Old and New Populisms
4. Populism: From the Origins to Post-modern Times
4.1. Russian Populism
Historical populism was not born in Western Europe but in nineteenth-century Russia, thanks to small groups of young students and intellectuals. The word itself takes its origin from the Russian narodničestvo which, in, derives from narod, people. From this the term narodnik, “populist” (Bongiovanni, 1996, p. 703).
With the ascent to the throne, during the middle of the nineteenth century, of Alexander II, rumours went around that the land would be distributed among the serfs who believed that they might become free farmers at last. In their thousands they flocked to the cities looking for confirmation of the news. Revolts and disorder followed because very few knew how to interpret the Tsar’s proclamations: illiteracy was rife. The serfs refused to work the land of the nobles. The strikes escalated into clear, violent refusal (Venturi, 1972, p. 25). The student movement, which provided populism with its first substantial support, came out in favour of the serfs. The students, taking advantage of this air of revolt coming from the country, claimed more open access to the universities, hitherto limited almost exclusively to those destined to become state officials. Everyone else, peasants, bourgeois, soldiers, merchants, were excluded (op. cit., p. 32). Moscow and Saint Petersburg were the main centres of the revolt. The government made some concessions but the upheavals and revolts spread to the countryside too with the support of the students’ avant-garde movements and a handful of professors.
You are not authenticated to view the full text of this chapter or article.
This site requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books or journals.
Do you have any questions? Contact us.Or login to access all content.