In the end of the Russian Patriotic War of 1812 with France the prime of the Russian youth, most of whom were rewarded leaders and commanders of the war field, passed through the prosperous European countries all the way to Paris as winners. They have come to the conclusion that Russia was backward in comparison with other European countries because of serfdom that was still practiced here. They saw that many soldiers who actually won the war and defeated the Napoleon’s army had to return back to their masters. The young patriots decided that they should help their country to overcome this drawback. So, immediately after the war several secret societies were founded.
The so-called northern society was founded in St. Petersburg under the leadership of prince Trubetskoy. It advocated the idea of the constitutional monarchy for Russia. Mr. Pestel, the leader of the southern society that was situated in Moscow, saw the future of Russia as a republic. Members of these societies were mostly noblemen, men of letters, offices, well-off young people full of progressive patriotic ideas.
In December 1825 the revolt was to take place in St. Petersburg on the Senate Square. Over 3,000 people were going to participate in it. They were about to seize the opportunity emerged due to a 3 week interregnum between the death of Alexander I and accession of Nicholas I.
The rebellion was poorly organized and failed. Its five leaders were sentenced to death by hanging which was a great shame for a man of a noble family. Other rebels were sent to Siberia for permanent settlement. Wives of some of the political criminals followed their husbands to banishment that was really an act of great courage as they had to tear themselves away from their relatives, friends and even children for the sake of being with husbands. They were allowed to go to Siberia on condition that they would refuse all their property and money and that the children born in exile would be proclaimed illegitimate.
They lived in this severe cold country for more than 30 years giving support to their husbands. Whatever difficulties they might face living in Siberia the Decembrists organized their social life, built houses and gave birth to children. After the amnesty of 1856 declared at the time of Alexander II accession only 42 of them returned back home to European Russia. Moreover they were still banned to live in 2 capital cities of Russia St. Petersburg and Moscow.
By the XIX-th century Irkutsk became a major cultural and educational center mainly because of the large number of intellectuals exiled to this part of Siberia after Decembrist revolt who founded first hospitals, schools and libraries of Irkutsk.