It wasn’t a secret in my family that my great-grandpa loved to work with explosives. He was the joke of the family at holiday gatherings.
Sadly, I don’t know much about my great-grandfather’s life as a child. But I know in college, he became a rebel. Great-grandpa was building bombs in an apartment during his college days to help the People’s Will Movement to kill government officials and the Russian Czar Alexander II to make reforms.
Luckily, I only have found documentation that my great-grandpa’s bombs damaged a tree in Kharkov, Ukraine, and a government building. He got arrested and thrown in a tower, no joke. Great-grandpa sat in a cell in the Peter and Paul Tower in St. Petersburg for 4 months by orders of Czar Alexander III.
He eventually got married but his obsession with explosives didn’t end there. My great-grandfather started a business for making explosives that were believed to be used for mining in 1899 while Czar Nicholas II (grandson of Alexander II) was reigning.
I don’t understand why the Russian government didn’t stop him from operating an explosives business and was encouraging him by approving his three explosive patents.
The story of his life got more interesting when I researched the location of the laboratory where my great-grandpa made his explosives. He opened his laboratory in a datcha in the countryside of southern Russian city, Taganrog.
The property was previously occupied by Nestor Vasilievich Kukolnik, a famous Russian writer who taught the future Czar Nikolai I. Kukolnik also was a godson of Czar Alexander I.
Kukolnik probably has himself to thank for bringing a man who was involved in a movement to kill his godfather’s nephew to come to Taganrog. Kukolnik helped convince Czar Nicholas II to build the Azov Railway that started in Kharkov (now eastern Ukraine) and ended in Taganrog.
My great-grandparents married in Kharkov (yes, where his bombs were used in an attack on the government) and stayed several years in the Lugansk area before they most likely hopped onto an Azov Railway train.
My great-grandfather’s business didn’t just have a laboratory. It had warehouses, too. The locations of these warehouses make me wonder about what great-grandpa’s explosives would have been used for if he hadn’t shut down the business in 1908, 9 years before the Russian Revolution.
The warehouses were located in Ekaterinburg (where Czar Nicholas II and his family were killed), Tiflis (capital of the Republic of Georgia), Irkutsk in Siberia (where the October Revolution was very violent) and less notable Novorossiysk in Krasnodar Krai.
Sadly, my great-grandfather died in 1912 but his oldest son reopened the business in 1914 when he was just 23-year-old. So many questions remain unanswered about what my grand uncle was doing with his father’s explosives.
It all started with finding the patent documents tucked away at grandma’s apartment. The story is more interesting than the mad scientist talk at holiday gatherings and will continue with some luck at archives.
Great-grandpa’s arrest record helps breakdown a brickwall