No. 605.
Mr. Foster to Mr. Evarts.

No. 51.]

Sir: An important state trial was commenced before the military tribunal of this city on the 6th instant, being the arraignment of sixteen persons for high treason. The offenses with which they are charged embrace all the important events of the past two years attributed to the socialistic revolutionary party, popularly known as the Nihilists, including the various attempts upon the life of the Emperor, the assassination of the governor of one of the provinces, the maintenance of the revolutionary organization, and the various overt acts connected with this organization.

The prisoners were severally arraigned, and in answer to the questions as to their age, occupation, and religious belief, it appears that none of them exceed thirty years of age and the majority are below twenty-five; [Page 994] three of them are women; eight are without any fixed occupation; ten are of the orthodox Russian church; four are atheists, or without religious connection, one is a Catholic, and one a Jew. The indictment which was read at the opening session was very long, and I have only thought it desirable to send you a brief abstract, which is herewith inclosed. The trial is likely to be of considerable duration, and to attract general attention.

I am, &c.,

[Inclosure in No. 51.]

Abstract of indictment

The prisoners were interrogated as to their names, ages, &c.

After calling the witnesses the indictment was read, of which the following is a résumé:

A long series of political crimes of an exceptional gravity, and the clandestine publication of an anti-governmental sheet entitled Zemlia i Volia (Land and Liberty), establish in an undeniable manner the existence in Russia of a criminal association seeking to overturn the established order. The members of this association, who ca]l themselves the Russian socialistic democratic party, and which possesses, as has been stated, its printed organ has since 1874 undertaken the active propagation of their doctrines among the people, acting either separately or in small groups, and not having as yet either regular organization or direct and intimate connection among themselves.

At the end of 1876 there was formed out of this revolutionary agitation a party designated by the name of the “party of the people,” having an organization and a programme of action better defined. Their predecessors confined themselves to the propagation of socialistic doctrines; the members of the new party sought to act directly upon the people, impelling them to the manifestation of their desires and requirements. The ultimate aim was the overthrow of the established order and its replacement by another order of things, upon the basis of the socialistic theories adapted, as they believed, to the requirements and real aspirations of the people. The party was divided into distinct groups, city and rural. The rural groups devoted themselves to propagandism among the people and to the study of their wants and their condition. The city groups were to furnish the pecuniary resources, to stir up the youth, to display a literary activity, to devote itself to passports, &c.

About the middle of the year 1878 there commenced to be formed within the body of this party a new group calling themselves “the terrorists,” and demanding violent, bloody measures for the propagation of their ideas. This group soon signalized itself by a series of the greatest crimes.

A division was thus occasioned, a new doctrine was affirmed, a doctrine which has nowhere been adopted in full by the other members of the socialistic revolutionary association. This divergence of views occasioned the idea of the organization of a congress. There were two congresses of this kind in the course of June, 1878. The first took place at Lipetsk (government of Tambow), and the members of the terrorist party attended there almost exclusively; the other was held at Veronej immediately after the first, and was composed of members of the “party of the people” properly so called.

It was at the congress of Lipetsk that the division was definitely established, and that the programme of the terrorists was elaborated simultaneously with the definite organization of their party.

The criminal activity of this fraction, the greater part of whose members were participants in the crimes anterior to the congress at Lipetsk, is manifest in the publication of a new clandestine sheet, entitled Narodnaia Volia (Will of the People), seized at the printing office clandestinely established at St. Petersburg, in Saperny street, and especially by a series of attempts upon the life of members of the government and the sacred person of His Majesty the Emperor.

These crimes, among which there exists an intimate connection, form the subject of the present indictment. The acts in question have relation to the following events:

Assassination of Prince Krapotkine, governor of Kharkow.
Attempt on the life of His Majesty the Emperor, the 2d of April, 1879.
Congress of the revolutionists at Lipetsk,
Attempt at the life of His Majesty the Emperor by means of amine placed under the railway in the environs of Alexandrovsk and Odessa.
Attempt of the same kind, in the vicinity of Moscow, the 19th of November, 1879.
Explosion in the Winter Palace the 5th of February, 1880.
Discovery of the clandestine printing office in Saperny street.
Armed resistance of the persons arrested at the time of that discovery.
Armed resistance following the assassination by the accused Presmiakow in June, 1880.
Furnishing pecuniary resources to the members of the socialistic revolutionary party.

Then follows a detailed statement of each one of the above ten specifications, with the arraignment of the respective prisoners.