Assassination can be defined as murder for a political end, often by an non-interested agent. It has been justified, sometimes even urged, as a revolutionary means, especially when no other way of overthrowing the establishment seems viable. As assassinations are stealthily carried out, the intended victim can never fully protect himself. Contract murders (by paid assassins) of people's spouses and other relatives, rivals and personal enemies are also well reported.
The original "assassins" were members of a fanatical oriental sect, which held the religious belief that the imprisoned soul was released from the body after death by executing orders given by the Universal Soul. This belief allowed devotees to perform any deed without question or fear. The assassinations for which the sect was famous were originally committed against its persecutors, but developed into being committed for anyone willing to pay for such services. Assassins come to be trained for assassination: they were taught foreign languages and religious customs; the adoption and maintenance of disguises; and how to win the confidence of their intended victims. The name of the sect is derived from the Arabic 'Hashshashin' - hash eaters - because it was suspected that they intoxicated themselves prior to carrying out their missions.
The 'Golden Age' of political assassinations began in 1865 with the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and continued with an assassination virtually every year until 1901 when another USA President, William McKinley, was killed. Recent assassinations include Anwar Sadat, president of Egypt, in 1981; Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1984; and the attempts on Pope John Paul II and President Ronald Reagan (USA), both in 1981; and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher (UK), 1984.
In 1995, Moscow's police chief revealed that contract killings are one of Russia's growth industries -- up from 102 in 1992 to 289 in 1993 and 562 in 1994. The killers are increasingly professional and cold about killing; many are former employees of the army, police or KGB. Many of the contract murders are part of an all-round protection service that private security companies are offering their clients; between 1992 and 1995, over 8,000 such companies had appeared in Russia, involving an estimated 1.3 million people. In one in three cases where a weapon is used, the criminals claim to be employees of a private security company.