Andrei Zhelyabov, the son of a serf, was born in the Crimea in 1850. After attending school in Kerch he was admitted to the University of Odessa. Zhelyabov became involved in politics and in 1871 he was expelled from the university.
He was arrested three times in 1874 but was released without charge. He was put on trial in 1878 but was acquitted.
Zhelyabov joined the the People's Will and took part in three attempts on the life of Alexander II. Along with his lover, Sophia Perovskaya, he organized the assassination of the Tsar on 1st March, 1881. Others involved in the plot included Gesia Gelfman, Nikolai Sablin, Ignatei Grinevitski, Nikolai Kibalchich, Nikolai Rysakov and Timofei Mikhailov.
Ignatei Grinevitski was killed during the assassination, whereas Nikolai Sablin committed suicide before he could be arrested. Andrei Zhelyabov, Sophia Perovskaya, Nikolai Kibalchich, Nikolai Rysakov and Timofei Mikhailov were hanged on 3rd April, 1881.