Sunday, June 29, 2008

Interview: Ana Siljak

New at Author Interviews: Ana Siljak, Assistant Professor of Russian and East European History at Queen's University in Ontario, Canada, and author of Angel of Vengeance: The "Girl Assassin," the Governor of St. Petersburg, and Russia's Revolutionary World.

Siljak generously responded to a few questions about the new book which were put to her by Cary Federman, author of The Body and the State: Habeas Corpus and American Jurisprudence and a professor in the Department of Justice Studies at Montclair State University.

I added a two-part question of my own to their Q & A.:
Zeringue: What question do you wish someone would ask you about your book but no one has asked? And what's the answer?

Siljak: Here is a question that I found very important while I was writing the book: "Why did the Russian terrorists embrace martyrdom so easily, even if they were self-professed atheists like Vera?"

For my research, I read a great many memoirs and biographies of Russian terrorists. Their fierce desire for martyrdom struck me again and again. Vera herself dreamt of becoming a martyr long before she embarked on the revolutionary road. In the late 1870s and 1880s, "martyrologies" of executed terrorists were published in terrorist-sponsored newsletters. In Russia, terrorists openly justified their use of "terrorism" in two ways: first, as a legitimate method of attacking an unjust and all-powerful regime, and second, as an act of self-sacrifice undertaken by individuals who willingly gave their lives for the sake of a better world.

This insight has helped me see the history of terrorism in a new way. Throughout history, terrorists have been partly driven by hate, and that is often quite clear. But what is less clear, and yet no less significant, is that they are often also driven by a passionate belief in the possibility of a peaceful and harmonious future world (however they define it), a belief that allows them to coldly sacrifice their own lives and the lives of others.
Read an excerpt from Angel of Vengeance, and learn more about the book and author at the publisher's website.

Author Interviews: Ana Siljak.

--Marshal Zeringue