Yablonsky comes to Petersburg; he meets with Sudeikin, the inspector of the secret police. Recently in Kharkov, Yablonsky gave the police to Vera Figner. Yablonsky requires an audience with the minister and the sovereign; Sudeikin expects for himself different awards.
Sergei Degaev, a revolutionary, arrives in St. Petersburg; he remembers his Moscow childhood, his younger brother Volodya, his sister Lisa, wife Lyuba. When Degayev comes to his sister, he gets acquainted with her friend Nikolai Blinov, a student at the Mining Institute. Blinov, too, is engaged in revolutionary work – he shows Degayev the “dove” – a non-commissioned officer who transfers scraps of convicts from the Peter and Paul Fortress to freedom. Degayev is at the secret meetings of the Karaulov brothers, where he meets with the poet Yakubovich and other revolutionaries – Flerov, Kunitsky, Yuvachev. Ensign Yuvachev recalled his meetings with Degayev in Odessa – he called for terror, which evoked a protest from Yuvachev; In addition, the warrant officer was alarmed by the arrests “in the footsteps of Degayev.” Degayev sends his sister to Moscow,
The director of the Pleve police department accepts Agent Yablonsky; secretly, behind the curtains, there is the chief procurator Pobedonostsev, who was interested in agent Yablonsky. The agent assures the director Pleve that he is guided not by career and not mercantile reasons; he believes that the
Sudeikin in Moscow – checks readiness for coronation; Liza Degaeva in Moscow is looking for a worker, Neil Sizov, but, not finding it, gives a letter to his mother; Coronation takes place without excesses.
Neil Sizov lives near Moscow from the father of his bride Sasha. He was a skilled locksmith and turner, earlier, along with his older brother Dmitry worked in the railway workshops. The Sizovs began to intercede for the offended workers, they were arrested – Neil managed to escape, and Dmitry, the head of the Moscow search for Skandrakov, began to incline to cooperation. Delivered to despair, Dmitry rushes to Skandrakova with a knife, and he jumps out of the window; Skandrakov after a while recovered from injury, and Dmitry, who broke his spine, dies in the prison hospital. After a long wanderings through Moscow doss-houses, Neil settles at the trackman Fyodor, Sasha’s father.
Volodya Degaev serves in Saratov, is under secret surveillance of the police; in Blagoev comes to Saratov, gets acquainted with Volodya.
In the conversation between Sudeikin and Plehve, the idea of an assassination attempt against the Minister of Tolstoy arose. This plan Sudeikin shares with Yablonsky. An attempt on Tolstoy is being prepared; Neil Sizov makes shells: he is helped by Volodya Degayev, who was transferred to Petersburg.
Degayev comes abroad, meets with Tikhomirov and Oshanina, the revolutionaries of the old guard. Before this Tikhomirov, one of the revolutionaries who had come to Paris, said about her suspicions about Degayev. At the confrontation with Degayev she confirmed her accusations, and Tikhomirov was convinced of her rightness. To Petersburg illegally, under the guise of the Englishman Norris, comes the revolutionary Herman Lopatin. He learns that wherever Blinov visited, the emissary Degayev, were arrested. Only Blinov’s Dorpat friend, about whom he did not tell Degayev, remained at large. In a conversation with Degayev, Lopatin found out the whole truth: Degayev and secret agent Yablonsky are one person.
To partly justify himself in the eyes of the revolutionaries, Degayev-Yablonsky arranges the murder of Sudeikin. After that, he leaves abroad – the revolutionaries promised him to save his life. In the same place, in London, Volodya Degayev turns out, the brothers are sailing to America. Blinov, unable to withstand suspicion of betrayal, rushes from the bridge to the Neva and perishes.
In place of Sudeikin invited from Moscow, Major Skandrakov – he will investigate the murder of a police inspector. Gradually arrest several suspects – Stepan Rossi, Konashevich, Starodvorsky. In Moscow, arrested Flerov and Sizov. The provocateur in the cell persuades Sizov to kill the Moscow prosecutor Muravyov and even hands him a gun; Muravyov himself attempted to do it for his own ends. Skandrakov convinces Stepan Rossi to name the two who participated in the murder of Sudeikin. Returning to Russia, Lopatin was tracked down and arrested. Peter Yakubovich was arrested.
Plehve instructs Skandrakov to find out about the connections of the former Minister of the Interior, Loris-Melikov, and the morganatic wife of Alexander II, Princess Yuryevskaya, with revolutionary emigration, in particular Tikhomirov. The second task is to steal or entice Tikhomirov to the German border, where he will be extradited to the Russian government. Skandrakov arrives in Paris, where he meets with agents of the Russian police Landesen and Rachkovsky.
Tikhomirov is tired and disappointed – the revolutionary movement is crushed, it’s all over. His son Sasha became seriously ill, he had meningitis; the doctor warns that eight out of ten patients with this disease die. But Sasha is gradually recovering, and previously did not believe Tikhomirov goes to the Orthodox Church, where he prays with tenderness. After the recovery of the son, the Tikhomirovs’ family settles in the suburbs of Paris La Rensi.
Skandrakov perused Tikhomirov’s letters and discovered that Tikhomirov was disillusioned with revolutionary activity. After Skandrakov’s written report to the police department and Tikhomirov’s letter addressed to VK Plehve asking permission to return to Russia, the former revolutionary was granted the highest petition and permission to return, however, under the supervision of the police for five years. Tikhomirov publishes the pamphlet “Why I stopped being a revolutionary”; smart Skandrakov understands how important Tikhomirov’s thoughts and his rejection of his former convictions, but the Russian government’s sincerity of the former revolutionary raises suspicions.
At the session of the military court, Lopatin utters the last word; the sentence is predetermined – the death penalty by hanging. His comrades Yakubovich, Starodvorsky and others were also sentenced to hanging. But Emperor Alexander III shows mercy – the death penalty was replaced by life imprisonment in Shlisselburg.
Neil Sizov was sentenced to ten years of hard labor. To “save from the corrupting influence of state criminals,” he was placed among criminals, with the party of which he was brought to Odessa on a train, and thence by sea to Sakhalin. The steamer nearly drowned off the coast of Sakhalin – it was saved by the “Stone of Danger”, on which the steamer was stuck. People were loaded onto boats and transported ashore. Neel soon discovered that the orders in penal servitude – a skolk from the “free world” – the same omnipotence of bribes, the same hierarchy, the same deception, the same national strife…
Lopatin first deafened the news of the abolition of the death penalty for him and his accomplices; in Shlisselburg, he felt like in a silent grave. The caretaker Sokolov, named Herod, is out of service, and out of sadistic pleasure he tortures convicts. In addition, he has instructions. It seems that there is no way out and there will not be, the power of the Herods and instructions over the whole of Russia is infinite. “But listen… You hear how loud and splashing the Ladoga with Neva? Listen, you hear something that is not allowed to overhear to the people.” And such things are beyond the power of instructions. “