Nikolai Konstantinovich Sudzilovskii was born December 3, 1850 in Mogilev, Byelorussia to a noble family. He entered the St. Petersburg University law department but dropped out on the next year and entered medical department of the Kiev University where he did not finish his studies.
During his student years Sudzilovskii embarked on what was to become a lifetime career as a political activist. In 1874 he fled Russia, sought by the czarist police for violation of Article 193 of Russia’s Criminal Code – a prohibition against revolutionary propaganda and agitation. (Hayashida & Kittelson)
He went to London where he interned for a while at St. George’s Hospital and once shared a speaker’s platform at a rally with Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels.
Sudzilovskii later turned up in Geneva where he married his first wife by whom he had two daughters. In 1875 he arrived in Bucharest, registered in Bucharest University’s medical school. He received his Doctor of Medicine degree in 1876. (Hayashida & Kittelson)
“From Roumania the young fugitive went to Bulgaria, thence to Greece, where he married the woman who has since shared with him the perils attending his frequent journeys to the Russian borders, and they then went to Paris.” It was here that Sudzilovshii took on the assumed name Nicholas Russel.
“At the end of several years’ practice as a physician in the French capital the doctor and his wife came to San Francisco. …. (In 1892) Dr Russel and his wife removed to Hawai‘i.”
“Where he, with the assurance of a lucrative employment, believed that his life’s work could be pursued under equally if not better conditions than in (San Francisco).” (Pacific Commercial Advertiser, December 12, 1905)
Russel served as the Waianae Plantation physician until 1895. His activities and impressions of Hawaii during this period are recounted in two serialized articles, ‘In a village by the ocean,’ and ‘Among the Hawaiian volcanoes,’ which he wrote for his Russian audience in 1893 and 1895. (Hayashida & Kittelson)
“Russel felt that the 1893 Revolution was disastrous for the Hawaiian and opposed annexation because, ‘The rapacious state with white capitalists at its head would to the utmost and unnecessarily restrain the independent Kanaka, would subject him to the iron law of the economic minimum, and would make him adapt to a very intensive economy.’”
“Instead he favored an independent Republic with a strong central government, ‘The social, national, economic, and religious diversity and mixture, make necessary the firm authority of government; and this independence from foreign interference cannot be achieved without a prolonged and painful process of civil dissension.’” (Hayashida & Kittelson)
In 1897 Russel auctioned off the unexpired lease on his Punchbowl home and moved to Hilo. And on March 27, 1897, the Hilo Tribune noted that Russel had “Received 100 acres just back of Mr. Fulcher’s tract on the Volcano Road …”
He “let contracts for clearing and planting seventy five acres of it in coffee … purchased a place with twenty-six acres in coffee near Mountain View with frontage on the main road. A scheme of the Doctor’s is to bring a number of Russian families and locate them on his Olaa plantation.” (Hayashida & Kittelson)
“Settling in a modest home but a few miles from the base of the volcanic Mauna Loa he frequently, for a time, corresponded with his old friends in San Francisco, to whom he confided many of the details of the inner workings of his great scheme to promote revolution in Russia.” (Pacific Commercial Advertiser, December 12, 1905)
Russel’s idyllic retreat from political affairs was shattered in 1898 by the Republic’s imposition of a valuation tax on coffee. He opposed this tax and acted as attorney for a group of Olaa coffee growers who sought its repeal before the Hilo Tax Appeals Board in August 1898.
In 1898 the United States annexed Hawaii, providing Russel with the impetus to become further involved in Territorial politics. Hawaii’s transition from a Republic to an American Territory involved electing a Territorial Legislature on November 6, 1900.
The major contending political parties were the Republicans and the Democrats. Robert Wilcox formed the Home Rule Party. (“Home Rule leaders capitalized on the anti-haole resentment among the Hawaiians and during the campaign issued a number of decidedly racial statements.”) (Hayashida & Kittelson)
While Russel was not nominated, “The leaders of the Independent Home Rule party may place Dr. N. Russel on the Independent Senatorial ticket for Hawaii in place of one of the present nominees. … ‘It is almost an assured fact that Dr. N. Russel will be a Senator.’”
“Early in March, 1901, a steamer from Honolulu brought the news that Dr. Russel had been elected a member of the first Territorial Senate, of which he had been chosen president. With his love for agitation he had drifted into politics in the islands and had been persuaded to enter the Senatorial contest, in which he was successful.”
“As president of the first Senate, however, his career was a short one. His position prohibited him from taking an active part in the debates, as he eagerly desired …”
“… and finally, when the Senate was disturbed by a heated controversy over some matter of state, the doctor suddenly resigned the president and, taking his place among the other members of the legislative body, he was daily found in the midst of the exciting oratory on the floor.” (Pacific Commercial Advertiser, December 12, 1905)
“Dr. Russel in his resignation from the honorable and coveted position of President of the Senate, made some strong remarks upon the conduct of that body. No paper hero has been in a position to make such an indictment as President Russel.”
“Dr. Russel in his charge to the Senate one had almost said the party – said that the time of the Senate had been ‘wasted in debate upon trivial matters which are of no interest to the people of this Territory.’ ‘He sorrowfully says the Senate is an inefficient body.’” (Hawaiian Star, March 28, 1901)
In the House there were twenty-three full-blooded, or nearly full-blooded, Hawaiians, and seven white men, twenty of the whole number having been elected on the ticket of the Kuakoa Home Rula – Home-rule party, and nine Republicans, with one man who was elected on an independent ticket of his own. The Senate had six Republicans and nine Home Rulers. (Leslie’s Weekly, March 30,1901)
That first legislative session of the Territorial Legislature was later nicknamed the ‘Lady Dog Legislature’. It relates to multiple measures and extensive discussion seeking amendment to the taxes charged on dogs (reducing the female dog tax from $3 to $1 – the rate on male dogs.) The press likewise criticized the legislature.
In 1901, 1903 and 1905 there was successive decline in representation by Home Rule candidates in the Legislature, although there continued to be a total of around 30-Hawaiians (out of 45) in the Legislature. (Report of the Governor, 1920)
The next election (1907,) there was only 1-Home Rule party member serving in the Senate, and none in the House; however, a total of 32-Hawaiians were in the Legislature. With Republicans dominating both chambers, it is clear that most of the Hawaiians were Republicans. (Report of the Governor, 1920)
Russel lived in Hawaii until 1905, when he moved to Japan to conduct revolutionary propaganda among the Russian POWs there. (Tikhonov)