Vyacheslav Plehve was born in Meshchovsk, Russia on 20th April, 1846. After studying jourisprudence at the University of Moscow, Plehve joined the Ministry of Justice in 1867.
An able and intelligent bureaucrat, Plehve served as Director of Police (1881-84), Vice-Minister of the Interior (1884-99) and Secretary of State for Finnish Affairs (1899-1902). During this period he subjected minorities to forced Russification and was responsible for the persecution of Jews and Armenians.
In a speech he made in 1903 he argued: "Western Russia some 90 per cent of the revolutionaries are Jews, and in Russia generally - some 40 per cent. I shall not conceal from you that the revolutionary movement in Russia worries us but you should know that if you do not deter your youth from the revolutionary movement, we shall make your position untenable to such an extent that you will have to leave Russia, to the very last man!"
In 1902 Plehve was appointed Minister of the Interior. His attempts at suppressing those advocating reform was completely unsuccessful. He also secretly organized Jewish Pogroms. Plehve was hated by all radicals in Russia. Leon Trotsky commented: "Plehve was as powerless against sedition as his successor, but he was a terrible scourge against the kingdom of liberal newspapermen and rural conspirators. He loathed the revolution with the fierce loathing of a police detective grown old in his profession, threatened by a bomb from around every street corner; he pursued sedition with bloodshot eyes - but in vain. Plehve was terrifying and loathsome as far as the liberals were concerned, but against sedition he was no better and no worse than any of the others. Of necessity, the movement of the masses ignored the limits of what was allowed and what was forbidden: that being so, what did it matter if those limits were a little narrower or a little wider?"
Sergi Witte claimed that Plehve remarked that Russia needed "a little, victorious war to stem the revolution". There are doubts about the truth of this statement but Plehve's actions definitely precipitated the Russo-Japanese War. However, the war failed in its main objective to win support for Nicholas II and the autocracy.
Plehve was much hated by all those seeking reform and in 1904 Evno Azef, head of the Terrorist Brigade of the Socialist Revolutionary Party, ordered his assassination. Vyacheslav Plehve was killed by a bomb on 28th July, 1904. Praskovia Ivanovskaia who took part in the conspiracy later pointed out: "The conclusion of this affair gave me some satisfaction - finally the man who had taken so many victims had been brought to his inevitable end, so universally desired."
On his death, Theodore Rothstein, wrote in The Social Democrat: "Blood at the beginning, blood at the end, blood throughout his career - that is the mark Plehve left behind him in history. He was a living outrage on the moral consciousness of mankind, a sort of a yahoo who incorporated in him all that is bestial and fiendish in human nature; and no wonder the world breathed freely when at last he has been removed. Still it is not merely from the moral side that Plehve is to be judged. Plehve was both the product and the representative of a political system, and it is in that light that his career and personality acquire their historical significance. What must be that system which produces and places in its centre, as its main driving force, a monster such as Plehve was? The civilised world whose vision has been cleared by the events in the Far East, passed a judgment on that system at the same time that it passed it on Plehve: the system is rotten if its only strength lies in the executioner's arm. It is, indeed, the consciousness of this fact more than anything else that has guided the attitude of the capitalist press towards the assassination of Plehve; and this in itself constitutes a sinister mene mene to the absolutist régime in Russia."