Vera Zasulich: A Dreary, Anxious State


The Russian Reader

Zasulich-vera Vera Zasulich

Young people kept on rereading Chernyshevsky’s novel What Is To Be Done?, but the most accessible and easily performed of the previous [responses] to the  question posed by the novel’s title—starting up a cooperative—was no longer satisfying. In the previous period, cooperatives, primarily sewing cooperatives, had sprung up like mushrooms, but most of them had soon disintegrated, and some ended in arbitration courts and bitter quarrels. They were for the most part started by women well off enough to buy a sewing machine, rent an apartment, pay for the first month’s rent until the principles of the cooperative were clarified, and hire two or three experienced dressmakers. They recruited workers partly from among the female nihilists, who did not know how to sew, but ardently wanted to “do” something, and partly from among seamstresses whose only wish was to earn money. During the first month, in the…

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