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Among Russian Sects and Revolutionists

The Extraordinary Life of Prince D. A. Khilkov

Graham Camfield

In his lifetime Prince Dmitrii Aleksandrovich Khilkov (1857–1914) became known in a number of seemingly contradictory roles and contexts: courageous officer, Tolstoyan, defender of the oppressed, leader of the Dukhobor exodus, revolutionary terrorist and returning Orthodox prodigal. Born into one of Russia’s ancient aristocratic families, with close links to the court, he chose an unexpected path that led him deep into the Russian countryside and brought him to the very edge of the Empire. Renouncing a brilliant military career, he gave up almost all his land to the peasants and settled on a small farm at Pavlovki, Khar’kov province. There, his support for peasants at variance with local landowners and the Church brought him into conflict with authority, both civil and ecclesiastical, and led to his exile, firstly among religious dissidents in Transcaucasia and later among political émigrés in Switzerland.
Using a wide range of often obscure published sources, this book explores Khilkov’s extraordinary life through his autobiographical notes and the accounts of many who knew him, among them Lev Tolstoi and his disciples, the Marxist Vladimir Bonch-Bruevich, fellow members of the Socialist Revolutionary Party and the Orthodox clergy who guided him back to the Church.


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Chapter 13: Khilkov the Revolutionary


chapter 13 Khilkov the Revolutionary Dmitrii Khilkov had entered the Socialist Revolutionary Party in 1903 under the influence of L. E. Shishko, a veteran populist and one of the founders of the Agrarian Socialist League, and whose home in Geneva func- tioned as the headquarters of the party. In the summer of 1903 the Central Committee of the Party called a meeting in Geneva of the Zagranichnaia organizatsiia, an association of émigrés sympathetic to the social revolution- ary cause, to establish a firm basis and clear direction for their support of the revolutionary movement in Russia. The outcome of the meeting was the issuing of a charter and election of a Committee (Zagranichnyi komitet) to organise the work. Within a year Dmitrii Khilkov was a member of this Committee, along with the Chernovs, Mikhail Gots, Leonid Shishko, and other leading names, also serving on a sub-committee for revolution- ary literature with N. Chaikovskii and Gots.1 Through 1904 we see him involved in a range of conspiratorial activities including the provision of false passports (preferably British) and dispatch of revolutionaries into Russia, as well as practical training in the art of using a revolver.2 One of his pupils, it appears was Zinaida Konopliannikova, who was hanged in December 1906 for shooting and killing General Min, who had suppressed the Moscow uprising the previous year.3 1 R. H. Eiter, Organizational Growth and Revolutionary Tactics: Unity and Discord in the Socialist Revolutionary Party, 1901–1907, unpublished PhD thesis, University of Pittsburgh, 1978,...

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