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There were no dreams of the organization forming the basis of a ruling party, with a fundamental hope maintained in the emergence of the self-governing village commune as the basis of a new socialist society.
The Narodnaya Volya organization also began a terrorist campaign, with the governing Executive Committee issuing a proclamation calling for the execution of Tsar Alexander II for his crimes against the Russian people.
A set of "populist" values became commonplace among these radical intellectuals seeking change of the Russian economic and political form.
The Russian peasantry, based as it was upon its historic village governing structure, the peasant commune (obshchina or mir), and its collective holding and periodic redistribution of farmland, was held to be inherently socialistic, or at least fundamentally amenable to socialist organization.—the region to which Russian intellectuals looked for inspiration and by which they measured the comparatively backwards state of their own polity.
The group was the inspiration and forerunner for other revolutionary socialist and anarchist organizations that followed, including in particular the Russian Socialist Revolutionary Party (PSR).While giving lip service to the demand for political freedom and a constitutional republic as its objective, the so-called Narodnovoltsy seem to have actually believed themselves to be pursuing a maximalist program in which terrorism and political assassination would "break the government itself" and end all vestiges of the Tsarist regime in Russia.Narodnaya Volya continued the trend towards secret organization and centralized direction that had begun with Zemlya i Volya—principles held to tightly in the face of growing government repression of participants in the terrorist organization.Whatever the practical activities of its local groups, the official position of the Zemlya i Volya organization endorsed the tactic of terrorism, which the lead article in the first issue of the party's newspaper characterized as a "system of mob law and self-defense" put into action by a "protective detachment" of the liberation movement. Accelerated state repression of Zemlya i Volya followed the hanging of attempted assassin Soloviev, with arrests nearly wiping out revolutionary cells in the Ukraine and putting severe pressure on the organization elsewhere.The organization began to look as regicide as the highest manifestation of political action, culminating in a December 1879 assassination attempt on Tsar Alexander II by the Zemlevolets A. The tension over terrorism led to a division of the organization, with proto-Marxists who favored an end to the use of terrorism gaining control over the official newspaper while the terrorist wing controlled a majority of the Executive Committee.