On this day in 1881 Alexander II of Russia is killed near his palace when a bomb is thrown at him.
As he was known to do every Sunday for many years, the emperor went to the Mikhailovsky Manège for the military roll call. He travelled both to and from the Manège in a closed carriage accompanied by five Cossacks and Frank (Franciszek) Joseph Jackowski, a Polish noble, with a sixth Cossack sitting on the coachman’s left. The emperor’s carriage was followed by two sleighs carrying, among others, the chief of police and the chief of the emperor’s guards. The route, as always, was via the Catherine Canal and over the Pevchesky Bridge.
The street was flanked by narrow sidewalks for the public. A young member of the Narodnaya Volya (“People’s Will”) movement, Nikolai Rysakov, was carrying a small white package wrapped in a handkerchief.
“After a moment’s hesitation I threw the bomb. I sent it under the horses’ hooves in the supposition that it would blow up under the carriage…The explosion knocked me into the fence.”
The explosion, while killing one of the Cossacks and seriously wounding the driver and people on the sidewalk, had only damaged the bulletproof carriage, a gift from Napoleon III of France. The emperor emerged shaken but unhurt. Rysakov was captured almost immediately. Police Chief Dvorzhitsky heard Rysakov shout out to someone else in the gathering crowd. The surrounding guards and the Cossacks urged the emperor to leave the area at once rather than being shown the site of the explosion.