Land and Liberty (Russia)

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Land and Liberty was a Russian clandestine revolutionary organization of Narodniki (middle- or upper-class revolutionaries attempting to spread socialism in rural areas) in the 1870s. In Russian, it is Земля и воля, transliterated Zemlya i volya or Zemlia i volia, and translated usually as Land and Liberty or Land and Freedom.

Land and Liberty received its name in the late 1878 with the creation of the printing shop with the same name. Its former names were Severnaya revolyutsionno-narodnicheskaya gruppa (Северная революционно-народническая группа, or The Northern Revolutionary Group of Narodniki) and Obschestvo narodnikov (Общество народников, or The Society of Narodniki).


The formation of Land and Liberty, in Saint Petersburg in 1876, was preceded by the analysis of the "call to the people" campaign (Хождение в народ, or Khozhdeniye v narod) of 1873-1875. As a result, the members of Land and Liberty defined the basics of the political platform, which would be called narodnicheskaya (народническая, or "close to the people", populist). They admitted a possibility of a special, non-capitalist way of development of Russia with peasantry as its basis. The members of Land and Liberty considered necessary to adapt the purposes and slogans of the movement to independent revolutionary aspirations that had already existed among the peasants, as they believed. These requirements, generalized in the slogan "Land and Liberty!", were designed to allow for the transition of all the lands "into the hands of the rural working strata", even distribution of the land, "full communal self-management" and division of the Russian empire into parts "in accordance with the desires of the locals". Land and Liberty stood for the creation of permanent "revolutionary settlements" in the countryside for the purpose of preparing a people’s revolution.

The members of Land and Liberty saw peasantry as the principal revolutionary force, as opposed to the working class, which would have to play a part of the "second fiddle". Proceeding from the inevitability of a "forced coup d'état", the revolutionaries considered agitation and organization of revolts, demonstrations and strikes to be very important. Land and Liberty represented a "rebellious" current of the revolutionary movement of the 1870s. Vladimir Lenin said that Land and Liberty’s merit was its desire to "...attract all of the discontent and direct the organization towards decisive struggle against autocracy". Discipline, mutual comradely control, centralism and conspiracy became this organization’s principles.


Land and Liberty’s most prominent members from the times of its inception were Mark Natanson, Alexander Mikhailov, Aleksei Oboleshev, Georgi Plekhanov, Aleksandr Kvyatkovsky, Dmitry Lizogub, Valerian Osinsky, Osip Aptekman, Nikolai Rusanov and others. Later, Sergey Kravchinsky, Dmitry Klements, Nikolai Morozov, Sophia Perovskaya, Lev Tikhomirov, Mikhail Frolenko (all of them - Chaikovtsi) would later join Land and Liberty The club of Vera Figner shared the views of and cooperated with Land and Liberty The organization had close ties with the revolutionaries in Kiev, Kharkov and Odessa.


The revolutionaries chose to "settle" in the provinces of Saratov, Nizhny Novgorod, Samara, Astrakhan, Tambov, Pskov, Voronezh, the Don region and others. They also attempted to spread their revolutionary activities in the Northern Caucasus and the Urals. Land and Liberty organized clandestine publishing and distribution of the revolutionary literature, conducted propaganda among workers and took part in several strikes in Petersburg in 1878-1879. It also influenced the development of the student movement by organizing or supporting demonstrations in Petersburg and other cities, including the so-called Kazan demonstration of 1876, where they would openly admit the organization’s existence for the first time.

The Program of Land and Liberty also envisioned a course of actions, aimed at "disorganization of the state", in its members opinion. In particular, it allowed for physical elimination of "the most harmful or prominent members of the government". The most famous terrorist act of Land and Liberty was the assassination of the Chief of the Gendarmes Nikolai Mezentsov in 1878. However, Land and Liberty didn’t yet consider terror a means of political struggle against the existing regime, perceiving it as revolutionary self-defense and their revenge towards the government.

Land and Liberty’s disappointment with the revolutionary activity in the countryside, intensification of the governmental repressions and political discontent during the Russo-Turkish War, 1877-78 and ripening of the revolutionary situation favored the conception and development of the new sentiments in the organization itself. By spring of 1879, the faction of political terrorists was formed in Land and Liberty

Disagreements between the supporters of the former strategy of inciting the countryside called derevenschiki, or "villagers" (Georgi Plekhanov, Mikhail Popov (ru), Osip Aptekman etc.) and defenders of transition towards political struggle by means of systematic terrorist methods called politicians (Aleksandr Mikhailov, Aleksandr Kvyatkovsky, Nikolai Morozov, Lev Tikhomirov etc.) led to the convocation of the Voronezh Congress of Land and Liberty in June 1879, where the two rival groups would reach a short-term compromise.

In August 1879, however, Land and Liberty broke up in two independent organizations: Narodnaya Volya and Chernyi Peredel.

See also[edit]


Avrahm Yarmolinsky, Road to Revolution: A Century of Russian Radicalism, 1956. Chapter 11: Land and Liberty