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4/7/2006 Talk to examine early Russian terrorist movement

McMINNVILLE – A Linfield College professor will provide insight into the life of a Russian terrorist during a faculty lecture, "The Poetics of Revolutionary Terror: Boris Savinkov and his Memoirs of a Terrorist," on Wednesday, April 12, at 7:30 p.m. in 201 Riley Hall at Linfield.

Scott Smith, assistant professor of history, is translating "Memoirs of a Terrorist," a controversial book written in 1909 by infamous Russian radical Boris Savinkov. Smith undertook the collaborative research project last summer with the help of Tatyana Aleksandrova, a Linfield junior and native Russian speaker from Turkmenistan. During the talk, Smith will explore why the book was so controversial and consider what the book and ensuing controversy tell about the links between the literary representation of terrorism and its actual practice.

"This book is a vivid account of these terrorists living at the edge," said Smith. "It demonstrates their fanatical hatred for the old regime and the degree to which they're teetering on the edge of psychological instability."

Savinkov had a long and interesting revolutionary career stretching from the end of the nineteenth century to his death in a Soviet prison in 1924. His book recounted how he organized the 1904 assassination of Viacheslav Plehve, the Minister of the Interior and chief advisor to Tsar Nicholas II, and the 1905 murder of Grand Duke Sergei Aleksandrovich, the Tsar’s uncle and Governor-General of Moscow.

The book provoked a storm of controversy among revolutionaries and has been one of the most important sources for historians exploring the inner life of Russian terrorist groups in the last decades before the Revolution of 1917.

"Savinkov wanted to bring readers face to face with what the terrorists were actually doing, making a choice to kill," Smith said. "He thought that choice was valid and justified when he wrote the book. In the end, he decided this wasn't an ethical choice he could justify and he left the movement."

Smith, at Linfield since 2002, holds a bachelor's degree from Yale University, and a master's and Ph.D. from Harvard University.

The lecture is free and open to the public. The Linfield College faculty lecture series offers one presentation each month by a member of the Linfield faculty. For more information, call 503-883-2409.