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Ignacy Hryniewiecki

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Ignacy Hryniewiecki
I Grinevizky.jpg
Bornc. 1856
DiedMarch 13, 1881 (aged c. 25)
Court Stables Infirmary, St. Petersburg, Russian Empire
Other namesKotik
Mikhail Ivanovich

Ignacy Hryniewiecki or Ignaty Grinevitsky[i] (Russian: Игнатий Гриневицкий; c. 1856 — March 13, 1881) was a Polish member of the Russian conspirational revolutionary society Narodnaya Volya. He gained notoriety for participating in the bombing attack to which Tsar Alexander II of Russia succumbed. Hryniewiecki threw the bomb that fatally wounded the Tsar and himself. Having outlived his victim by a few hours, he died on the same day.

Hryniewiecki and his accomplices believed that the assassination of Alexander II could provoke a political or social revolution to overthrow the tsarist autocracy. Many historians consider the assassination as a Pyrrhic victory, since instead of ushering in a revolution, it strengthened the resolve of the state to crush the revolutionary movement, leading to its decline in the 1880s. Hryniewiecki's role in the assassination has sometimes been cited as the earliest occurrence of suicide terrorism.


Early life

Ignacy Hryniewiecki was born in 1855–6,[ii] in Bobruysky Uyezd of Minsk Governorate (present-day Klichaw District, Mogilev Region), to a large family which hailed from Grodno Governorate. He was the son of a Catholic landowner who was of the Polish gentry.[1][2] According to his former comrade Lev Tikhomirov, "He (scil. Hryniewiecki) called himself a Litvin, and not a Pole." Tikhomirov considered him a Russified Pole, and further added that he was equally fluent in Russian and Polish.[4] At one point when Hryniewiecki was reproached for not participating in the Polish movements, he replied: "When you start partisan fighting, I will be with you. But for the moment, when you do nothing, I shall work for Russia's freedom."[5][6]

In 1875, Hryniewiecki graduated from a gymnasium in Byelostok with the highest academic rank, and in autumn he left for Saint Petersburg to enroll in mechanical engineering at the Saint Petersburg State Institute of Technology.[7] In 1879 he became involved with Narodnaya Volya (People's Will), an underground Russian revolutionary movement to which he had contributed financial support.[8] He was dismissed from the institute on June 1, 1880 for not attending lectures. In that year, working under the pseudonyms Kotik (Russian for "Kitten") and Mikhail Ivanovich, Hryniewiecki was engaged in anti-Government activities and disseminated revolutionary propaganda among students and workers. He was also an organizer of the underground literature Rabochaya Gazeta at a clandestine printing establishment.[iii] According to contemporary descriptions, Hryniewiecki was of medium height, lightly bearded, possessed curly hair,[10] and was good-natured and taciturn.[3]

Assassination of the Tsar

In the fall of 1880, Hryniewiecki and five others were tasked with monitoring the various departure routes of the Tsar following his regular Sunday review of the troops at Mikhailovskii Riding School. On February 26, 1881, their observations were discussed in a meeting held at Hryniewiecki's apartment at 59 Simbirskaya street, where he had been living under the surname Elnikov. They had observed that the Tsar frequently traveled through Malaya Sadovaya Street, so the Executive Committee decided to lay a mine there beneath the pavement. They however realized that he could also take a different route by turning into Italyanskaya Street and following the Catherine Canal, thus avoiding the underground mine. It was therefore necessary to have bomb-throwers that manned the canal.[1][11]

Hryniewiecki volunteered and was designated a bomb-thrower (metal'shchik,[12] in the parlance of revolutionary terrorism). The bombs, prepared by the chemist Nikolai Kibalchich, were specifically designed so that they could be hurtled at moving objects.[13] The bombs reportedly weighed 5–6 pounds and the explosive consisted of a mixture of nitroglycerine and pyroxylin.[14] At a clandestine meeting, Hryniewiecki joined Kibalchich, Nikolai Rysakov and Timofei Mikhailov to test half-loaded bombs in an unfrequented suburban park beyond the Neva around Pargolovo.[1][14]

The night before the assassination, Hryniewiecki wrote a letter to posterity, part of which reads:[15]

Alexander II must die. He will die, and with him, we, his enemies, his executioners, shall die too [...] How many more sacrifices will our unhappy country ask of its sons before it is liberated? [...] It is my lot to die young, I shall not see our victory, I shall not live one day, one hour in the bright season of our triumph, but I believe that with my death I shall do all that it is my duty to do, and no one in the world can demand more of me [...]

On Sunday morning, 13 March [1 March, Old Style] 1881, Hryniewiecki and the three other bomb-throwers gathered at the group's flat on Telezhnaya Street. At 9–10 AM, Sophia Perovskaya and Kibalchich each brought two missiles; the men would have one apiece.[1][15] Perovskaya would later relate that, before heading to the Catherine Canal, she, Rysakov and Hryniewiecki sat in a confectionery store located opposite of the Gostiny Dvor, impatiently waiting for the right time to intercept Alexander II's cavalcade. Only Hryniewiecki could calmly eat a portion served to him. From there they parted ways and converged on the canal. There, as he passed Perovskaya to take up his position on the quay, Hryniewiecki smiled at her and gave her a barely perceptible wink. He showed no signs of fear or anxiety and went to his death with an unflinching spirit.[iv]

At about 2:15 PM, the conspirators intercepted the imperial carriage as it approached a street corner near the Catherine Canal. Perovskaya waved her handkerchief as a predetermined signal to the bomb-throwers to proceed with the attack. Rysakov then hurled his bomb at the carriage, wounding several bystanders and members of Tsar's equipage. Disregarding pleas for his own safety, Alexander insisted upon leaving his carriage to see his captured assailant.[16] After inspecting Rysakov, instead of returning to the palace posthaste, the Tsar decided to survey the spot where the explosion had occurred. He said "Thank God, I escaped injury," in answer to the anxious inquires of his entourage.[17] As his curiosity was satisfied, he decided to drive away and proceeded to walk back towards the carriage. At this point, Tsar had come to less 1.5 meters from Hryniewiecki,[v] who was leaning against the railing by the canal fence and carrying a bomb wrapped in a handkerchief. Hearing the Tsar's expression of gratitude, according to some sources Hryniewiecki shouted: "It is too soon to thank God yet".[18][vi] He turned to face the Tsar and raised both arms and threw a bomb at his feet. Alexander suffered severe wounds and died at 3:30 PM on that day. Reportedly, Hryniewiecki's bomb claimed many more casualties than the first, with one bystander being fatally wounded.[19]

Following the explosion, the third bomber Ivan Emelyanov rushed to the scene to see if Hryniewiecki could still be spirited away in the chaos, but found him laying gravely wounded and unconscious from the blast. Hryniewiecki was taken to the nearby infirmary attached to the Winter Palace.[vii] At 9 PM he regained consciousness before he drew his last breath. According to the medical examiner's report he only once abruptly said "I don't know" to the police at his bedside who had been questioning him about his name and rank. Refusing to disclose any information, he died from his wounds at 10:30 PM in the evening.[19]


Photographs of the Cathedral of Resurrection near its completion, taken by Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky approximately 24 years after the assassination.

Hryniewiecki's identity was established only posthumously in April of 1881. During the trial of the tsaricides, he was simply referred to as "the person who died on March 1, and lived under the false name of Elnikov." During his post-arrest confession, Andrei Zhelyabov refused to identify his body. Rysakov, the first bomb-thrower and turncoat, had only known Hryniewiecki by his party pseudonyms, and was thus unable to reveal his true name. His surname was first revealed by the arrested member of People's Will, Kolodkevich. This was further corroborated and supplemented by members of St. Petersburg Technological Institute, as well as by his relations in his hometown.[1]

Hryniewiecki and his fellow conspirators had hoped that the assassination would precipitate a political or social revolution. However, it instead impelled Alexander III to step up state repression and abrogate many of his predecessor's reforms. Numerous arrests depleted the Executive Committee, which together with the intensified police surveillance dealt serious blows to the movement. Many historians have therefore regarded the assassination as a Pyrrhic victory and a prelude to the decline of the revolutionary movement in the 1880s.[viii]

The role of a bomb-thrower was known to carry with it the likelihood of death, and the designated bomb-throwers such as Hryniewiecki took that role knowingly, and accepted a suicide mission.[12] Hryniewiecki is therefore sometimes considered to be the first suicide bomber.[ix]

A chapel and later the Resurrection Cathedral (in popular parlance, "the Savior on the Blood") was erected on the spot of Alexander's assassination on Catherine Canal.[24] In May 1975, the bridge near the scene of the incident was named after Hryniewiecki as the Grinevitsky Bridge, until it was renamed Novo-Konyushenny Bridge in 1998.[25]



  1. ^ According to the GBooks ngraph, both names have been used in literature. His full name, as it appears in the original biographical extracts, is "Ignaty Ioakimovich Grinevitsky" (Russian: Игнатий Иоакимович Гриневицкий).[1][2]
  2. ^ According to literature, he is said to have been either 25[1] or 26[3] years old in March 1881. His biographer, I.I. Zhukovsky-Zhuk, places the date of his birth most securely in the fall of 1856, although he notes that certain relatives of Hryniewiecki have placed it as early as August 1855.[2]
  3. ^ Nikolai Rysakov testified that Hryniewiecki was involved with the production of propaganda literature directed at workers, in particular the first few issues of Rabochaya Gazeta, which Rysakov then distributed to workers in various inns and taverns.[1][9]
  4. ^ This is reported by the fellow conspirator Arkady Tyrkov, who in his testimony, provides the essence of his verbal exchange with Perovskaya immediately after the assassination.[1]
  5. ^ According to two eyewitnesses, the attack took place when the Tsar was no more than two arshins from his would-be assassin,[1] or, two or three paces of him.[16]
  6. ^ This is uncertain since a similar line is instead attributed to Rysakov in the original post-arrest testimonies.[1]
  7. ^ He had been carried to the hospital which was known in Russian as: "Придворно-конюшенном госпитале" (literally Court stables hospital).[1]
  8. ^ See, for example, the text by Avrahm Yarmolinsky, Ch. 15: "A Pyrrhic Victory".[16] Also, see the article by Deborah Pearl.[9]
  9. ^ See, for instance: Bennett (2007);[20] Baddeley (2009);[21] Ortbals (2018);[22] Overton (2019)[23].



  • Yarmolinsky, Avrahm (2016). Road to Revolution: A Century of Russian Radicalism. Princeton University Press. ISBN 978-0691638546.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Kel'ner, Viktor Efimovich (2015). 1 marta 1881 goda: Kazn imperatora Aleksandra II (1 марта 1881 года: Казнь императора Александра II). Lenizdat. ISBN 5-289-01024-6.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Zhukovsky-Zhuk, I.I. (1930). Grinevitsky Ioakimovich Ignaty (Игнатий Иоакимович Гриневецкий). Politkorzhan Publishing House (Publishing house of political prisoners).CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Tikhomirov, Lev (1927). Memoirs of Lev Tikhomirov (Воспоминания Льва Тихомирова). Gos. Publishing House.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Dziewanowski, M. (1951). "The Beginnings of Socialism in Poland". The Slavonic and East European Review. 29 (73): 510–531. JSTOR 4204253.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Gella, A. (1979). "The Russian and Polish Intelligentsias: A Sociological Perspective". Studies in Soviet Thought. 19 (4): 307–320. JSTOR 20098852.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
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This page was last edited on 27 July 2020, at 10:06
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