“Extraordinary escape of a young Nihilist girl…” (1879)

THE Moscow journals relate an extraordinary escape of a young Nihilist girl named Gobieslawska from the hands of the police. They had discovered the house in which she was concealed, and were about to make the arrest, when, to their surprise, they saw a balloon rising from the garden containing the object of their search and two men. The balloon rapidly disappeared.

Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper (September 13, 1879): 23.

Up in a Balloon.— A novel mode of escape was recently practiced by a Nihilist. A young woman named Olga Gobieslawska had been wanted for a long time by the police, when on July 25 the house at Moscow in which she had sought a refuge was discovered. The authorities determined to arrest on the following night ; but, unfortunately for them, some time in the afternoon they saw a balloon rising rapidly from the garden, which soon disappeared beyond the horizon. The balloon contained Mdlle Olga and two young men and all efforts to capture the fugitives have since proved fruitless.

Star (Canterbury) no. 3630 (November 28, 1879): 2.

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Tragedy In San Francisco (1893)

Tragedy In San Francisco.—A shocking accident is reported from San Francisco during the performance of a charade representing a Nihilist plot, which was being given at the residence of Mrs. M’Coy, whose son, Mr. Albert M’Coy, appeared in the role of a Russian officer. Miss Grace King, who took the part of a Nihilist girl, and had to assassinate the officer, had been suffering from a sprained ankle. She had used a crutch, which, however, she laid aside previous to the charade. At the moment she was making a dagger-thrust her ankle failed, and she fell against M’Coy, the weapon piercing his heart. The unfortunate young man died in a few moments. Miss King, who was completely prostrated by the tragic accident, was arrested, but released on bail tendered by M’Coy’s brothers. At the inquest the jury entirely exonerated Miss King, and returned a verdict of accidental death.

Australian Journal (June, 1893): 580.

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Plot of a Beautiful Nihilist (Sophie Gunsberg, 1891)



To Make Her Lovers Kill the Czar—Her Failure and Trial—The Official’s Side of a Story Hitherto Told Differently.

No authentic account has yet been given of the late political trial—or rather condemnation—of Russian Nihilists for high treason; for trial, in the English sense of the word, there was none. I have just had a long conversation with one of the dignitaries who played the part of judge, jury, and counsel for the crown during the brief ceremony which began by accusation, was continued by voluntary confession, and ended in condemnation to death.

The ringleader of the conspirators, and now the chief of the prisoners, is—as is frequently the casse in Russian politics—a woman; in this instance a woman of excellent education, of iron will, of ravishing beauty and of undaunted courage; a woman in many respects superior to the celebrated Sophia Perovskaya. This person, Sophia Gunsburg by name, narrated the eventful story of her checkered life to her unsympathetic judges; and narrated it in a most calm, unimpassioned, objective way, which the most impartial of historians might well envy. She was a Jewess by birth, she said and had been brought up in the pale of settlement, outside or which Jews are not allowed to wander at large. Her parents had given her the best education that was to be had under the unfavorable public and private conditions in which their lot was cast. Natural aptitude, and the oppression that stimulates which it does not crush, effected the rest, and in time Sophia Gunsburg became a sort of Jewish Hypatia of the pale. After having graduated in the ordinary establishments of intermediate education, Sophia left her birthplace, to which she refuses the name of Fatherland, and went abroad to breath the bracing air of freedom. In Geneva her vague inclinations and tendencies were gradually molded into a perfect system of cruel, cold blooded revenge, which has scarcely its parallel in history. It was in that historic town that she meditated and brooded over the wrongs inflicted by Russia until at last she hatched a plot.

The means she intended to employ in order to attain it were to the full as abominable as the end in view. She resolved to gather together a select band of your men, and, dazzling them by the almost irresistible charms of her beauty, to administer to each, unknown to the other, a solemn oath binding him to do her behests, and to assassinate the emperor on a day and in the manner fixed by her. She was determined that, if one failed, another should take his place, and still another after him, until at last the foul deed should be done. The emperor’s successor, too, unless struck out a new line of policy, was to be stamped out of existence in the same ruthless way. Sophia Gunsburg had no difficulty in attracting a sufficient number of love sick young Russians who were smitten by her beauty and grace, and made enthusiastic by her eloquence. She sacrificed without hesitation or regret all that a pure woman holds dearest in life in order to maintain her hold over these young Catilines. She was not, however, wholly a monster, nor was she exempt from all human weaknesses. She herself fell in love, eperdument in love, with an educated young Russian, whose paramour she became, but whom she never initiated into her political plots, so that he continued down to the moment of his arrest in complete ignorance of the part she was playing as regicide. One of the unsuccessful attempts on the Czar’s life, chronicled in the Daily Telegraph in the early part of last year, was the work of one of Sophia Gunsburg’s body guards, and had she not been arrested when she was the present year of grace would probably have been the last of the of Alexander III.

When the prisoner had finished the impressive discourse containing the history of her life and crime, which had been occasionally interrupted by the questions and rebukes of the presiding dignitaries, the president asked her whether she felt no compunction for the abominable deed she had resolved and attempted to execute, no remorse for the cynical way in which she had divested herself of all feminine modesty. Her reply was an emphatic negative, which rang through the hall like the peal of a musical bell tolling for the death of a youthful bride, and was quickly followed by the solemn sing-song of the Judge pronouncing the sentence of ignominious death. Her companions were condemned to various terms of hard labor in the mines—a sentence surpassing in severity the most painful kind of death—all except one, her lover, who because perfectly ignorant of her criminal plans was finally released after having languished in solitary confinement for a length of time sufficient to make him wish for a release into the life of this sublunary world, or into the next. The emperor, when informed of the death sentence, commuted it to for life. The emperor refused to allow Sophia Gunsburg to go to the mines of Siberia, her heinous crime deserving a punishment far more terrible; she is therefore to be kept in close solitary confinement for the remainder of her life in the dreary fortress of gloomy Schlusselburg, on a bleak island near Lake Ladoga, where many another Nihilist has been lashed into madness or crushed out of existence in a comparatively short space of time.—[London Telegraph.

Patriot (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania) no. (March 14, 1891): 3.

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A Horrible Story (Gesya Gelfman, 1881)


The story told by the dispatches about Hessy Helfmann, the Nihilist girl, is from Paris, and therefore to be received with strong suspicion, apart from the almost incredible character of the statement. Were it a story of any other country than Russia indeed it might be dismissed at once as a palpable fiction. Rut unhappily there are too many reasons for believing that in Russia police brutality is capable of being carried to great lengths, and that in a case like this, where the victim was a condemned regicide, there could be little temptation to refrain from indulgence in such brutality. If the frightful narrative is true, however, it will certainly have the effect of intensifying the hatred of the Nihilists, and sooner or later they will take their revenge. When a Government descends to the ineffable cruelty and baseness involved in the torture of a woman, and above all of a woman in such a condition, it is difficult to refrain from thinking that the administration of glass bombs in any department of that Government would be no more than just and reasonable. Let us hope however that the story is false, and that the new reign has not been soiled by so revolting a piece of cruelty.

“A Horrible Story,” Sacramento Daily Union, Volume 13, Number 80, 25 May 1881.

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Suspected Nihilists (Olga Ivanovsky, 1890)

Suspected Nihilists.

St. Petersburg, Dec. 9—The woman now on trial for connection with the nihilist conspiracies is a niece of Privy Councilor Illinsky, Director of the Holy Synod. Her name is Olga Ivanowsky. Several high ecclesiastical officials are Involved and startling developments are expected.

“Suspected Nihilists,” San Francisco Call 69 no. 10 (December 10, 1890): 1.

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Arrested as Nihilists (1891)

Arrested as Nihilists.

St. Petersburg, Oct. 8.—A profound sensation was created here to-day. A young woman from Moscow was arrested, charged with being a Nihilist. She confessed and admitted that she left a trunk at the home of the well-known composer, Glazounoff, in which was a revolutionary proclamation. The police immediately proceeded to the house of Glazounoff. He vehemently protested his innocence, declaring that he was utterly ignorant of the contents of the trunk. He was nevertheless compelled to deposit 15,000 rubles as bail.

“Arrested as Nihilists,” San Francisco Call 70 no. 131 (October 9, 1891): 1.

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A Female Nihilist (1902)



Young Russian Woman With an Infernal Machine in Handkerchief

LONDON. May 28. —A dispatch to the Central News from St. Petersburg, dated May 27, says: “Secret service agents arrested a young woman at Tsarkoeselo, the summer residence of the czar, yesterday, carrying an infernal machine concealed in a handkerchief. The identity of the woman has not been established.”

“A Female Nihilist,” Los Angeles Herald 29 no. 240 (May 29, 1902): 1.

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A Nihilist Crime (1897)

A Nihilist Crime

PARIS, Sept. 3—The body of a beautiful woman, naked and frightfully mutilated, with her skull smashed in, has been found in the river Seine. In the middle of the woman’s back were tattooed the words, “Long live Poland,” and “Death to traitors.” The remains are supposed to be those of a Nihilist who incurred the suspicion of fellow Nihilists.

“A Nihilist Crime,” Los Angeles Herald 26 no. 339 (September 4, 1897): 1.

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“Another beautiful nihilist…” (1887)

Persons and Personages.

Another beautiful nihilist has been transported by Russian tyranny to Siberia. This sweet creature’s banishment is mourned by a large and interesting family of sixteen husbands.

Omaha World-Herald 3 no. 63 (November 5, 1887): 4.

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A Young Nihilist Woman (Olga Gontcharenko, 1890)


She Kills a Government Officer and Then Commits Suicide.

New York, February 3d.— A letter to the Tribune from St. Petersburg gives the following details of the recent murder of Colonel Solotouchine, Chief of the Secret Police Department of Moscow:

Having received notification that a number of Nihilists were in the habit of holding meetings at the house of M. Audrieff, the Colonel determined to ascertain whether the information was correct. Accordingly, toward 8 o’clock in the evening, he concealed himself in the neighborhood and carefully scanned the faces of all who either entered or left M. Andrieff’s residence.

Several of them he recognized as individuals already under surveillance as dissatisfied characters, and at length he determined to arrest the next person who rang the door-bell. This proved to be a young woman.

He touched her on the arm and she instantly recognized him. Quick as lightning she drew from her pocket a small revolver and fired. The bullet entered his right eye, and, penetrating the brain, killed him on the spot. Then the murderess shot herself through the head. Her dead body was found lying across that of Colonel Solotouchine.

An examination of the papers found on the young girl proved that she was Olga Gontcharenko, 19 years of age, and the only daughter of the Director of the Government telegraphs at Moscow.

Within a couple of hours afterward M. Andrieff’s house was raided by the authorities, but no one was found there.

“A Young Nihilist Woman,” Sacramento Daily Union 62 no. 142 (February 4, 1890): 5.

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