Decembrists’ “Desperation rather than Determination”

David Saunders refers to the Decembrists on December 12th, 1825 as radiating “desperation rather than determination,” and comments on how although the Decembrists had ideas (that were not fully fleshed out and not all Decembrists agreed upon them across the board), they did not have the fortitude to succeed in establishing those ideas (Saunders 110). This feeling of desperation stems from the fact that the Decembrists felt the need for change and understood that Russia’s governmental structure needed to be altered, but it comes off of desperate because they were not unified. After the Moscow conference of 1821 and the League of Welfare split into a northern faction and southern faction, the movement struggled to have power. To topple a government, a movement needs the greatest amount of support and reliability on its members, but when members on December 12th were not wholeheartedly for revolution, instances like Baron Rozen stopping his troops on that bridge instead of encouraging them forward towards Senate Square, occur which illustrates how flimsy the Decembrists unification was. Even Saunders writes, “If the leaders had been resolute, their efforts might just have been crowned with success, for they managed to get 3,000 men on to Senate Square” (Saunders 110). The drop in members of potential Decembrists from 1820 to 1825 as the movement shifted towards radicalism shows how movements lose energy when there are schisms and the consideration of reality.

Would the Decembrists have been successful if they had assassinated the tsar instead of revolting during the unexpected time of interregnum?

How effective were the Decembrists in influencing Russia’s culture of revolution?

3 Replies to “Decembrists’ “Desperation rather than Determination””

  1. I believe that the Decemberists would have been closer to success had they assassinated Nicholas I. Although they were hoping to have Konstantin, Nicholas’ ideas were no where near what the Decemberists wanted. Assassinating Nicholas would have assured his replacement and given the Decemberists the opportunity to influence who took the throne next. Although, even had they assassinated Nicholas, they still had other faults that kept them from reaching their goal; overall organization and preparation, consensus on ideas.
    Lastly, in the last paragraph of Chapter 4: the Decemberist Movement of Russia in the Age of Reaction and Reform, the author says that the Decemberists mainly served as a blue print for their successors, I have to agree in that I dont believe they caused much immediate change to Russia but served as a great example for what to and not to do when trying to lead a revolution. However, had they been successful their immediate change would have continued Russias shift toward liberalism and a constitutional monarchy.

  2. I think the Decemberist would have been more successful with assassinating the tsar. However, as explained in the book, with Alexander dying, and the only way for them to successes in their idea and goal of assassinating the tsar was the continue and assassinate Nicholas (Saunders, 110). The problem with this was that the Decemberists only wanted to assassinate Alexander. Thus, the Decemberists would be unable to be truly successful in their cause of killing the tsar.

    Regarding the effectiveness with the Decemberists influencing Russia’s culture of revolution, I believe they did help influence the ways of how to and how not to revolt. In my opinion, the reason the Decemberists influence was more so a learning point in history of revolutions. The reasoning behind this is that because the the group separated into two sections, it was difficult to get the proper man power to successfully complete their goal. Also, the other reason is that their goals and mindsets changed over the years and the master minds either left the organizations or changed the initial goal of the groups.

  3. Decembrists would have not succeeded if they had assassinated the Tsar instead of revolting. The Decembrist were heavily outnumbered despite having several military officers on their side. Even with the element of surprise, the Loyalist troops would have intervened with the rise of the Decembrists, and put a swift end to their reign. The throne was still powerful, and although the new idea of liberalism was spreading across Europe, Russia moved on with autocracy, orthodoxy, and nationality. It was new and modern at the time of the revolt, which is why the support was low (especially when they had to go into hiding prior to the revolt).The assassination could have brought negative consequences, such as a stricter policy to ensure control over the people or even a long civil war. Although the Decembrists idea was needed, it did not have enough momentum nor support to formally execute. This revolt however did have a lasting impact, since the same idea was seen again throughout later revolts.

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