39. A Killer’s Revolutionary Background
Rosalia Samilovna Zalkind, born into a Jewish family in 1876, in what is now Belarus. Given the Tsarist government’s antisemitism, it’s unsurprising that her parents had revolutionary tendencies. Years later, the future killer recalled one of her earliest childhood memories. Her parents approved of the assassination of Tsar Alexander II by revolutionaries in 1881. Rosalia, thrown into peasant populism by an older brother, left school in 1891. At just 15, she dedicated her life to revolution. She was arrested by the Okhrana, the Tsarist political police, soon thereafter. By 1896, hardened by stints in Tsarist prisons, Rosalia moved from populism to Marxism. In 1902, she joined Lenin’s faction of the Communist party, the Bolsheviks.
Radical and Health Broken
Rosalia, who by then had adopted the revolutionary name Rozalia Zemlyachka, was a tireless party organizer. She spent most of her time bouncing between Saint Petersburg, Odessa, and various cities abroad to meet with exiles. Rosalia rose as a prominent radical figure in Moscow during the 1905 Russian Revolution. She played a key role in organizing that city’s barricades. As a known radical, Zemlyachka came in for a rough time in the subsequent Tsarist crackdown. Arrested and jailed numerous times in subsequent years, she caught tuberculosis and developed a heart disease behind bars. Her health broken, Rosalia finally fled Russia in 1909 to join Lenin and other Bolshevik leaders in exile.