The Defiant Life of Vera Figner

The Defiant Life of Vera Figner

Surviving the Russian Revolution
Lynne Ann Hartnett
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 06/06/2014
Format: Hardback 6 b&w illus.
ISBN: 978-0-253-01284-5
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This engaging biography tells the dramatic story of a Russian noblewoman turned revolutionary terrorist. Born in 1852 in the last years of serfdom, Vera Figner came of age as Imperial Russian society was being rocked by the massive upheaval that culminated in the Bolshevik revolution of 1917. At first a champion of populist causes and women's higher education, Figner later became a leader of the terrorist party the People's Will and was an accomplice in the assassination of Tsar Alexander II in 1881. Drawing on extensive archival research and careful reading of Figner's copious memoirs, Lynne Ann Hartnett reveals how Figner survived the Bolshevik revolution and Stalin's Great Purges and died a lionized revolutionary legend as the Nazis bore down on Moscow in 1942.

Author Bio

Lynne Ann Hartnett is Assistant Professor of History and Director of Russian Area Studies at Villanova University.


“Hartnett made this hard-headed woman come to life, following her through the populist underground, into prison, and then out into the revolutionary era.”
 — Barbara Evans Clements, author of A History of Women in Russia: From Earliest Times to the Present

“Hartnett clearly depicts her subject’s gradual transformation from a severe ideologue into a revered martyr whose 'suffering became enshrined,' and the book revivifies a legendary socialist whose violent extremism evolved into humanitarianism on behalf of political prisoners and exiles sentenced to hard labor.”
 — Publishers Weekly

“Hartnett is an able storyteller, and the chapters portraying Figner’s involvement in the People’s Will, her prolonged ordeal in Schlisselburg, and her harrowing experiences during the 1917 revolution and Civil War make riveting reading. Scholars will benefit from this more expansive and thorough treatment of Figner’s astonishing career in Soviet Russia, when her youthful defiance had mellowed to carefully calibrated accommodation with and resistance to a regime that was in part her legacy.”
 — The Soviet and Post-Soviet Review

“Although Figner was a famous and politically active figure throughout her life, historians have overlooked her part in the events of 1917 and after. Hartnett’s biography is an excellent and comprehensive effort to correct this situation, but there is always the danger that once one book has been written about a prominent woman, no further works are published. . . . The greatest achievement of Hartnett’s impressive work would be that it encourages further study of a woman who did not simply survive the Revolution, but lived it. ”
 — Slavonic & East European Review

“This interesting and well-written biography . . . should be recommended for courses on nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Russian history. It is a valuable addition to what remains quite a limited selection of accessible English-language monographs on the nineteenth-century revolutionary movement in Russia.”
 — Slavic Review

“The Defiant Life of Vera Figner is a valuable contribution to our understanding of an important Russian political figure and of broader political developments.”
 — Journal of Modern History

“The dramatic story of a Russian noblewoman turned revolutionary terrorist who died a lionized legend as the Nazis bore down on Moscow in 1942. A unique exploration of terrorism from a woman's perspective.”

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Table of Contents

Table of Contents

1. In the Twilight of a Fading Age

2. Age of Consciousness

3. Pioneers Diverted

4. Town and Country

5. The Tsar’s Death Sentence

6. Revolutionary Iconography

7. Transformation

8. Life and Death

9. Resurrection in Exile

10. An Old Revolutionary in a New Revolution

11. Revolutionary Survivor

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