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On this day: Russia in a click

First minutes after an assassination attempt. First minutes after an assassination attempt.

6 May

On May 6, 1932, Russian émigré Pavel Gorgulov, during the opening of a book fair in Paris, shot the President of France, Paul Doumer, who died in hospital the next morning. The assassin was captured at the scene and shouted, “I am Pavel Gorgulov, the President of the National Fascist Party of Russia. European states and America seem favorable to Bolshevism so I decided to kill the President and cause France to declare war on Russia! I am a great Russian patriot. I had no accomplices."

Discovered among Gorgulov’s papers was a document describing in detail a plan to overthrow the Bolsheviks in Russia by means of an uprising from ‘”The Green Brothers.” And at the head of the future “All-Russian Nationalist Republic” was meant to be Gorgulov himself – the “Great Green Dictator.” These documents and Gorgulov’s behavior clearly indicated a mental illness.

The documents scrupulously described the political establishment of the “new” Russia, its flags and even army officers’ uniforms. Gorgulov expected to seize power with the help of certain “portable machines” that possessed great destructive power and were supposedly invented by the “dictator” himself.

Gorgulov’s testimony at his inquest was rather addle and contradictory. According to him, he didn’t have anything personal against Doumer. The president was chosen as the target because he was the leader of France – a country that deals with the Bolsheviks and so is preparing for the destruction of itself and the whole world. He also proclaimed that he had already killed two presidents. But later he confessed that he had only planned an attempt on the lives of German President Paul von Hindenburg and the president of Czechoslovakia, Thomas Masaryk.

The trial of Gorgulov by jury took place over three days. The accused constantly interrupted witnesses, experts and all accusations with outbursts. He behaved obnoxiously and in every address to the court he started with an exclamation, “France, listen to me, listen to me!” Apart from that he also screamed, “Kill me, as you have killed my country! You will all die in a worldwide catastrophe!”

He constantly tried to talk about his ideas, attempted to read poetry and passages from his own writings – novels like “Son” and “Cossack” that he wrote in the 1920s. They were published in France under the pseudonym of Pavel Bred (in Russian “bred” translates into “delirium”).

An attendant at court described the proceeding as follows: “Gorgulov was a tall man, strong; when he screamed out addle, confusing damnations in bad French, the members of the jury (judging by their appearance they were public servants, shopkeepers, and businessman) were frightened… I can recall a terrible image: at night, under the dim light of the dust-laden chandeliers, the courtroom resembled a theatrical performance… The ceremonial robes of the judges, lawyers dressed in their black togas, the face of the accused - greenish, dead looking. Everything seemed unnatural. The judge delivered the verdict. Gorgulov jumped up, tore off his collar, as if in a hurry to place his dead under the knife, and screamed, “France refused me by a way of living!’”

Gorgulov’s lawyer cried when the verdict of the death sentence was read out - he was convinced that Gorgulov was a madman, irresponsible for his actions. Gorgulov was executed on September 15, 1932.