because the woman's place is wherever the woman is...

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Vera Zasulich

Vera Zasulich went to prison for her politics in Russia in 1869. She was only twenty, but she was already reading radical literature, teaching factory workers to read, and hanging around with anarchists. Four years later, when she was released, she went straight to Kiev and joined a group of active insurgents there.

When General Fyodor Trepov, the governor of St. Petersburg, had a political prisoner flogged for refusing to remove his hat in respect, Zasulich plotted against and shot Trepov before anyone else had a chance. The colonel didn't die, but he was badly wounded and everybody knew who did it. Nevertheless, Zasulich was such an in-your-face woman (and her lawyer was so adept) that she was actually acquitted and released, turning her into a huge hero among Europe's radical underground.

Fleeing to Switzerland before she could be snatched up and retried, Zasulich spent her initial time there chain smoking and translating Karl Marx' work into Russian, which helped to spread Marx' ideas across her homeland and  resulted in other revolutionaries, including Vladimir Lenin, joining her. They collaborated to put out a Marxist newspaper that was eventually read all over Europe. Whether in prison, in hiding, or in exile, Zasulich remained committed to her organizing efforts and political views to the day of her death at seventy-years-old. In-your-face women remain who they are no matter where they are.

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