The New Student's Reference Work/Nihilist


Ni′hilist, now used as designating a Russian revolutionist.  It was first so introduced by Turgenieff, who defined a nihilist as one who “bows before no authority of any kind, and accepts on faith no principle, whatever veneration surround it.”  The nihilist believes in no institution of government, progress, or art, unless it be by and for the benefit of the masses.  The movement with which the nihilist is identified had its origin in 1860, when the proposed freeing of serfs was prevented by the influence of the serf-owners with the czar.  From this time the nihilists organized societies to force the adoption of a new constitution, and in their efforts resorted to violence repeatedly, going so far as to kill czar Alexander II on March 13, 1881.  For alleged crimes previous to this hundreds were sent to Siberia in exile, while for the murder of Alexander II many were hanged and hundreds exiled.  See Russia and the Siberian Exiles by George Kennan.