The article is devoted to revolutionary constitutionalism as a trend in Russian social and political life at the turn of the 1870s and 1880s. The new way of Russian revolutionary movement was the result of a complex set of reasons, including disappointment in the “going to the people” movement and an apparent discrepancy between the liberal expectations of the society and the real government course. The first one was a feature of populism theory crisis and revealed many disadvantages of peaceful propaganda as a means of political struggle. Revolutionaries were forced to seek more effective ways for their activity in the political field and more precise wording and explicit definitions of their ideological principles. The latest one contributed to the convergence of revolutionaries with the liberal community. As a result, a new revolutionary organization – Narodnaya Volya – was formed. It consisted of the supporters of propaganda by deeds, i.e. direct attacks on the authorities to protect their human rights and to force the government to establish a constitutional regime. The Narodnaya Volya members did not abandon their socialist hopes but comprehended that social progress was gradual and, to build socialism in future, they needed a real basis which constitution would create. The concept was provided by the revolutionary print editions and a famous scientist and publicist Nicholay Mikhailovsky. It was also proclaimed in the Narodnaya Volya programme documents and the revolutionaries repeatedly insisted on this in court.
Key words: constitutionalism, revolutionary movement, Narodnaya Volya, revolutionary terror, the political crisis of the late 1870s – early 1880s.