

'Pray as they would
It did him no good'

Solzhenitsyn revisits the Bogrov story in Two Centuries Together and is unrepentant:

'clearly in Kiev’s ideologically progressive Jewish circles, there would be no softening toward Stolypin for his attempts to remove anti-Jewish restrictions. Among the well-off, the scales were tipped by memory of his energetic suppression of the 1905 Revolution and displeasure over his efforts toward the "nationalization of Russian credit," i.e. open competition with private capital. Among groups of Kievan Jewry (and those of Petersburg, which the future killer also frequented), was active a field of ultra-radicalism, which led the young Bogrov to consider not only that he had the right but the obligation to kill Stolypin.

'So strong was this field that it enabled this to happen - the capitalist father Bogrov rises in society, he's a capitalist who does well in the existing system, while Bogrov the son commits to the destruction of that system. And the father, after the assassination, declares publicly that he is proud of him. 

'In fact Bogrov wasn’t so alone after all: he was quietly applauded by those in circles that had earlier declared unconditional loyalty to the regime.


'And what happened in "reactionary Kiev," populated by a great number of Jews? Among Kievan Jews in the very first hours after the murder, there arose a mass panic, and a movement to abandon the city began.' But 'There came to pass not the slightest attempt at a pogrom.' 


'The newly sworn-in prime minister Kokovtsov at once called Cossack regiments into the city (all these forces were on manoeuvres and far away) and sent all governors an energetic telegram: prevent pogroms by all means, including force. Units were deployed to an extent not done against the revolution.


'And not a pogrom took place in Russia, not one, not in the least. (Although we often read dense volumes how the Tsarist government dreamt only of arranging Jewish pogroms and was always seeking a way to do so.)

'Of course the prevention of disorder is a direct duty of the state, and in successfully carrying out this task, to expect praise would be inappropriate. But after such a shocking event and on such grounds - the murder of the prime minister! - the avoidance of pogroms, the threat of which had sown panic among Jews, could be noted, even if just in passing. But no - no one hears anything of the sort, no one mentions that.

'And what’s even difficult to believe - Kiev’s Jewish community did not issue a denunciation or an indirect expression of sorrow over the murder. Just the opposite - after Bogrov’s execution many Jewish students, male and female, brazenly dressed in mourning.

'Russians at the time noticed this. It has now been published that in December 1912 Vasily Rozanov (13) wrote: "After [the murder of] Stolypin, I’ve somehow broken with them [the Jews]: would a Russian ever have dared kill a Rothschild or any of their great men?"

(13) Vasily Vasilievich Rozanov (1856-1919) philosopher who championed what he believed to be a pre-Christian religion based on sexual feeling. Solzhenitsyn doesn't mention that soon after the assassination of Stolypin, in response to the Beilis trial when a Kievan Jew was accused of ritual murder, Rozanov wrote 'a book under the provocative title Olfactory and Tactile Attitude of Jews to Blood (1914). In this book he tried to prove that Beilis was able to murder the boy because he was driven by the power of ancient cells which had existed in Jewish bodies from the times of antiquity when humankind practiced human sacrifice.' (account of Rozanov at

'From the historical viewpoint there come two substantial thoughts on why it would be folly to write off Bogrov’s deed as the "action of internationalist forces." The first and central of these was that it wasn’t so. Not only Bogrov’s brother in his book, but also various neutral sources indicate that Bogrov really believed he was working to improve Jewry’s fortunes. The second thought: to take up what is inconvenient in history, to think it over and to regret it is responsible, while to disavow a matter and wash one’s hands of it is shallow.

'However, that's what happened almost from the start. In October of 1911, the Octobrist faction requested an inquiry on the murky circumstances of Stolypin’s murder. And at that moment parliamentary deputy Nisselovich protested: why did the Octobrists not conceal in their request that Bogrov was a Jew?! That, he said, was anti-Semitism!

'I too have had experience of this incomparable argument. 70 years later I was the object of a most severe accusation on the part of the American Jewish community: why did I not conceal, why did I say that Stolypin’s killer was a Jew? It does not matter that I described him as fully as I could. And it wasn’t important what his Jewish identity meant in his motives. No, non-concealment on my part - this was anti-Semitism!!


'But how can one complain about Jewish memory when Russian history itself has permitted this assassination to be wiped clear of its memory? It has remained some insignificant, collateral blemish. It was only in the 1980s that I began to raise it from oblivion, and for 70 years it was unacceptable to remember that murder.' (14)

(14) Alexandre Soljénitsyne: Deux siècles ensemble, t.1, pp.484-488. There is an English translation of this passage at I have made some alterations on the basis of the French translation.