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The Degaev Affair


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About the Author

Richard Pipes is Baird Professor of History, Emeritus, Harvard University. He is the author or editor of twenty-three books, among them Communism: A History, Russia Under the Old Regime, The Russian Revolution, and Property and Freedom.


Pipes (history, emeritus, Harvard) has mined the available archives to paint a complex picture of a terrorist and police officer in a game of mutual self-advancement, beginning with his involvement in the People's Will, an early terrorist group that was responsible for the March 1881 assassination of Tsar Alexander II. Sergei Degaev (1857-1921) played his part by helping to dig the tunnel in which the assassins hid. The next year, while in prison, he turned police informant, revealing identities of group members; the resulting mass arrests of those members decimated the group. The following year, Degaev also betrayed his police handler, revealing the identities of other police informants to the remaining leadership of People's Will. Then, he assassinated the police handler. Degaev is mentioned briefly in works on 19th century Russian radical groups (e.g., Adam Bruno Ulam's In the Name of the People and Avraham Yarmolinksy's Road to Revolution), but this is the first full-length work on him. It focuses on his first 35 years, with brief mention of his quiet second career as a mathematics professor in the United States. Essential for collections on Russian history and terrorism.-Marcia L. Sprules, Council on Foreign Relations Lib., New York Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

"a superb true detective-story of terrorism and mystery by one of the great historians of Russia" Simon Sebag Montefiore, The Sunday Telegraph; "absorbing, brilliantly researched" Raymond Carr, The Spectator; "Richard Pipes is the first historian of late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Russia... The Dagaev Affair takes the reader through dark and terrifying alleyways of the historical underworld." Nikolai Tolstoy, Literary Review; "An amazing story, part Dostoevsky, part Conrad... Remarkable." Michael J. Ybarra, Wall Street Journal; "One of the most distinguished historians of Russia... gives us a real-life thriller that is also a cautionary tale rich with insight into depths of the human psyche." David Pryce-Jones, Commentary"

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