Nechayev and the Black Hand

Here’s a couple of excerpts I enjoyed from Andrew Sinclair’s An Anatomy of Terror: A History of Terrorism… On the shifty Nechayev, the “godfather of nihilism”;

Nechayev left Switzerland to bring about a revolution in Russia. He formed a society and a newspaper named The Retribution of the People. He organized groups of conspirators on the principles of the Illuminanti – each cell of five members had a chief who reported to a central committee, which was responsible to Nechayev alone. Defied for his authoritarianism by Ivanov, a member of the committee, Nechayev killed him in a park, where his body was weighted with bricks and thrown into a pond. Nechayev implicated other revolutionaries in a blood brotherhood of the crime.

…and on the Pan-Slavist secret society the Black Hand;

Its initiation ceremonies were ghoulish. The insignia was a clenched hand around a skull and crossbones beside a dagger, a bomb and a phial of poison. The oath was not Christian, but ‘by the sun which warms me, by the earth which feeds me, by God and by the blood of my ancestors, by my honour and my life.’ The cell pattern of the Illuminanti and the Obladina was reproduced: each recruit had to enlist five new members. These small groups were known as a ‘hand’ and were led by a ‘thumb’, the only one in contact with other groups. All were sworn in across a table covered with black cloth, which held a candle and a cross, a poniard and a revolver. Death was the instant answer to any treachery.


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