Terrorism or Revolution?

The 1905 Russian Revolution was either a fight for the freedom of the workers and peasants, if you were a member of either of those classes or a member of the intelligentsia, or a terroristic uprising bent on destroying the great Russian Empire, if you were a member of the ruling class.  This is not a situation unique to the 1905 Russian Revolution, throughout history self-styled freedom fighters have been considered terrorists by the governments they are bent on overthrowing.

On August 27, 1906 revolutionaries in St. Petersburg executed a series of attacks against government and military officials.  Gen. Min, a notorious commander who was well-known for his brutal tactics against the revolutionaries, and Premier Stolypin, the Premier of the Russian Empire, were attacked.  The Premier managed to escape harm but the General was killed (New York Times).

These types tactics were common for the revolutionaries of 1905 and still are for today’s terrorists.  These types of tactics are what make the question of whether people fighting in a revolution are terrorists or freedom fighters.  This argument is fought today in news and social media and this has brought a new dynamic to revolutions.  Personally I think this argument is an extremely important one to try to understand, but in the end some people will be completely stubborn in their views.  For example, the Palestinians are bad and the Israelis are good, or vice versa.  These are fights which shape our world and shaped early 20th century Russia.  In order to study Revolutionary Russia we do not have to pick a side, but we need to understand the different feelings of each side.


Further Reading

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13 Responses to Terrorism or Revolution?

  1. Abigail Carlson says:

    This post was short but brought up a great point. Are terrorists really terrorists? It always depends on the point of view and it shows how in most terrorist labels, it’s labeled by the government or the state and not by society. I like that you brought it to a modern perspective especially with the increased interest in the Global War on Terror.

  2. LeeCole says:

    I think your main point, whether people are viewed as terrorists or freedom fighters, is truly a large topic in today’s time. Like you said there are people who see it from both sides, meaning it is determined by your point of view. In Russia’s instance, the revolutionaries attempting to get a better life for themselves may have been viewed as terrorists by the Russian leadership, but certainly wouldn’t have viewed themselves as such. This post was well written and got the point across right away!

  3. Iain Alexandridis says:

    I agree with the past comments that this post brought up an interesting point, especially because these tactics for change are still used today. A large difference between the acts of terrorism mentioned in your blog post and the acts we often associated with terrorism are that these were targeted attacks against military and government officials, instead of attacks against innocent citizens. It would be interesting to discuss if the revolution would have seen the same success had the terrorism side of it never existed and instead it was only the workers party trying to call for governmental reforms.

  4. Wow, phenomenal point/ debate you bring up here. It is amazing how we characterize the violence of certain groups as terroristic and others as revolutionary, when at the same time their motivations can often be alike. While there isn’t a universal definition of terrorism, most agree it’s the use of violence to instill fear to achieve political goals. Personally, I’m not sure I would characterize the protesters of Bloody Sunday as terrorists. As other posters have mentioned, they were peaceful prior to government forces firing upon them. Furthermore, I think they confronted the government more directly when demanding their desires as opposed to initiating blantant acts of terror. But this is a really interesting debate that could really be argued either way.

  5. Patrick says:

    Very good point. The issue of seeing the “other” as the enemy, or in this case terrorists, has been a recurring situation throughout history. Depending on what point of view you’re analyzing the fight from, your ideas and justifications will be biased. It is important to research the facts about both sides, and understand both sides to make an educated conclusion about the fight.

  6. therussianpost says:

    I completely agree with your views and opinions on how we need to be more understanding and observant of different persons and situations. These are huge battles that shape our world and until we can understand that then we will never win

  7. Phillip Pullen says:

    I would also agree that defining revolutionaries in terms of “terrorists” is very difficult to do, or easy to do depending on how you look at it. This is certainly an issue that has arisen lately and is a very important conversation to have in the modern era. I think you can make two different arguments that the revolutionaries were “terrorists” or that the state was a “terrorist” in this sense. Again, it largely depends on whose side you are on and from what angle you are viewing the revolution. Regardless, we must all be wary of throwing around the word “terrorism” in instances such as this.

  8. A. Nelson says:

    Nick – Somehow I missed this when you posted, but I’m glad I saw it now. What an important topic. The question you pose is serious and one that we need to keep in mind. Thanks so much for this! Quick aside: The NYT article you cite about the assassination attempt is really interesting – so much good detail there. “gen min” means “General Minister” (as in government official).

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  13. Opeke,Chinedu Galaxy says:

    This post is indeed an interesting one. To distinguish the two concepts”Terrorism and Revolution” is a difficult task. Reason being that not all revolutions portend violence characteristic. Revolution comes when there is a reorganization of a societal structure bringing to fore a new one. For instance,French revolution of 1789 removed the monarch in place of the working class. The revolution was not without violence,infrastructures and lives were destroyed.

    On the other hand,terrorism is the use of violence to instigate fear into a given population for a political reason. It could be for reorganization of the social structure bringing in a new one. To this end,terror could be used by revolutionaries to achieve their goal.

    I am Opeke,Chinedu Galaxy. I am a student of Federal University Ndufu-Alike,Ikwo,Ebonyi State, Nigeria. I am working on an assignment: Countries revolutionaries used act of terrorism to achieve their goal. Please,help me!

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