Gesya Gelfman

Gesya Mirovna Gelfman (Gesia Gelfman, Гельфман, Геся Мировна in Russian) (her name is often incorrectly spelled Gesya Mironovna; she is sometimes referred to as Gesia or Jessie) (between 1852 and 1855, Mozyr — 2.1(13).1882, Saint Petersburg), Russian revolutionary, member of Narodnaya Volya, implicated in the assassination of Tsar Alexander II of Russia.

Early life

Born into a Jewish family, Gelfman left it at the age of 16 or 17, allegedly to avoid an arranged marriage.

Revolutionary activities

In the early 1870s, she was an active member of several revolutionary clubs in Kiev. In 1877, during the Trial of the Fifty, Gelfman was sentenced to two years in the Litovsky Castle. On 1879-03-14, she was sent into exile to the province of Novgorod, from where she escaped and joined Narodnaya Volya in Saint Petersburg in 1879.

At a personal level, she also practiced then-revolutionary free love.

In 1881 she was part of the group that assassinated Alexander II, along with her then lover, Nikolai Sablin.


During the Pervomartovtsi trial of 1881, Gelfman was sentenced to death by hanging for her alleged part in the assassination of the Tsar. However, her execution was delayed due to her pregnancy, since according to contemporary law execution of pregnant women was banned as the fetus was considered innocent. The sentence was exchanged for an indefinite period of katorga in 1882, thanks to the pro-Gelfman anti-execution campaign in the foreign press.

She died in detention in 1882.


The importance of Gelfman's role in the assassination was much exaggerated, and her Jewish origins stressed, during the pogroms that followed the assassination. Another conspirator, Ignacy Hryniewiecki, was also rumored to be Jewish, though there seems to have been no basis for this. The assassination was thus blamed by many on "the Jews," a view which was still to be found on certain internet sites in 2007.


  • Spartacus Schoolnet
  • W. Bruce Lincoln, Sunlight at Midnight: St. Petersburg and the Rise of Modern Russia

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