Alexander Herzen
the Native Lineage of the Russian Revolution

Alan Kimball

In November 1982 I presented the first outline of the central ideas of this essay in an address to a meeting of the Central States Slavic Conference in Lawrence KS, dedicated to the retirement of Heinrich Stammler, Professor of Russian Literature at the University of Kansas. Then the idea was to demonstrate that the main points could be made using only texts Stammler had assigned his KU undergraduates. This explains the initial concentration on the writings of Alexander Herzen. Subsequently I became more deeply involved in the social history of Russian political opposition, a "new social history" in which institutions and ideas were blended with social/economic realities. In November 1986 I discussed the social content of Herzen's Byloe i dumy with the Beseda seminar at Hokkaido University in Sapporo, Japan. This essay owes much to participants in the Kansas and Hokkaido sessions.

This text served as the basis of a chapter with the same name, which I published in Religious and Secular Forces in Late Tsarist Russia, edited by Charles E. Timberlake (Seattle WA: The University of Washington Press, 1992), pp. 105-27 and 321-7).

Table of Contents =

Native Lineage
Alexander Herzen
"Intelligentsiia" and the Native Tradition
My Past and Thoughts [Byloe i dumy]
Crisis in the Social/Service Hierarchies
Narod [the people] and the Native Lineage
Byloe i dumy and the Native Lineage
Saint-Simon and the Russian Native Lineage
Herzen, the "New People" of the 1860s, and the Native Lineage
Herzen's Own Place in the Native Lineage


Native Lineage

It's time to concentrate on the domestic roots of Russian political history, the everyday life foundations even of Russian high culture. Too much has been presumed to be derivative and artificial. Three things have combined to slant historical imagination away from the solid specifics of Russian political life: (1) heavy concentration on the ideology of the German-born scholar and socialist theorist, Karl Marx, (2) that one political party led by émigré theorist and then national leader, Vladimir Lenin, and (3) the wide popularity of biography or individual "psychology" and ideology, rather than prosopography or social history. These slants have produced artificial images of what was at work down in the Unterbau of Russian political history.

Consider a Soviet example combining the first with the second slant. The visitor to the Soviet-era Moscow State Historical Museum near its end confronted a quotation from the Program of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, spelled out in tall white letters on the wall:

At the beginning of the 20th century the center of the international revolutionary movement transferred itself to Russia. Under the leadership of the Bolshevik Party led by Vladimir Ilich Lenin the heroic working class of Russia became the vanguard of this movement.

After arduous passage through three-dozen halls of the museum, filled with a wondrous variety of Russian historical artifacts, it was always disheartening to me to learn here at the end that significance has been perching somewhere else all along and only now comes swooping in. What significance can the rich historical detail in the previous halls hold if the Hegelian revolutionary tornado "transfers" itself suddenly from West to East and puts itself at the disposal of the Bolsheviks?

In the last years of the Soviet Union, Russian scholars showed a fresh interest in the native lines of historical descent in their revolutionary tradition. Historians with a nativist inclination were never content with the thought that the Revolution in Russia could be explained solely by reference to vast, international historical trends. Of the two main lines into the Finland Station--one from Western Europe into Russia and the other from the heart of Russia itself--the international route has nonetheless been most exhaustively studied.

{_{ In English, the classic text in the "internationalist" tradition is Edmund Wilson's To the Finland Station: A Study in the Writing and Acting of History (NYC: 1959 [first published in London, 1940]). An early effort to shift attention to the fuller domestic political scene was Donald W. Treadgold's Lenin and His Rivals: The Struggle for Russia's Future, 1898-1906 (NYC: 1955); another was Jacob Walkin's The Rise of Democracy in Pre-Revolutionary Russia: Political and Social Institutions Under the Last Three Tsars (NYC: 1962); and more recently Terence Emmons' The Formation of Political Parties and the First National Elections in Russia (Cambridge MA: 1983).}_}

In mild reaction to this, Soviet historian (and more recently a functionary in the Gorbachev Foundation) Grigorii Vodolazov used the expression skvoznaia liniia to describe the domestic origins of Russian politics.

{_{ G. G. Vodolazov, Ot Chernyshevskogo k Plekhanovu: ob osobennostiakh razvitiia sotsialisticheskoi mysli v Rossii (MVA: 1969); "Obshchina i revoliutsiia u Chernyshevskogo". Vestnik Moskovskogo Universiteta, no. 3 (1966) pp. 35-46; and Osobennosti razvitiia sotsialisticheskoi mysli v Rossii v otrazhenii russkoi zhurnalistiki 60-70-kh godov XIX v. Avtoreferat ... kandidata istoricheskikh nauk. MVA: 1967. Vodolazov was fond of a quote from Lenin's "Nasha revoliutsiia": "Rossiia na granitse stran tsivilizovannykh i...stran vsego Vostoka...".}_}

Vodolazov's unusual phrase translates literally as "through line". The meaning is as unsure in Russian as in the clumsy literal English translation. It could be that the phrase comes from the traditions of the theatre, from K. S. Stanislavskii who speaks of nepreryvnaia liniia, sploshnaia liniia, and skvoznoe deistvie or liniia skvoznogo deistviia. These phrases describe the consistency of theatrical motivation by which coherence is imposed on fragments or details, from act to act, through the whole production.

If there be no skvoznoe deistvie, all the flavor and problematics of the play, all suggestions of circumstance, all communion, all agreement, all instances of truth and faith, everything would be just as scattered seeds, without any hope of resurrection. But the liniia skvoznogo deistviia unites everything into a whole, and like a thread which draws together various beads, it pierces through all elements and links them with the general, central theme [k obshchei sverkhzadache].

{_{ Rabota aktera nad soboi (M: 1938), translated as An Actor Prepares, pp. 521-522.}_}

The phrase is perhaps as useful in historical scholarship as in the theatre. The expectation of the historian, particularly the national historian, is that he will draw together the various beads of the past and link them with a general, central theme. The phrase in this application might be translated as "straight lines [of descent]" or "interior courses" or "indigenous traditions". I will translate the phrase as "native lineage". When Vodolazov urged the search for "skvoznye linii", he sought lines of native lineage of the Leninist ideology, the main lines through Russian history, as distinct from global history, to the present. He suggested that there is an interior route to the Finland Station, and he identified Chernyshevskii in the 1860s as the station of initial departure, thus reinforcing the standard Soviet exaltation of the radical journalist.

Vodolazov was not alone in this search. He was just a touch more explicit about it than most. M. V. Nechkina's monumental accomplishments as historian of the Decembrist movement and of the first revolutionary situation in Russia (1859-1862) had as their subtextual purpose to reach back a generation or so before the 1860s. She sought to confirm the Soviet historical claim to the traditions of Ryleev and Herzen, as well as of Chernyshevskii. The histories of more recent epochs reflected some of the same search. I. I. Mints' monumental history of the Russian Revolution made a great deal more sense when its mind-blunting length and detail were seen as "various beads of the past" drawn skillfully onto the ribbon of Russian/Soviet history.

{_{ Alan Kimball, "Revolutionary Situation in Russia (1859-1862)", The Modern Encyclopedia of Russian and Soviet History, vol. 31, pp. 54-57; and "I. I. Mints and the Representation of Reality in History", Slavic Review (December, 1976), pp. 715-723.}_}

But there was disproportionate emphasis on surface, textual, intellectual traditions. Fundamentally, that is all that Vodolazov was speaking about. Soviet historians failed to incorporate one of the wisdoms of the theatre, namely that the components and overarching themes in history, as in the theatre, cannot be lodged singly in the script. They must be expressed in the whole production, the staging, costumes, and lighting. They must be intrinsic to the action itself. The historian may seek to assure "communion", "agreement", "truth and faith", a sort of "resurrection" in the current generation of the seeds scattered by forefathers. But he must do so by working with all the materials of real historical experience. All historical actors, but particularly the most eloquent and engaged historical actors, reflect and contribute to the native lineage, not just allies and "good guys" but antagonists as well, even rogues and villains. The central theme should resonate in the being of every creature shaped by the history itself.


Alexander Herzen

No figure in the long and rich Russian tradition of political opposition is more eloquent or engaged than the radical émigré pundit Alexander Herzen. And few present such a wonderful challenge to historical understanding.

{_{ See, for example, N. Ya. Eidel'man, Gertsen protiv samoderzhaviia: Sekretnaia politicheskaia istoriia Rossii XVIII-XIX vekov i Vol'naia pechat' (MVA: 1973).}_}

At the same time, few have left such an endearing record of self examination. None has ever expressed Herzen's generous and theatrical vision of the native lineage better than Herzen himself, and few have done as well as he in defining his historical relationship to it.

Herzen's memoirs would assure him a place in the history of Russian literature and culture, even if the revolutionary movement were but an insignificant moment. They are one of the world's great instances of self-creation via active remembering. Herzen was a great writer. The creative power of his words is considerable. He was a master of the memoir genre. In this genre life must be like a story. Life becomes more than reportage. Life combines the qualities of literary or dramatic and historical truth.

From the time of their first publication in book form in 1861, his words continued to speak and inspire readers. Almost simultaneously, Herzen began the final heartbreaking decline in his personal influence over the last nine years of his life. Thus his words spoke even to the "sickly representatives" of the new generation, as he called Dobroliubov, Chernyshevskii and other leading radicals of the reform epoch. He had himself prefigured their cavalier rejection of him in his own rejection of Polevoi a quarter-century earlier. Tension, conflict, crisis, resolution, these all form part of the drama. When historians seek instances of division or split [razmezhevanie] in the ranks of political activists, they might well remember that all parties add their bit to the larger, native lineage.

{_{ The classic study is by Boris Koz'min, "'Raskol v nigilistakh'.."., in Iz istorii revoliutsionoi mysli v Rossii: izbrannye trudy (MVA: 1961), pp. 20-67.}_}

Herzen's brilliant muck-raking was closely read even by the minions of tsarist authority. A sort of bureaucratic charade, pretending that responsible authorities had never before independently read Herzen's subversive publications, was played out on 9 May 1862 when Alexander II approved a plan to allow A. A. Suvorov, Governor-general of Saint-Petersburg, and I. V. Annenkov, city Police Chief, to subscribe to Herzen's dreaded émigré journal Kolokol.

{_{ Letopis' zhizni i tvorchestva A. I. Gertsena, 1812-1870, edited by S. D. Gurvich-Lishchiner, B. F. Egorov, K. N. Lomunov, and I. G. Ptushkina, vol. 3: "1859-iun' 1864" (MVA: 1983), p. 310].}_}

His influence on them, all but neglected as historians search for the skvoznaia liniia, may well have been as great as his influence on the political opposition. The words of Herzen were greater than the man. But that is so because his life and thought both reflected and gave some shape to the skvoznaia liniia.

Herzen's words, in small inspired clusters may be studied in depth with good results. They express with powerful clarity the interior routes of Russian political history, the native lineage. He wrote often philosophically and poetically. He has been much admired for this, and the bulk of the literature on him, and on the intelligentsia, has been concentrated on these intellectual and esthetic dimensions.

{_{ Martin Malia's intellectual biography, Herzen and the Birth of Russian Socialism (NYC: 1965), may still be the best work on Herzen.}_}

But Herzen's words all rebound off the hard surface of social reality. Herzen's life was one of painful uprootedness and profound alienation, but neither he nor the larger bulk of those whom he continued for decades to inspire can best be described as "socially unattached". It has been too often forgotten, or almost explicitly denied, that intellectuals, especially aristocratic and wealthy intellectuals, have hard social realities. Our scholarship prefers to deal with working people as if only they reflected larger social realities, and little more. It prefers to deal with intellectuals as if they dined on precisely cooked ideas, or were possessed by saintly, demonic, or psychopathic powers. Thus for one and the same reason our scholarship suffers two shortages: the history of popular mentalities and the daily realities of the intelligentsia.


"Intelligentsiia" and the Native Lineage

Most pointedly, Herzen's memoirs describe the position under Russian circumstances of that sector of the population that was in the 1860s to receive its indelible name, intelligentsia. The word has a recognizable Latin root, and it came to Russia probably from Germany. Since then it has spread into nearly all the world's languages.

{_{ Karl Mannheim made Alfred Weber's concept of the freischwebende Intelligenz famous in Ideology and Utopia: An Introduction to the Sociology of Knowledge (NYC: 1936); see esp. pp. 155-161 where he treats what he calls the "socially unattached intelligentsia".}_}

It may be used in English without italics. Reasonable but fastidious effort to erase it has failed.

{_{ Daniel Brower decided upon "the complete abandonment of the 'intelligentsia' as a tool for scholarly analysis" [Training the Nihilists: Education and Radicalism in Tsarist Russia (Ithaca NY: 1975), p. 35].}_}

Herzen must bear a large measure of the blame for the vaporous way the intelligentsia is treated. The truth is, he was very touchy about his own comfortable financial situation and the social foundations of it. He easily shifted toward purely moral and intellectual grounds as he thought about why men revolt. But at the same time he was among the first to give extended personal testimony to what was by his time already a recognizable pattern of the Russian historical process: the double alienation of the educated and talented segment of the population from official, statist Russia above them and from the great primitive agricultural population, bound in servitude, below.

{_{ See Nicholas Riasanovsky, A Parting of the Ways: Government and the Educated Public in Russia, 1801-1855 (Oxford ENG : 1976).}_}

Alienation is not the same thing as "detachment". Nor is alienation merely an intellectual or spiritual experience. It grows from every-day and ordinary realities, perhaps more than from mental reflection, and it grips the whole person, not just the writing pen.

In an insufferable position, squeezed between two bulky realities, the state and the peasantry, representatives of this social stratum were forced to make hard choices, to surrender to the state above or join their destiny to that of the people below.

{_{ One discovers here a surprising parallel between Herzen's and Weidle's visions. Two émigrés, two epochs, two quite different political sensibilities, but the skvoznaia liniia shines through.}_}

The third option, or so it seemed, was resignation to a life of squalid compromise. Herzen's memoirs, almost casually and metaphorically, defined for the first time this central skvoznaia liniia or sverkhzadacha of modern Russian revolutionary history.


My Past and Thoughts [Byloe i dumy]

His memoirs appeared abroad in fragments over several years, mainly after 1855, on the pages of the very popular almanac Poliarnaia zvezda. From London in 1861 under the title Past and Thoughts (Byloe i dumy) they appeared in book form. Herzen was approaching the end of the time of his greatest influence. Half the book is devoted to the oppositional movement of his youth, thirty years earlier in 1831-32. Two remarkable passages pierce to the very heart of the matter, the first in a chapter on student life at Moscow University and the second in a chapter on his return to legal life after his first exile in the 1840s. Quite unconsciously he sketches, in embryo, the main features of the other route to the Finland Station, the native lineage of the Russian revolution.

A small and privileged student body was admitted to higher education in Herzen's time. Moscow University boiled them down to a common, "democratic" humanity, he said. It stripped them of their home-bred identity, transformed them and reforged them. The university in a sense severed them from their natural families and shaped them into a new family. The university graduated a new "brotherhood" but gave them back to a world that had no place for brotherhoods which were simply mind-forged, "conceived out of wedlock", so to speak.

What sort of family did the university create of them? As the narrative unfolds it becomes clear that the university made them something altogether unprecedented and unknown to the domestic, home-bred or inherited environment. Alien and hostile to established ways and structures, they were by no means unnatural or superfluous to them. The university helped make them intelligentsiia, a brotherhood defined by mind, by intelligence. Herzen did not use the word intelligentsiia; the word came into usage only in the months after publication of his memoirs, in part under their influence.

{_{ Interestingly enough, one of the very first uses of the term was by an officer active in support of the student demonstrations at Saint-Petersburg University in October, 1861. Boris Chicherin's brother wrote him, quoting a friend who overheard the following remark in the midst of the great turmoil: "We are letting the students move ahead, as they are representatives of the young generation and of the intelligentsia, but if they do not get the job done, we will move in". Boris N. Chicherin, Vospominaniia Borisa Nikolaevicha Chicherina. Vol. 3: "Moskovskii universitet" (MVA: 1934), pp. 20-21.}_}

But he meant something very much like what the word later came to mean, a social formation a lot more permanent and thoroughgoing than what we mean when we use the English word "intellectuals". The word he used was savant [uchënyi], a direct translation from the Saint-Simonian tradition which his generation, his brotherhood, was the first to inherit. Here in these fabulous passages, he announces the meager beginnings of political opposition among young Russian savants, the intelligentsia in embryo.

[...] the youthful strength of Russia streamed to it [Moscow university] from all sides, from all strata [sloev] of society, as into a common reservoir, in its halls they were purified from the prejudices they had picked up at the domestic hearth, reached a common level, became like brothers and dispersed again to all parts of Russia and among all strata [sloi] of its people.

{_{ All references here to Byloe i dumy are from My Past and Thoughts: The Memoirs of Alexander Herzen, translated by Constance Garnett, revised by Humphrey Higgens, introduced by Isaiah Berlin, and abridged, with a preface and notes, by Dwight MacDonald (NYC: 1973). This allows the reader without Russian to follow up on the citations here. The translations in the MacDonald edition have been, however, adjusted in accordance with the authoritative scholarly edition, Aleksandr Gertsen [Herzen], Sobranie sochinenii v tridtsatikh tomakh [hereafter SoS ]. These notes will cite the MacDonald edition, then the first appearance in the original, and finally SoS. The quote above is McDonald:82. This passage first appeared in Poliarnaia zvezda [hereafter PoZ ], no.2 (1856), p. 127. SoS,8:107 cites this passage.}_}

Look closely at one word that appears twice in Herzen's description of what the university did for him and his generation. He said students came from all "strata" and were sent back into the world of all "strata". The word is most often translated as "class". The formal imperial Russian word for a social class is not "klass" or "sloi" but soslovie. Herzen's used sloi and very studiously evaded the words soslovie or class. The native term "soslovie" had become meaningless, and "class" had not yet, perhaps never would, become appropriate as a descriptor of Russian social divisions.


Crisis in the Social/Service Hierarchies

Thus Herzen placed the question of social attachment of intelligents in the midst of a tightly defined, legalistically enforced system of sosloviia (plural). Behind the sosloviia squirmed a peculiarly "unattached" social structure, as actually experienced not just by intellectuals but by the whole Russian social structure.

Russian law formally defined five sosloviia in two large divisions, taxed and not taxed. The non-taxed sosloviia, "privileged classes", were dvorianstvo (nobility), dukhovenstvo (clergy), and kupechestvo (merchants). The taxed sosloviia were meshchan'e (a "middling" class), and krest'ianstvo (peasantry).

After 1722, in the reign of Peter the Great, the "ranks" of state service (chin) and the whole system of service (chinovnichestvo) seriously compromised the integrity of the legal soslovie distinctions.

Degrees and categories of social class were overlaid with degrees and categories of state service. Just as the system of chin seriously undercut the coherence of soslovie, so also soslovie, especially the privileged sosloviia, attenuated the system of chin. Service rank and social class were so seriously diced, sliced and blended by the early 19th century in Russia that it is virtually impossible to separate them. The whole social/service hierarchy was in crisis, and the individuals whose destinies this hierarchy sought to settle were thrown into a very unsettled situation.

{_{ The most comprehensive brief history of chin is L. E. Shepelev, Otmenennye istoriei: chiny, zvaniia i tituly v rossiisskoi imperii (LGR: 1977). Historically the wide and decisive use of chin, rank and titles is unparalleled in the experience of any other European peoples. The Table of Ranks set out to measure and define a person's place in the civil, military and court hierarchy, and quickly became one of the essential pathways to aristocracy. From the beginning, service at the 14th rung of the military Tabel' o rangakh gave heritable aristocratic status; until 1845, civil and even court service at the lower ranks gave only personal, non-heritable noble status. Only the 8th rung upward in these divisions gave heritable status. After 1845, higher rungs established in all divisions before and individual achieved heritable noble status. This corresponded to the staggering growth of the state bureaucracy in the 19th c. See also V. A. Evreinov, Grazhdanskoe chinoproizvodstvo v Rossii: Istoricheskii ocherk. Appendix to "Istoricheskii vestnik", (SPB: 1887); and Petr A. Zaionchkovskii, "Vysshaia biurokratiia nakanune Krymskoi voiny", Istoriia SSSR no. 4 (1974), pp. 154-64. As Shepelev slyly observed, even Lenin could say, of the civil service, "the real work of governing rested in the hands of the giant army of chinovniks" (p. 47). Shepelev and Lenin believed that the state was the committee of the economically ruling "class".}_}

One of the few things that can be said with certainty is that the Russian bureaucratic "class" or "sloi" grew to such monstrous proportions, and its power and influence expanded to such unprecedented dimensions that even the fondest defenders of the state became alarmed. The number of bureaucrats continued to grow by leaps and bounds in the years that Herzen's memoirs were published:






 (including 12,400 teachers and researchers)  98,800




3rd class

4th class










[Shepelev, Otmenennye:77, 78 and 95]

Little was done about chin in the time of Alexander II, except that he did respond favorably to recommendation that wages were too low. Alexander took measures to assure that those who had no other source of income could make a living in the bureaucracy. By 1880, wages had increased 1.5 to 2 times.

{_{ Shepelev, Otmenennye:77.}_}

This good news at the market-basket level of gentry life was in broader terms a significant index of the end of "gentry rule" in Russia. Gentry agriculture was an economic failure decades before the emancipation of the serfs in 1861, and thus not even this "nobility of the robe" in Russia could afford to enter state service supported by the earnings of their estates. Furthermore, talent from the other sosloviia could now more effectively be recruited into state service.

Herzen's soslovie was dvorianstvo. He knew from personal experience and observation that, as a soslovie, the aristocracy had ceased to be a significant political force independent of the state and chinovnichestvo. Social class carried real force only in connection with state rank. This is not to say that individual representatives of that soslovie ceased to be significant political activists nor that their privileges were insignificant in the daily struggle for existence. But, considered as a whole social class, the dvorianstvo never recovered from the centuries of dependent state service. As "gentry", i. e., nobles with their roots in the local agrarian economy, based on servile labor and feudal dues, they had all but ceased to exist as a coherent social force even before emancipation.

The gentry as a class was approaching complete bankruptcy by mid century. They were forced in great numbers to mortgage serfs as well as land. In 1859, 75% of the serfs owned by gentry were mortgaged. In Kazan Gubernia 84% of all the estates and the peasants attached to them were mortgaged. As of January 1859, 44,166 of the 111,693 gentry estates were mortgaged to various banks, with a total indebtedness of 425,503,06l r. The 1858 census register recorded nearly half the gentry in possession of 20 serfs or less and thus disenfranchised even from gentry committees.

{_{ M. G. Sedov, Revoliutsionnaia situatsiia v Rossii 1859-1861 godov: Materialy k lektsii, posviashchennoi 100-letiiu padeniia krepostnogo prava (MVA: 1961), p. 9; quoting N. Rubakin, Rossiia v tsifrakh (SBP, 1912), p. 136. See also A. P. Korelin, Dvorianstvo v poreformennoi Rossii 1861-1905 gg.: sostav, chislennost', korporativnaia organizatsiia (MVA, 1979), esp. pp. 124ff.}_}

Even before 1861 they were clearly a "dying class", supported selectively out of the autocrat's purse. Now they were to be fatally damaged by the autocrat's emancipation of the serfs.

{_{ In compensation for emancipation, the gentry received about 500 million rubles. One-half of that went immediately to cover prior indebtedness. A large part of the compensation came in the form of bonds which depreciated immediately by 30 percent and had to be cashed. There was no noble bank to support the gentry in the crisis until 1885, and over this period the international value of grain declined by one-half. See Roberta Thompson Manning, The Crisis in the Old Order in Russia: Gentry and Government (Princeton NJ: 1982), chapter one.}_}

The rapid decline of traditional dvorianstvo, the class that many inexplicably still call the ruling class of Imperial Russia, and the expansion in size and authority of the state managerial elite (incidentally these too were or became noble) are the combined starting point of political opposition there. This, I would suggest, is the objective basis for much that later seems motivated simply by ideas, ideals, personality, or happenstance. We are not yet talking about philosophy or ideology, Slavophilism or Westernism; nor are we talking about self-abnegation, duty, sacrifice, charity, or altruism; nor, furthermore, are we talking about oedipal inclination or any other psychosis. We are talking about the very tangible social origins of Russian political opposition, the native lineage, the other route to the Finland Station. We here view the large, glacial social and economic circumstance that gives rise to and dominates the first Russian revolutionary epoch. Old ways were collapsing, new ways had to be found. Choices had to be made. This ferment was clearest in the experience of the most articulate class, the alienated aristocracy.

The autocracy itself perceived the problem and understood that it could never allow its heritable nobility to be destroyed altogether. That would have simultaneously neutralized the most persuasive social justification of the autocracy itself and would have negated a major inducement for state servitors ambitious for status. However far the Russian imperial state went toward a systematic social "meritocracy", toward the thoroughgoing implementation of the Petrine Table of Ranks, toward the replacement of class (soslovie) with rank (chin), it could never let service replace birth altogether as the ostensible or official basis of highest prestige. The tsar did not earn his way up the ranks to that title, he was born to that highest position. However far the state went toward the actual evisceration of the aristocracy as a class of gentry landowners, it did not allow the outer surface or superficial observance of their privilege to be scarred too deeply or rent. The state was itself caught on the horns of a modern dilemma and tried simultaneously to modernize and bolster traditions of social privilege which had no functional relationship to modernization at all.

But even here it is important to remember that privilege is not the same thing as rights. Similarly, comfort is not the same thing as power. The Emperor favored the aristocracy with a deference which was insufficient to give them, as a corporate whole, as a class, any real political position or independent power. Autocratic deference was insufficient to the corporate needs of the aristocracy. It was sufficient only to rankle the sensibilities of the ignoble and capable. Those from other sosloviia who advanced in the ranks, and whose efforts were the real motive force of the Empire as it entered into the specialized era of modern technical development had every reason to disdain the atavism of Russian Imperial social life. The autocracy thus immobilized the aristocratic class both in its relationship to state power and in its opportunity for public leadership. The servile position of the dvorianstvo also rankled a proudly aristocratic democrat like Herzen.

While preserving dvorianstvo, largely as a reward for state service, the state struggled to maintain a similar political control over the formation of all other sosloviia and social categories. The Russian middle class was minuscule and, like the gentry, much under the debilitating tutelage of the centralized state. The kupechestvo suffered as a group from a chronic instability and progressive enfeeblement. The state rushed in on its fledgling "bourgeoisie" and clamped state definitions on it. A law in 1800 tried to bring into the system of chin a whole category of persons in manufacturing and trade: "Manufaktur-sovetnik" and "kommertsii sovetnik". In 1824 the right to this rank was given to all kuptsy after twelve years in the first gild. By mid century, 258 had been thus designated. Additionally, in 1832 the state created the title pochetnyi grazhdanin, a personal and heritable status for merchants. It freed them from army recruitment, personal taxation, and corporal punishment. Thus in Russia the social category which was becoming the center of gravity of a vast historical transformation in Western Europe was becoming a category of civil service in Russia.

{_{ Shepelev, Otmenennye:55 and 100.}_}

It is nearly impossible to say for certain whether the critical social categories which defined their ranks were soslovie or chin. The two systems had become inseparably welded in the case of late blooming social formations. Here more clearly than at most levels of the social structure one sees the justification of the old formula: The state grew strong before society, and thus society was always the creature of the state.

The kupechestvo was a "weak and amorphous social group". State interference contributed to the instability of the class. In mid-19th century, some of the major investors were those who directly benefited from state controlled "otkupka" systems and other sordid and dependent forms of access to the state treasury.

{_{ Alfred J. Rieber, Merchants and Entrepreneurs in Imperial Russia (Chapel Hill: 1982). Gregory Guroff and Fred V. Carstensen, eds., Entrepreneurship in Imperial Russia and the Soviet Union (Princeton NJ: 1983), p. 63-65. See also Thomas Owen, Capitalism and Politics in Russia: A Social History of the Moscow Merchants, 1855-1905 (Cambridge ENG: 1981); L. E. Shepelev Tsarizm i burzhuaziia vo vtoroi polovine XIX veka: Problemy torgovo-promyshlennoi politiki (LGR: 1981); and V. Ya. Laverychev, Krupnaia burzhuaziia v poreformennoi Rossii (1861-1900 gg.) (MVA: 1974).}_}

Some of the instability in the corporate body of the kupechestvo is suggested by the astonishing fact that in 1873 only 108 of 623 merchants who had achieved rank of first gild in Moscow could trace their ancestry back to 18th century kupechestvo families. More than half of the members of gilds in the early years of Alexander II's reign were new to that status.

{_{ K. S. Kuibysheva, "Krupnaia moskovskaia burzhuaziia v period revoliutsionnoi situatsii v 1859-1861 gg", Revoliutsionnaia situatsiia v Rossii v 1859-1861 gg., 4 (1965):318.}_}

The clergy (dukhovenstvo) was a pitiable class, though still larger than the middle class in the 1860s. Since the reign of Peter the Great the clergy had been members of the civil service under the directorship not of a Patriarch but of a layman in the Holy Synod. The 1860s witnessed the first significant modern "grass-roots" movement against state dominance. Father Flerov attacked the harmful effects of the Petrine reforms on the church, deploring the dependence of the church on state servitors who in the final analysis justify themselves according to the old law of "might makes right". Flerov expanded into a moving description of clerical poverty and misery.

{_{ Flerov, Dukh khristianina (Feb. 1863), pp. 85-90.}_}

Clerical reformers in the time of Herzen's memoirs concluded that the primary task "was to transform the traditional service estate into a more professional class of servitors, armed with the requisite education, status, and zeal to carry the church's mission to society".

{_{ Gregory L. Freeze, The Parish Clergy in Nineteenth-Century Russia: Crisis, Reform, Counter-Reform (Princeton: 1983), p. xxvi. See also Freeze, "Revolt from Below: A Priest's Manifesto on the Crisis in Russian Orthodoxy", in Robert Nichols and T. Stavrou, eds., Russian Orthodoxy under the Old Regime (Minneapolis: 1978), pp. 90-124.}_}

For a brief while in the 1860s and, in a more sustained fashion, in the early 20th century a part of the clergy restlessly stirred under state incubus. But it still would not be possible to argue that the clergy, as class, or their church, as institution, played an independent role in the political life of the Empire. At least since Peter it was as impossible to imagine anything like a "two-swords controversy" as it was to imagine regional patrimonial independence of the gentry aristocracy in Russia.

Yet the dukhovenstvo produced children who broke away from their soslovie of birth and sought new forms of self-definition. Chernyshevskii is the most prominent example. Blagosvetlov's origins and mature career are much the same. Dobroliubov also.... While Herzen's soslovie was dvorianstvo and Chernyshevskii's was dukhovenstvo, the two were much alike in that they sought to "make something of themselves" outside the traditions of their families, in fact, directly opposed to their family traditions in most respects.

{_{ The phrase "make something of themselves" is Vul'fson's characterization of raznochintsy.}_}

Herzen's antagonism toward the titled nobility is like Chernyshevskii's advocacy of a materialist world view. Mikhail Mikhailov, born among traditionalist and patriarchal krest'ianstvo, became an advocate of progressive programs and an ardent feminist.

Herzen's words about the effect of the university on its students were uttered against a slow, grinding background of social decay, like an old glacier calving. While still enjoying many of the juridical privileges of their class, the gentry as a whole progressively lost control over the source of their economic power -- the land, and the revenues from that land. At the same time, a general moral crisis, related to the impropriety of their privileges, ate away at easy, heritable self-esteem. Wealth and position based on servile peasant labor came to seem repugnant to growing numbers of the very class whose customary existence depended on it. The solution of that problem, emancipation, not only financially wrecked them but demonstrated to growing numbers of them that they no longer performed a genuine role in the Empire. Beggared landowners sensitive about superannuated privileges became a standard target of scorn or nostalgic pity. As a consequence many sought a new self-justification within world views foreign to traditions, and a more reliable livelihood through investment and careers no less foreign than their new outlooks.

Some could and did find ways to fit themselves to the rapid changes that came upon Russia at mid-century. Without derogating themselves, some adjusted to new conditions and made a good life as gentry agronomists.

{_{ E.g.: The gentry poet and later very successful gentleman farmer Afanasii Shensin [Fet]. See his "Iz derevni", Russkii Vestnik, no. 1 (1863), pp. 438-470.}_}

These very few survived the last decades of the old regime without breaking traditions of soslovie. The politics of this group consisted typically of retreat to the protective wing of the autocratic state. It may at first seem ironical but it is in fact very understandable that when representatives of this group did stand forth to play a political role, they did not represent the traditional interests of their soslovie. They were what we usually call "liberals". They opposed the autocracy, understandably, because it was their primary enemy as they sought to assert themselves as an independent social and political force.

{_{ A. M. Unkovskii Aleksei Mikhailovich Unkovskii (1828-1893) (MVA: 1979).}_}

A much larger number of gentry did not break the traditions of their soslovie but quietly faded from the scene. The last decades of the old regime were a time of economic and political marginality for them, even though the zemstvos offered some economic relief and political outlet. Many found state service a necessity. These, we might say, deserted soslovie and surrendered to chin.

Finally, a small but significant number found neither chin nor soslovie adequate to their sense of self and their instincts about the future. These were the gentry who joined the ranks of the raznochintsy, social elements spun off from the clergy, merchant and agrarian classes as they experienced 19th century dislocations equal to those experienced by the aristocracy. Their new, positive self-image was best reflected in the term intelligentsia. At first they typically angled toward professional careers such as journalism, the arts, law, and medicine, avocations where training and personal achievement rather than inheritance were the keys to success.

{_{ Charles E. Timberlake, "Higher Learning, the State, and the Professions in Russia". In Konrad H. Jarausch, ed., The Transformation of Higher Learning, 1860-1930: Expansion, Diversification, Social Opening and Professionalization in England, Germany, Russia and the United States (Stuttgart: 1983).}_}

Many concluded that the autocratic state was as antiquated and objectionable as gentry serf owning; certainly many discovered the state as a significant obstacle to the realization of the sort of world where their new identities would best prosper. These turned eventually, and sometimes immediately, to political forms of self-definition.

For aristocrats, an impulse to free themselves from dysfunctional soslovie traditions, to dissociate themselves from the fate of a "dying class", is the first and fundamental cause of their early leadership within the Russian political opposition. This impulse was much like what motivated serfs, superfluous sons of clergy, foiled offspring of the meshchane and others. The tsarist social-service leviathan was crumbling on its extreme edges. The impulse was to escape the fate of their class and redefine themselves, rebaptize themselves in mind-forged brotherhoods. Having inherited a past without a future, they were also impelled to latch onto an apparently functional future, to associate themselves democratically with the whole nation, particularly with the fate of an apparently ascendant class: the working people, the narod.


Narod [the people] and the Native Lineage

The word narod is critical to the mentalities of 19th c. Russia. It was a vital component of both conservative nationalism and revolutionary populism. Count Uvarov's triune formula, "Orthodoxy, Autocracy, and narodnost', and the theories of the radical "populists" [narodniki], share the root word "narod" and the same inspiration: to escape the dilemmas of Russian social history. Herzen himself is most widely known for having supposedly popularized a radically romantic vision of the instinctively socialistic narod.

As a word, narod is no more or less precise than the phrase "the people". In various settings and mutations of Russian usage, it implies most narrowly "peasants", somewhat more broadly "the working people", even more broadly "the folk", and most broadly "the nation". The word and concept in their elasticity served as an all-encompassing category of social existence, a renegade generalization on soslovie. Is the narod a sloi? That may be unclear, but you cannot call it a soslovie, nor can you call it a class. Even in its narrowest use, it is not precisely a synonym for krest'ianstvo. It is almost always an abstraction implying a "native" congregation to which a very large and diverse group of people may belong. Appeals to "folk" identity have often been efforts to leap over confusions or tensions within established social structures.

Whether used by Nicholas I as a statist formula or by Michael Bakunin as a revolutionary slogan, it represented an escape from the concatenation of chin and soslovie, really an unstable solution of the dysfunctional legal definitions of class and rank. With their idea of narod both the emperor and the anarchist vaulted shakily over the tangled confusions of the actual Russian social-service structure. For refractory aristocrats and others from various ranks and classes sloughed off by the tsarist system, association with the narod could appear to promise a transcendent future of progress and justice. The concept of the narod smelted down the junky confusion of chin and soslovie.

Herzen launched a discussion of narod in the course of his essay on Petr Chaadaev. He thought of this discussion as an expression of his "faith". Chaadaev, he said, did not believe in a special path for Russia. He believed in a salvation of individuals but not of a whole narod. The Slaviane [Slavophiles] thought otherwise. They believed in a quite glorified potential of Russian popular traditions.

"But history won't let us go back", said Herzen in his memoirs. "Political life in pre-Petrine Russia was freakish, impoverished, primitive--and it was just to this that the Slaviane sought to return...". Chaadaev ridiculed this sort of effort to return to the people, to "go to the people". He told of a Slavophile intellectual dressed in a murmulok who was of course taken for Persian when peasants met him on the street. The Slavophiles think the people are ready for them. In this they show themselves naive like certain Western democrats [zapadnykh dimokratov]. They don't appreciate the real condition of the folk. They cannot deal with the actual narod, so they make one up. Neither the "Byzantine church" nor the granovitaia palata has anything more to offer the actual folk.

But Herzen argued that the narod still must be the choice for Russia's future:

But it is quite another matter to return to the village, to the workers' artels, to the village assembly, to the Cossacks. But do not return in order to bind them in a stagnant Asiatic crystallization, but in order to expand [??] the foundations on which they grow, free them from everything artificial and false, from the scars they have suffered--that is our natural calling.

In this case, the word "our" stands for what would soon be called the intelligentsia. Clarifying this point, Herzen continued by emphasizing how some new force independent of state power must turn to the narod, the nation. Neither the old-fashioned Muscovite state nor the modern Petrine state was capable of the task. Herzen also deflated the hopes of liberals who grasped onto the Novgorod veche bell as a symbol of a third political option given by Russian history, the option of viable "bourgeois" representative government. That bell had long ago been melted down to forge a cannon in the arsenal of the Muscovite state.


Byloe i dumy and the Native Lineage

The Russian state adulterated our inheritance, our home-bred ways, said Herzen; it compromised the soslovie of our origins and corrupted the system of chin which seemed our future. But the Petrine reforms had pointed the way toward enlightenment and modernization. The University was as much a consequence of Peter I as was the awful emasculation of Russian society. The university mercifully stripped all this from the backs of students. It melted them down "as into a common reservoir", then recast them in a better shape. The veche bell had been reforged as a cannon, but the youthful strength of Russia was cast into something very fine. The university endowed students with a new identity which precisely foreshadowed a better future for all Russia. But at the end, said Herzen, the university sent us back into a world where the old soslovie and chin, however logically contradictory, however morally outrageous, still reigned.

Herzen continued:

Until 1848 the organization of our universities was purely democratic. Their doors were open to everyone who could pass the examination, who was neither a serf, a peasant, nor a man excluded from his commune. Nicholas spoilt all this....

{_{ Byloe i dumy (ch. xi, end), in PoZ#1 (1955), pp. 163-8; SoS, vol. 9, 147-51. The McDonald edition does not include these passages.}_}

He spoiled the university when he placed restrictions on student intellectual and organizational life, choking the life of this young sloi as it first stretched and felt its new strength. Herzen and his confreres resisted Nicholas, in actions that were motivated by nothing more complicated than self-organization and self-defense, and they suffered.

{_{ In 1828 A. Kh. Benkendorf, first head of the notorious tsarist secret police, the Third Section, reported to Nicholas I: "Young folks from 17 to 25 years old are, taken as a group, the most gangrenous part of the empire. Among these extravagant youths [sumasbrodov] we see the embryos of Jacobinism and the revolutionary and reformist spirit expressing themselves in a variety of forms but most often hidden beneath the mask of Russian patriotism". (T. G. Snytko, "Studencheskoe dvizhenie v russkikh universitetakh v nachale 60-kh godov i vosstanie 1863 g"., in Vosstanie 1863 g. i russko-pol'skie revoliutsionnye sviazi 60-kh godov: Sbornik statei i materialov_, edited by V. D. Koroliuka and I. S. Miller (MVA: 1960), pp. 183-4.}_}

As they made the first efforts in the direction of organizational substitutes for the broken sodalities of soslovie and chin, the state intervened in the classic pattern to smash them.

Even the anti-progressive publicist Mikhail Katkov kept to the recognized contour of the skvoznaia liniia when, thirty-years after Herzen's kruzhok was crushed, he generalized on this process in the following way:

The characteristic feature of our environment is that it stifles the organizing forces which bind people together who have a general interest, which flows through them and lives in them.... Such is the historical fate of our civilization. History has smashed all of our social ovaries, and given a negative direction to our artificial civilization....

Katkov continued around the same curve of thought:

People thus live a double life--an external one, in which they do not take an intellectual and moral part [official public life], and an internal one, which enters more into the world of dreams than reality.

{_{ See Martin Katz, Mikhail N. Katkov, 1818-1887: A Political Biography (The Hague: 1966), p. 76. }_}

Katkov said "environment" and "history" where Herzen might more explicitly have said "the state", but otherwise Herzen could have penned these lines himself. The skvoznaia liniia is not partisan. But, at the time he penned the lines above, Katkov was preparing to declare his alliance with the imperial state and to accept subsidies for his support. He decided to reject emasculated society in favor of crushing state power, while many of his associates were making an opposite and revolutionary choice, following Herzen.


Saint-Simon and the Russian Native Lineage

It was natural for these energetic youths, whose tendency toward active organization was blocked by the state, to channel their energies into thought. Polevoi introduced Saint-Simon's thought to the circle of which Herzen was a member. Polevoi was an influential progressive journalist, historian and critic, initially something of an intellectual guide for Herzen and his brotherhood. A son of a provincial merchant, he was self taught and generally what one would call a "self made man". These passages, which Herzen wrote originally in 1856, tell us something of Polevoi's position among them, and oddly prophesy Herzen's troubled relationship with the younger forces in his own time:

The new world was pushing at the door, and our hearts and souls opened wide to meet it. Saint-Simonism lay at the foundation of our convictions and remained so in its essentials unalterably.

For us Saint-Simonism was a revelation for him [N. A. Polevoi] it was insanity, a vain Utopia, hindering social development.

[Polevoi was upset with Herzen's youthful confidence and said:] "The time will come when you will be rewarded for a whole life-time of toil and effort by some young man saying with a smile, 'Be off, you are behind the times.'"

{_{ MacDonald:114-116; 1856:PoZ#2:164-166; SoS 8:162-63.}_}

In what way did Saint-Simon recommend himself to Herzen and his brotherhood as they sought to solve real-life problems of their social existence? For a moment we must disencumber ourselves of the specifics of Saint-Simon's life and teachings, stand back a step or two, and observe his happy larger fit to the problems of the Russian service and social structure. We must see how he and his thought, as a bundle, appeared to offer solutions to problems of chin and soslovie.

First, Saint-Simon was an aristocrat who derogated himself in order to greet and embrace the future during one of its most dramatic entrances onto the stage of history, the French Revolution. Second, he waltzed crazily through the bloody wreckage of the Revolution and emerged whole and undaunted on the other side with a healthy appetite and fabulous recipe for industrial, technical and scientific progress. Finally, he predicted that savants in the future would run the show, savants would rule: uchënye or intelligents would be the first estate of the new order.

Saint-Simon thus represented to Herzen's generation a precise, comprehensive and beautiful subversion of the Russian social and service system.

{_{ An excellent capsulation of Saint-Simon's revolutionary implications is J. K. Billington, Fire in the Minds of Men: Origins of the Revolutionary Faith (NYC: 1980), pp. 208-218. But while I've got him here, I must say that Billington's imbalanced emphasis on fires in the mind not only contributes to his misdating the actual fires in Saint-Petersburg at one point (1862, not 1861, p. 5) but encourages implausible assertions like this: "Thus the revolutionary label that now controls the destiny of more than one billion people in the contemporary world sprang from the erotic imagination of an eccentric writer". Billington is speaking here of Restif de la Bretonne, in Paris, before the French Revolution. Billington's lively book traces an external, spiritual skvoznaia liniia, what he calls the "signs along the path from Restif to Lenin", and thus he feels he has illuminated the force "that now controls the destiny of more than one billion people in the contemporary world". (p. 7).}_}

With this in mind, we can make deeper sense out of one puzzling passage in Herzen's memoirs. He addressed the question of just what value the efforts of young savants could possibly have, what good comes of their seemingly idle deliberations and scheming. Herzen offered the following comments:

Work, business! Officials [chinovniki] recognize as such only civil and criminal affairs; the merchant [kupets] regards as work nothing but commerce; military men call it their work to strut about like cranes and to be armed from head to foot in time of peace.

{_{ MacDonald:230-31; 1855:PoZ#1:82; SoS 9:11 and 17.}_}

Herzen highlighted three leading career possibilities that presented themselves to his generation: service in the bureaucracy (chinovnichestvo), commercial enterprise (kupechestvo), or service in the military. He did not here bother to deliberate on the "work" of the landowner, nor of the peasant or industrial laborer. It's not so much that these do not "work" as it is that no young intelligent, in his view, could possibly consider these options. He rejected them all: civil and military service, business, commercial farming, and rural or factory labor, all in order to affirm the value of another sort of useful work particularly appropriate to the Russian scene:

To my thinking, to serve as the link, as the center of a whole circle of people, is a very great work, especially in a society both disunited and fettered [razobshchennom i skovannom]. [Stankevich] drew a large circle of friends into his favorite pursuit [philosophy]. This circle was extremely remarkable: from it came a regular legion of savants [uchënykh], writers and professors, among whom were Belinskii, Bakunin and Granovskii.

{_{ SoS,9:17.}_}

Herzen himself was one of that group.

The chinovnik runs others' lives, the kupets buys and sells to his own advantage, the officer struts and prepares to make war. The dvorianin or pomeshchik lives off the labor of peasants. That's the work of a disunited and fettered Russian society, and not too savory. What a surprising and agreeable phrase, "disunited and fettered" [razobshchennom i skovannom]. Strangely both bound and disunited, Russian society suffered from the extreme opposites of two virtues: community and freedom. Is it idle then to become an uchënyi? On the contrary, it was of the highest practical importance to build cadres for the future when these skewed virtues will be restored. Stankevich created "a regular legion of savants", said Herzen, pridefully exaggerating the size of his brotherhood if not the size of their task. The work of the savant, in contrast to the fettered and disunited work of other sloi, amounted to a grand, nation building task, purging the people of soslovie and chin. The university, modern scholarship and thought formed savants from the shambles of this decrepit system, shaped them into a social force able to defeat soslovie and chin.

Herzen's savants were inspired more directly by Saint-Simon than were subsequent generations of intelligents. But the Saint-Simonian spirit pierced through factions and through the decades, from the earliest beginnings up to the present day. The Saint-Simonian spirit inspired wholesome welcome of the modern world, the next stage of human maturity, up from aristocratism and militarism to egalitarian humanitarianism and peaceful productivity. It promised leadership for savants. Savants were different from old-fashioned leaders--the men on horseback or in bishop's miter--because their position derived from what they do, not from birth or privilege, not from soslovie or chin. The Saint-Simonian spirit thus promised the triumph of savants over aristocrats, bureaucrats and clergymen. It promised also the triumph of reason and science, the main instrument of the savant, over ceremonial mumbo-jumbo. It promised the triumph of the future over the moribund past. Most thrillingly it promised the triumph of creativity and quality over militarism and dull middle class or bureaucratic routine. It promised the triumph of humane cooperation over inhumane exploitation. It did not address the problem of the urban or rural laborer, but the Saint-Simonian spirit just happened to fit very nicely with the predicament that Herzen's small and talented brotherhood faced in the very real bog of their social, economic and political relations.

From the perspective of the late 20th century, enthusiasm for Saint-Simon seems rapturous and naive until we look at the organic roots in daily life from which that enthusiasm grew. Herzen's generation and subsequent generations embraced the essential elements of Saint-Simonism even when they did not bother too much with the actual texts, the precise ideas.

{_{ See the reference to Saint-Simon's vision of a future in which economics, i. e., public organization of daily life, will rule over politics, rather than the other way around, in an enthusiastic article about joint stock companies in Severnaia pchela_, no. 25 (1862), p. 97.}_}

They did this because Saint-Simon so perfectly solved the riddle of their social existence. He taught them who they were--uchënye--and promised that it was they who had the future laden within them.

In those instances and eras when Saint-Simon ceased to have a dominant influence, when other figures like Fourier or Guizot or Proudhon or Mazzini or Ledru-Rollin or Lassalle or Marx came to have influence, it generally was so in this way. These thinkers had to solve the questions of identity and mission for Russian intelligents, what ever else they did, or their influence remained pinched and partial.


Herzen, the "New People" of the 1860s, and the Native Lineage

In 1862, Herzen appealed to the students of the new universities of Russia, in the aftermath of their expulsion and the closing of the halls of learning, to go into the countryside, to the people, to where the action was. He was not just expressing a wildly democratic hope for the vitality of the peasant masses. He was, without a second thought, asserting that these fledgling uchënye were essential to the unfolding of events in the countryside. One should never forget that Herzen's call to go to the people was voiced in tandem with an equally relevant appeal to establish printing presses. And at the same time his close associate Nicholas Ogarev was penning model plans for national-wide political organizations, in harmony with the direction of events in Russia itself. Herzen was as inclined to idealize the intelligentsia as he was the narod.

But the new university was producing a new generation of students unfamiliar to Herzen. When Herzen composed the first chapters of his memoirs in the 1850s, the Nicholas blight still held at Russian universities. As he published them in book form the situation had notably changed. Restrictions were removed, admissions were open again even more widely than in Herzen's day, and student activism had taken on such scope and intensity as Herzen and his brotherhood could never have anticipated.

Herzen was slow to absorb the implications of the growth of the state bureaucracy and the expansion of the student body at the universities. Nor could he perceive the close connection between them. University enrollments grew as higher education increasingly came to be a requirement for a service career and as the need for trained administrators expanded so very broadly. Life in Saint-Petersburg and Moscow--to some degree in the other provincial administrative, university, and market towns--changed along with social and institutional changes. "Society" had changed as much as the cities in which society centered itself, as much as the universities with which society was every day more closely associated, as much as the ubiquitous administration where society worked.

Society at mid-century was genetically related to society in Herzen's youth. But it had reached a stage which--if we follow Herzen's imagery--might be called adolescence. In that stage of life, society was not the same being Herzen had known earlier. He greeted it tentatively, as an uncertain parent. And he held it at arms length in some disparagement for its gangly unrecognizability. His hesitancy with respect to the new Russian society is analogous to his hesitancy with respect to West European bourgeois culture. He anticipated both, needed both, but on direct confrontation, neither was quite his cup of tea. For its own part, society in that adolescent state was hardly more secure in its sense of identity or its relationship to its "parents". Like the adolescent, society acted sometimes like a child, sometimes like an adult, sometimes like what it had been, sometimes like what it would soon become. In its relationship specifically to Herzen, it was sometimes adoring and clinging, sometimes petulant and thankless.

For all these changes, in one important respect society in 1861 was not all that different from society in Herzen's university days. The student rebellion of 1861-62 was like that of Herzen's day in that it was motivated by the same uncomplicated and directly perceived self interest. Only now hundreds and hundreds of people became involved, not all of them students. That is why 1861, rather than 1831, more nearly represents the beginning of the revolutionary 20th century. In 1861 arose the oppositional movements that were to have a relatively unbroken history into the 20th century, that were to add their weight to the collapse of the Russian Empire in 1917, and to oversee the construction of the Soviet system. Herzen understood much, but after more than a decade in exile he had lost touch with the pulse of political life in his homeland.

Herzen inserted the following words into the book edition, as he witnessed with sorrow these first awkward steps of the "new men", the "new people". Listen to his distress, his startling ungenerosity. He was the representative of the founding generation. He was here, metaphorically speaking, greeting brash teenagers sired by his own brotherhood.

After our affair..., fifteen years passed in tranquillity before the Petrashevskii affair [1849], and it was those fifteen years from which Russia is only just beginning to recover [i.e., in 1861] and by which two generations were broken, the elder smothered in violence, and the younger poisoned from childhood, whose sickly [kvëlykh] representatives we are seeing to-day.

{_{ MacDonald:104; SoS,8:144.}_}

Directly after this bilious insertion, the original narrative picked up again with what now seemed an almost apologetic recollection of how his brotherhood in its own time offended its elders. Herzen's clash with Polevoi in the 1840s acquires a special poignancy introduced now by the reference to "poisoned" and "sickly" representatives of the current "smothered" generation, meaning Chernyshevskii and others with whom he had most recently been feuding.

Their plebian, "bug" smelly origins and manners were as offensive to Herzen as were those of the European bourgeois revolutionists of 1848 who had so badly failed his raffine expectations. The generation of Chernyshevskii and Serno-Solovevich defined the role of the savant even more precisely, and they gave themselves a lasting name, intelligentsia. But all the elements were present, in embryo, in Herzen's memoirs.

Herzen wrote these final passages after the first rancorous dealings with the "men of the Sixties". He summed up the reign of Tsar Nicholas I in the following manner:

The pestilential streak, running from 1825 to 1855, will soon be completely cordoned off.... Thirty years ago the Russia of the future existed exclusively among a few boys [mal'chikami], hardly more than children. They were so insignificant and unnoticed that there was room for them between the soles of the great boots of the autocracy and the ground--and in them was the heritage of the 14th of December.... [Here he refers to the dramatic but limited and ineffectual Decembrist Uprising in 1825, at the very outset of Nicholas' reign.]

In the very jaw of the monster these children stand out unlike other children.... They are the rudimentary germs [iacheiki], the embryos [zarodyshchi] of history, barely perceptible, barely existing, like all embryos in general.

{_{ MacDonald, pp. 246-249; 1862:PoZ#7:112-17; SoS,9:35-39.}_}

Russian educated youth, merely boys, were few in number and short of tooth, but were not at all superfluous or foreign to the world that produced them. They were alienated and hostile, but that's different. Their alienation and their hostility had a natural and central place in the vast scheme of things. Herzen was explicit: "The objection that these circles, unnoticed both from above and from below, form an exceptional, and extraneous, an unconnected phenomenon...seems to us quite groundless".

Notice Herzen's instinctive use of genetic metaphor: embryo and germ. Educated Russian youths were few in number and short of tooth, but they and only they represented the natural and native living force of the Russian future. They were the natural product of Russian social/service hierarchies in crisis. This helps us make better sense of the father/child and other generational imagery, so central to his message:

The very appearance of the circles of which I am speaking was a natural response to a profound, inward need in the Russian life of that time.

Below this great social sphere [of privilege], the great world of the people maintained an indifferent silence; nothing was changed for them: their plight was bad, but no worse than before, the new blows fell not on their bruised backs. Their time had not yet come. Between this roof and this foundation the first to raise their heads were children [deti]....

The number of educated people among us has always been extremely small; but those who were educated have always received an education, not perhaps very comprehensive, but fairly general and humane: it made men of all with whom it succeeded.

Herzen's definition of education and its effect is vital: education made them into something else because they simply could not allow themselves to become officials, landlords, or generals; certainly it was out of the question to become a peasant or worker, at least so far as Herzen was concerned. Education came to the rescue, providing a future when all other avenues provided by history were blocked or thoroughly repugnant. Dan Brower has shown that it continued to do just that through the 1860s and into the years of Lenin's schooling.

{_{ See Brower, Training.}_}

Very clearly we are in need of a significant adjustment in one of our standard clichés about Russian history. Herzen, and most of those who followed him, were less inclined to idealize the narod than they were to idealize themselves.

Education, their alma mater, nurtured them toward adulthood, toward manhood, but such manhood found no easy place in Russia. Herzen continued:

But a man was just what was not wanted either for the hierarchical pyramid or for the successful maintenance of the landowning régime. The young man had either to dehumanize himself again--and the greater number did so--or to stop short and ask himself: "But is it absolutely essential to go into [state] service? Is it really a good thing to be a landowner?" After that there followed for some, the weaker and more impatient, the idle existence of a cornet on the retired list, the sloth of the country, the dressing-gown, eccentricities, cards, wine; for others a time of ordeal and inner travail. They could not live in complete moral disharmony, nor could they be satisfied with a negative attitude of withdrawal; the stimulated mind required an outlet. The various solutions of these questions, all equally harassing for the younger generation, determined their distribution into various circles.


Herzen's Own Place in the Native Lineage

In these passages Herzen traced the native birth of the Russian oppositional intelligentsia and described, even if only in embryonic form, the larger features of the social and political organism that cradled them in their infancy, that threatened them with suffocation, that tilted them toward opposition. The conception was far from immaculate and the birth was labored in the extreme. He may have grasped only partially the actual process then altering beyond recognition the Russia he had fled over a decade earlier. But he managed to captivate and speak to its spirit. The "sickly youths" who crowded into the universities read his memoirs and found guidance in them.

{_{ When members of a Moscow University student circle, including the leading figures, Perikl Argiropulo and Petr Zaichnevskii, were arrested in 1861, they were found to have in their possession the poems of Shevchenko, Herzen's articles from PoZ (apparently the chapter from "Past and Thoughts" titled "Zapad i vostok Evropy" [1855:PoZ#1:148-68], along with a portrait of Herzen, photos of Decembrists, and of Polish radicals. The main activity of the circle had been to create a secret printing press, employing wooden type, to reprint Herzen's and Ogarev's Razbor knigi Korfa. See Yu. V. Kulikov, "Voprosy revoliutsionnoi programmy i taktiki v proklamatsii 'Molodaia Rossiia' (1862 g.)", Revoliutsionnaia situatsiia v Rossii v 1859-1861 gg., vol. 2 (1962), pp. 241-262.}_}

That is so because they instinctively recognized the skvoznaia liniia that ran from Herzen's time, through their own, into the 20th century. Squeezed between state and nation, the intelligentsia had only one meaningful choice: alliance with popular freedom and national progress, against the imperial state.