Abstract

The late-nineteenth-century Russian nihilist movement was popularized by the portrait of Bazarov in Ivan Turgenev’s Fathers and Sons. But despite Turgenev’s nuanced and poignant portrayal, nihilism became associated with Russian revolutionary activities and especially terrorism. Discussions of the nihilist ethos were not limited to Russia but pervaded print culture in Western Europe. The orientalizing rhetoric of British journalism placed Russia firmly in the Eastern camp, so that it offered both the spectacle of exotic, retrograde monarchy and the equally fascinating or threatening vision of revolution in Europe. Revolutionary activities in Russia became part of the “dynamite theme” in British fiction of the fin de siècle, when terrorism also accompanied anarchist movements in continental Europe and Fenian bombings in support of Irish independence. Additionally, Russians became part of the London population through the immigration of Jews, a movement that increased significantly after around 1880. Russian dissidents themselves were welcomed in Britain after the Extradition Act of 1870. This article surveys a range of periodical writings, both reportage and fiction, in the last two decades of the nineteenth century. Periodical articles and stories reflect the pervasiveness and varied presentation of Russian revolutionary movements and ideas in late Victorian British publications.

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