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Stepniak
[Sergius Mikhailovich Kravchinsky] (1852-1895).

Russian anarchist militant & author.

alt sp., Sergyei


"The ordinary man is an anarchist. He wants to do as he likes. He may want his neighbor to be governed, but he himself doesn't want to be governed. He is mortally afraid of government officials & policemen"

George Bernard Shaw, Address in New York, April 11, 1933.


Stepniak (or Stepnyak), 'Son of the Steppes', was the nom de guerre of Sergius Mikhailovich Kravchinsky. He was an artillery officer in the Czar's army, when he developed as a p olitical activist. Becoming obnoxious to the government, as a vocal apostle of freedom, he was arrested and subsequently kept under severe surveillance. He left Russia and settled in Geneva (1876), and later moved to London (1885). In absentia, he was accused of murdering General Mesentzieff, the director of the St. Petersburg police (1878). His writings include important and influential political works, especially, 'Underground Russia' and 'Russia Under the Czars'.

Russian 'Nihilism' was a philosophical, political, and social movement akin to that of the 'Anarchists'. It developed into a secret organization designed to overthrow all aspects of the established political and social order. This novel [The Career of a Nihilist] was more avidly read in the west than most of the many tracts, pamphlets, and monographs iss ued by the diverse advocates of change and revolution in Russia.


Sergei Kravchinski, known in 19th century London revolutionary circles as Stepniak, was the Russian who killed the chief of that country's secret police with a dagger in the streets of St Petersburg in 1878.

Stepniak had joined the rising against the Turks in Bosnia in 1876, and used that experience to write a manual on guerrilla warfare. He also joined the anarchist Errico Malatesta in his small rebellion in the Italian province of Benevento in 1877.

The Anarchists, James Joll, second edition, page 103


In April 1877, Cafiero, Malatesta , Ceccarelli, the Russian Stepniak and 30 other comrades began an insurrection in the province of Benevento. They took the village of Letino without a struggle where they were greeted with great enthusiasm. Arms and expropriated goods were distributed amongst the people, tax money was returned and official documents destroyed. Cafiero, in dialect, explained about anarchism, freedom, justice and the new society without the State, without masters, servants, soldiers and owners. His proclamations convinced even the parish priest who explained to his parishioners that the internationalists were 'the true apostles sent by the Lord'. The following day the village of Gallo was taken in a similar fashion. Unfortunately, as they were leaving Gallo the Internationalists were surprised and surrounded by government troops and all were arrested. Held in prison for over a year before being brought to trial all the accused were eventually acquitted in August 1878.

Giampiero Galzerano, modified, 1992

This excerpt from the Anarchy Now! page.

In December 1895 Stepniak was killed by a train.


See Sergius Stepniak on Nihilism and Narodnichestvo [Extracted from Sergius Stepniak, "Nihilism" in The Great Events by Famous Historians, vol. 19 (n.p.: The National Alumni, 1914), pp. 71-85]

Stepniak figures much in the lives of Wilfrid Michael Voynich & Ethel Lilian Voynich (Boole); see http://hum.amu.edu.pl/~rafalp/HERM/VMS/biografie-old.html

Johnson, Barry C., ed., Olive and Stepniak. The Bloomsbury Diary of Olive Garnett, 1893-1895 (London: Bartletts Press, 1993).

Stepniak, Sergei. (Sergei Mikhailovich Kravchinski) Andrey Kazshukhov, oder, der lebens-tsvek fun a nihilist. [Andrei Kazhuchov, or, The Life-Goal Of A Nihilist] Trans. A. Frumkin. Leeds: 'Yehi Or' ('Let there be light') Publishing Association, 1898. 189pp. [Prager p115; BL:012591.c.28.]

Stepniak, Sergei. (Sergei Mikhailovich Kravchinski) [The New Convert] (Yiddish title not given) Trans. Tuvye-Borekh Eyges. London: Arbayter Fraynd. [Prager p224]

Stepniak, Sergei. (Sergei Mikhailovich Kravchinski) Dos unter-irdishe Russland. [Underground Russia] Trans. A. Frumkin. London, 1896. 264pp. [Prager p663; BL:8183.w.14.]

Stepniak, Sergei. (Sergei Mikhailovich Kravchinski) Dos unter-erdishe Rusland. [Underground Russia] Trans. A. Frumkin. Nyu York: Max Mayzel, 1921. 253pp. [M4032/1292]



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