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N.A. Speshnev as revolutionary

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N.A. Speshnev as revolutionary the philosophy and radical program of Russia's first militant communist
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LaDell, Leonard Alvin
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Includes bibliographical references (leaves 83-85).
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Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree, Master of Arts, History.
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Department of History
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by Leonard Alvin LaDell.

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Full Text
N.A. SPESHNEV AS REVOLUTIONARY:
THE PHILOSOPHY AND RADICAL PROGRAM OF
RUSSIA'S FIRST MILITANT COMMUNIST
by
Leonard Alvin LaDell Jr.
B.A., University of Virginia, 1987
A thesis submitted to the
Faculty of the Graduate School of the
University of Colorado at Denver
in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Master of Arts
History
1994


This thesis for the Master of Arts
degree by
Leonard Alvin LaDell Jr.
has been approved for the
Department of
History
by


LaDell Jr., Leonard Alvin (M.A., History)
N.A. Speshnev as Revolutionary: The Philosophy and Radical
Program of Russia's First Militant Communist
Thesis directed by Associate Professor
Mary Schaeffer Conroy
ABSTRACT
This thesis explores the character and revolutionary
strategy of Nikolai Aleksandrovich Speshnev, a charismatic,
violent young Russian. Speshnev was a member of the
Petrashevsky circle, a group of young 1840's Russian
intelligentsia who met weekly at the home of Mikhail
Vasilievich Butashevich-Petrashevsky to discuss philosophy,
politics and problems in their homeland. Because the
Petrashevtsy's discussions endangered their lives and
freedom, all of the group's members are worthy historical
subjects. However, Speshnev's unyielding commitment to
violent revolution makes him the circle's most fascinating
participant.
Nicholai Speshnev was one of Russia's first
revolutionary communists. His intellectual influences
included French socialist and communist thinkers such as
Pierre Proudhon, Charles Fourier and Theodore Dezamy and
German philosophers, including Ludwig Feuerbach, Wilhelm
Weitling and Max Stirner. Dedicated study of these writers
led Speshnev to form a plan for revolution in Russia.
ill


Speshnev attempted to recruit members for his secret
Russian Society at Petrashevsky's, but the host's
resistance led to an alternative plan. Speshnev used
another discussion group as a cover for his conspiracy. The
charismatic young radical enlisted several of his peers
(including Fyodor Dostoevsky), and the secret group began
obtaining parts for printing press. However, the scheme
failed when agents of Tsar Nicholas I arrested the
conspirators in April of 1849.
Despite his failure to foment a peasant rebellion,
Speshnev's career represents an important milestone in the
history of revolution in Russia. His program for
insurrection featured several points which would reappear
in later revolutionaries' activities: the use of secret
societies, commitment to violence, acceleration of the
revolutionary process, and propaganda distribution with a
private press.
This abstract accurately represents the content of the
candidate's thesis. I recommend its publication.
Signed
IV


ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
I must thank Mary S. Conroy for her guidance of and
enthusiasm for this endeavor. Her suggestions and
assistance were valuable and greatly appreciated. Generous
aid in translating Russian sources was provided by Olga
Krayevaya and Aleksei Sinyegin. Thanks also to Valentin
Peschanskii for his willingness to assist my efforts to
obtain sources from Russia. Finally, the support and
encouragement of my wife Heather Bailey LaDell were
invaluable in my effort to complete this project.
v


CONTENTS
CHAPTER
1. INTRODUCTION.......................................1
2. SEMYONOVSKY SQUARE.................................4
3. NIKOLAI SPESHNEV AS HISTORICAL SUBJECT.............7
4. EARLY LIFE AND EDUCATION..........................11
5 . SPESHNEV IN EUROPE.............................. 13
6 . SPESHNEV'S RETURN TO RUSSIA . ............... 23
7. INTELLECTUAL INFLUENCES ON SPESHNEV AND THE
PETRASHEVTSY.......................................26
Saint-Simon......................................26
Comte............................................29
Fourier........................................ 30
Feuerbach........................................33
Proudhon........................................ 37
Stirner. ..................................... 40
8. SPESHNEV AMONG THE PETRASHEVTSY...................49
9. SPESHNEV AND THE PAL'M-DUROV CIRCLE...............60
10 . DOSTOEVSKY AS SPESHNEVITE.........................70
11. CONCLUSION........................................78
BIBLIOGRAPHY.............................................83
VI


CHAPTER 1
INTRODUCTION
The Petrashevsky circle was a group of St. Petersburg
intelligentsia who discussed French socialism, German
philosophy and the need for change in Russia in the 1840's.
Given the relatively harsh constraints on intellectuals
that were in place as a reaction (in part) to the 1830
rebellion in Russian Poland and to revolts in many European
cities in 1830 and 1848-9, it is no surprise that the
Petrashevtsy, who were willing to risk imprisonment and/or
exile are interesting historical figures. One of the most
intriguing of the Petrashevtsy was Nikolai Speshnev, a man
of contradictions whose enigmatic, violent character
inspired Dostoevsky, another Petrashevets, to include
Speshnev (as Stavrogin) in The Devils.
All of the Petrashevtsy were strongly influenced by
French socialists such as Charles Fourier, Auguste Comte
and Claude Henri Saint-Simon, and German philosophers,
including G.W.F. Hegel, Ludwig Feuerbach and Bruno Bauer.
Speshnev shared these influences, though he preferred
French communists to socialists, and his primary German
1


influence was Max Stirner, author of Der Einzige und sein
Eigenthum (The Ego and His Own). In Speshnev's program for
revolution we will see the impact of Stirners amoral
egotism.
This thesis will follow Speshnev's development as a
revolutionary thinker and strategist from his education at
the Lyceum at Tsarskoe Selo to his arrest on April 27,
1849. The first important step in the Speshnev's training
as a radical was a trip to Europe taken in 1842. Next we
will investigate his return to Russia in 1847 and his
introduction the Petrashevtsy. Speshnev's intellectual
influences will be considered in the context of those of
his comrades in the Petrashevsky circle. His activities in
the circle comprised his first attempt to inspire others to
revolution, and Speshnev's efforts earned him several loyal
followers would join his secret society. However, the young
revolutionary's plans would never come to fruition.
Speshnev's arrest preempted his scheme to use a private
printing press to propagandize for insurrection.
Several sources proved invaluable in this
investigation of Russia's "first Communist." Delo
Petrashevtsev (in three volumes) is a collection of
published documents concerning the Petrashevtsy, and it
2


includes the Russian government's official files on many
Petrashevtsy. Unfortunately Speshnev's file was lost but
each of the three volumes contain much other information
relevant to his career and character. Also important were
the three-volume Petrashevtsy, Sbornik materialov, edited
by P.E. Shchegelov and V.R. Leikina's article,
"Petrashevets N.A. Speshnev (For the 75th anniversary of
the Petrashevtsy Affair)" in Byloye, 1924, No. 25.
English-language secondary works were helpful
especially J.H. Seddon's Petrashevtsy, Joseph Frank's
Dostoevsky: The Seeds Revolt 1821-1849, and John Evans' The
Petrasevskij Circle. Evans also wrote the article on
Speshnev featured in The Modern Encyclopedia of Russian and
Soviet History. This article contains valuable information
concerning Speshnev that did not appear in Evans'
monograph. Of the English-language sources, Seddon's was
the most valuable by far, for she had access to Speshnev's
letters to his mother (Pis'ma k materi 1838-82). Once I
obtain this crucial resource from the Irkutsk Oblastnoi
Arkhiv, my research on Speshnev will continue.
3


CHAPTER 2
SEMYONOVSKY SQUARE
In the cold morning hours of December 22, 1849 twenty-
one bleary-eyed Russian prisoners filed out of their cells
in St. Petersburg's Peter and Paul fortress. The convicts
entered carriages, and the convoy, led and followed by St.
Petersburg Gendarme platoons, proceeded to the Semyonovsky
Parade Grounds. None of the prisoners knew their
destination; each had expected a sentence of exile (and
perhaps hard labor), but a more extreme punishment seemed
imminent when the carriages reached Semyonovsky square. A
scaffold draped in black sat in a corner of the Grounds,
and nearby, three stakes protruded from the frozen turf.^
The square was crowded with spectators (perhaps 3000)
and guards regiments, including the Life Guards of the
Regiment of Chasseurs and a battalion of Life Guards from
the Cavalry-Grenadiers.2 The prisoners mounted the scaffold
1 John Evans, The Petrasevskij Circle (The Hague: Mouton,
1974), 102.
2 Liza Knapp, ed., Dostoevsky as Reformer (Ann Arbor:
Ardis, 1987) 95. The figure 3000 comes from Evans, The
Petrasevskij Circle, 102.
4


and formed two rows: one of twelve, another of nine. An
official then mounted the platform and read a statement to
the convicts, proclaiming each man's guilt. The auditor
then pronounced the sentence, now obvious to the condemned
and spectators:
The Military-Civil Court has sentenced all to .
execution by shooting, and on the nineteenth of
December the Tsar wrote in his own hand: 'So be it.
Thus the Tsar would prove his might by snuffing out these
twenty-one bright minds.
After the thirty-minute reading of charges and
sentence, a priest offered confession to the doomed men,
but none accepted the offer. One of the more religious
prisoners, the young Fyodor Dostoevsky whispered to a
strikingly handsome, imposing neighbor: "We will be
together with Christ." Dostoevsky's unrepentant comrade
replied, "A handful of dust, I think.
The priest withdrew, and an executioner confronted the
men, breaking each criminal's sword over his head and
giving each a white shirt and cap to signify their loss of 3 *
3 P.E. Shchegelov, Ed. Petrashevtsy, Sbornik materialov
(Moscow: 1926-1928) 1, 206.
^ Evans, The Petrasevskij Circle, 102.
5


noble status5 *. Guards then led three men to the wooden
stakes and secured their bonds. Fifteen riflemen took aim,
but there was no order to fire. The three convicts returned
to the scaffold, and the auditor announced the Tsar's
reprieve: the autocrat had decided to commute the death
sentence to exile and hard labor. As he had shown his
wrath, Nicholas now demonstrated his mercy.5
5 According to the Imperially-approved plan for the
ceremony at Semyonovsky Square, Lieutenant Alexander Pal'm
was to be exempted from the sword-breaking and replacement
by the uniform with white garments. Why this exception was
granted and whether it was given at the ceremony is unknown
(Evans, for example states that a sword was broken over
each man's head pp. 102-3). Exceptional military service
or family influence, for example, may have spared Pal'm
this dishonor. See Knapp, ed., Dostoevsky as Reformer, 95.
5 Evans, The Petrasevskij Circle, 103.
6


CHAPTER 3
NIKOLAI SPESHNEV AS HISTORICAL SUBJECT
The twenty-one men who enjoyed the Tsar's mercy were
known as Petrashevtsy.^ Mikhail Vasilievich Butashevich-
Petrashevsky led a Friday evening discussion circle in his
St. Petersburg flat from 1845-1849. Most of those who
frequented the group came to discuss literature, art,
politics, and the state of Russia, but a few shared an
immediate, radical agenda. Foremost among this faction was
Nikolai Aleksandrovich Speshnev, Dostoevsky's mysterious
neighbor on the scaffold in Semyonovsky Square.
Speshnev was a standout among the Petrashevtsy in many
ways. He was one of the most adamant atheists, the only
avowed communist^ (and one of Russia's first communists),
the only Petrashevets to travel abroad, and the most
committed to revolution in Russia. Speshnev was also 8
^ I say 'as Petrashevtsy' rather than 'as the Petrashevtsy'
because those convicted of political crimes were
outnumbered by fellow Petrashevtsy who were not.
8 See for example V.R. Leikina, "Petrashevets N.A. Speshnev
(For the 75th Anniversary of the Petrashevtsy Affair),"
Byloye, No. 25 (1924), 14.
7


wealthier than his peers; he owned an estate with over 500
serfs in Kursk province and a house on Shestilevochnaia
Street in St. Petersburg.9 His wealth was inherited, and
his mother (who owned an even larger estate) gave freely.
In Dresden a thief stole 2100 talers Speshnev kept in his
desk, and the young nobleman simply wrote his mother for
more.10
Speshnev's importance in the Petrashevsky circle and
to the development of Russian socialist and revolutionary
thought belies his low historical profile. Other
Petrashevtsy's later fame (especially that of Dostoevsky
and Saltykov) helps explain Speshnev's relative obscurity.
However, Speshnev's brief career as a revolutionary and his
influence on Dostoevsky deserve careful historical study,
for Russia's "first Communist"H used methods and supported
ideas which would resurface in the populist movement of the
1870's and in the revolutionary tactics of Vladimir Lenin. 9 10 11
9 J.H. Seddon, The Petrashevtsy: A Study of the Russian
Revolutionaries of 1848 (Manchester: Manchester University
Press, 1985), 21.
10 seddon, The Petrashevtsy, 21. This request came in a
letter that was included in the Irkutsk Oblastnoi Arkhiv
collection that I mentioned in the Introduction.
11 Geir Kjetsaa, Fyodor Dostoevsky, A Writer's Life (New
York: Viking, 1987), 63.
8


This thesis will examine Speshnev's education, intellectual
influences, role in the Petrashevsky Circle, and the
Russian Society Speshnev's secret revolutionary group.
9


CHAPTER 4
EARLY LIFE AND EDUCATION
Speshnev was born in 1821, presumably on his father's
500-soul estate in Kursk province.I2 A hereditary noble,
Speshnev's family enjoyed a level of wealth that was
increasingly uncommon even among Russian gentry.13 Because
of his affluence, Speshnev could have avoided state
service, but his father sent the youth to the elite
Tsarskoe Selo Lyceum in 1834.14 One of Nicholas I's
education policies included modification of schools'
syllabi to reflect an increased concentration on
preparation for government service. The Lyceum was geared
for producing bureaucrats for the Ministry of Internal 12 14 *
l2The Kursk estate was inherited by Speshnev, but
unfortunately I have no sources which irrefutably place
Speshnev's birth there.
12 Nicholas V. Riasanovsky, A History of Russia (New York:
Oxford University Press, 1993), 346.
14 in a letter to his father written in October of 1838,
Speshnev refers sarcastically to being a prisoner for five
summers. Including the summer of 1838, this indicates that
Speshnev was there as early as the Summer of 1834. Whether
the boy entered the Lyceum the previous Fall is unknown.
See B. Koz'min, "N.A. Speshnev o sebe samom." Katorga i
ssylka, No. 1 (1930): 95.
10


affairs and the Ministry of Justice; prospective Law School
Students also attended the Lyceum.15 since Speshnev had no
need or intention to pursue such careers, his father's
decision to send the boy to the Lyceum may seem odd.
However, formal education had much to offer Speshnev since
the Lyceum's curriculum far surpassed the demands of
preparation for state service. Students studied a broad
range of topics, and the rigorous, The Lyceum opened young
Russian minds to the possibilities for Russia's future and
served as a status symbol for students and their
families. 16 In fact, Nicholas I's education policy was an
important factor in the rise of Russian revolutionaries,
for once their minds became open, idealistic young Russians
suffocated in the closed, stifling state bureaucracy.
Revolution seemed the only avenue for change to some. 17
I5 Seddon, The Petrashevtsy, 23.
l^In The Origins of Modern Russian Education (DeKalb:
Northern Illinois University Press 1984), Cynthia Whittaker
notes that part of the Lyceum's original purpose was to
provide learning environment free from the "dangers of
half-knowledge" and the "competition of the masses." See
pp. 63-64.
17 w. Bruce Lincoln's In the Vanguard of Reform (DeKalb:
Northern Illinois University Press 1982) provides an
interesting contrast to this view. The author shows how
creativity and upward mobility were sometimes possible in
bureaucratic offices, but such opportunities were limited.
Still, I must acknowledge that Lincoln's book effectively
11


Though he left the Lyceum in 1839 without graduating
Speshnev received an excellent education and read
voraciously.1 Early in life Speshnev would prove to be
taken with drama and romantic flair: in 1839 he ran off to
Helsinki with Anna Chechanowiecki, the wife of a
neighboring landowner and Polish aristocrat. The couple
lived in Helsinki for two years and in 1842 they traveled
to Switzerland and Austria.19 18 19
challenges dreary depictions of the Tsarist bureaucracy
such as that found in Gogol's The Overcoat.
18 Seddon, The Petrashevtsy, 43.
19 Evans, The Petrasevskij Circle, 45.
12


CHAPTER 5
SPESHNEV IN EUROPE
In 1843 Speshnev participated in the Sonderbund War.20
Though Speshnev claimed to have taken part in the attack on
Lucerne as a volunteer in Colonel Oksenbein's army, the
Petrashevets Nikolai Mombelli asserted that Speshnev was
involved only in minor fighting. Speshnev's wife died the
following year in Vienna,21 and Speshnev returned to
Russia. After sending his two illegitimate children22 to 20 21 22
20 This was a very small-scale conflict. The war broke out
in 1843 "between the liberal and catholic Catholic cantons
in Switzerland over the expulsion of the Jesuits." Joseph
Frank, Dostoevsky: The Seeds of Revolt 1821-1849
(Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1976), 259.
Speshnev fought on the liberals' side.
21 My research shows conflicting accounts of Anna's death,
but poison is the common theme. John Evans cites a rumor
that Speshnev poisoned his wife in a fit of jealously, but
in his Dostoevsky: The Seeds of Revolt 1821-1849 Frank
suggests the Anna poisoned herself. Evans contends that the
Baroness Kobylinskaia, with whom Speshnev shared a romance
during his second European trip, was the cause of
Speshnev's jealous rage. See Evans, "Speshnev, Nikolai
Aleksandrovich," entry in The Modern Encyclopedia of
Russian and Soviet History (Gulf Breeze, Fl: Academic
International Press, 1976), 47, Evans, The Petrasevskij
Circle, 45, Frank, Dostoevsky: The Seeds of Revolt 1821-
1849, 258-259.
22 Speshnev and Anna Cechanowiecki were married, but only
after the children were born.
13


stay with their uncle in Vitebsk, Speshnev settled in St.
Petersburg at the home of Vladimir Engel'son, a former
Lyceum schoolmate.23
Speshnev's stay in Russia was brief; he obtained a
medical release from the Third Section^ to procure a glass
eye in Europe. He resided in Dresden in 1845 where he met
Edmund Chojecki. Chojecki was a member of a Polish emigre
patriotic circle, into which Speshnev was allowed entry
because of the late Anna Cechanowiecki.25 jn two letters to
Chojecki, Speshnev provided a description of his
philosophical and social ideas; we will consider these
later. According to some Polish accounts, Speshnev learned
the emigre circles secrets and "the statutes of the Polish
revolutionary organisation."26 it is impressive that this
young revolutionary was able to gain acceptance27 j_n the 23 24 25 27
23 Evans, The Petrasevskij Circle, 45.
24 essentially the Tsar's political police.
25 John Evans, The Modern Encyclopedia of Russian and
Soviet History 47.
25 Seddon, The Petrashevtsy, 206.
27 Mikhail Bakunin, a fellow revolutionary who knew
Speshnev in Dresden, described more than mere acceptance by
the Poles. According to Bakunin, Speshnev "cut a wide swath
during 1846 in the Russian-Polish society of Dresden.
Whether old or young, whether mother or daughter, all the
14


Polish circle, especially given that Anna Cechanowiecki, a
respected figure in the social life of Dresden, had died
under mysterious circumstances while married to the young
Russian. Such acceptance was a result of assets that
Speshnev exploited throughout his revolutionary career:
striking handsomeness, great charm, and almost hypnotic
charisma.
Speshnev's appearance and charm deserve examination.
Speshnev was tall, with "finely chiseled features and dark
brown hair flowing in waves down to his shoulders; his
large blue-gray eyes were... shadowed by a look of gentle
melancholy."28 others commented that "He could well have
served as a model for sketches of the head and type of the
Saviour."29 Speshnev's charisma with women is also well
documented. In a letter to Alexander Herzen, Mikhail
Bakunin wrote, "Women are not opposed to a bit of
charlantry, and Speshnev creates quite an effect: he is
particularly good at wrapping himself in the mantle of a 28 29
women were mad about him" Frank, Dostoevsky: The Seeds of
Revolt 1821-1849, 259.
28 v.R. Leikina, "Petrashevets N. A. Speshnev," 12. Also,
Frank, Dostoevsky: The Seeds of Revolt 1821-1849, 258.
29 v.R. Leikina, "Petrashevets N.A. Speshnev," 12.
15


30
Speshnev1s
deeply pensive and quiet impenetrability."
admirers included the daughter of one of the Decembrists, a
group which attempted revolution in Russia in 1825. After
Speshnev's trial in 1849, the distraught woman wrote, "God,
God, God! So everything leads to this everything goes by
the old road, this man whom my soul loves so deeply, and
the end of everything is the same Siberia, terrible Western
Siberia with its shackles and convicts."31 Thus Speshnev
was able to use his natural beauty and social skill to
garner support and achieve acceptance in lofty social
circles. We will see a more sinister tone to his use of
charisma when we explore Speshnev's relationship with
Dostoevsky.^2
Speshnev's second European trip was characterized by
more serious study. A liberal in 1843, Speshnev had, by
1845, moved far left in his politics. His contact with
Polish emigre circles in Dresden led to a fascination with 30 31 32
30 Frank, Dostoevsky: The Seeds of Revolt 1821-1849, 259;
Leikina, 12.
31 Seddon, 197.
32 Even the young Speshnev seemed to abuse the power his
charisma provided. Seddon suggests that he had "been
expelled from the Lycee... largely because the authorities
were frightened of his power over his friends, 43.
16


secret societies. Speshnev "read everything he could find
on the subject."33 During his stay in Paris, Speshnev used
his friendship with Edmund Chojecki to meet those
responsible for the Revue Independante, for which he was
asked (and did) to submit articles about Russia.33 34 36 37 He hoped
to write a history of Russia for publication by Chojecki
(who owned a press in Paris), but the project was never
completed. Speshnev may even have been directly influenced
by the fathers of Marxism. In a letter to the New Moral
World, a Communist journal, Friedrich Engels wrote, "we are
having much success among the Russians living in Paris.
There are three or four Russian nobles and landowners here
who are declared radical Communists and atheists."3^
According to V.I. Semevsky, it is nearly certain that
Speshnev was one of these Russians.3^
One of Speshnev1s chief interests at this time was
early Christian secret societies.3^ He focused on their
33 Frank, Dostoevsky: The Seeds of Revolt 1821-1849, 260.
34 Evans, The Petrasevskij Circle, 45. Frank, Dostoevsky:
The Seeds of Revolt 1821-1849, 260.
3^ Frank, Dostoevsky: The Seeds of Revolt 1821-1849, 261.
36 prank, Dostoevsky: The Seeds of Revolt 1821-1849, 261.
37 Possibly inspired by the writing of Wilhelm Weitling,
who "founded his principles in the early Christian communal
17


structure rather than ideology, and he was impressed by the
impact and financial health of the early groups.38 The
early Christians' success inspired Speshnev; he began to
consider the potential for secret societies in Russia.
Speshnev's researches "resulted in a book of four chapters:
the first three describe the historyVof secret societies
from the Essenes on, the fourth, which he never finished,
was about the best way of organizing a secret society in
Russia."39 The author destroyed most of the manuscript,
saving only the oath of allegiance for the Russian Society,
which will receive close attention later in this study.
Though the written result of Speshnev's study failed to
make a mark in contemporary scholarship, the process was a
stepping-stone to more radical study. The revolutionary
launched his study of socialism in earnest in 1845.
Speshnev was not the only Russian studying French
Communists at this time; Vissarion Belinski, for example,
was "influenced by the sentimental humanitarianism and the 38 39
tradition" and expressed a "need for a secret
conspiratorial organization to carry out the overthrow of a
system constricted by the unjust traditions of its own
past." See Evans, The Petrasevskij Circle, 74-75.
38 Evans, The Modern Encyclopedia of Russian and Soviet
History, 47.
39 Seddon, The Petrashevtsy, 209.
18


religious-philosophical Messianism of the Sand-Leroux
school."4 Speshnev favored Communism mixed with violent
methods. He also was a fervent atheist, so humanitarian
reworkings of Christianity held no appeal for him. Among
French thinkers, Theodore Dezamy was the most influential
on the young Speshnev.41 Dezamy was an atheist, egalitarian
Communist whose rather brutal program for realizing his
theories included seizure of power followed by terror
tactics to be used in protecting the new order. Dezamy's
chief rival was Etienne Cabet, another French Communist who
once employed Dezamy as a secretary. Cabet shared his
former secretary's support for egalitarianism, but the two
men differed on the value of Christian Communism. Cabet
accepted it, while Dezamy considered it cowardly. Speshnev
was aware of the Frenchmen's opposing camps, and he leaned
toward the more radical Dezamy.42 Dezamy's Le Jesuitisme 40 41 42
40 Frank, Dostoevsky: The Seeds of Revolt 1821-1849, 260.
41 Seddon, The Petrashevtsy, 71. As we shall see later,
Speshnev also took select concepts from the socialist
programs of Charles Fourier, Pierre Proudhon, and others.
See also Evans, The Petrasevskij Circle, 72.
42 Frank, Dostoevsky: The Seeds of Revolt 1821-1849, 261-2.
Seddon, The Petrashevtsy, 47.
19


vaincu par les socialistes^ was among the personal effects
found during Speshnev's arrest in 1849. Possession of
Dezamy's work does not conclusively provide evidence for
its influence on the Russian. However, Speshnev's chilling
description of his allegiance to the French author's
doctrine is more substantive. Speshnev considered himself:
such an inveterate atheist and materialist of the
school of Dezamy that the very word 'spirit' brings an
evil sneer to your lips, a man who not only believes
in no symbol of faith, no mystery ...but believes in
nothing at all and recognizes only what he sees, hears
or reaches by the path of logical deduction.44
Thus Speshnev proclaimed himself a true nihilist and
materialist. More details about Speshnev's philosophical
beliefs can be gleaned from two letters he wrote in 1847 to
his friend Edmund Chojecki.
One debate found in Speshnev's letters to Chojecki
concerned the possibility of several groups or factions
working successfully toward a common socio-political goal
when the groups do not completely agree ideologically. 43 44
43 It seems likely that part of the appeal of Dezamy's work
was its focus on the Jesuits, whose continued existence in
Switzerland had been the subject of contention in the
Sonderbund War.
44 Seddon, The Petrashevtsy, 79.
20


Chojecki seemed to reject the merit of compromise, while
Speshnev was flexible. He wrote:
I am also fully persuaded that if, today, the early
Christians living in communes and the Jesuits of
Paraguay were suddenly to rise from their graves, and
were invited by Dezamy's present-day atheist-
Communists to live together in a community, such a
community would produce only friction, dispute, and
conflict.45
Speshnev noted also that Cabet and Dezamy's differing
positions seemed to make any cooperation between the two
impossible.
Speshnev's desire for a flexible approach to achieving
political aims did not arise from the realization that some
conflicts obviated any chance for concerted effort. He
argues that there is a "distinction between such long range
irreconcilabilitieswhich presumably can be eliminated only
by forceand a temporary union of differing factions to
achieve a limited goal on which they all concur."46 For
example, Christians and atheists could temporarily work
together to abolish private property. When the project was
complete, atheist could again focus their attention on
criticism of Christianity. Speshnev showed himself to be a 45 46
45 Frank, Dostoevsky: The Seeds of Revolt 1821-1849, 261.
46 Frank, Dostoevsky: The Seeds of Revolt 1821-1849, 262.
21


political pragmatist despite his fervent beliefs. His
letters to Edmund Chojecki provide further insights into
his philosophy, but before we look more closely at the
thinkers (and writings) who influenced Speshnev, we should
return to Speshnev's travels.47 47
47 This is important, I think, because Speshnev's views
affect his role in the Petrashevtsy, whom we have discussed
little. It would be less profitable to consider his
thoughts out of the context of the discussion group wherein
his peers debated the same authors and books.
22


CHAPTER 6
SPESHNEV'S RETURN TO RUSSIA
A lack of funds forced Speshnev to end his European
trip in 1847. Soon after his return to St. Petersburg,
Speshnev renewed acquaintances with former schoolmates. One
of these was Petrashevsky, who had held a discussion group
at his home weekly (Fridays) since 1845. The Petrashevtsy
discussed socialism, politics and the need for change in
Russia, but they were long on talk and short on action.
Speshnev began attending these meeting during the winter of
1847-8. His arrival sent shockwaves of excitement through
the Circle. Here was a handsome, magnetic, quietly
mysterious revolutionary who hinted that he had witnessed
revolutions in Europe and perhaps even participated.48 His
connection with the Polish emigre revolutionary
organization was also impressive.49 49
4 Frank, Dostoevsky: The Seeds of Revolt 1821-1849, 263;
Seddon, The Petrashevtsy, 43. Speshnev had not in fact
participated in any insurrection.
49 More on the Polish connection will become apparent when
we investigate the Pal'm-Durov circle.
23


Speshnev's background was intimidating, but his
behavior was an even more important factor in his ability
to overshadow his peers. He tended to stay aloof from group
discussions, spending most of his time in Petrashevsky's
collective library, whose efficient organization appealed
greatly to the Communist Speshnev. He said:
One had to put in a certain sum of money (I think no
less than fifteen and not more than thirty silver
roubles) and with this money he (Petrashevsky) bought
books. These books did not belong to anyone, but,
however, each of the shareholders had the right to
read them all...in the three years in which this was
done, a great quantity of books was collected...when the
steamships began running, the shareholders met one
Friday, Petrashevsky brought all the new catalogues
and from them they chose books for the whole amount.50
Speshnev seemed to need no one, while others needed him. He
maintained a quiet, secretive existence, occasionally
offering a harsh word of criticism or correction.51 On the
rare occasions when Speshnev spoke, he "injected a note of
steely decisiveness into the somewhat desultory atmosphere
of the meetings; no one had ever expressed himself there
with such brutality and frankness."52 The Petrashevtsy soon
Shchegelov, Petrashevtsy, 3, 58.
51 Shchegelov, Petrashevtsy, 3, 60.
52 prank, Dostoevsky: The Seeds of Revolt 1821-1849, 263.
24


realized that the new arrival was different from any
previous interlocutors. His background and personality
contributed to this impression, but Speshnev's ideas and
plan for revolution were far more controversial.
An analysis of the Petrashevtsy's intellectual
influences, philosophy and politics is the most efficient
method available for demonstrating Speshnev's uniqueness in
the group. The Petrashevtsy were some of the earliest
Russian intelligentsia to adapt the writings of French
socialists and Communists and German philosophers for
application to problems in Russia. The next section shows a
contrast between the reaction of Speshnev and his peers to
several influential European writers. We will then see how
Speshnev's radical solution for Russia's problems drove him
from the Petrashevtsy and led him to lead his own secret
revolut i onary group.53
53 in particular we will see the split between Speshnev and
Petrashevsky. After leaving the Petrashevsky Circle,
Speshnev used the Pal'm-Durov Circle as a vehicle for his
Russian society. More on this later.
25


CHAPTER 7
INTELLECTUAL INFLUENCES ON SPESHNEV
AND THE PETRASHEVTSY
Saint-Simon
Saint-Simon published his first book (Letters from an
Inhabitant of Geneva) in 1803, and by the 1830's his ideas
for a socialist reorganization of industry and society were
influential among Russian intellectuals. In many ways
Saint-Simon was an elitist: he hoped to see a world
governed by the scientific elite, and while he argued
vociferously for an end to poverty, he did not object to
wealth when it was earned. If qualified scientists and
industrialists ran society, then surely they would become
wealthy, but Saint-Simon maintained that this prosperity
would trickle down to the poor (a refrain which rings
familiar in current economic debates). Saint-Simon reserved
his derision for les oisifs (idlers) "the old feudal
aristocracy, which no longer had any useful function in
26


society, and with which he had renounced all
affiliation. "54
While it may at first seem that Saint-Simon would
trade one unfeeling regime (the feudal aristocracy) with
another (a meritocracy without specific protections for the
unskilled), Saint-Simon believed that the his program would
naturally lead to an end to coercion and corruption. This
government of scientists industrialists, etc. would serve
only a skeletal, policing role (and may eventually be
unnecessary), unlike the intrusive and powerful feudal
order. Further, since this government's authority
stems not from the fact that it is strongest but
because it knows what others are ignorant of, its
action will have nothing arbitrary or coercive about
it. It will not do merely what it wishes, but what
fits the nature of things, and. as no one wishes to act
other than in conformity with the nature of things,
one will do as it says without its having to compel
it.55
54 Albert Fried and Ronald Sanders, eds. Socialist Thought:
A Documentary History (New York: Columbia University Press,
1992), 76-77.
55 Emile Durkheim, Socialism and Saint-Simon, ed. Alvin W.
Gouldner (Yellow Springs: Antioch, 1958), 154-155.
27


We might be tempted to attack Saint-Simon's suggestion,56
but a consideration of why such a notion would appeal to
the Petrashevtsy is more relevant here.
While some historians' portrayal of Nicholas I's
government as relentlessly oppressive may be exaggerated,
there is little doubt that the Petrashevtsy felt oppressed,
constrained, an without an official voice. These
intelligentsia were some of Russia's best minds, yet for
many, a monotonous civil service post was the highest honor
they could hope to achieve. Surely Saint-Simon's
meritocracy would appeal to those who considered themselves
rich in aptitude and poor in opportunity. The Petrashevtsy
were also attracted to Saint-Simon's historicism and views
on the role of philosophy.57 Saint-Simon held that
philosophy should be applied to worldly problems instead of
the more traditional metaphysical questions. He introduced
the positivism that Comte would later develop. Since many
of the Petrashevtsy were discarding Hegel's idealism in
56 and particularly the premise that there could ever be
universal agreement on what comprises the "nature of
things"
57 Seddon, The Petrashevtsy, 51.
28


favor of Feuerbach's anthropotheism, Saint-Simon's views on
the use of philosophy were popular.58
Comte
Auguste Comte's positivism complemented the
Petrashevtsy's respect for science. Comte explained that
the development of human thought progressed through three
stages: theological, metaphysical, and positive. In his
Cours de philosophie positive, Comte wrote:
In the theological state, the human mind,
seeking the essential nature of beings, the first and
final causes (the origin and purpose) of all effects,-
in short, Absolute knowledge,-supposes all phenomena
to be produced by the immediate action of supernatural
beings.
In the metaphysical state, which is only a
modification of the first, the mind supposes, instead
of supernatural beings, abstract forces, veritable
entities (that is, personified abstractions) inherent
in all beings, and capable of producing all
phenomena...
In the final, positive state, the mind has given
over the vain search after absolute notions, the
origin and destination of the universe, and the causes
of phenomena, and applies itself to the study of their
laws,-that is, their invariable relations of
succession and resemblance.59
58 seddon, The Petrashevtsy, 102.
59 Patrick L Gardiner, ed. Nineteenth-Century Philosophy
(New York: The Free Press, 1969), 134.
29


Interestingly, the mind could operate in different states
when considering different fields. Thus Comte held that
while "natural sciences had already reached the exact or
positive stage, the social sciences...had been left behind
and were still at the theological or metaphysical stage."60
Comte hoped to apply scientific principles to social
issues, and this was very appealing to the (often
materialist) Petrashevtsy.61
Fourier
Of the many French socialists whose ideas interested
the Petrashevtsy, Charles Fourier was the most
influential.62 The groUp embraced his idea of making
socialism a way of providing limitless freedom for human
nature. Fourier attacked capitalism by showing how its
institutions led to the repression of men's passions and
natural inclinations. These passions "were nothing less
than "hungers," ignored or frustrated only with great hurt
60 seddon, The Petrashevtsy, 53.
61 Especially Vladimir Miliutin and Valerian Maikov. See
Seddon, The Petrashevtsy, 88-9.
62 Evans, The Petrasevskij Circle, 63.
30


to man's constitution."^ Fourier's writings combated the
idea that all men are equal, with only experiences and
achievements distinguishing them. For Fourier, men and
women were born predisposed towards certain professions and
interests, and thus the most desirable type of society is
one where man is free to express and explore his passions.
Of course Fourier provided such a construct: a socialist
organization he called "Harmony."
Harmony called for the organization of society into
phalanxes. Phalanxes were groups of c. 1600-2000 men and
women. This number is meant to correspond the number of
different types of men and women. By combining various
passions, Fourier explained, we find that there are 810
principle characters possessed by humans. The phalanx had
to include each type, accounting for 810 people, but the
number was roughly doubled to provide for children,
elderly, etc. Everyone in a phalanx would reside in a giant
building called a phalanstery. An accomplished
mathematician, Fourier provided for specific dimensions for
the building; "everything had to be scientifically arranged
63 Mark Poster, ed. Harmonian Man: Selected Writings of
Charles Fourier (New York: Doubleday & Co., 1971), 10.
31


and nothing could be left to chance."64 Like Comte and
Saint-Simon, Fourier stressed individual freedom and the
application of science, but his calculations were far more
detailed and rigorous than those of the former.
Given the limited paths available to them, it is
understandable that the Petrashevtsy would embrace
Fourier's theory of attractive labor. "In the phalanstery,
people would be free to choose only those jobs which wholly
appealed to them; they would work at a variety of
occupations and change their jobs every few hours."65 Such
an ideal presented a vivid contrast to the Petrashevtsy1s
reality: not only did they themselves suffer from lack of
opportunity and unfulfilling work, but they lived in a
country whose serfdom (in their eyes) repressed the
passions of millions of their countrymen. Speshnev was not
the group's staunchest Fourierist, but he approved of the
attractive labor concept. He said:
The most just social form that thought could conceive
(was) a social system which will transform self-
interest into solidarity, social interest, where all
men will work because they want to, not just to get
paid. In one word, this will be a society where
production will be regulated by the great principles 6
64 Nicholas Riasanovsky, The Teaching of Charles Fourier
(Berkeley: University of California Press, 1969), 44.
65 Seddon, The Petrashevtsy, 49.
32


of Fourier and consumption by the general communist
principle of equal distribution.
Thus we see a common thread running through the group's
influences: individual freedom and opportunity. As we
examine the contribution of German philosophy,^ we
encounter another feature: the rejection of God and the
glorification of humanity.
Feuerbach
Not all of the Petrashevtsy were atheists, but many
adopted Ludwig Feuerbach's approach to the meaning of God.
In Das Wesen des Christentums, Feuerbach tried to show that
"the qualities of divinity foresight, planned direction
of the future, goodness, justice, love and holiness are
in fact objectified qualities of the human race." God is
merely a composite of the traits to which men aspire. If
Seddon, Petrashevtsy, 132.
7 It must be noted that the anthropotheism that we see in
Feuerbach is also found in the French socialists. Comte,
for example, held that man had progressed beyond the
theological state of thought. Still, Feuerbach seems to be
the primary inspiration for the Petrashevtsys deification
of man. See for example, Seddon, The Petrashevtsy, 82-5.
David McLellan, The Young Hegelians and Karl Marx. (New
York: Frederick A. Praeger, Publishers, 1969) 89.
33


man achieved a state of perfection, the idea of God would
no longer be necessary and might cease to exist. In a
sense, Feuerbach placed man and God in tension. "To enrich
God, man must become poor; that God may be all, man must be
nothing."69 Still Feuerbach does not predict the end of
religion; rather, he envisions its purification.
Feuerbach's ideas are (in certain respects) a
continuation of Hegel's.70 Hegel had left dualism behind,
uniting spirit and matter, with ideas paramount in his
monism. Feuerbach also fused spirit and matter, but he
considered ideas and thought processes logically dependent
on matter. Thus Feuerbach rejected Hegel's Absolute Spirit.
On his view, ideas and thoughts could not exist apart from
thinkers.71
Like Fourier, Feuerbach made nature a central feature
of his philosophy. Man, he explained, is not separate from
nature; he is a part of it. The philosopher borrowed much
from 18th century thinkers who laid the scientific
foundation for materialism. The Petrashevtsy combined the
69 Gardiner, ed. Nineteenth-Century Philosophy, 243.
with whom Feuerbach studied. Feuerbach considered
himself a "direct disciple" of Hegel's (McLellan, The Young
Hegelians and Karl Marx, 86) .
71 Seddon, The Petrashevtsy, 82.
34


ideas of Feuerbach and Fourier to form a compassionate
materialism. While they viewed human beings as mere
physical constructs and God as nothing more than a concept
created in the minds of man, they nonetheless believed in
individual rights for (and the innate value of) mankind.
For the Petrashevtsy, man was a part of nature, but he
could transcend it with the exercise of reason. So man was
more than a spatio-temporal particular, a piece of matter;
man had special passions and capabilities which set him
apart from the beasts.72
At this point we must begin to distinguish between
Speshnev and the other Petrashevtsy. Speshnev was certainly
a materialist, and he respected Feuerbach's refutation of
Hegels Absolute Spirit, but he criticized Feuerbach for
his replacement of the spiritual absolute by a human one.
Speshnev stated:
Isn't it ridiculous, to posit man as a being with
double content, like two cases, one locked up inside
the other, or like jewel locked up in a casket, in one
word, as one being, Geist (spirit), shut up inside
another, Korper (body)?73
72 Seddon, The Petrashevtsy, 83.
73 Seddon, The Petrashevtsy, 99.
35


Speshnev rejected anthropotheism outright. A fervent
atheist, Speshnev spurned God and man-as-God.74 Speshnev
openly declared himself a communist and argued for violent
revolt among Russia's peasants, and his extremism in
interesting in light of his wealth and elitist behavior.
Speshnev had much to lose (and in fact, he did lose much
during imprisonment and exile). Therefore, his dedication
to revolution must have been fueled by powerful
intellectual and emotional influences We will see that
Speshnev was a paradoxical figure; his generous concern for
the lot of Russia's peasantry (matching even that of the
religious Dostoevsky)75 existed simultaneously with a
bitter egoism and commitment to terrorism. An examination
of the theories of Pierre Proudhon and Max Stirner, two of
Speshnev's intellectual "heroes," may help us better
understand the enigmatic Petrashevets' philosophy.
74 Speshnev argued that anthropotheism was simply a new
religion, wherein the Man-God was no better than the God-
Man. See Frank, Dostoevsky: The Seeds of Revolt 1821-1849,
262.
75 see Kjetsaa, Fyodor Dostoevsky, 70 and Seddon, The
Petrashevtsy, 217.
36


Proudhon
Proudhon's writings had a strong effect on Speshnev, who
admired the French anarchist's audacity and individualism
and considered the Frenchman "truly revolutionary.7 6
Speshnev respected those who, like himself, scorned
authority, and Proudhon's criticisms of the French republic
certainly manifested such a disdain. Proudhon shared some
views with other French socialists, e.g., Fourier. He
"agreed, with Fourier that liberty involved an irreducible
element of spontaneity and that it resisted all efforts to
impose a rigid pattern upon it."77 He also shared
Fourier's rejection of authority. However, Proudhon
diverged from other socialists when he described the nature
of mankind. Man, he explained is not naturally good or
noble. He is evil, and happiness is only possible when a
man remakes himself. God has made man wrongly, and is
responsible for all the brutality, irrationality and
cruelty that exists in man. One of life's central contests
is the struggle to cast God down and rid oneself of His
influence forever. Unlike Fourier, Proudhon did not accept
76 seddon, The Petrashevtsy, 70.
77 Dante Germino, Machiavelli to Marx: Modern Western
Political Thought (Chicago: University of Chicago Press,
1972), 353
37


the benevolent nature of man's passions. In fact his
attitudes toward sex and marriage were puritanical. (On a
personal level, Proudhon was a renowned anti-feminist and
anti-Semite.)
Proudhon offered a customized version of the Hegelian
dialectic in Systeme des contradictions economiques. He
postulated that every economic event is composed of a
positive and negative element which exist in perpetual
conflict Further, each event arises in contradiction to an
existing circumstance (e.g., monopoly versus competition,
protection versus free trade). Since the contradictory
elements can never be resolved, the best course available
is to establish a balance between them. This historical
observation received limited support among the
Petrashevtsy.
In What is Property?, Proudhon made the audacious
claim that property is theft. This theft occurs when land
is held by absentee landlords or capitalists, not those who
work and improve the land upon which they live. "In other
words, Proudhon is a throwback to that old French yeoman
tradition, according to which the ideal form of society
would be one consisting entirely of small individual
38


holdings, each worked by the proprietor alone."78
Proudhon's view appealed to Speshnev, who desired the
emancipation of Russian serfs and land for them to work.
The means to this redistribution of land was revolution
(violent revolution in Speshnev's plan).79 Proudhon held
that revolution could come about non-violently, as leaders
realized the superiority of his (and others') program for
society. However, Proudhon did not hope to set up a
socialist state. He envisioned a society without
government, where men would freely unite in a spirit of
fraternity. This anarchism appealed to Speshnev and other
Petrashevtsy, but some of the Proudhon's works failed to
impress the Russians. Like many other historians and
philosophers^, the Petrashevtsy (including Speshnev)
considered Proudhon's work hit and miss. Speshnev, for
example, disliked Proudhon's position on God8! However, the
78 Fried and Sanders, eds. Socialist Thought: A Documentary
History, 200.
79 Kjetsaa, Fyodor Dostoevsky, 70 and Seddon, The
Petrashevtsy, 131.
80 including Marx, who sarcastically referred to Proudhon's
Philosophy of Poverty as the Poverty of Philosophy. Fried
and Sanders, eds. Socialist Thought: A Documentary History,
201.
81 Seddon, The Petrashevtsy, 70-1.
39


Russian was excited about Proudhon's mutual bank project.
He wrote:
Proudhon made a proposal that the rich should be made
to contribute a third of their incomes for the general
use. Theirs was the speaker and spoke at length
against Proudhon and socialism. On the next day,
Proudhon replied with a speech lasting three hours, in
some way so provocative that the assembly forbade its
publication, announcing that anyone who revealed its
contents would be brought to trial.82
Speshnev also commented that "this shakes the foundations
of the social order and forms the first step towards the
implementation of his [Proudhon's] theory."83
Stirner
Of the thinkers presented in this discussion, Max
Stirner probably had the greatest influence on Nikolai
Speshnev.84 stirner's chilling disregard for the sanctity
of human life was adopted by the flamboyant Speshnev, who
worked for a violent revolt. Stirner was a solipsist and
nihilist who nonetheless retained some vestiges of
rationalism. He regarded "all his fellow-thinkers as
82 Seddon, The Petrashevtsy, 129.
83 Seddon, The Petrashevtsy, 129.
84 Frank, Dostoevsky: The Seeds of Revolt 1821-1849, 262.
40


'spiritual1 and 'religious' as compared to himself."85
Stirner's egoism is recognizable in the speeches of Hitler
and Mussolini, though it is unlikely that the former read
Stirner directly^. Born Johann Kaspar Schmidt, Stirner
attended lectures with Hegel at the University of Berlin
during the mid 1820's, and after graduating in 1834, he
taught at a private girl's school until the publication of
his only book, Der Einzige und sein Eigenthum (The Ego and
His Own) in 1844. During the early 1840'.s, Stirner
associated with a group of young Berlin radicals (the
Freien). He produced a few articles during his meetings
with the Freien, but hid productive period ended after
1844.
Der Einzige und sein Eigenthum is a peculiar book, but
it is not entirely divorced from the young Hegelian
tradition. It is written in the style of Feuerbach's Das
Wesen des Christentums. Feuerbach's work contains two
parts: God and Man; Stirner's book has two sections as
85 McLellan, The Young Hegelians and Karl Marx, 119.
88 in 1919 Mussolini wrote: 'Leave the way free for the
elemental power of the individual; for there is no other
human reality than the individual! Why shouldn't Stirner
become significant again." Stirner's effect on German
fascism "can be largely reduced to the influence on
Nietzsche." Stirner, The Ego and His Own, ed. John Carroll
(New York: Harper & Row, 1971), pp. 13-14.
41


well: Man and Myself ,\ Der Einzige compares the development
of history to the maturation of a child through adulthood.
i
Antiquity is considered the childhood of the human race.
Modern times (i.e., the mid-19th century) are man's
adolescence, and maturity is a near-future horizon of which
i
Stirner's book is the! herald. Before he attempts to
describe this maturity of the human race (in Myself the
second part of the book), the author launches attacks on
contemporary politics! and society. Stirner maintains that
the bourgeois societyi supported by liberals merely replaces
i
old monarchies with a!new more brutal one: the monarchy of
the sovereign nation.jInstead of a single oppressor, the
nation itself becomes|the despot. Further, bourgeois
I
virtues such as honorable trade and sound business can only
be attained through tlie exploitation of labor. The author
claims that Feuerbachjs system will lead to such an end.
Feuerbach's bringing divinity to man is still theological,
but now religious commands become moral ones. Man is
capable of being far more vicious than God (who at least
(
possessed a heavenly and forgiving character) in enforcing
|
his moral imperatives .| Stirner hoped to be rid of both God
and man. j I
I
I
I
42


Stirner's attack on coiranunism is similar to his
criticism of Feuerbach. Instead of a monarch, communism
offers a state of which all men are a part. The individual
is lost, as men are defined not by their unique traits but
rather, by their contribution or value to the state. Thus a
man who is lazy (and thus does not contribute sufficiently
to the state) is misguided, or perhaps unfaithful, and he
must be shown the light of communal effort. For Stirner,
communism is even worse than capitalism or bourgeois
socialism; at least in the latter systems one can own
property and have some measure of self-direction. With
communism, "neither command nor property is left to the
individual; the state took the former, society the
latter."87 Communism demands allegiance to society, which
is glorified as a deity. Following these savage attacks on
bourgeois and communist systems, Stirner offers his own
formula in Myself, the second half of Der Einzige.
In Myself, Stirner explains that the self will be free
if it elevates itself "above all the toils and snares of
these ideas."88 "These ideas" refers to philosophy,
religion and liberalism. Thus Stirner is a direct opposite
87 McLellan, The Young Hegelians and Karl Marx, 123.
88 McLellan, The Young Hegelians and Karl Marx, 125.
43


to Hegel, whose system described ideas as independent of
the individual. The author places the self, or ego, above
all else. The self is subject to no laws but its own, and
it should never be compromised for the benefit of another.
According to Stirner, people are motivated by self-interest
(whether they like it or not9)t and should not be ashamed
to admit it. They should openly seek their own advantage,
ignoring the needs and desires of others except when
fulfilling them can benefit the self. Thus other people are
means to and end. The self uses them to achieve its goals.
Stirner's views on natural rights are also audacious.
Natural rights do not exist; you have the right to do only
what your power allows you:
In consideration of right the question is always
asked, 'What or who gives me the right to it?' Answer:
God, love, reason, nature, humanity, etc. No, only
your might, your power gives you the right.90
89 It is tempting to compare Stirner's approach to
utilitarianism, along Jeremy Bentham's lines. The self
should choose the path which causes it the least pain and
most pleasure. The good of others (and society) is only
desirable if it leads to greater pleasure for the self. We
also see an element of psychological hedonism the idea
the humans act only on self interest (even if only
subconsciously). For the psychological hedonist, a daring
rescue is motivated only by the approbation it brings the
rescuer; altruism is an empty concept.
90 Stirner, The Ego and His Own, 126.
44


For the author, might makes right.51 The liberal state
wants to ensure that everyone has property, but inevitably,
this does not occur; large landowners end up the bulk of
available land. In Stirners system, there is no property
except the self. The self is all that one owns. Only with
power can one obtain land, and even then it is subject to
takeover by a more powerful individual. States make it
difficult for one to exercise might in pursuit of goals, so
the state is the worst enemy of the self. Stirner claims
that regardless of how oppressive a state becomes, the will
of the self cannot be broken.
The state should be composed of atoms (selves), each
striving for its own advantage. While it seems that
Stirner's state would amount to little more than a chaotic
anarchy, he claims that the tendency for individuals to
defend themselves and their interests would prevent
disorder. The knowledge that a potential victim would
willingly defend himself serves as a deterrent to those who
would seize too much power or engage in wanton acts of
51 Thus Stirner advances this concept well before Nietzsche
adopted it.
45


violence^ Further, Stirner's state would still allow for
the association of friends, and in fact such associations
would be motivated by love self love. "The egoist loves
others because this love makes him happy and has its basis
in egoism."Stirner encourages selves to associate with
the purpose of dispossessing landowners and organizing
wealth in common, with each individual bringing whatever he
can conquer to the association. The final purpose of
association is a revolt in which people institute
themselves, not other institutions. Like Proudhon, Stirner
wanted to overthrow existing governments without creating a
new one.
We have looked at Stirner's thought, so we must now
attempt to assess its influence on .Nikolai Speshnev.
Speshnev agreed with Stirner on the subject of idealism.
The Russian said that "all metaphysics fears reality. It
considers the actually real something other than the thing
itself (essence, idea etc.), the real world is for it a
great masquerade and its fantastical world true
52 This a priori argument may seem flawed, but it is not
our purpose here to dispute the validity (or soundness) of
conclusions made by those who influenced Speshnev.
53 McLellan, The Young' Hegelians and Karl Marx, 128.
46


reality."* 9^ The word "fear" is significant, for it shows
that Speshnev is not content with a mere description of
idealism; like Stirner, he displays contempt for it.
Speshnev also accepted Stirner's attack on
Feuerbach.9 He agreed that Feuerbach had stopped halfway
when he brought God's divinity to man, and he looked at the
Human Absolute as just another form of authority against
which the self must struggle. Feuerbach's anthropotheism
was like a religion to.Speshnev, and as an atheist, he
wanted no part of it. Speshnev resisted all authority, and
like Stirner, he held nothing sacred. The Petrashevets was
truly amoral; concepts such as right and wrong, good and
evil, and nobility and baseness were meaningless.9 Only
the ego and self-interest mattered .to Speshnev. He
"accepted without qualm all the sinister implications of
Stirner's theory."9^ For Speshnev, this egoism and
9^ Seddon, The Petrashevtsy, 81.
9 In fact, we might say that Stirner dislodged Feuerbach
from Speshnev, Stirner's attack also drove a wedge between
Feuerbach and Marx, who respected Stirner's book and
considered the author socialism's greatest enemy. McLellan,
The. Young Hegelians and Karl Marx, 131-132.
9 Frank, Dostoevsky: The Seeds of Revolt 1821-1849, 262.
9^ Seddon, The Petrashevtsy, 100.
47


ruthlessness were more than philosophical notion; they were
a way of life. In letters to his mother, Speshnev
proclaimed his self-love,58 and in one speech Speshnev said
"we are left only with the spoken word, I intend to use it,
without.the slightest shame or conscience, to propagandize
for socialism, atheism, terrorism and all that is good."99
I think that we can reasonably conclude from his words and
those of others, that Speshnev was strongly affected by
Stirner's Der Einzige und sein Eigenthum. In the next
sections, we will esqplore Speshnev's program for putting
his ideas into action
Seddon, The Petrashevtsy, 101.
55 Kjetsaa, Fyodor Dostoevsky, 63.
48


CHAPTER 8
SPESHNEV AMONG THE PETRASHEVTSY
We have, examined some of the philosophical and
political ideas of Speshnev and how they made him a unique
thinker in the Petrashevsky circle. This section examines
the revolutionary program of Speshnev as it surfaced at
Petrashevsky 's. Soon after his association with the circle
began, Speshnev distinguished himself as one of its most
radical members. His plans for conspiracy would eventually
cause a rift between Speshnev and Petrashevsky Their
disagreements would cause Speshnev to leave the circle,
taking with him a cadre of revolutionary followers.
Speshnev had been so disgusted with his 1845 attempt
to write a history of secret societies in Europe that by
the time he began visiting Petrashevsky's, he had burned
all but one fragment: the oath of allegiance to the Russian
Society:
When the executive committee of the society, after
taking the society's support, the circumstances and
the occasion offered into consideration, decides that
the time has come for insurrection, then I swear that
I will declare my sympathies and regardless of my
personal safety to take part in the fighting and to
49


further the success of the cause as far as is in my
power.100
Speshnev kept the oath because he had not given up his
dreams of revolution when he returned to Russia. He still
had "the aim of establishing a secret society to prepare an
insurrection."101 Speshnev knew that the groundwork for
recruiting the Petrashevsky circle's guests would be the
establishment of his image as an important, legitimate and
mysterious revolutionary. This he accomplished by dropping
hints that he was part of an international conspiracy,
leaking rumors of his love affairs and European adventures,
and exploiting his remarkable charisma and appearance.102
Though Petrashevsky was not taken in by Speshnev's clever
imagery, many other Petrashevtsy were, such that Speshnev's
status in the group matched that of its namesake. With his
clout established, Speshnev began his crusade to form a
secret society.
Speshnev's first potential recruit was Raphael
Chernosvitov. Chernosvitov was battle-scarred Siberian gold
100 shchegelov, Petrashevtsy, 3, 52; Seddon, The
Petrashevtsy, 209.
101 Seddon, The Petrashevtsy, 210.
102 Seddon, The Petrashevtsy, 212.
50


prospector who enjoyed the rebellious atmosphere of the
Petrashevsky circle.103 The newcomer impressed his younger
friends. Chernosvitov beguiled them with stories of his
imprisonment by Polish rebels in 1831 and his suffering
during peasant uprisings in Perm in 1841-2. Speshnev
thought (or perhaps merely hoped) that the Siberian was an
emissary of a revolutionary organization sent to test the
waters European Russia.^04 Petrashevsky was impressed with
the new visitor,105 and he invited Chernosvitov and
Speshnev to a series private discussions.
At the first discussion with Speshnev and Petrashevsky
, Chernostvitov described the Siberian potato revolts of
103 prank, Dostoevsky: The Seeds of Revolt 1821-1849, 264.
104 Frank, Dostoevsky: The Seeds of Revolt 1821-1849, 264.
Interestingly, Chernosvitov had resisted the Perm rebellion
(he was a soldier and loyal to the Governor-General of
Siberia). Now he seemed ready to ally himself with such an
insurgency. It is hard to assess the seriousness of
Chernosvitov's commitment to revolution, but since he never
participated.in any uprising (and in fact never made any
attempt to foment or support one), it is possible that he
regarded his association with the Petrashevtsy as nothing
more than an entertaining exercise.
105 Like Speshnev, Petrashevsky favored secret societies,
but the latter thought that they should be used to spread
enlightenment and educate the masses. He did not favor a
putsch. Petrashevsky thought that revolution might come
after a long period during which, through gradual
education, peasants would become dissatisfied with the
government and spontaneously revolt. Seddon, The
Petrashevtsy, 210.
51


1841 and assured his interlocutors that the Siberian
peasants were armed and capable of annihilating any
invading Army. An excited Speshnev suggested that if a
large part of the Russian army could be lured into Siberia,
rebellion in two major cities would be enough to oust the
Tsar. Chernosvitov then asked whether plans for such urban
uprisings were in effect. This was a crucial point in the
discussion, for Speshnev knew that in order to glean more
information from the Siberian, he would have to play along
and hint at revolutionary plans. However, Petrashevsky
would have none of Speshnev's ploy; he refused to voice his
support for revolution, and a quarrel with Speshnev ensued.
The meeting ended on a note of discord, and the next
discussion took place without Petrashevsky .106
In their next conversation, Speshnev and Chernosvitov
constructed a plan for revolution. In order to gain the
Siberian's trust, Speshnev "pretended to be a communist
leader and even said that his society had a branch in
Moscow."107 chernosvitov proposed the revolution's first
step: 400,000 armed Perm factory workers could be gathered
106gee Frank, Dostoevsky: The Seeds of Revolt 1821-1849,
265.
107 seddon, The Petrashevtsy, 213; Delo petrashevtsev, ed.
A.N. S.S.S.R., (3 vols., Moscow: 1937, 1941, 1951), 1, 102.
52


for an invasion of the Volga region,! whose peasants would
join the struggle. While the Russian army dealt with the
Volga rebellion, uprisings in St. Petersburg and Moscow
would ensure that "that would be the end and the
revolutionary party would have won. ";108
Satisfied with their strategy, Speshnev and
Chernosvitov tried to enlist Petrashevsky 's support.
Speshnev outlined the scheme and contended that the
"revolution which must occur in Russia to improve the
present state of life must be violent."109 Petrashevsky
rejected Speshnev's argument harshly. He once again voiced
his opposition to revolution and claimed that legal methods
would be sufficient to bring change. The enraged Speshnev
stormed off, and Petrashevsky destroyed any possibility of
future talks by revealing to Chernosvitov Speshnev's lie
concerning his influence and position as a communist
leader. Chernosvitov soon returned to Siberia where he
lived peacefully until his arrest in June 1849.
108 Seddon, The Petrashevtsy, 213.
109 seddon, The Petrashevtsy, 213-4.
HO Frank, Dostoevsky: The Seeds of Revolt 1821-1849, 265;
Seddon, The Petrashevtsy, 214.
53


Speshnev's next attempt to radicalize his comrades
came in the winter of 1848 when a civil servant from Reval
named Konstantin Timkovsky made two speeches at
Petrashevsky 's. Timkovsky's first speech showed an
allegiance to Fourier, and the orator denounced revolution
as evil. Prior to the second speech, Timkovsky was seen
"arm-in-arm with Speshnev..jnysteriously conspiring with
him."m The conclusion of Timkovsky 's second address
showed his allegiance to Speshnev:
The efforts of all true supporters of progress should
be directed towards hastening a revolution which would
happen sooner or later but which he would like to see
before his departure for Reval, that he was ready to
be the first to step out onto the square and if
necessary to sacrifice his life to the sacred cause of
freedom. H2
Only Timkovksy 's brother and Speshnev praised the oration;
some audience members went white with horror.Speshnev's
vocal support for Timkovsky 's effort resulted in another
HI Delo Petrashevtsev, 1, 324-5; Seddon, The Petrashevtsy,
214.
H2 Seddon, The Petrashevtsy, 214. The similarity between
this excerpt and Speshnev's oath for the Russian Society is
intriguing.
113 Frank, Dostoevsky: The Seeds of Revolt 1821-1849, 266.
54


altercation with Petrashevsky who managed to refrain from
publicly chastising the orator.
Not long after his controversial speech the chastened
Timkovsky returned to Reval to take a civil service post.
Evidently Speshnev's influence had been great, for
Timkovsky wrot!e the former several letters, hoping for news
of a circle that Speshnev had promised to form. Speshnev's
interest in his naive disciple had waned, and he never
answered Timkovsky 's correspondence. ^5
Another opportunity for Speshnev to promote his
radical agenda came in December of 1848, when Nikolai
Mombelli introduced his Brotherhood of Mutual Aid to the
circle. With the assistance of Fyodor L'vov, Mombelli had
developed the Brotherhood idea the previous October. The
mission of the society would be to help progressive young
Russians increase their status in society. Members of the
Brotherhood would use their power to reform Russia. H6 Thus
the group was a launching pad for aspiring political
activists.
114 petrashevsky later sent Timkovsky a long,
disapproving, Fourierist letter. Frank, Dostoevsky: The
Seeds of Revolt 1821-1849, 266.
115 seddon, The Petrashevtsy, 215.
116 Frank, Dostoevsky: The Seeds of Revolt 1821-1849, 266.
55


Petrashevsky was very enthusiastic about Mombelli's
proposal, and he suggested that they discuss the plan with
Speshnev. The triumvirate decided to pursue the
Brotherhood, but they needed additional founders. They
decided that each existing member would invite one more;
Mombelli selected L'vov, Petrashevsky chose Konatantin Debu
(who would be a reliable ally against Speshnev if
necessary), and Speshnev invited no one, asserting that he
relied "only on himself. "H7 with the core membership
complete, the group met several times from December 1848
through January 1849 to set up rules and goals. H
Speshnev and Petrashevsky began mentoring the less
radical Mombelli, and their pupil quickly moved left
politically. Further, the student adopted a Speshnevian
commitment to top-down organization and total dedication to
revolution. Mombelli insisted that the Brotherhood have a
Central Committee, biographies of the members (to give the
organization power over them), and the inclusion in the
Brotherhood's oath a clause that specified the death
117 seddon,. The Petrashevtsy, 216.
118 Seddon, The Petrashevtsy, 216.
56


penalty for treason.This attitude seems far removed
from the original, more innocuous stance; Speshnev's
influence is apparent. Mombelli confidence in his society's
viability was increasing, but soon differences in the views
of his mentors would dash his hopes.
Petrashevsky envisioned an educational Brotherhood
dedicated to spreading Fourierist propaganda and advancing
ideas for Russia's improvement.120 Speshnev desired a
political Brotherhood committed to peasant revolt. From the
first meeting, Speshnev had attempted to discover whether
Mombelli's proposals concealed a more radical agenda, but
the latter revealed nothing. Finally Speshnev's patience
ran out, and he read his own plan to the group.
119 pelo petrashevtsev, 1, 351-2; Seddon, The Petrashevtsy,
216.
120 Speshnev's disgust with Petrashevsky's emphasis on
education is intriguing in light of the former's,
narcissism. Petrashevsky was a true elitist; he held that
enlightened thinkers could teach the peasants and help them
yearn for change. Speshnev firmly believed in a top-down,
carefully controlled approach to revolution, but he seemed
to respect the peasants greatly. It was the intelligentsia
who could learn much, not the reverse. Speshnev agreed with
Dmitri Akhsharumov that the radicals needed "to understand
our people better and draw Closer to them." Seddon, The
Petrashevtsy, 236. This conflict between pride in his mind
and station and concern and respect for Russia's serfs is
one of many that make our subject fascinating.
57


There are three illegal means of action jesuitical,
simple propaganda and revolt. None of these is
certain...and there is a better chance if all three
roads are taken and for this a committee of
brotherhood to set up a school of Fourierist,
communist and liberal propaganda; and finally, a
committee to form behind all this a secret society for
revolt.^21
Speshnev's statement touched off another argument between
him and Petrashevsky whose rejection of revolution
remained constant. This was the final straw for Speshnev.
He left the meeting in a huff, and the Brotherhood
dissolved.122 we shall see when we examine the Pal'm-
Durov circle, Speshnev salvaged one thing from the break-
up; Mombelli would remain loyal to his revolutionary
mentor.
Following the Brotherhood debacle, Speshnev stopped
visiting Petrashevsky's; the rift between them was
complete. In his absence, followers of Speshnev continued
to present his ideas to the group. Dostoevsky Mombelli,
Pavel Filippov and Vasili Golovinsky supported revolution
in the face of strident objections from the host.123 The
121 Seddon, The Petrashevtsy, 217.
122 seddon, The Petrashevtsy, 217.
123 seddon, The Petrashevtsy, 218.
58


Speshnevites realized that little could be accomplished in
Petrashevsky 's moderate circle, so they carried their
arguments to other venues.
59


CHAPTER 9
SPESHNEV AND THE PAL'M-DUROV CIRCLE
By the Spring of 1848, the Petrashevsky circle's ranks had
swelled with new members. The group's size made the
development of satellite groups inevitable. As circle
members developed, their own ideas concerning the ideal
purpose and membership of discussion groups, factions
formed, and Petrashevtsy who concurred attended meetings at
new locales. Speshnev and his minions had successfully
introduced the discussion of revolution at Petrashevsky's,
but bitter disagreements with the host made continued
effort there seem pointless. One of the new splinter groups
was the Pal'm-Durov circle.
The Pal'm-Durov circle evolved from a series of
informal meetings that were held at the home of Pleshcheev
(a Petrashevets) in the early months of 1848. These casual
gatherings "included all of the literati who came to
Petrashevsky's," including several who would eventually
belong to Speshnev's secret society: Speshnev, Mombelli,
Dostoevsky Filippov, Grigor'ev and Vladimir Miliutin.124
124 Frank, Dostoevsky: The Seeds of Revolt 1821-1849, 273.
60


At the Pleshcheev meetings participants read writings of
such intellectual influences as Herzen and Felix Pyat, a
radical French journalist/playwright.125 ^ common complaint
at the meetings was harshness of censorship in Russia.
Speshnev used his interlocutors' dissatisfaction to
proffer a plan for circumventing the Tsar's repressive
policy. He offered to publish any of his companions' works
abroad. This publication would presumably have been handled
by Edmund Chojecki, who hoped to "establish a Russian Free
Press in the West."126 However, the Pleshcheev group was
not ready for this risky, illegal step. No one accepted
Speshnev's offer, though only a few refused outright (e.g.,
Mikhail Dostoevsky who consistently resisted illegal
measures). As usual, Speshnev was more ready than his
fellow Petrashevtsy to employ extreme measures.
In January of 1849,127 several of those who visited
Pleshcheev's group decided to form a more formal discussion
circle at the apartment of Alexander Pal'm and Sergei
Durov. Pal'm was a Life Guards lieutenant and occasional
contributor to literary journals; Durov (one of the eldest
125 Frank, Dostoevsky: The Seeds of Revolt 1821-1849, 273.
126 Frank, Dostoevsky: The Seeds of Revolt 1821-1849, 274.
127 seddon, The Petrashevtsy, 216.
61


Petrashevtsy at age 32) "was a graduate of the University
of St. Petersburg and free-lance writer and translator."128
The defectors to the Pal'm-Durov circle had grown weary of
Petrashevsky's preoccupation with politics and philosophy.
Pal'm wrote that the circle's members had hoped to create a
forum for the discussion of literature and music, and
Dostoevsky claimed that the circle planned to write a
literary almanac.129 Durov vehemently resisted the
possibility of Petrashevsky 's inclusion in the
discussions. He said, "Petrashevsky, like a bull, sticks to
philosophy and politics; he has no understanding of fine
art and will only spoil our evenings."130
The characterization of the Pal'm-Durov circle's
purpose as musical and literary was borne out to some
extent by the nature of its meetings. Members discussed
plans for the literary almanac, read literature aloud and
gave musical performances (musicians in the circle included
a singer, two vioncellists, and a pianist)131. However,
128 Frank, Dostoevsky: The Seeds of Revolt 1821-1849, 274.
129 prank, Dostoevsky: The Seeds of Revolt 1821-1849, 274.
130 pe2o petrashevtsev, 3, 272-273.
131 Seddon, The Petrashevtsy, 221.
62


Speshnev claimed that the group formed for different
reasons. He claimed that Dostoevsky and Pleshcheev
wished to meet with their acquaintances in some place
other than Petrashevsky 's, where it was boring, and
one spoke only about learned subjects and one hardly
knew the people, so that it was dangerous to utter a
word; that they would invite only those among their
acquaintances who they were sure were not spies, and
that he, Speshnev, could do the same. This society he
[Speshnev] could only label as one formed because of
fear of the police.132
Speshnev thus saw the circle as a safe venue in which he
could proffer his radical agenda.
Though the first meetings of the Pal'm-Durov circle
adhered to the non-political formula advocated by the
hosts,133 speshnev and his followers were soon able to
inject a radical tone into the discussions. Mombelli made
the first move. Responding to the circle guests' desires to
know more about one another, he outlined his Brotherhood of
Mutual Aid. His proposal inspired an acrimonious response,
colorfully described by L'vov:
132 shchegelov, Petrashevtsy, 3, 59; Frank, Dostoevsky: The
Seeds of Revolt 1821-1849, 275.
133 Typically, Pal'm, Durov, Dostoevsky and Pleshcheev
read from their own writings, and after dinner, members
enjoyed a musical performance. These meetings were so tame
that early commentators accepted Miliukov's claim that this
was "a small group of more moderate young men." See Seddon,
The Petrashevtsy, 221.
63


Mombelli was hissed, he blushed, tore up his notes.
Everyone unanimously told him that we had purposely
collected with the intention of eliminating all
political discussion, which if he likes he can hear at
Petrashevsky's.13 4
The deeply offended military offiCer!35 made few
contributions to the circle's discussions after this
humiliating incident. Despite Mombelli's failure, his
attempt may have helped pave the way for political
discussion, for on the fifth or sixth meeting, Pavel
Filippov's discussion of politics monopolized the evening.
Filippov risked a similar fate to that of Mombelli
when he proposed the program of Spe'shnev's secret society.
He told the guests that they should abandon story-writing
and that they
undertake, as a united effort, the composition of
articles in a spirit of liberalism concerning
questions that touch on the contemporary condition of
Russia in a juridical and administrative sense.136
134 seddon, The Petrashevtsy, 222.
135 Evans, The Petrasevskij Circle, 47. Evans gives brief
background information on twenty-five of the most prominent
Petrashevtsy.
136 Frank, Dostoevsky: The Seeds of Revolt 1821-1849, 211.
64


This project would enable the group to "strip bare all the
injustice of the laws...all the corruption and deficiencies
in the organization of our administration."137
Each of the circle members would work on the area most
suited to their knowledge. Dostoevsky would tackle the
exposition of socialism, Durov legislative issues, Lamansky
economics, Filippov serfdom and Minaev the class system.
When the articles were complete, the group would print them
with a home lithograph. L'vov volunteered to handle
procurement of the press.
Filippov's proposal received a remarkably favorable
response,^ and the circle unanimously approved the plan.
Still, some of the group's more moderate guests were
secretly horrified by the daring program. According to
Dostoevsky,
It seemed to me that half of those present did not
speak out against Filippov's idea only because they
were afraid the others might suspect them of cowardice
and they wanted to reject the proposal not directly
but in some sort of indirect fashion.139
137 Shchegelov, Petrashevtsy, 3, 124; Seddon, The
Petrashevtsy, 222.
138 Especially enthusiastic were Mombelli, Grigor'ev and
Speshnev. Frank, Dostoevsky: The Seeds of Revolt 1821-1849,
277 .
139 shchegelov, Petrashevtsy, 1, 59. Knapp, ed. Dostoevsky
as Reformer, 60. In a deposition to prosecutors, Dostoevsky
65


The ever-moderate Mikhail Dostoevsky threatened to leave
the group, and Durov suggested that Speshnev host the
meetings. The latter declined, though he did hold a
luncheon!40 a week after the controversial discussion at
the Pal'm-Durov apartment.
At Speshnev's Apollon Grigor'evl41 read his strident
Soldiers' Tale. The Tale featured a monologue by a
fictional peasant/Russian Army veteran whose description of
his life in the military served as a vehicle for socio-
political commentary.142 Speaking of his travels in France,
the protagonist noted:
The king squandered money madly, loved the rich and
insulted the poor. And then, last year, the people and 1
portrayed Filippov as a hothead who enjoyed causing
trouble. See Knapp's translation of Dostoevsky's statement,
59-60.
140 Some authors, including Frank and Seddon refer to this
affair as a dinner, but Knapp's translation of Dostoevsky's
deposition mentions a luncheon. Because my access to volume
1 of Delo Petrashevtsev was limited, I was unable to find
the Russian term used. I have therefore decided to follow
Knapp's, translation, which seems a more direct source than
Seddon and Frank's secondary works.
141 Grigor'ev was a lieutenant in the Horse Grenadiers and
served as the Speshnevites' expert on military problems and
reform. Frank, Dostoevsky: The Seeds of Revolt 1821-1849,
280; Evans, The Petrasevskij Circle, 48.
142 Frank, Dostoevsky: The Seeds of Revolt 1821-1849, 280.
66


the soldiers made barricades out of cobblestones in
the town and oh! what fun there was. A terrible punch-
up. But the king and the gentlemen put up a poor show.
Now they don't want tsars and govern themselves as we
do in the village. A mir with everyone in it and
elections.143
The work was a propaganda piece, intended for a peasant
audience and likely part of a broad effort by Speshnev's
followers to produce manuscripts for distribution to
peasants and raskolniki. 144 Filippov later contributed to
this effort by writing a revolutionary version of the Ten
Commandments which proclaimed, for example, that it was
God's will that peasants kill their masters.145
The luncheon at Speshnev's further scandalized the
Pal'm-Durov group's moderates (including Durov and Mikhail
Dostoevsky), but some of Grigor'ev's listeners urged the
author to amplify its message.146 it seemed unlikely that 1
143 Seddon, The Petrashevtsy, 226. Mir is a term for the
Russian peasant village.
144 prank, Dostoevsky: The Seeds of Revolt 1821-1849, 280-
1. The raskolniki were Old Believers, a schismatic
religious group who refused to accept the dictates of
patriarch Nikon's reform of the Russian Orthodox Church in
the mid-17th century.
145 Frank, Dostoevsky: The Seeds of Revolt 1821-1849, 281.
146 Especially Speshnev, who wanted to read the Tale
"practically in the public street." Frank, Dostoevsky: The
Seeds of Revolt 1821-1849, 226.
67


the group would survive the Speshnevites' radical proposals
much longer. However, Dostoevsky attempted to resolve the
group's conflict at the next discussion (April 7, 1849).147
Several days after the Speshnev luncheon the Pal'm-
Druov meetings resumed. L'vov had news concerning his quest
for a lithographic press. He reported that the press was
easily obtainable; the lithographic stone would cost only
twenty silver roubles.148 Distribution was the only
remaining obstacle, for use of the post would be
foolhardy.149 Intimidated by L'vov's news (which would
accelerate the group's timetable for illegal activity),
Mikhail Dostoevsky ''angrily pointed out that they would
have to turn themselves into an organized club, which he
protested, negated the original apolitical aim of the
147 Seddon, The Petrashevtsy, 223. I am unsure of this date
for Seddon's work gives April 17 as the date. However, this
may be a typographical error, for Seddon then notes that
the next meeting was held on April 13. April 7 seems a
likely possible date.
148 Seddon, The Petrashevtsy, 223.
149 Though it is not clear how distribution would have been
accomplished had printing commenced, Speshnev may well have
played an important role. His connection with Edmund
Chojecki might have provided a means for publication of the
illegal materials.
68


evenings."150 ^ argument seemed imminent, but Fyodor
Dostoevsky calmed the group by making a speech against the
lithograph idea. He said that
one should not act illegally against two points; one
should not condemn society, and [should] work on it
not by gall and mockery but by revealing one's own
shortcomings. I51
The group agreed that procuring a lithography would be
excessively dangerous; those who wished to disseminate
propaganda could copy out manuscripts by hand.152
Dostoevsky's suggestion was thus surprisingly easily
accepted, given the presence in the circle of the more
radical Mombelli, Filippov and Speshnev. Had Speshnev lost
his power over his followers? The absence of any protest by
Speshnev against Dostoevsky's apparent abandonment of the
secret society's program might tempt us to draw such a
conclusion. However, a consideration of Dostoevsky's
motives for rejecting the lithograph suggests an
explanation for the staunch revolutionaries acquiescence.
150 Seddon, The Petrashevtsy, 223.
151 Frank, Dostoevsky: The Seeds of Revolt 1821-1849, 282.
152 Seddon, The Petrashevtsy, 223.
69


CHAPTER 10
DOSTOEVSKY AS SPESHNEVITE
He did not talk very much, and was elegant without any
exaggeration, strangely modest and at the same time
very willful and determined, unlike the rest of us.
The dandies among us gazed at him enviously, and were
all outclassed by him. I was particularly struck by
his face. His hair was a curiously intense black, his
light-colored eyes were particularly limpid and calm,
his complexion was unusually soft and white, and the
color in his cheeks was a little too bright and
clear.153
This description may seem to be an accurate portrait
of Speshnev, but it is an excerpt from Dostoevsky's novel
The Devils. Written soon after the Nechaev^54 affair, The
Devils depicted the revolutionary escapades of a group of
Russian radicals. The description above characterizes
Stavrogin, a character based on primarily on Speshnev.
Dostoevsky's inclusion of a Speshnev-inspired character
shows the impact that the nihilist had upon the author.155
153 Robert Payne, Dostoevsky: A Human Portrait (New York:
Knopf, 1961), 62.
154 Nechaev was a late-1860's revolutionary who led a group
which murdered on of its members.
155 This also suggests the reach of Speshnev's influence,
for The Devils was written more than two decades after the
arrest separated the two friends. L.P. Grossman provides a
cogent account of the relationship between Stavrogin and
70


Unlike some of his more radical associates, Fyodor
Dostoevsky gave up plans for political action or revolution
soon after his arrest in April of 1849. Though space does
not permit a thorough investigation of the famous author's
later life here, it is important to understand that
Dostoevsky's future would be characterized by a surprising
devotion to the Tsar who condemned him and to religion.
Thus it is tempting to view the young Petrashevets'
rejection of the lithograph plan as the first sign of his
transformation. However, there is little reason to conclude
that Dostoevsky had yet abandoned his loyalty to Speshnev
or revolution. In fact, evidence supporting Speshnev's
power of his comrade is abundant. It seems likely that
Dostoevsky resisted the lithograph idea to prevent the
Pal'm-Durov circle's break-upl56 and protect Speshnev's
conspiracy.
Speshnev in "Speshnev i Stavrogin," Spor o Bakunine i
Dostoevskom (Leningrad: 1926).
156 Dostoevsky's reassurances were not good enough for
Durov and other moderates; the group's last meeting was
held on April 13, 1849. Arrests of the Petrashevtsy began
on April 23. See Seddon, The Petrashevtsy, 221. We shall
see that the circle's dissolution did not end the
Speshnevites' attempts to foster revolution.
71


In January of 1849, Dostoevsky paid a visit to Apollon
Maikov, a friend and fellow Petrashevets.157 jn two letters
written thirty-six years later, Maikov explained that
Dostoevsky had visited him to enlist another recruit for
revolution. Dostoevsky pleaded,
Of course you understand that Petrashevskii is a
chatterbox, that he is not a serious person and that
nothing can possibly come of his undertakings, and for
that reason several serious people from his circle
have decided (secretly and without telling anyone) to
form their own society with a secret printing press in
order to print various books and journals, if that
works out. There are seven of us now.[158] ^e have
chosen you to be the eighth. Do you want to join our
society?159
Maikov asked the group's purpose, and his guest replied
that the society hoped to create "a revolution in Russia,
of course. We have already set into motion a plan to get a
157 Kjetsaa, Fyodor Dostoevsky, 64.
158 The member were Speshnev, F. Dostoevsky Grigor'ev,
Mombelli, Filippov, Nikolai Mordinov and Vladimir Miliutin.
Frank, Dostoevsky: The Seeds of Revolt 1821-1849, 267, 273.
The Maikov letters established the identities of the
conspiracy's members for the first time. Seddon mentions
Golovinsky as another possible member (pg. 218).
159 Ovseiannkova, ed. "Rasskaz A.N. Maikova o
Dostoevskom i petrashevtsakh," Istoricheskii arkhiv, vol.
26 (1948), pp. 224-5. Seddon, The Petrashevtsy, 224.
72


printing press...everything is ready. "160 Dostoevsky's
commitment to Speshnev's society is clear just a few months
before his arrest. Further, it important to note that
Dosteovsky mentioned the press weeks before the idea
surfaced at Pal'm-Durov's. The revolutionary conspiracy
worked independently of the musical-literary circle. Maikov
refused Dostoevsky 's offer, but he did not reveal the
existence of the secret society.161
Maikov's letters show Dostoevsky's devotion to
Speshnev's revolutionary cause a few months before the
arrest, but the testimony of the young author's doctor is
more telling. In the words of Dr. Stepan Yanovsky we see
the true power of our subject's hold over his minions.
Between the beginning of 1849 and the Petrashevtsy's arrest
on April 23, Dr. Yanovsky noticed a dramatic change in
Dostoevsky. 162 The patient "became somewhat melancholy ...more
irritable, more touchy, ready to quarrel over the merest
160 Kjetsaa, 64. Ovseiannkova, "Rasskaz A.N. Maikova o
Dostoevskom i petrashevtsakh," 222-6.
161 Maikov's letters were written in 1885 but were not
published until 1922. Seddon, The Petrashevtsy, 223.
162 Dostoevsky had been a patient as early as 1846. See
Frank, Dostoevsky: The Seeds of Revolt 1821-1849, 165.
73


trifle, and very often complained of giddiness." 163 The
doctor advised that given an absence of organic causes, the
symptoms were probably a temporary depression and would
soon pass, but the miserable Dostoevsky replied,
No, it will not, and it will torture me for a long
time. For I have taken money from Speshnev 1164]
now I am with him and his. I'll never be able to pay
back such a sum, yes, and he wouldn't take the money
back; that's the kind of man he is.165
Even more sinister was a statement that Dostoevsky repeated
to Dr. Yanovsky several times. "Do you understand, from now
on I have a Mephistopheles of my own!"166 it seems unlikely
that Speshnev's hold on his friend was based on nothing
more than a loan. Dostoevsky had taken many loans, but he
had never compared a lender to the Devil. Though Dosteovsky
's consternation may imply the existence of some internal
conflict, his loyalty to Speshnev still seemed firm (if
uncomfortable) at this time.
163 prank, Dostoevsky: The Seeds of Revolt 1821-1849, 269.
164 approximately 500 roubles Seddon, The Petrashevtsy,
224.
165 Frank, Dostoevsky: The Seeds of Revolt 1821-1849, 269.
166 Frank, Dostoevsky: The Seeds of Revolt 1821-1849, 270.
74


A final example of Speshnev's grip on Dostoevsky
concerns the latter's testimony during the interrogation
which followed his arrest. After the break-up of the Pal'm-
Durov circle, the Speshnevites' plans for obtaining a press
continued unabated. Filippov used funds provided by
Speshnev to order parts for a handpress1^ from various St.
Petersburg shops, but because parts deliveries began
arriving only a few days before the April 23 arrest, the
project never reached completion.1 Speshnev and Filippov
each confessed to the lithograph plan (in an ill-conceived
attempt to protect each other from blame), but Dostoevsky
denied any knowledge of a handpress, noting only that
Filippov had suggested a lithograph. He testified,
But in the question mention was made of a private
printing press. I never heard anything said about
printing at Durov's; or anywhere for that matter ...What
Filippov proposed was lithography.
This statement was hardly accurate, for in his pitch to
A.N. Maikov, Dosteovsky had indeed mentioned a secret
printing press.
1^ which is not identical to a lithographic press.
168 Frank, Dostoevsky: The Seeds of Revolt 1821-1849, 283.
Knapp, ed. Dostoevsky as Reformer, 63.
75


It also seems unlikely that Dostoevsky was unaware of the
new post-Pal'm-Durov plan for obtaining a handpress. His
denial of any knowledge of the press and avoidance of
mentioning Speshnev's name in connection with the
lithograph renders dubious the notion of any disloyalty in
Dostoevsky 170. He certainly had little to fear from
Speshnev, who was also imprisoned. The possibility for any
recrimination (or even knowledge of Dostoevsky's
deportment) by Speshnev seemed remote. Still, the young
author remained loyal. Because of the authorities' lack of
evidence or incriminating testimony, they ceased
investigating the possibility of a conspiracy.171
170 Dostoevsky was careful throughout his testimony to
avoid mentioning Speshnev or elaborating on questions
relevant to Speshnev. The author even noted that "Speshnev
let it be known to some of us in no uncertain terms that
he'd been coerced into the luncheon and that.it would be
inconvenient for him to have us over again." Knapp, ed.
Dostoevsky as Reformer, 61. Thus Speshnev is characterized
as an unwilling participant in the discussion of Grigor'ev
Soldier's Tale.
171 Authorities considered Speshnev "nothing more than a
whimsical, posturing playboy acting out a cloak-and-dagger
role among his former Lyceum classmates a conclusion
which resulted from Speshnev's application of charm and
heretofore unrealized acting ability during his appearance
before the Commissioners." Evans, The Petrasevskij Circle,
92. Speshnev had managed to protect himself by arguing that
his activities were nothing more that entertainment. When
authorities later used several Petrashevets'
correspondences with Speshnev against them, he took sole
responsibility for leadership of his comrades, arguing
76


Dostoevsky later told a biographer that "many circumstances
completely slipped from view; an entire conspiracy
vanished."172
(with typical hubris) that only he was talented enough to
lead his peers. Sadly, Speshnev's effort did not spare his
friends. Evans, The Petrasevskij Circle, 100.
172 Frank, Dostoevsky: The Seeds of Revolt 1821-1849, 283.
77


CHAPTER 11
CONCLUSION
Speshnev was arrested on April 27, 1849 for attempting
to create a secret society. Following his reprieve at
Semyonovsky Square, Speshnev received a sentence of ten
years in the mines of Nerchinsk. He was later transferred
to the Aleksandrovsky Smelting Plant on the Shilka River,
where he created a children's school with Mombelli.1^3 in
1854 Speshnev relocated to Irkutsk. There he served as the
head of Governor-General Murav'ev's traveling chancery and
founded a newspaper with L'vov and Petrashevsky.174 jn
1856, Tsar Alexander II amnestied Speshnev, and by 1860 the
former revolutionary had reclaimed his property in Pskov.
Speshnev lived quietlyl^S for twenty years until his death
on March 17, 1882.
173 Evans, The Modern Encyclopedia of Russian and Soviet
History, 48.
l^Seddon, The Petrashevtsy, 238. The hardship of prison
and exile had evidently softened Speshnev's stance toward
his old rival.
175 Though his support for peasants following their
emancipation made him very unpopular with the gentry.
Evans, The Modern Encyclopedia of Russian and Soviet
History, 48.
78


Any discussion of Speshnev as revolutionary should
include a consideration of his seriousness and commitment.
Here was a rich, perhaps conceited world-traveler who
clearly enjoyed his enigmatic, intimidating image. His talk
of violent rebellion and desperate commitment excited his
friends (of both sexes) and boosted his popularity so it is
tempting to question Speshnev!s earnestness. For all of his
ruthless talk, our subject never took a landlord's life or
attempted the assassination of a hated government
official.176 Further, Speshnev formulated a conspiratorial
plan, but he never put it into action.177 Was the
investigating Commission's characterization of Speshnev as
a harmless nobleman playing at revolution for entertainment
was accurate? The answer to this question surfaces when we
consider what Speshnev learned, risked and lost.
Speshnev's words and those of his comrades show the
seriousness with which the Russian pursued his studies. His
enlightenment (and self-indoctrination as a revolutionary)
176 Actions which would become almost de rigeur for later
Russian revolutionaries.
177 j might also mention that though he consistently
supported emancipation of the serfs as a crucial priority,
Speshnev failed to release his 500 serfs, and it is not
known whether Speshnev attempted to improve conditions for
his servants.
79


began at the Lyceum, and Speshnev never ceased in his quest
for an exhaustive knowledge of secret societies and
socialist thought. His usual visit to Petrashevsky's
included little more than an evening of reading in the
host's extensive library. Speshnev invested a great deal of
time and energy in his plan for insurrection.
Planning a secret society in 1840's Russia was no
small matter to the Tsar's Third Section. Speshnev was
aware of the great risk he was taking at Petrashevsky 's by
voicing his support for a peasant uprising. The circle's
membership was not controlled, and in fact it was a
government agent's infiltration of the group that led to
the April arrests.^ While we must not underestimate
Speshnev's ability to operate behind the scenes, he was
often willing to express his views personally especially
when arguing against Petrashevsky.
If revolution was a game for Speshnev, he certainly
lost. He paid for his radical ideas and activities with
disgrace, hard labor and exile. It seems unlikely that such
a proud, elitist figure would risk bitter privation had he
178 p.D. Antonelli was present at several meetings,
including those where Speshnev's followers argued for his
revolutionary program. See Frank, Dostoevsky: The Seeds of
Revolt 1821-1849, 283-4.
80


not felt a true dedication to his cause. It is hoped that
investigation of his letters will shed additional light on
the motivation for Speshnev's dangerous activities.
Speshnev's stands out as an important founder of
Russian communist and revolutionary thought. Several of his
ideas would be put into practice by later Russian radicals.
Examples include the use of secret societies, commitment to
violence, acceleration of the revolutionary process, and
propaganda distribution with a private press.179 Speshnev's
arguments with Petrashevsky provided the framework for
later debates between jacobin nihilists and democratic
populists.
Finally, Speshney was one of the first Russian
radicals to manifest an interesting internal contradiction
that would appear in many future revolutionaries. He
harbored not only a genuine concern and empathy for the
suffering for the peasants, but also a brutal, almost
179 ip:he radical group Zemlia i volia (the early 1860's
version) was a network of five-member revolutionary cells
(similar to Speshnev's Russian Society). Lenin also
believed in the top-down approach and attempted to
accelerate revolution. Violence and terrorism became more
commonplace among revolutionaries near the century's end.
Finally, friends of author/agitator Nikolai Chernyshevsky
started the one of first of many Russian underground
publications (Velikoross) produced with a private press in
1861. See Seddon, The Petrashevtsy, 236.
81


amoral desire to see their masters perish. For Speshnev the
lives of the oppressed had sanctity; the lives of their
oppressors did not.
82


BIBLIOGRAPHY
In Russian
Delo petrashevtsev, Ed. A.N. S.S.S.R., 3 vols., Moscow:
1937, 1941, 1951.
Grossman, L.P. "Speshnev i Stavrogin," Spor o Bakunine i
Dostoevskom. Leningrad: 1926, pp. 162-168.
Koz'min, B. "N.A. Speshnev o sebe samom. Katorga i ssylka,
No. 1 (1930), pp. 93-97.
Leikina, V.R. "Petrashevets N.A. Speshnev (For the 75th
Anniversary of the Petrashevtsy Affair)." Byloye, No. 25
(1924), pp. 12-31.
Ovseiannkova, N. Ed."Rasskaz A.N. Maikova o Dostoevskom i
petrashevtsakh." Istoricheskii arkhiv, vol. 26 (1948),
pp. 222-226.
Shchegelov, P.E. Ed. Petrashevtsy, Shornik materialov. 3
vols., Moscow: 1926-1928.
Additional Readings
Gorkim, O.M. Poeti-Petrashevtsy. Leningrad: 1940.
Kann, P. Ia. Petrashevtsy. Leningrad: 1968.
Usakina, Tatyana. Petrashevtsy i literaturno-
obshchestveimoe dvizhenie sorokovykh godov XIX veka.
Saratov: 1965.
Yegorov, B.F. Petrashevtsy. Leningrad: 1988.
83


In English
Dostoevsky, Fyodor. The Devils. London: Viking, 1971.
Durkheim, Emile. Socialism and Saint-Simon. Edited by Alvin
W. Gouldner. Yellow Springs: Antioch, 1958.
Evans, John, entry for Speshnev, Nikolai Aleksandrovich in
The Modern Encyclopedia of Russian and Soviet History.
Gulf Breeze, Fl: Academic International Press, 1976.
Evans, John. The Petrasevskij Circle. The Hague: Mouton,
1974.
Frank, J. Dostoevsky. The Seeds of Revolt (1829-1849).
Princeton: Princeton University Press 1976.
Fried, Albert and Sanders, Ronald, Eds. Socialist Thought:
A Documentary History. New York: Columbia University
Press, 1992.
Gardiner, Patrick L., Ed. Nineteenth-Century Philosophy.
New York: The Free Press, 1969.
Germino, Dante. Machiavelli to Marx: Modem Western
Political Thought. Chicago: University of Chicago Press,
1972.
Kjetsaa, Geir. Fyodor Dostoyevsky: A Writer's Life. New
York: Viking, 1987.
Knapp, Liza, Ed., Dostoevsky as Reformer. Ann Arbor: Ardis,
1987.
Lincoln, W. Bruce. In the Vanguard of Reform: Russia's
Enlightened Bureaucrats 1825-1861. DeKalb: Northern
Illinois University Press, 1982.
McLellan, David. The Young Hegelians and Karl Marx. New
York: Frederick A. Praeger, Publishers, 1969.
Payne, Robert. Dostoevsky: A Human Portrait. New York:
Knopf, 1961.
Poster, Mark, Ed. Harmonian Man: Selected Writings of
Charles Fourier. New York: Doubleday & Co., 1971.
84


Riasanovsky, N.V. The Teaching of Charles Fourier.
Berkeley: University of California Press, 1969.
Seddon, J.H. The Petrashevtsy: A Study of the Russian
Revolutionaries of 1848. Manchester: Manchester
University Press, 1985.
Stirner, Max. The Ego and His Own. Ed. John Carroll. New
York: Harper & Row, 1971.
Whittaker, Cynthia. The Origins of Modern Russian
Education. DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press
1984.
Additional Readings
Alston, Patrick. Education and the State in Tsarist Russia.
Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1969.
Kaplan, F.I. "Russian Fourierism of the 1840s: A contrast
to Herzen's Westernism." American Slavic and East
European Review, vol. xvii, April (1958).
Pomper, Philip. The Russian Revolutionary Intelligentsia.
Arlington Heights, Illinois: Harlan Davidson, Inc.,
1993 .
Riasanovsky, N.V. "Fourierism in Russia: An Estimate of the
Petrashevtsy." American Slavic and East European Review,
vol. xii, October, (1953).
Walicki, Andrzej. A History of Russian Thought from the
Enlightenment to Marxism. Stanford: Stanford University
Press, 1979.
85


Full Text

PAGE 1

N.A. SPESHNEV AS REVOLUTIONARY: THE PHILOSOPHY AND RADICAL PROGRAM OF RUSSIA'S FIRST MILITANT COMMUNIST by Leonard Alvin LaDell Jr. B.A., University of Virginia, 1987 A thesis submitted to the Faculty of the Graduate School of the University of Colorado at Denver in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts History 1994

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This thesis for the Master of Arts degree by Leonard Alvin LaDell Jr. has been approved for the Department of History by /Pf'y Date

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LaDell Jr., Leonard Alvin (M.A., History) N.A. Speshnev as Revolutionary: The Philosophy and Radical Program of Russia's First Militant Communist Thesis directed by Associate Professor Mary Schaeffer Conroy ABSTRACT This thesis explores the character and revolutionary strategy of Nikolai Aleksandrovich Speshnev, a charismatic, violent young Russian. Speshnev was a member of the Petrashevsky circle, a group of young 1840's Russian intelligentsia who met weekly at the home of Mikhail Vasilievich Butashevich-Petrashevsky to discuss philosophy, politics and problems in their homeland. Because the Petrashevtsy's discussions endangered their lives and freedom, all of the group '.s members are worthy historical subjects. However, Speshnev's unyielding commitment to violent revolution makes him the circle's most fascinating participant. Nicholai Speshnev was one of Russia's first revolutionary communists. His intellectual influences included French socialist and communist thinkers such as Pierre Proudhon, Charles Fourier and Theodore Dezamy and German philosophers, including Ludwig Feuerbach, Wilhelm Weitling and Max Stirner. Dedicated study of these writers led Speshnev to form a plan for revolution in Russia. iii

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Speshnev attempted to recruit members for his secret Russian Society at Petrashevsky's, but the host's resistance led to an alternative plan. Speshnev used another discussion group as a cover for his conspiracy. The charismatic young radical enlisted several of his peers (including Fyodor Dostoevsky), and the secret group began obtaining parts for printing press. However, the scheme failed when agents of Tsar Nicholas I arrested the conspirators in April of 1849. Despite his failure to foment a peasant rebellion, Speshnev's career represents an important milestone in the history of revolution in Russia. His program for insurrection featured several points which would reappear in later revolutionaries' activities: the use of secret societies, commitment to violence, acceleration of the revolutionarY process, and propaganda distribution with a. private press. This abstract accurately represents the content of the candidate's thesis. I recommend its publication. Signed iv

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ACKNOWLEDGMENTS I must thank Mary S. Conroy for her guidance of and enthusiasm for this endeavor. Her suggestions and assistance were valuable and greatly appreciated. Generous aid in translating Russian sources was provided by Olga Krayevaya and Aleksei Sinyegin. Thanks also to Valentin Peschanskii for his willingness to assist my efforts to obtain sources from Russia. Finally, the support and encouragement of my wife Heather Bailey LaDell were invaluable in my effort to complete this project. v

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CONTENTS CHAPTER 1. INTRODUCTION ..................................... 1 2 SEMYONOVSKY SQUARE ................................. 4 i 3. NIKOLAI SPESHNEV AS HISTORICAL SUBJECT ............ 7 4. EARLY LIFE AND EDUCATION ......................... 11 5. SPESHNEV IN EUROPE ............... ." ... 13 6. SPESHNEV' S RETURN TO RUSSIA ...................... 23 7 INTELLECTUAL INFLUENCES ON SPESHNEV AND THE PETRASHEVTSY ...................................... 26 Saint-Simon ....................... 26 Cornte ................. ........................... 2 9 Fourier ............................ 30 Feuerbach ....................................... 33 Proudhon ........................................ 3 7 Stirner .. ............................ 40 8. SPESHNEV AMONG THE PETRASHEVTSY .................. 49 9. SPESHNEV AND THE PAL'M-DUROV CIRCLE ............ 60 10. DOSTOEVSKY AS SPESHNEVITE ........................ 70 11. CONCLUSION ................................ 7 8 BIBLIOGRAPHY ............................................. 83 vi

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CHAPTER 1 l:NTRODUCTl:ON The Petrashevsky circle was a group of St. Petersburg intelligentsia who discussed French socialism, German philosophy and the need for change in Russia in the 1840's. Given the relatively harsh constraints on intellectuals that were in place as a reaction (in part) to the 1830 rebellion in Russian Poland and to revolts in many European cities in 1830 and 1848-9, it is no surprise that the Petrashevtsy, who were willing to risk imprisonment and/or exile are interesting historical figures. One of the most intriguing of the Petrashevtsy was Nikolai Speshnev, a man of contradictions whose enigmatic, violent character inspired Dostoevsky, another Petrashevets, to include Speshnev (as Stavrogin) in The Devils. All of the Petrashevtsy were strongly influenced by French socialists such as Charles Fourier, Auguste Comte and Claude Henri Saint-Simon, and German philosophers, including G.W.F. Hegel, Ludwig Feuerbach and Bruno Bauer. Speshnev shared these influences, though he preferred French communists to socialists, and his primary German 1

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influence was Max Stirner, author of Der Einzige und sein Eigenthum (The Ego and His Own). In Speshnev's program for revolution we will see the impact of Stirner's amoral egotism. This thesis will follow Speshnev's development as a revolutionary thinker and strategist from his education at the Lyceum at Tsarskoe Selo to his arrest on April 27, 1849. The first important step in the Speshnev's training as a radical was a trip to Europe taken in 1842. Next we will investigate his return to Russia in 1847 and his introduction the Petrashevtsy. Speshnev's intellectual influences will be considered in the context of those of his comrades in the Petrashevsky circle. His activities in the circle comprised his first attempt to inspire others to revolution, and Speshnev's efforts earned him several loyal followers would join his secret society. However, the young revolutionary's plans would never come to fruition. Speshnev's arrest preempted his scheme to use a private printing press to propagandize for insurrection. Several sources proved invaluable in this investigation of Russia's "first Communist." Delo Petrashevtsev (in three volumes) is a collection of published documents concerning the Petrashevtsy, and it 2

PAGE 9

includes the Russian government's official files on many Petrashevtsy. Unfortunately Speshnev's file was lost but each of the three volumes contain much other information relevant to his career and character. Also important were the three-volume Petrashevtsy, Sbornik materialov, edited by P.E. Shchegelov and V.R. Leikina's article, "Petrashevets N.A. Speshnev (For the 75th anniversary of the Petrashevtsy Affair)" in Byloye, 1924, No. 25. English-language secondary works were helpful especially J.H. Seddon's Petrashevtsy, Joseph Frank's Dostoevsky: The Seeds Revolt 1821-1849, and John Evans' The Petrasevskij Circle. Evans also wrote the article on Speshnev featured in The Modern Encyclopedia of Russian and Soviet History. This article contains valuable information concerning Speshnev that did not appear in Evans' monograph. Of the English-language sources, Seddon's was the most valuable by far, for she had access to Speshnev's letters to his mother (Pis'ma k materi 1838-82). Once I obtain this crucial resource from the Irkutsk Oblastnoi Arkhiv, my research on Speshnev will continue. 3

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CHAPTER 2 SEMYONOVSKY SQUARE In the cold morning hours of December 22, 1849 twenty-one bleary-eyed Russian prisoners filed out of their cells in St. Petersburg's Peter and Paul fortress. The convicts entered carriages, and t_he convoy, led and followed by St. Petersburg Gendarme platoons, proceeded to the Semyonovsky Parade Grounds. None of the prisoners knew their destination; each had expected a sentence of exile (and perhaps 'hard labor), but a more extreme punishment seemed imminent when the carriages reached Semyonovsky square. A scaffold draped in black sat in a corner of the Grounds, and nearby, three stakes protruded from the frozen turf. 1 The square was crowded with spectators (perhaps 3000) and guards regiments, including the Life Guards of the Regiment of Chasseurs and a battalion of Life Guards from the Cavalry-Grenadiers.2 The prisoners mounted the scaffold 1 John Evans, The Petrasevskij Circle (The Hague: Mouton, 1974), 102. 2 Liza Knapp, ed., Dostoevsky as Reformer (Ann Arbor: Ardis, 1987) 95. The figure 3000 comes from Evans, The Petrasevskij Circle, 102. 4

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and formed two rows: one of twelve, another of nine. An official then mounted the platform and read a statement to the convicts, proclaiming each man's guilt. The auditor then pronounced the sentence, now obvious to the condemned and spectators: The Military-Civil Court has sentenced all to. execution by shooting, and on the nineteenth of December the Tsar wrote in his own hand: 'So be it. Thus the Tsar would prove his might by snuffing out these twenty-one bright minds. After the thirty-minute reading of charges and sentence, a priest offered confession to the doomed men, but none accepted the offer. One of the more religious prisoners, the young Fyodor Dostoevskywhispered to a strikingly handsome, imposing neighbor: "We will be togetherwith Christ." Dostoevsky's unrepentant comrade replied, "A handful of dust, I think."4 The priest withdrew, and an executioner confronted the men, breaking each criminal's sword over his head and giving each a white shirt and cap to signify their loss of 3 P.E. Shchegelov, Ed. Petrashevtsy, Sbornik materialov (Moscow: 1926-1928) 1, 206. 4 Evans, The Petrasevskij Circle, 102. 5

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noble status5. Guards then led three men to the wooden stakes and secured their bonds. Fifteen riflemen took aim, but there was no order to fire. The three convicts returned to the scaffold, and the auditor announced the Tsar's reprieve: the autocrat had decided to commute the death sentence to exile and hard labor. As he had shown his wrath, Nicholas now demonstrated his mercy.6 5 According to the Imperially-approved plan for the ceremony at Semyonovsky Square, Lieutenant Alexander Pal'm was to be exempted from the and replacement by the uniform with white garments. Why this exception was granted and whether it was given at the ceremony is unknown (Evans, for example states that a sword was broken over each man's head-pp. 102-3). Exceptional military service or family influence, for example, may have spared Pal'm this dishonor. See Knapp, ed., Dostoevsky as Reformer, 95. 6 Evans, The Petrasevskij Circle, 103. 6

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CHAPTER 3 NIKOLAI SPESHNEV AS HISTORICAL SUBJECT The twenty-one men who enjoyed the Tsar's mercy were known as Petrashevtsy.7 Mikhail Vasilievich Butashevich-Petrashevsky led a Friday evening discussion circle in his St. Petersburg flat from 1845-1849. Most of those who frequented the group carne to discuss literature, art, politics, and the state of Russia, but a few shared an immediate, radical agenda. Foremost among this faction was Nikolai Aleksandrovich Speshnev, Dostoevsky's mysterious neighbor on the scaffold in Semyonovsky Square. Speshnev was a standout among _the Petrashevtsy in many ways. He was one of the most adamant atheists, the only avowed communistS (and one of Russia's first communists), the only Petrashevets to travel abroad, and the most committed to revolution in Russia. Speshnev was also 7 I say 'as Petrashevtsy' rather than 'as the Petrashevtsy' because those convicted of political crimes were outnumbered by fellow Petrashevtsy who were not. 8 See for example V.R. Leikina, "Petrashevets N.A. Speshnev (For the 75th Anniversary of the Petrashevtsy Affair)," Byloye, No. 25 (1924), 14. 7

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wealthier than his peers; he owned an estate with over 500 serfs in Kursk province and a house on Shestilevochnaia Street in St. Petersburg.9 His wealth was inherited, and his mother. (who owned an even larger estate) gave freely. In Dresden a thief stole 2100 talers Speshnev kept in his desk, and the young nobleman simply wrote his mother for more.lO Speshnev's importance in the Petrashevsky circle and to the development of Russian socialist and revolutionary thought belies his low historical profile. Other Petrashevtsy's later fame (especially that of Dostoevsky and Saltykov) helps explain Speshnev's relative obscurity. However, Speshnev's brief career as a revolutionary and his influence on Dostoevsky deserve careful historical study, for Russia's "first Communist"ll used methods and supported ideas which would resurface in the populist movement of the 1870's and in the revolutionary tactics of Vladimir Lenin. 9 J.H. Seddon, The Petrashevtsy: A Study of the Russian Revolutionaries of 1848 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1985), 21. 10 Seddon, The Petrashevtsy, 21. This request came in a letter that was included in the Irkutsk Oblastnoi Arkhiv collection that I mentioned in the Introduction. 11 Geir Kjetsaa, Fyodor Dostoevsky, A Writer's Life (New York: Viking, 1987), 63. 8

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This thesis will examine Speshnev's education, intellectual influences, role in the Petrashevsky Circle, and the Russian Society-Speshnev's secret revolutionary group. 9

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CHAPTER 4 EARLY LIFE AND EDUCATION Speshnev was born in 1821, presumably on his father's 500-soul estate in Kursk province.12 A hereditary noble, Speshnev's family enjoyed a level of wealth that was increasingly uncommon even among Russian gentry.13 Because of his affluence, Speshnev could have avoided state service, but his father sent the youth to the elite Tsarskoe Selo Lyceum in 1834.14 One of Nicholas I's education policies included modification of schools' syllabi to reflect an increased concentration on preparation for government service. The Lyceum was geared for producingbureaucrats for the Ministry of Internal 12The Kursk estate was inherited by Speshnev, but unfortunately I have no sources which irrefutably place Speshnev's birth there. 13 Nicholas V. Riasanovsky, A History of Russia (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993), 346. 14 In a letter to his father written in October of 1838, Speshnev refers sarcastically to being a prisoner for five summers. Including the summer of 1838, this indicates that Speshnev was there as early as the Summer of 1834. Whether the boy entered the Lyceum the previous Fall is unknown. See B. Koz'min, "N;A. Speshnev o sebe samom." Katorga i ssylka, No. 1 (1930): 95. 10

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affairs and the Ministry of Justice; prospective Law School Students also attended the Lyceum.15 Since Speshnev had no need or intention to pursue such careers, his father's decision to send the boy to the Lyceum may seem odd. However, formal education had much to offer Speshnev since the Lyceum's curriculum far surpassed the demands of preparation for state service. Students studied a broad range of topics, and the rigorous, The Lyceum opened young Russian minds to the possibilities for Russia's future and served as a status symbol for students and their farnilies.16 In fact, Nicholas I's education policy was an important factor in the rise of Russian revolutionaries, for once their minds became open, idealistic young Russians suffocated in the closed, stifling state bureaucracy. Revolution seemed the only avenue for change to some.17 15 Seddon, The Petrashevtsy, 23. 16In The Origins of Modern Russian Education (DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press 1984), Cynthia Whittaker notes that part of the Lyceum's original purpose was to provide learning environment free from the "dangers of half-knowledge" and the "competition of the masses." See pp. 63-64. 17 W. Bruce Lincoln's In the Vanguard of Reform (DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press 1982) provides an interesting contrast to this view. The author shows how creativity and upward mobility were sometimes possible in bureaucratic offices, but such opportunities were limited. Still, I must acknowledge that Lincoln's book effectively 11

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Though he left the Lyceum in 1839 without graduating Speshnev received an excellent education and read voraciously.18 Early in life Speshnev would prove to be taken with drama and romantic flair: in 1839 he ran off to Helsinki with Anna Chechanowiecki, the wife of a neighboring landowner and Polish aristocrat. The couple lived in Helsinki for two years and in 1842 they traveled to Switzerland and Austria.19 challenges dreary depictions of the Tsarist bureaucracy such as that found in Gogol's The Overcoat. 18 Seddon, The Petrashevtsy, 43. 19 Evans, The Petrasevskij Circle, 45. 12

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CHAPTER 5 SPESHNEV IN EUROPE In 1843 Speshnev participated in the Sonderbund War.20 Though Speshnev claimed to have taken part in the attack on Lucerne as a volunteer in Colonel Oksenbein's army, the Petrashevets Nikolai Mombelli asserted that Speshnev was involved only in minor fighting. Speshnev's wife died the following year in Vienna,21 and Speshnev returned to Russia. After sending his two illegitimate children22 to 20 This was a very small-scale conflict. The war broke out in 1843 "between the liberal and catholic Catholic cantons in Switzerland over the expulsion of the Jesuits." Joseph Frank, Dostoevsky: The Seeds of Revolt 1821-1849 (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1976), 259. Speshnev fought on the liberals' side. 21 My research shows conflicting accounts of Anna's death, but poison is the common theme. John Evans cites a rumor that Speshnev poisoned his wife in a fit of jealously, but in his Dostoevsky: The Seeds of Revolt 1821-1849 Frank suggests the Anna poisoned herself. Evans contends that the Baroness Kobylinskaia, with whom Speshnev shared a romance during his second European trip, was the cause of Speshnev's jealous rage. See Evans, "Speshnev, Nikolai Aleksandrovich," entry in The Modern Encyclopedia of Russian and Soviet History (Gulf Fl: Academic International Press, 1976), 47, Evans, The Petrasevskij Circle, 45, Frank, Dostoevsky: The Seeds of Revolt 1821-1849, 258-259. 22 Speshnev and Anna Cechanowiecki were married, but only after the children were born. 13

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stay with their uncle in Vitebsk, Speshnev settled in St. Petersburg at the home of Vladimir Engel'son, a former Lyceum schoolmate.23 Speshnev's stay in Russia was brief; he obtained a medical release from the Third Section24 to procure a glass eye in Europe. He resided in Dresden in 1845 where he met Edmund Chojecki. Chojecki was a member of a Polish emigre patriotic circle, into which Speshnev was allowed entry because of the late Anna Cechanowiecki.25 In two letters to Chojecki, Speshnev provided a description of his philosophical and social ideas; we will consider these later. According to some Polish accounts, Speshnev learned the emigre circle's secrets and "the statutes of the Polish revolutionary organisation."26 It is impressive that this young revolutionary was able to gain acceptance27 in the 23 Evans, The Petrasevskij Circle, 45. 24 essentially the Tsar's political police. 25 John Evans, The Modern Encyclopedia of Russian and Soviet History, 47. 26 Seddon, The Petrashevtsy, 206. 27 Mikhail Bakunin, a fellow revolutionary who knew Speshnev in Dresden, described more than mere acceptance by the Poles. According to Bakunin, Speshnev "cut a wide swath during 1846 in the Russian-Polish society of Dresden. Whether old or young, whether mother or daughter, all the 14

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Polish circle, especially given that Anna Cechanowiecki, a respected figure in the social life of Dresden, had died under mysterious circumstances while married to the young Russian. Such acceptance was a result of assets that Speshnev exploited throughout his revolutionary career: striking handsomeness, great charm, and almost hypnotic charisma. Speshnev's appearance and charm deserve examination. Speshnev was tall, with "finely chiseled features and dark brown hair flowing in waves down to his shoulders; his large blue-gray eyes were ... shadowed by a look of gentle melancholy."28 Others commented that "He could well have served as a model for sketches of the head and type of the Saviour."29 Speshnev's charisma with women is also well documented. In a letter to Alexander Herzen, Mikhail Bakunin wrote, "Women are not opposed to a bit of charlantry, and Speshnev creates quite an effect: he is particularly good at wrapping himself in the mantle of a women were mad about him" Frank, Dostoevsky: The Seeds of Revolt 1821-1849, 259. 28 V.R. Leikina, "Petrashevets N. A. Speshnev," 12. Also, Frank, Dostoevsky: The Seeds of Revolt 1821-1849, 258. 29 V.R. Leikina, "Petrashevets N.A. Speshnev," 12. 15

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deeply pensive and quiet impenetrability."30 Speshnev's admirers included the daughter of one of the Decembrists, a group which attempted revolution in Russia in 1825. After Speshnev's trial in 1849, the distraught woman wrote, "God, God, God! So everything leads to this -everything goes by the old road, t4is man whom my soul loves so deeply, and the end of everything is the same Siberia, terrible Western Siberia with its shackles and convicts."31 Thus Speshnev was able to use his natural beauty and social skill to garner support and achieve acceptance in lofty social circles. We will see a more sinister tone to his use of charisma when we explore Speshnev's relationship with Dostoevsky.32 Speshnev's second European trip was characterized by more serious study. A liberal in 1843, Speshnev had, by 1845, moved far left in his politics. His contact with Polish emigre circles in Dresden led to a fascination with 30 Frank, Dostoevsky: The Seeds of Revolt 1821-1849, 259; Leikina, 12. 31 Seddon, 197. 32 Even the young Speshnev seemed to abuse the power his charisma provided. Seddon suggests that he had "been expelled from the Lycee ... largely because the authorities were frightened of his power over his friends," 43. 16

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secret societies. Speshnev "read everything he could find on the subject."33 During his stay in Paris, Speshnev used his friendship with Edmund Chojecki to meet those responsible for the Revue Independante, for which he was asked (and did) to submit articles about Russia.34 He hoped to write a history of Russia for publication by Chojecki (who owned a press in Paris), but the project was never completed. Speshnev may even have been directly influenced by the fathers of Marxism. In a letter to the New Moral World, a Communist journal, Friedrich Engels wrote, "we are having much success among the Russians living in Paris. There are three or four Russian nobles and landowners here who are declared radical Communists and atheists."35 According to V.I. Semevsky, it is nearly certain that Speshnev was one of these Russians.36 One of Speshnevs chief interests at this time was early Christian secret societies.37 He focused on their 33 Frank, Dostoevsky: The Seeds of Revolt 1821-1849, 260. 34 Evans, The Petrasevskij Circle, 45. Frank, Dostoevsky: The Seeds of Revolt 1821-1849, 260. 35 Frank, The Seeds of Revolt 1821-1849, 261. 36 Frank, Dostoevsky: The Seeds of Revolt 1821-1849, 261. 37 Possibly inspired by the writing of Wilhelm Weitling, who founded his principles in the early Christian communal 17

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structure rather than ideology, and he was impressed by the impact and financial health of the early groups.38 The early Christians' success inspired Speshnev; he began to consider the potential for secret societies in Russia. Speshnev's researches "resulted in a book of four chapters: the first three describe the history\of secret societies from the Essenes on, the fourth, which he never finished, was about the best'way of organizing a secret society in Russia."39 The authpr destroyed most of the manuscript, saving only the oath of allegiance for the Russian Society, which will receive close attention later in this study. Though the written result of Speshnev's study failed to make a mark in contemporary scholarship, the process was a stepping-stone to more radical study. The revolutionary launched his.study of socialism in earnest in 1845. Speshnev was not the only Russian studying French Communists.at this time; Vissarion Belinski, for example, was "influenced by the sentimental humanitarianism and the tradition" and expressed a "need for a secret conspiratorial organization to carry out the overthrow of a system constricted by the unjust traditions of its own past." See Evans, The Petrasevskij Circle, 74-75. 38 Evans, The Modern Encyclopedia of Russian and Soviet History, 47. 39 Seddon, The Petrashevtsy, 209. 18

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religious-philosophical Messianism of the Sand-Leroux school."40 Speshnev favored Cormnunism mixed with violent methods. He also was a fervent atheist, so humanitarian reworkings of Christianity held no appeal for him. Among French thinkers, Theodore Dezamy was the most influential on the young Speshnev.41 Dezamy was an atheist, egalitarian Cormnunist whose rather brutal program for realizing his theories included seizure of power followed by terror tactics to be used in protecting the new order. Dezamy's chief rival was Etienne Cabet, another French Cormnunist who once employed Dezamy as a secretary. Cabet shared his former secretary's support for egalitarianism, but the two men differed on the value of Christian Cormnunism. Cabet accepted it, while Dezamy considere.d it cowardly. Speshnev was aware of the Frenchmen's opposing camps, and he leaned toward the more radical Dezamy.42 Dezamy's Le Jesuitisme 40 Frank, Dostoevsky: The Seeds of Revolt 1821-1849, 260. 41 Seddon, The Petrashevtsy, 71. As we shall see later, Speshnev also took select concepts from the socialist programs of Charles Fourier, Pierre Proudhon, and others. See also Evans, The Petrasevskij Circle, 72. 42 Frank, Dostoevsky: The Seeds of Revolt 1821-1849, 261-2. Seddon, The Petrashevtsy, 47. 19

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vaincu par les socialistes43 was among the personal effects found during Speshnev's arrest in 1849. Possession of Dezarny's work does not conclusively provide evidence for its influence on the Russian. However, Speshnev's chilling description of his allegiance to the French author's doctrine is more substantive. Speshnev considered himself: such an inveterate atheist and materialist of the school of Dezarny that the very word 'spirit' brings an evil sneer to your lips, a man who not only believes in no symbol of faith, no mystery ... but believes in nothing at all and recognizes only what he sees, hears or reaches by the path of logical deduction.44 Thus Speshnev proclaimed himself a _true nihilist and materialist. More details about Speshnev's philosophical beliefs can be gleaned from two letters he wrote in 1847 to his friend Edmund Chojecki. One debate found in Speshnev's letters to Chojecki concerned the possibility of several groups or factions working successfully toward a common socio-political goal when the groups do not completely agree ideologically. 43 It seems likely that part of the appeal of Dezarny's work was its focus on the Jesuits, whose continued existence in Switzerland had been the subject of contention in the Sonderbund War. 44 Seddon, The Petrashevtsy, 79. 20

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Chojecki seemed to reject the merit of compromise, while Speshnev was flexible. He wrote: I am also fully persuaded that if, today, the early Christians living in communes and the Jesuits of Paraguay were suddenly to rise from their graves, and were invited by Dezamy's present-day atheistCommunists to live together in a community, such a community would produce only friction, dispute, and conflict.45 Speshnev noted also that Cabet and Dezamy's differing positions seemed to make any cooperation between the two impossible. Speshnev's desire for a flexible approach to achieving political aims did not arise from the realization that some conflicts obviated any chance for concerted effort. He argues that there is a "distinction between such long range irreconcilabilities-which presumably can be eliminated only by force-and a temporary union of differing factions to achieve a limited goal on which they all concur."46 For example, Christians and atheists could temporarily work together to abolish private property. When the project was complete, atheist could again focus their attention on criticism of Christianity. Speshnev showed himself to be a 45 Frank, Dostoevsky: The Seeds of Revolt 1821-1849, 261. 46 Frank, Dostoevsky: The Seeds of Revolt 1821-1849, 262. 21

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political pragmatist despite his fervent beliefs. His letters to Edmund Chojecki provide further insights into his philosophy, but before we look more closely at the thinkers (and writings) who influenced Speshnev, we should return to Speshnev's travels.47 47 This is important, I think, because Speshnev's views affect his role in the Petrashevtsy, whom we have discussed little. It would be less profitable to consider his thoughts out of the context of the discussion group wherein his peers debated the same authors and books. 22

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CHAPTER 6 SPESHNEV'S RETURN TO RUSSZA A lack of funds forced Speshnev to end his European trip in 1847. Soon after his return to St. Petersburg, Speshnev renewed acquaintances with former schoolmates. One of these was Petrashevsky, who had held a discussion group at his home weekly (Fridays) since 1845. The Petrashevtsy discussed socialism, politics and the need for change in Russia, but they were long on talk and short on action. Speshnev began attending these meeting during the winter of 1847-8. His arrival sent shockwaves of excitement through the Circle. Here was a handsome, magnetic, quietly mysterious revolutionary who hinted that he had witnessed revolutions in Europe and perhaps even participated.48 His connection with the Polish emigre revolutionary organization was also impressive.49 48 Frank, Dostoevsky: The Seeds of Revolt 1821-1849, 263; Seddon, The Petrashevtsy, 43. Speshnev had not in fact participated in any insurrection. 49 More on the Polish connection will become apparent when we investigate the Pal'm-Durov circle. 23

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Speshnev's background was intimidating, but his behavior was an even more important factor in his ability to overshadow his peers. He tended to stay aloof from group discussions, spending most of his time in Petrashevsky's collective library, whose efficient organization appealed greatly to the Communist Speshnev. He said: One had to put in a certain sum of money (I think no less than fifteen and not more than thirty silver roubles) and with this money he (Petrashevsky) bought books. These books did not belong to anyone, but, however, each of the shareholders had the right to read them all...in the three years in which this was done, a great quantity of books was collected ... when the steamships began running, the shareholders met one Friday, Petrashevsky brought all the new catalogues and from them they chose books for the whole amount.50 Speshnev seemed to need no one, while others needed him. He maintained a quiet, secretive existence, occasionally offering a harsh word of criticism or correction.51 On the rare occasions when Speshnev spoke, he "injected a note of steely decisiveness into the somewhat desultory atmosphere of the meetings; no one had ever expressed himself there with such brutality and frankness."52 The Petrashevtsy soon 50 Shchegelov, Petrashevtsy, 3, 58. 51 Shchegelov, Petrashevtsy, 3, 60. 52 Frank, Dostoevsky: The Seeds of Revolt 1821-1849, 263. 24

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realized that the new arrival was different from any previous interlocutors. His background and personality contributed to this impression, but Speshnev's ideas and plan for revolution were far more controversial. An analysis of the Petrashevtsy's intellectual influences, philosophy and politics is the most efficient method available for demonstrating Speshnev's uniqueness in the group. The Petrashevtsy were some of the earliest Russian intelligentsia to adapt the writings of French socialists and Communists and German philosophers for application to problems in Russia. The next section shows a contrast between the reaction of Speshnev and his peers to several influential European writers. We will then see how Speshnev's radical solution for Russia's problems drove him from the Petrashevtsy and led him to lead his own secret revolutionary group.53 53 In particular we will see the split between Speshnev and Petrashevsky. After leaving the Petrashevsky Circle, Speshnev used the Pal'm-Durov Circle as a vehicle for his Russian society. More on this later. 25

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CHAPTER 7 INTELLECTUAL INFLUENCES ON SPESHNEV AND THE PETRASHEVTSY Saint-Simon Saint-Simon published his first book (Letters from an Inhabitant of Geneva) in 1803, and by the 1830's his ideas for a socialist reorganization of industry and society were influential among Russian intellectuals. In many ways Saint-Simon was an elitist: he hoped to see a world governed by the scientific elite, and while he argued vociferously for an end to poverty, he did not object to wealth when it was earned. If qualified scientists and industrialists ran society, then surely they would become wealthy, but Saint-Simon maintained that this prosperity would trickle down to the poor (a refrain which rings familiar in current economic debates). Saint-Simon reserved his derision for les oisifs (idlers) -"the old feudal aristocracy, which no longer had any useful function in 26

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society, and with which he had renounced all affiliation."54 While it may at first seem that Saint-Simon would trade one unfeeling regime (the feudal aristocracy) with another (a meritocracy without specific protections for the unskilled), Saint-Simon believed that the his program would naturally lead to an end to coercion and corruption. This government of scientists industrialists, etc. would serve only a skeletal, policing role (and may eventually be unnecessary), unlike the intrusive and powerful feudal order. Further, since this government's authority stems not from the fact that it is strongest but because it knows what others are ignorant of, its action will have nothing arbitrary or coercive about it. It will not do merely what it wishes, but what fits the nature of things, and as no one wishes to act other than in conformity with the nature of things, one will do as it says without its having to compel it.55 54 Albert Fried and Ronald Sanders, eds. Socialist Thought: A Documentary History (New York: Columbia University Press, 1992), 76-77. 55 Emile Durkheim, Socialism and Saint-Simon. ed. Alvin W. Gouldner (Yellow Springs: Antioch, 1958), 154-155. 27

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We might be tempted to attack Saint-Simon's suggestion,56 but a consideration of why such a notion would appeal to the Petrashevtsy is more relevant here. While some historians' portrayal of Nicholas I's government as relentlessly oppressive may be exaggerated, there is little doubt that the Petrashevtsy felt oppressed, constrained, an without an official voice. These intelligentsia were some of Russia's best minds, yet for many, a monotonous civil service post was the highest honor they could hope to achieve. Surely Saint-Simon's meritocracy would appeal to those who considered themselves rich in aptitude and poor in opportunity. The Petrashevtsy were also attracted to Saint-Simon's historicism and views on the role of philosophy.57 Saint-Simon held that philosophy should be applied to worldly problems instead of the more traditional metaphysical questions. He introduced the positivism that Comte would.later develop. Since many of the Petrashevtsy were discarding Hegel's idealism in 56 and particularly the premise that there could ever be universal agreement on what comprises the "nature of things" 57 Seddon, The Petrashevtsy, 51. 28

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favor of Feuerbach's anthropotheism, Saint-Simon's Vlews on the use of philosophy were popular.58 Comte Auguste Comte's positivism complemented the Petrashevtsy's respect for science. Comte explained that the development of human thought progressed through three stages: theological, metaphysical, and positive. In his Cours de philosophie positive, Comte wrote: In the theological state, the human mind, seeking the essential nature of beings, the first and final causes (the origin and purpose) of all effects,in short, Absolute knowledge,-supposes all phenomena to be produced by the immediate action of supernatural beings. In the metaphysical state, which is only a modification of the first, the mind supposes, instead of supernatural beings, abstract forces, veritable entities (that is, personified abstractions) inherent in all beings, and capable of producing all phenomena ... In the final, positive state, the mind has given over the vain search after absolute notions, the origin and destination of the universe, and the causes of phenomena, and applies itself to the study of their laws,-that is, their invariable relations of succession and resemblance.59 58 Seddon, The Petrashevtsy, 102. 59 Patrick L Gardiner, ed. Nineteenth-Century Philosophy (New York: The Free Press, 1969), 134. 29

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Interestingly, the mind could operate in different states when considering different fields. Thus Comte held that while "natural sciences had already reached the exact or positive stage, the social sciences ... had been left behind and were still at the theological or metaphysical stage."60 Comte hoped to apply scientific principles to social issues, and this was very appealing to the (often materialist) Petrashevtsy.61 Fourier Of the many French socialists whose ideas interested the Petrashevtsy, Charles Fourier was the most influential.62 The group embraced his idea of making socialism a.way of providing limitless freedom for human nature. Fourier attacked capitalism by showing how its institutions led to the repression of men's passions and natural inclinations. These passions "were nothing less than "hungers," ignored or frustrated only with great hurt 60 Seddon, The Petrashevtsy, 53. 61 Especially Vladimir Miliutin and Valerian Maikov. See Seddon, The Petrashevtsy, 88-9. 62 Evans, The Petrasevskij Circle, 63. 30

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to man's constitution."63 Fourier's writings combated the idea that .all men are equal, with only experiences and achievements distinguishing them. For Fourier, men and women were born predisposed towards certain professions and interests, and thus the most desirable type of society is one where man is free to express and explore his passions. Of course Fourier provided such a construct: a socialist organization he called "Harmony." Harmony called for the organization of society into phalanxes. Phalanxes were groups of c. 1600-2000 men and women. This number is meant to correspond the number of different types of men and women. By combining various passions,. Fourier explained, we find that there are 810 principle characters possessed by humans. The phalanx had to include each type, accounting for 810 people, but the number was roughly doubled to provide for children, elderly, etc. Everyone in a phalanx would reside in a giant building called a phalaristery. An accomplished mathematician, Fourier provided for specific dimensions for the building; "everything had to be scientifically arranged 63 Mark Poster, ed. Harmonian Man: Selected Writings of Charles Fourier (New York: Doubleday & Co., 1971), 10. 31

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and nothing could be left to chance."64 Like Comte and Saint-Simon, Fourier stressed individual freedom and the application of science, but his calculations were far more detailed and rigorous than those of the former. Given the limited paths available to them, it is understandable that the Petrashevtsy would embrace Fourier's theory of attractive labor. "In the phalanstery, people would-be free to choose only those jobs which wholly appealed to them; they would work at a variety of occupations and change their jobs every few hours."65 Such an ideal presented a vivid contrast to the Petrashevtsy's reality: not only did they themselves suffer from lack of opportunity and-unfulfilling work, but they lived in a country whose serfdom (in their eyes) repressed the passions of millions of their countrymen. Speshnev was not the group's staunchest Fourierist, but he approved of the attractive labor concept. He said: The most just social that thought could conceive (was) a social system which will transform selfinterest into solidarity, social interest, where all men will work because they want to, not just to get paid. In one word, .this will be a society where production will be regulated by the great principles 64 Nicholas Riasanovsky, The Teaching of Charles Fourier (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1969), 44. 65 Seddon, The Petrashevtsy, 49. 32

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of Fourier and consumption by the general communist principle of equal distribution.66 Thus we see a common thread running through the group's influences: individual freedom and opportunity. As we examine the contribution of German philosophy,67 we encounter another feature: the rejection of God and the glorification of humanity. Feuerbach Not all of the Petrashevtsy were atheists, but many adopted Ludwig Feuerbach's approach to the meaning of God. In Das Wesen des Christentums, Feuerbach tried to show that "the qualities of divinity -foresight, planned direction of the future, goodness, justice, love and holiness -are in fact objectified qualities of the human race."68 God is merely a composite of the traits to which men aspire. If 66 Seddon, Petrashevtsy, 132. 67 It must be noted that the anthropotheism that we see in Feuerbach is also found in the French socialists. Comte, for example, held that man had progressed beyond the theological state of thought. Still, Feuerbach seems to be the primary inspiration for the Petrashevtsy's deification of man. See for example, Seddon, The Petrashevtsy, 82-5. 68 David McLellan, The Young Hegelians and Karl Marx. (New York: Frederick A. Praeger, Publishers, 1969) 89. 33

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man achieved a state of perfection, the idea of God would no longer be necessary and might cease to exist. In a sense, Feuerbacb placed man and God in tension. "To enrich God, man must become poor; that God.may be all, man must be nothing."69 Still Feuerbach does not predict the end of religion; rather, he envisions its purification. Feuerbach's ideas are (in certain respects) a continuation of Hegel's.70 Hegel had left dualism behind, uniting spirit and matter, with ideas paramount in his monism. Feuerbach also fused spirit and matter, but he considered ideas and thought processes logically dependent on matter. Thus Feuerbach rejected Hegel's Absolute Spirit. On his view, ideas and thoughts could not exist apart from thinkers.71 Like Fourier, Feuerbach made nature a central feature of his philosophy. Man, he explained, is not separate from nature; he is a part of it. The philosopher borrowed much from 18th century thinkers who laid the scientific foundation for materialism. The Petrashevtsy combined the 69 Gardiner, ed. Nineteenth-Century Philosophy, 243. 70 with whom Feuerbach studied. Feuerbach considered himself a "direct disciple" of Hegel's (McLellan, The Young Hegelians and Karl Marx, 86) 71 Seddon, The Petrashevtsy, 82. 34

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ideas of Feuerbach and Fourier to form a compassionate materialism. While they viewed human beings as mere physical constructs and God as nothing more than a concept created in the minds of man, they nonetheless believed in individual rights for (and the innate value of) mankind. For the Petrashevtsy, man was a part of nature, but he could transcend it with the exercise of reason. So man was more than a spatia-temporal particular, a piece of matter; man had special passions and capabilities which set him apart from the beasts.72 At this point we must begin to distinguish between Speshnev and the other Petrashevtsy. Speshnev was certainly a materialist, and he respected Feuerbach's refutation of Hegel's Absolute Spirit, but he criticized Feuerbach for his replacement of the spiritual absolute by a human one. Speshnev stated: Isn't it ridiculous, to posit man as a being with double content, like two cases, one locked up inside the other, or like jewel locked up in a casket, in one word, as one being, Geist (spirit), shut up inside another, Korper (body)?73 72 Seddon, The Petrashevtsy, 83. 73 Seddon, The Petrashevtsy, 99. 35

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Speshnev rejected anthropotheism outright. A fervent atheist, Speshnev spurned God and man-as-God.74 Speshnev openly declared himself a communist and argued for violent revolt among Russia's peasants, and his extremism in interesting in light of his wealth and elitist behavior. Speshnev had much to lose (and in fact, he did lose much during imprisonment and exile) Therefore, his dedication to revolution must have been fueled by powerful intellectual and emotional influences We will see that Speshnev was a paradoxical figure; his.generous concern for the lot of. Russia's peasantry (matching even that of the religious Dostoevsky)75 existed simultaneously with a bitter egoism and commitment to terrorism. An examination of the theories of Pierre and Max Stirner, two of Speshnev's intellectual "heroes," may help us better understand the enigmatic Petrashevets' philosophy. 74 Speshnev argued that anthropotheism was simply a new religion, wherein the Man-God was no better than the GodMan. See Frank, Dostoevsky: The Seeds of Revolt 1821-1849, 262. 75 See Kjetsaa, Fyodor Dostoevsky, 70 and Seddon, The Petrashevtsy, 217. 36

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Proudhon Proudhon's writings had a strong effect on Speshnev, who admired the French anarchist's audacity and individualism and considered the Frenchman "truly revolutionary.76 Speshnev respected those who, like himself, scorned authority, and Proudhon's criticisms of the French republic certainly manifested such a disdain. Proudhon shared some views with .other French socialists, e.g., Fourier. He "agreed. with Fourier that liberty involved an irreducible element of spontaneity and that it resisted all efforts to impose a rigid pattern upon it."77 He also shared Fourier's rejection of authority. However, Proudhon diverged from other socialists when he described the nature of mankind. Man, he explained is no_t naturally good or noble. He. is evil, and happiness is only possible when a man remakes himself. God has made man wrongly, and is responsible for all the brutality, irrationality and cruelty that exists in man. One of life's central contests is the struggle to cast God down and rid oneself of His influence forever. Unlike Fourier, Proudhon did not accept 76 Seddon, The Petrashevtsy, 70. 77 Dante Germino, Machiavelli to Marx: Modern Western Political Thought (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1972), 353 37

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the benevolent nature of man's passions. In fact his attitudes toward sex and marriage were puritanical. (On a personal level, Proudhon was a renowned anti-feminist and anti-Semite.) Proudhon offered a customized version of the Hegelian dialectic in Systeme des contradictions economiques. He postulated that every economic event is composed of a positive and negative element which exist in perpetual conflict Further, each event arises in contradiction to an existing circumstance (e.g., monopoly versus competition, protection versus free trade) Since the contradictory elements can never be resolved, the best course available is to establish a balance between them. This historical observation received limited support among the Petrashevtsy. In What is Property?, Proudhon made the audacious claim that property is theft. This theft occurs when land is held by absentee landlords or capitalists, not those who work and improvethe land upon which they live. "In other words, Proudhon is a throwback to that old French yeoman tradition, according to which the ideal form of society would be one consisting entirely of small individual 38

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holdings, each worked by the proprietor alone."78 Proudhon's view appealed to Speshnev, who desired the emancipation of Russian serfs and land for them to work. The means to this redistribution of land was revolution (violent revolution in Speshnev's plan) .79 Proudhon held that revolution could come about non-violently, as leaders realized the superiority of his (and others') program for society. However, Proudhon did not hope to set up a socialist state. He envisioned a society without government, where men would freely unite in a spirit of fraternity. This anarchism appealed to Speshnev and other Petrashevtsy, but some of the Proudhon's works failed to impress the Russians. Like many other historians and philosophers80, the Petrashevtsy (including Speshnev) considered Proudhon's work hit and miss. Speshnev, for example, disliked Proudhon's position on God81 However, the 78 Fried and Sanders, eds. Socialist Thought: A Documentary History, 200. 79 Kjetsaa, Fyodor Dostoevsky, 70 and Seddon, The Petrashevtsy, 131. 80 including Marx, who sarcastically referred to Proudhon's Philosophy of Poverty as the Poverty of Philosophy. Fried and Sanders, eds. Socialist Thought: A Documentary History, 201. 81 Seddon, The Petrashevtsy, 70-1. 39

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Russian was excited about Proudhon's mutual bank project. He wrote: Proudhon made a proposal that the rich should be made to contribute a third of their incomes for the general use. Theirs was the speaker and spoke at length against Proudhon and socialism. On the next day, Proudhon replied with a speech lasting three hours, in some way so provocative that the assembly forbade its publication, announcing that anyone who revealed its contents would be brought to trial.82 Speshnev also commented that "this shakes the foundations of the social order and forms the first step towards the implementation of his [Proudhon's] theory."83 Stirner Of the thinkers presented in this discussion, Max Stirner probably had the greatest influence on Nikolai Speshnev.84 Stirner's chilling disregard for the sanctity of human life was adopted by the flamboyant Speshnev, who worked for a violent revolt. Stirner was a solipsist and nihilist who nonetheless retained some vestiges of rationalism. He regarded "all his fellow-thinkers as 82 Seddon, The Petrashevtsy, 129. 83 Seddon, The Petrashevtsy, 129. 84 Frank, Dostoevsky: The Seeds of Revolt 1821-1849, 262. 40

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'spiritual' and 'religious-' as compared to himself. n85 Stirner's egoism is recognizable in the speeches of Hitler and Mussolini, though it unlikely that the former read Stirner directly86. Born Johann Kaspar Schmidt, Stirner attended lectures with Hegel at the University of Berlin during the mid 1820's, and after graduating in 1834, he taught at a private girl's school until the publication of his only book, Der Einzige und sein Eigenthum (The Ego and His Own) in 1844. During the early 1840'-s, Stirner associated with a group of young Berlin radicals (the Freien) He produced a few articles during his meetings with the Freien, but hid productive period ended after 1844. Der Einzige und sein Eigenthum is a peculiar book, but it not entirely divorced from the young Hegelian tradition. rtis written in the style of Feuerbach's Das Wesen des Christentums. Feuerbach's work contains two parts: God and Man; Stirner's book has two sections as 85 McLellan, The Young Hegelians and Karl Marx, 119. 86 "In 1919 Mussolini wrote: 'Leave the way free for the elemental power of the individual; for there is no other human reality than the individual! Why shouldn't Stirner become significant again." Stirner's effect on German fascism "can be largel'y reduced to the influence on Nietzsche." Stirner, The Ego and His Own, ed. John Carroll (New York: Harper & Row, 1971), pp. 13-14. 41

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well: Man and Myself. Der Einzige compares the development of history to the of a child through adulthood. I Antiquity is the childhood of the human race. I Modern times (i.e., the mid-19th century) are man's adolescence, and maturity is a near-future horizon of which ; I Stirner's book is the! herald. Before he attempts to describe this maturity of the human race (in Myself -the second part of the bopk), the author launches attacks on contemporary politicsi and society. Stirner maintains that the bourgeois societyi supported by liberals merely replaces I old monarchies with ainew more brutal one: the monarchy of the sovereign nation. Instead of a single oppressor, the nation itself becomes the despot. Further, bourgeois virtues such as trade and sound .business can only i be attained through exploitation of labor. The author i claims that Feuerbachls system will lead to such an end. I Feuerbach's bringing 9ivinity to man is still theological, but now religious commands become moral ones. Man is I capable of being far vicious than God (who at least i possessed a heavenly forgiving character) in enforcing I his moral imperatives.; Stirner hoped to be rid of both God i and man. 42

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Stirner's attack on communism is similar to his criticism of Feuerbach. Instead of a monarch, communism offers a state of which all men are a part. The individual is lost, as men are defined not by their unique traits but rather, by their contribution or value to the state. Thus a man who is lazy (and thus does not contribute sufficiently to the state) is misguided, or perhaps unfaithful, and he must be shown the light of communal effort. For Stirner, communism is even worse than capitalism or bourgeois socialism; at least in the latter systems one can own property and have some measure of self-direction. With communism, "neither command nor property is left to the individual; the state took the former, society the latter."87 Communism demands allegiance to society, which is glorified as a deity. Following these savage attacks on bourgeois and communist systems, Stirner offers his own formula in Myself, the second half of Der Einzige. In Myself, Stirner explains that the self will be free if it elevates itself "above all the toils and snares of these ideas."88 "These ideas" refers to philosophy, religion and liberalism. Thus Stirner is a direct opposite 87 McLellan, The Young Hegelians and Karl Marx, 123. 88 McLellan, The Young Hegelians and Karl Marx, 125. 43

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to Hegel, whose system described ideas as independent of the individual. The author places the self, or ego, above all else. The self is subject to no laws but its own, and it should never be compromised for the benefit of another. According to Stirner, people are motivated by self-interest (whether they like it or not89), and should not be ashamed to admit it. They should openly seek their own advantage, ignoring the needs and desires of others except when fulfilling them can benefit the self. Thus other people are means to and end. The sel.f uses them to achieve its goals. Stirner's views on natural rights are also audacious. Natural rights do not exist; you have the right to do only what your power allows you: In consideration of right the_question is always asked, 'What or who gives me the right to it?' Answer: God, love, reason, nature, humanity, etc. No, only your might, your power gives you the right.90 89 It is tempting to compare Stirner's approach to utilitarianism, along Jeremy Bentham's lines. The self should choose the path which causes it the least pain and most pleasure. The good of others (and society) is only desirable if it leads to greater pleasure for the self. We also see an element of psychological hedonism -the idea the humans act only on self interest (even if only subconsciously). For the psychological hedonist, a daring rescue is motivated only by the approbation it brings the rescuer; altruism is an empty concept. 90 Stirner, The Ego and His Ow.n, 126. 44

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For the author, might makes right.91 The liberal state wants to ensure that everyone has property, but inevitably, this does not occur; large landowners end up the bulk of available land. In Stirner's system, there is no property except the self. The self is all that one owns. Only with power can one obtain land, and even then it is subject to takeover by a more powerful individual. States make it difficult for one to exercise might in pursuit of goals, so the state is the worst enemy of the self. Stirner claims that regardless of how oppressive a state becomes, the will of the self cannot be broken. The state should be composed of atoms (selves), each striving for its own advantage. While it seems that Stirner' s state would amount to li t.tle more than a chaotic anarchy, he claims that the tendency for individuals to defend themselves and their interests would prevent disorder. The knowledge that a potential victim would willingly defend himself .serves as a deterrent to those who would seize too much power or engage in wanton acts of 91 Thus Stirner advances this concept well before Nietzsche adopted it. 45

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violence92 Further, Stirner's state would still allow for the association of friends, and in fact such associations would be motivated by love -self love. "The egoist loves others because this love makes him happy and has its basis in egoism."93 Stirner encourages selves to associate with the purpose of dispossessing landowners and organizing wealth in common, with each individual bringing whatever he can conquer to the association. The final purpose of association is a revolt in which people institute themselves, not other institutions. Like Proudhon, Stirner wanted to overthrow existing governments without creating a new one. We have looked at Stirner's thought, so we must now attempt to assess its influence on .Nikolai Speshnev. Speshnev agreed with Stirner on the subject of idealism. The Russian said that "all metaphysics fears reality. It considers the actually real something other than the thing itself (essence, idea etc.), real world is for it a great masquerade and its fantastical world -true 92 This a priori argument may seem flawed, but it is not our purpose here to dispute the validity (or soundness) of conclusions made by those who influenced Speshnev. 93 McLellan, The Young Hegelians and Karl Marx, 128. 46

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reality."94 The word "fear" is significant, for it shows that Speshnev is not content with a mere description of idealism; like Stirner, he displays contempt for it. Speshnev also accepted Stirner's attack on Feuerbach.95 He agreed that Feuerbach had stopped halfway when he brought God's divinity to man, and he looked at the Human Absolute as just another form of authority against which the self must struggle. Feuerbach's anthropotheism was like a religion to. Speshnev, and as an atheist, he wanted no part of it. Speshnev resisted all authority, and like Stirner, he held nothing sacred. The Petrashevets was truly amoral; concepts such as right and wrong, good and evil, and nobility and baseness were meaningless.96 Only the ego and self-interest mattered .to Speshnev. He "accepted without qualm all the sinister implications of Stirner's theory."97 For Speshnev, this egoism and 94 Seddon, The Petrashevtsy, 81. 95 In fact, we might say that Stirner dislodged Feuerbach from Speshnev, Stirner's attack also drove a wedge between Feuerbach and Marx, who respected Stirner's book and considered the author socialism's greatest enemy. McLellan, The. Young Hegelians and Karl Marx, 131-132. 96 Frank, Dostoevsky: The Seeds of Revolt 1821-1849, 262. 97 Seddon, The Petrashevtsy, 100. 47

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ruthlessness were more than philosophical notion; they were a way of life. In letters to his mother, Speshnev proclaimed his self-love,98 and in one speech Speshnev said "we are left only with the spoken word, I intend to use it, without.the slightest shame or conscience, to propagandize for socialism, atheism, terrorism and all that is good."99 I think.that we can reasonably conclude from his words and those of others, that Speshnev was strongly affected by Stirner's Der und sein Eigenthum. In the next sections, we will explore Speshnev's program for putting his ideas into action 98 Seddon, The Petrashevtsy, 101. gg Kjetsaa, Fyodor Dostoevsky, 63. 48

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CHAPTER 8 SPESHNEV AMONG THE PETRASHEVTSY We have. examined some of the philosophical and political ideas of Speshnev and how they made him a unique thinker in the Petrashevsky circle. This section examines the revolutionary program of Speshnev as it surfaced at Petrashevsky 's. Soon after his association with the circle began, Speshnev distinguished himself as one of its most radical members. His plans for con$piracy would eventually cause a rift between Speshnev and Petrashevsky Their disagreements would.cause Speshnev to leave the circle, taking with him a cadre of revolutionary followers. Speshnev had been so disgusted with his 1845 attempt to write a history of secret so"cieties in Europe that by the time he began visiting Petrashevsky's, he had burned all but one f:r:agment: the oath of allegiance ,to the Russian Society: When the executive committee of the society, after taking the society's support, the circumstances and the occasion offered .into consideration, decides that the time has come for insurrection, then I swear that I will declare my sympathies and regardless of my personal safety to take part in the fighting and to 49

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further the success of the cause as far as is in my power.100 Speshnev kept the oath because he had not given up his dreams of revolution when he returned to Russia. He still had. "the aim of establishing a secret society to prepare an insurrection."101 Speshnev knew that the groundwork for recruiting the Petrashevsky circle's guests would be the establishment o.f his image as an important, legitimate and mysterious revolutionary. This he accomplished by dropping hints that he was part of an international conspiracy, leaking rumors of his love affairs and European adventures, and exploiting his remarkable charisma and appearance.102 Though Petrashevsky was not taken in by Speshnev's clever imagery, many other Petrashevtsy were, such that Speshnev's status in the group matched that of its namesake. With his clout established, Speshnev began his crusade to form a secret society. Speshnev's first potential recruit was Raphael Chernosvitov. Chernosvitov was battle-scarred Siberian gold 100 Shchegelov, Petrashevtsy, 3, 52; Seddon, The Petrashevtsy, 209. 101 Seddon, The Petrashevtsy, 210. 102 Seddon, The Petrashevtsy, 212. 50

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prospector who enjoyed the rebellious atmosphere of the Petrashevsky circle.103 The newcomer impressed his younger friends. Chernosvitov beguiled them with stories of his imprisonment by Polish rebels in 1831 and his suffering during peasant uprisings in Perm in 1841-2. Speshnev thought (or perhaps merely hoped) that the Siberian was an emissary of a revolutionary organization sent to test the wat.ers European Russia.104 Petrashevsky was impressed with the new visitor,105 and he invited Chernosvitov and Speshnev to a series private discussions. At the first discussion with Speshnev and Petrashevsky Chernostvitov described the Siberian potato revolts of 103 Frank, Dostoevsky: The Seeds of Revolt 1821-1849, 264. 104 Frank, Dostoevsky: The Seeds of Revolt 1821-1849, 264. Interestingly, Chernosvitov had resisted the Perm rebellion (he was a soldier and loyal to the Governor-General of Siberia). Now he seemed ready to ally.himself with such an insurgency. It is hard to assess the seriousness of Chernosvitov's commitment to revolution, but since he never participatedin any uprising (and in fact never made any attempt to foment or support one), it is possible that he regarded his association with the Petrashevtsy as nothing more than an entertaining exercise. 105 Like Speshnev, Petrashevsky favored secret societies, but the latter thought that they should be used to spread enlightenment and educate the masses. He did not favor a putsch. Petrashevsky thought that revolution might come after a long period during which, through gradual education, peasants would become dissatisfied with the government and spontaneously revolt. Seddon, The Petrashevtsy, 210. 51

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1841 and assured his interlocutors that the Siberian peasants were armed and capable of annihilating any invading Army. An excited Speshnev suggested that if a large part of the Russian army could be lured into Siberia, rebellion in two major cities would be enough to oust the Tsar. Chernosvitov then asked whether plans for such urban uprisings were in effect. This was a crucial point in the discussion, for Speshnev knew that in order to glean more information from the Siberian, he would have to play along and hint at revolutionary plans. However, Petrashevsky would have none of Speshnev's ploy; he refused to voice his support for revolution, and a quarrel with Speshnev ensued. The meeting ended on a note of discord, and the next discussion took place without Petrashevsky .106 In their next conversation, Speshnev and Chernosvitov constructed a plan for revolution. In order to gain the Siberian's trust, Speshnev "pretended to be a communist leader and even said that his society had a branch in Moscow."107 Chernosvitov proposed the revolution's first step: 400,000 armed Perm factory workers could be gathered 106see Frank, Dostoevsky: The Seeds of Revolt 1821-1849, 265. 107 Seddon, The Petrashevtsy, 213; Delo petrashevtsev, ed. A.N. S.S.S.R., (3 vols., Moscow: 1937, 1941, 1951), 1, 102. 52

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I I for an invasion of the Volga region,! whose peasants would join the struggle. While the Russiart army dealt with the Volga rebellion, uprisings in St. Petersburg and Moscow would ensure that "that would be the end and the revolutionary party would have won. n)08 Satisfied with their strategy, Speshnev and Chernosvitov tried to enlist Petrashevsky 's support. Speshnev outlined the scheme and contended that the "revolution which must occur in Russia to improve the present state of life must be violerit."109 Petrashevsky rejected Speshnev's argument harshly. He once again voiced his opposition to revolution and claimed that legal methods would be sufficient to bring change. The enraged Speshnev stormed off, and Petrashevsky destroyed any possibility of future talks by revealing to Cbernosyitov Speshnev's lie concerning his influence and position as a communist leader. Chernosvitov soon returned tp Siberia where he lived peacefully until his arrest in June 1849.110 108 Seddon, The Petrashevtsy, 213. 109 Seddon, The Petrashevtsy, 213-4 .. I I 110 Frank, Dostoevsky: The $eeds of 1821-1849, 265; Seddon, The Petrashevtsy, 214. 53

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Speshnev's next attempt to radicalize his comrades came in the winter of 1848 when a civil servant from Reval named Konstantin Timkovsky made two speeches at Petrashevsky 's. Timkovsky's first speech showed an allegiance to Fourier, and the orator denounced revolution as evil. Prior to the second speech, Timkovsky was seen "arm-in-arm with Speshnev .. .ritysteriously conspiring with him."111 The.conclusion of Timkovsky 's second address showed his allegiance to Speshnev: The efforts of all true supporters of progress should be directed towards.hastening a revolution which would happen sooner or later but which he would like to see before his departure for Reval, that he was ready to be the first to step out onto the square and if necessary to sacrifice his life to the sacred cause of freedom.112 Only Timkovksy 's brother and Speshnev praised the oration; some audience members went white with horror.113 Speshnev's vocal support for Timkovsky 's effort resulted in another 111 Delo Petrashevtsev, 1, 324-5; Seddon, The Petrashevtsy, 214. 112 Seddon, The Petrashevtsy, 214. The similarity between this excerpt and Speshnev's oath for the Russian Society is 113 Frank, Dostoevsky: The Seeds of Revolt 1821-1849, 266. 54

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altercation with Petrashevsky who managed to refrain from publicly chastising the orator.114 Not long after his controversial speech the chastened Timkovsky returned to Reval to take a civil service post. Evidently Speshnev's influence had been great, for Timkovsky wrote the former several letters, hoping for news of a circle that Speshnev had promised to form. Speshnev's interest in his naive disciple had waned, and he never answered Timkovsky 's correspondence.115 Another opportunity for Speshnev to promote his radical agenda came in December of 1848, when Nikolai Mombelli introduced his Brotherhood of Mutual Aid to the circle. With the assistance of Fyodor L'vov, Mombelli had developed the Brotherhood idea the previous October. The mission of the society would be to help progressive young Russians increase their status in society. Members of the Brotherhood would use their power to reform Russia.116 Thus the group was a launching pad for aspiring political activists. 114 Petrashevsky later sent Timkovsky a long, disapproving, Fourierist letter. Frank, Dostoevsky: The Seeds of Revolt 1821-1849, 266. 115 The Petrashevtsy, 215. 116 .Frank, Dostoevsky: The Seeds of Revolt 1821-1849, 266. 55

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Petrashevsky was very enthusiastic about Mombelli's proposal, and he suggested that they discuss the plan with Speshnev. The triumvirate decided to pursue the Brotherhood, but they needed additional founders. They decided that each existing member would invite one more; Mombelli selected L'vov, Petrashevsky chose Konatantin Debu (who would be a reliable ally against Speshnev if necessary), and Speshnev invited no one, asserting that he relied "only on himself."117 With the core membership complete, the group met several times from December 1848 through January 1849 to set up rules and goals.118 Speshnev and Petrashevsky began mentoring the less radical Mombelli, and their pupil quickly moved left politically. Further, the student adopted a Speshnevian commitment to top-down organization and total dedication to revolution. Mombelli insisted that the Brotherhood have a Central Committee, biographies of the members (to give the organization power over them), and the inclusion in the . Brotherhood's oath a clause that specified the death 117 Seddon,. The Petrashevtsy, 216. 118 Seddon, The Petrashevtsy, 216. 56

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penalty for treason.119 This attitude seems far removed from the original, more innocuous stance; Speshnev's influence is apparent. Mombelli confidence in his society's viability was increasing, but soon differences in the views of his mentors would dash his hopes. Petrashevsky envisioned an educational Brotherhood dedicated to spreading Fourierist propaganda and advancing ideas for Russia's improvement.120 Speshnev desired a political Brotherhood committed to peasant revolt. From the first meeting, Speshnev had attempted to discover whether Mombelli's proposals concealed a more radical agenda, but the latter revealed nothing. Finally Speshnev's patience ran out, and he read his own plan to the group. 119 Delo petrashevtsev, l, 351-2; Seddon, The Petrashevtsy, 216. 120 Speshnev's disgust with Petrashevsky's emphasis on education is intriguing in light of the former's narcissism. Petrashevsky was a true eiitist; he held that enlightened thinkers could teach the peasants and help them yearn for change. Speshnev firmly believed in a top-down, carefully controlled approach to revolution, but he seemed to respect the peasants greatly. It was the intelligentsia who could learn much, not the reverse. Speshnev agreed with Dmitri Akhsharumov that the radicals needed "to understand our people better and draw closer to them." Seddon, The Petrashevtsy, 236. This conflict between pride in his mind and station and concern and respect for Russia's serfs is one of many that make our subject fascinating. 57

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There are three illegal means of action -jesuitical, simple propaganda and revolt. None of these is certain. .. and there is a better chance if all three roads are taken and for this a committee of brotherhood to set up a school of Fourierist, communist and liberal propaganda; and finally, a committee to form behind all this a secret society for revolt.121 Speshnev's statement touched off another argument between him and Petrashevsky whose rejection of revolution remained constant. This was the final straw for Speshnev. He left the meeting in a huff, and the Brotherhood dissolved.122 As we shall see when we examine the Pal'm-Durov circle, Speshnev salvaged one thing from the break-up; Mombelli would remain loyal to his revolutionary mentor. Following the Brotherhood debacle, Speshnev stopped visiting Petrashevsky's; the rift between them was complete. In his absence, followers of Speshnev continued to present his. ideas to the group. Dostoevsky Mombelli, Pavel Filippov and Vasili Golovinsky supported revolution in the face of strident objections from the host.123 The 121 Seddon, The Petrashevtsy, 217. 122 Seddon, The Petrashevtsy, 217. 123 Seddon, The Petrashevtsy, 218. 58

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Speshnevites realized that little could be accomplished in Petrashevsky 's moderate circle, so they carried their arguments to other venues. 59

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CHAPTER 9 SPESHNEV AND THE PAL' M-DUROV CIRCLE By the Spring of 1848, the Petrashevsky circle's ranks had swelled with new members. The group's size made the development of satellite groups inevitable. As circle members developed their own ideas concerning the ideal purpose and membership of discussion groups, factions formed, and Petrashevtsy who concurred attended meetings at new locales. Speshnev and his minions had successfully introduced the discussion of revolution at Petrashevsky's, but bitter disagreements with the host made continued effort there seem pointless. One of the new splinter groups was the Pal' m-Durov circle. The Pal'm-Durov circle evolved from a series of informal meetings that were held at the home of Pleshcheev (a Petrashevets) in the early months of 1848. These casual gatherings "included all of the literati who came to Petrashevsky's," including several who would eventually belong to Speshnev's secret society: Speshnev, Mombelli, Dostoevsky Filippov, Grigor'ev and Vladimir Miliutin.124 124 Frank, Dostoevsky: The Seeds of Revolt 1821-1849, 273. 60

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At the Pleshcheev meetings participants read writings of such intellectual influences as Herzen and Felix Pyat, a radical French journalist/playwright.125 A common complaint at the meetings was harshness of censorship in Russia. Speshnev used his interlocutors' dissatisfaction to proffer a plan for circumventing the Tsar's repressive policy. He offered to publish any of his companions' works abroad. This publication would presumably have been handled by Edmund Chojecki, who hoped to "establish a Russian Free Press in the West."126 However, the Pleshcheev group was not ready for thisrisky, illegal step. No one accepted Speshnev's offer, though only a few refused outright (e.g., Mikhail Dostoevsky who consistently resisted illegal measures). As usual, Speshnev was more ready than his fellow Petrashevtsy to employ extreme measures. In January of 1849,127 several of those who visited Pleshcheev's group to form a more formal discussion circle at the apartment of Alexander Pal'm and Sergei Durov. Pal'm was a Life Guards lieutenant and occasional contributor to literary journals; Durov (one of the eldest 125 Frank, Dostoevsky: The Seeds of Revolt 1821-1849, 273. 126 Frank, Dostoevsky: The Seeds of Revolt 1821-1849, 274. 127 Seddon, The Petrashevtsy, 216. 61

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Petrashevtsy at age 32) "was a graduate of the University of St. Petersburg and free-lance writer and translator."128 The defectors to the Pal'm-Durov circle had grown weary of Petrashevsky's preoccupation with politics and philosophy. Pal'm wrote that the circle's members had hoped to create a forum for the discussion of literature and music, and Dostoevsky claimed that the circle planned to write a literary almanac.l29 Durov vehemently resisted the possibility of Petrashevsky 's inclusion in the discussions. He said, "Petrashevsky, like a bull, sticks to philosophy and politics; he has no understanding of fine art and will only spoil our everiings."130 The characterization of the Pal'm-Durov circle's purpose as musical and literary was borne out to some extent by the nature of its meetings. Members discussed plans for the literary almanac, read literature aloud and gave musical performances (musicians in the circle included a singer, two vioncellists, and a pianist)131. However, 128 Frank, Dostoevsky: The Seeds of Revolt 1821-1849, 274. 129 Frank, Dostoevsky: The Seeds of Revolt 1821-1849, 274. 130 Delo petrashevtsev, 3, 272-273. 131 Seddon, The Petrashevtsy, 221. 62

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Speshnev claimed that the group formed for different reasons. He claimed that Dostoevsky and Pleshcheev wished to meet with their acquaintances in some place other than Petrashevsky 's, where it was boring, and one spoke only about learned subjects and one hardly knew the people, so that it was dangerous to utter a word; that they would invite only those among their acquaintances who they were sure were not spies, and that he, Speshnev, could do the same. This society he [Speshnev] could only label as one formed because of fear of the Speshnev thus saw the circle as a safe venue in which he could proffer his radical agenda. Though the first meetings of the Pal'm-Durov circle adhered to the non-political formul a advocated by the hosts,133 Speshnev and his followers were soon able to inject a radical tone into the discussions. Mornbelli made the first move. Responding to the circle guests' desires to know more about one another, he outlined his Brotherhood of Mutual Aid. His proposal inspired an acrimonious response, colorfully described by L'vov: 132 Shchegelov, Petrashevtsy, 3, 59; Frank, Dostoevsky: The Seeds of Revolt 1821-1849, 275. 133 Typically, Pal'm, Durov, Dostoevsky and Pleshcheev read from their own writings, and after dinner, members enjoyed a musical performance. These meetings were so tame that early commentators accepted Miliukov's claim that this was "a small group of more moderate young men." See Seddon, The Petrashevtsy, 221. 63

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Mombelli was hissed, he blushed, tore up his notes. Everyone unanimously told him that we had purposely collected with the intention of eliminating all political discussion, which if he likes he can hear at Petrashevsky's.134 The deeply offended military officer135 made few contributions to the circle's discussions after this humiliating incident. Despite Mombelli's failure, his attempt may have helped pave the way for political discussion, for on the fifth or sixth meeting I Pavel Filippov's discussion of politics monopolized the evening. Filippov risked a similar fate to that of Mombelli when he proposed the program of Speshnev' s secret society. He told the guests that they should abandon story-writing and that they 134 undertake, as a united effort, the composition of articles in a spirit of liberalism concerning questions that touch on the. contemporary condition of Russia in a juridical and administrative sense.136 Seddon, The Petrashevtsy, 222. 135 Evans, The Petrasevskij Circle, 47. Evans gives brief background information on twenty-five of the most prominent Petrashevtsy. 136 Frank, Dostoevsky: The Seeds of Revolt 1821-1849, 277. 64

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This project would enable the group to "strip bare all the injustice of the laws ... all the corruption and deficiencies in the organization of our administration."137 Each of the circle members would work on the area most suited to their knowledge. Dostoevsky would tackle the exposition of socialism, Durov legislative issues, Lamansky' economics, Filippov serfdom andMinaev the class system. When the articles were complete, the group would print them with a home lithograph. L'vov volunteered to handle procurement of the press. Filippov's proposal received a remarkably favorable response,138 and the circle unanimously approved the plan. Still, some of the group's more moderate guests were secretly horrified by -the daring pr_ogram. According to Dostoevsky, It seemed to me that half of those present did not speak out against Filippov's idea only because they were afraid the others might suspect them of cowardice and they wanted to reject the proposal not directly but in some sort of indirect fashion.139 137 Shchegelov, Petrashevtsy, 3, 124; Seddon, The Petrashevtsy, 222. 138 Especially enthusiastic were Mombelli, Grigor'ev and Speshnev. Frank, Dostoevsky: The Seeds of Revolt 1821-1849, 277. 139 Shchegelov, Petrashevtsy, 1, 59. Knapp, ed. Dostoevsky as Reformer, 60. In a deposition to prosecutors, Dostoevsky 65

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The ever-moderate Mikhail Dostoevsky threatened to leave the group, and Durov suggested that Speshnev host the meetings. The latter declined, though he did hold a luncheon140 a week after the controversial discussion at the Pal'm-Durov apartment. At Speshnev's Apollon Grigor'ev141 read his strident Soldiers' Tale. The Tale featured a monologue by a fictional peasant/Russian Army veteran whose description of his life in the military served as a vehicle for sociopolitical commentary.142 Speaking of his travels in France, the protagonist noted: The king squandered money madly, loved the rich and insulted the poor. And then, last year, the people and portrayed Filippov as a hothead who. enjoyed causing trouble. See Knapp's translation of Dostoevsky's statement, 59-60. 140 Some authors, including Frank and Seddon refer to this affair as a dinner, but Knapp's translation of Dostoevsky's deposition mentions a luncheon. Because my access to volume 1 of Delo Petrashevtsev was limited, I was unable to find the Russian term used. I have therefore decided to follow Knapp's. translation, which seems a more direct source than Seddon and Frank's secondary works. 141 Grigor'ev was a lieutenant in the Horse Grenadiers and served as the Speshnevites' expert on military problems and reform. Frank, Dostoevsky: The Seeds of Revolt 1821-1849, 280; Evans, The Petrasevskij Circle, 48. 142 Frank, Dostoevsky: The Seeds of Revolt 1821-1849, 280. 66

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the soldiers made barricades out of cobblestones in the town and oh! what fun there was. A terrible punchup. But the king and the gentlemen put up a poor show. Now they don't want tsars and govern themselves as we do in the village. A mir with everyone in it and elections.143 The work was a propaganda piece, intended for a peasant audience and likely part of a broad effort by Speshnev's followers to produce manuscripts for distribution to peasants and raskolniki.144 Filippov later contributed to this effort by writing a revolutionary version of the Ten Commandments which proclaimed, for example, that it was God's will that peasants kill their masters.145 The luncheon at Speshnev's further scandalized the Pal'm-Durov group's moderates (including Durov and Mikhail Dostoevsky), but some of Grigor'ev'.s listeners urged the author to amplify its message.l46 It seemed unlikely that 143 Seddon, The Petrashevtsy, 226. Mir is a term for the Russian peasant village. 144 Frank, Dos_toevsky: The Seeds of Revolt 1821-1849, 2801. The raskolniki were Old Believers, a schismatic religious group who refused to accept the dictates of patriarch Nikon's reform of the Russian Orthodox Church in the mid-17th century. 145 Frank, Dostoevsky: The Seeds of Revolt 1821-1849, 281. 146 Especially Speshnev, who wanted to read the Tale "practically in the public street." Frank, Dostoevsky: The Seeds of Revolt 1821-1849, 226. 67

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the group would survive the Speshnevites' radical proposals much longer. However, Dostoevsky attempted to resolve the group's conflict at the next discussion (April 7, 1849) .147 Several days after the Speshnev luncheon the Pal'm-Druov meetings resumed. L'vov had news concerning his quest for a lithographic press. He reported that the press was easily obtainable; the lithographic stone would cost only twenty silver roubles.148 Distribution was the only remaining obstacle, for use of the post would be foolhardy.149 Intimidated by L'vov's news (which would accelerate the group's timetable for illegal activity), Mikhail Dostoevsky "angrily pointed out that they would have to turn themselves into an organized club, which he protested, negated the original apolitical aim of the . 147 Seddon, The Petrashevtsy, 223. I am unsure of this date for Seddon's work gives April 17 as the date. However, this may be a typographical error, for Seddon then notes that the next meeting was held on April 13. April 7 seems a likely possible date. 148 Seddon, The Petrashevtsy, 223. 149 Though it is not clear how distribution would have been accomplished had printing commenced, Speshnev may well have played an important rqle. His connection with Edmund Chojecki might have provided a means for publication of the illegal materials. 68

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evenings."150 An argument seemed imminent, but Fyodor Dostoevsky calmed the group by making a speech against the lithograph idea. He said that one should not act illegally against two points; one should not condemn society, and [should] work on it not by gall and mockery but by revealing one's own shortcomings.151 The group agreed that procuring a lithography would be excessively dangerous; those who wished to disseminate propaganda could copy out manuscr1pts by hand.152 Dostoevsky's suggestion was thus surprisingly easily accepted, given the presence in the circle of the more radical Mombelli, Filippov and Speshnev. Had Speshnev lost his power over his followers? The absence of any protest by Speshnev against Dostoevsky's apparent abandonment of the secret society's program might tempt us to draw such a conclusion. However, a consideration of Dostoevsky's motives for rejecting the lithograph suggests an explanation for the staunch revolutionaries' acquiescence. 150 Seddon, The Petrashevtsy, 223. 151 Frank, Dostoevsky: The Seeds of Revolt 1821-1849, 282. 152 Seddon, The Petrashevtsy, 223. 69

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CHAPTER 10 DOSTOEVSKY AS SPESHNEVITE He did not talk very much, and was elegant without any exaggeration, strangely modest and at the same time very willful and determined, unlike the rest of us. The dandies among us gazed at him enviously, and were all outclassed by him. I was particularly struck by his face. His hair was a curiously intense black, his light-colored eyes were particularly limpid and calm, his complexion was unusually soft and white, and the color in his cheeks was a little too bright and clear.153 This description may seem to be an accurate portrait of Speshnev, but it is an excerpt from Dostoevsky's novel The Devils. Written soon after the Nechaevl54 affair, The Devils depicted the revolutionary escapades of a group of Russian radicals. The description above characterizes Stavrogin, a character based on primarily on Speshnev. Dostoevsky's inclusion of a character shows the impact that the nihilist had upon the author.155 153 Robert Payne, Dostoevsky: A Human Portrait (New York: Knopf, 1961), 62. 154 Nechaev was a late-1860's revolutionary who led a group which murdered on of its members. 155 This also suggests the reach of Speshnev's influence, for The Devils was written more than two decades after the arrest separated the two friends. L.P. Grossman provides a cogent account of the relationship between Stavrogin and 70

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Unlike some of his more radical associates, Fyodor Dostoevsky gave up plans for political action or revolution soon after his arrest in April of 1849. Though space does not permit a thorough investigation of the famous author's later life here, it is important to understand that Dostoevsky's future would be characterized by a surprising devotion to the Tsar who condemned him and to religion. Thus it is tempting to view the young Petrashevets' rejection of the lithograph plan as the first sign of his transformation. However, there is little reason to conclude that Dostoevsky had yet abandoned his loyalty to Speshnev or revolution. Iri fact, evidence supporting Speshnev's power of his comrade is abundant. It seems likely that Dostoevsky resisted the lithograph idea to prevent the Pal'm-Durov circle's break-up156 and protect Speshnev's conspiracy. Speshnev in "Speshnev i Stavrogin," Spor o Bakunine i Dostoevskom (Leningrad: 1926). 156 Dostoevsky's reassurances were not good enough for Durov and other moderates; the group's last meeting was held on April 13, 1849. Arrests of the Petrashevtsy began on April 23. See Seddon, The Petrashevtsy, 227. We shall see that the circle's dissolution did not end the Speshnevites' attempts to foster revolution. 71

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In January of 1849, Dostoevsky paid a visit to Apollon Maikov, a friend and fellow Petrashevets.157 In two letters written thirty-six years later, Maikov explained that Dostoevsky had visited him to enlist another recruit for revolution. Dostoevsky pleaded, Of course you understand that Petrashevskii is a chatterbox, that he is not a serious person and that nothing can possibly come of his undertakings, and for that. reason several serious people from his circle have decided (secretly and without telling anyone) to form their own society with a secret printing press in order to print various books and journals, if that works out. There are seven of us now. [158] We have chosen you to be the eighth. Do you want to join our society?159 Maikov asked the group's purpose, and his guest replied that the society hoped to create "a revolution in Russia, of course. We have already set into motion a plan to get a 157 Kjetsaa, Fyodor Dostoevsky, 64. 158 The members were Speshnev, F. Dostoevsky Grigor'ev, Mombelli, Filippov, Nikolai Mordinov and Vladimir Miliutin. Frank, Dostoevsky: The Seeds of Revolt 1821-1849, 267, 273. The Maikov letters established the identities of the conspiracy's members for the first time. Seddon mentions Golovinsky as another possible member (pg. 218). 159 N. Ovseiannkova, ed. "Rasskaz A.N. Maikova o Dostoevskom i petrashevtsakh," Istoricheskii arkhiv, vol. 26 (1948), pp. 224-5. Seddon, The Petrashevtsy, 224. 72

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printing press ... everything is ready. n160 Dostoevsky Is commitment to Speshnev's society is clear just a few months before his arrest. Further, it important to note that Dosteovsky mentioned the press weeks before the idea surfaced at Pal'm-Durov's. The revolutionary conspiracy worked independently of the musical-literary circle. Maikov refused Dostoevsky 's offer, but he did not reveal the existence of the secret society.161 Maikov's letters show Dostoevsky's devotion to Speshnev's revolutionary cause a few months before the arrest, but the testimony of the young author's doctor is more telling. In the words of Dr. Stepan Yanovsky we see the true power of our subject's hold over his minions. Between the beginning of 1849 and the Petrashevtsy's arrest on April 23, Dr. Yanovsky noticed a dramatic change in Dostoevsky .162 The patient ''became somewhat melancholy .. .more irritable, more touchy, ready to quarrel over the merest 160 Kjetsaa, 64. Ovseiannkova, "Rasskaz A.N. Maikova o Dostoevskom i petrashevtsakh," 222-6. 161 Maikov's letters were written in 1885 but were not published until 1922. Seddon, The Petrashevtsy, 223. 162 Dostoevsky had been a patient as early as 1846. See Frank, Dostoevsky: The Seeds of Revolt 1821-1849, 165. 73

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trifle, and very often complained of giddiness."163 The doctor advised that given an absence of organic causes, the symptoms were probably a temporary depression and would soon pass, but the miserable Dostoevsky replied, No, it will not, and it will torture me for a long time. For I have taken money from Speshnev [164] and now I am with him and his. I'll never be able to pay back such a sum, yes, and he wouldn't take the money back; that's the kind of man he is.165 Even more sinister was a statement that Dostoevsky repeated to Dr. Yanovsky several times. "Do you understand, from now on I have a Mephistopheles of my own!"166 It seems unlikely that Speshnev's hold on his friend was based on nothing more than a loan. Dostoevsky had taken many loans, but he had never compared a lender to the Devil. Though Dosteovsky 's consternation may imply the existence of some internal conflict, his loyalty to Speshnev still seemed firm {if uncomfortable) at this time. 163 Frank, Dostoevsky: The Seeds of Revolt 1821-1849, 269. 164 approximately 500 roubles Seddon, The Petrashevtsy, 224. 165 Frank, Dostoevsky: The Seeds of Revolt 1821-1849, 269. 166 Frank, Dostoevsky: The Seeds of Revolt 1821-1849, 270. 74

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A final example of Speshnev's grip on Dostoevsky concerns the latter's testimony during the interrogation which followed his arrest. After the break-up of the Pal'm-Durov circle, the Speshnevites' plans for obtaining a press continued unabated. Filippov used funds provided by Speshnev to order parts for a handpress167 from various St. Petersburg shops, but because parts deliveries began arriving only a few days before the April 23 arrest, the project never reached completion.168 Speshnev and Filippov each confessed to the lithograph plan (in an ill-conceived attempt to protect each other from blame) but Dostoevsky denied any knowledge of a handpress, noting only that Filippov had suggested a lithograph. He testified, But in the question mention was made of a private printing press. I never heard anything said about printing at Durov' s; or anywhere for that matter ... What Filippov proposed was lithography.169 This statement was hardly accurate, for in his pitch to A.N. Maikov, Dosteovsky had indeed mentioned a secret printin9 press. 167 which is not identical to a lithographic press. 168 Frank, Dostoevsky: The Seeds of Revolt 1821-1849, 283. 169 Knapp, ed. Dostoevsky as Reformer, 63. 75

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It also seems unlikely that Dostoevsky was unaware of the new post-Pal'm-Durov plan for obtaining a handpress. His denial of any knowledge of the press and avoidance of mentioning Speshnev's name in connection with the lithograph renders dubious the notion of any disloyalty in Dostoevsky 170. He certainly had little to fear from Speshnev, who was also imprisoned. The possibility for any recrimination (or even knowledge of Dostoevsky's deportment} by Speshnev seemed remote. Still, the young author remained loyal. Because of the authorities' lack of evidence or incriminating testimony, they ceased investigating the possibility of a_ conspiracy.171 170 Dostoevsky was careful throughout his testimony to avoid mentioning Speshnev or elaborating on questions relevant to Speshnev. The author even noted that "Speshnev let it be known to some of us in no uncertain terms that he'd been coerced into the luncheon and that.it would be inconvenient for him to have us over again." Knapp, ed. Dostoevsky as Reformer, 61. Thus Speshnev is characterized as an unwilling participant in the discussion of Grigor'ev Soldier's Tale. 171 Authorities considered Speshnev "nothing more than a whimsical, posturing playboy acting out a cloak-and-dagger role among his former Lyceum classmates -a conclusion which resulted from Speshnev's application of charm and heretofore unrealized acting ability during his appearance before the Commissioners." Evans, The Petrasevskij Circle, 92. Speshnev had managed to protect himself by arguing that his activities were nothing more that entertainment. When authorities later used several Petrashevets' correspondences with Speshnev against them, he took sole responsibility for leadership of his comrades, arguing 76

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Dostoevsky later told a biographer that "many circumstances completely slipped from view; an entire conspiracy vanished."172 (with typical hubris) that only he was talented enough to lead his peers. Sadly, Speshnev's effort did not spare his friends. Evans, The Petrasevskij Circle, 100. 172 Frank, Dostoevsky: The Seeds of Revolt 1821-1849, 283. 77

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CHAPTER 11 CONCLUSION Speshnev was arrested on April 27, 1849 for attempting to create a secret society. Following his reprieve at Semyonovsky Square, Speshnev received a sentence of ten years in the mines of Nerchinsk. He was later transferred to the Aleksandrovsky Smelting Plant on the Shilka River, where he created a children's school with Mombelli.173 In 1854 Speshnev relocated to Irkutsk. There he served as the head of Governor-General Murav'ev's traveling chancery and founded a newspaper with L'vov and Petrashevsky.174 In 1856, Tsar Alexander II amnestied Speshnev, and by 1860 the former revolutionary had reclaimed his property in Pskov. Speshnev lived quietly175 for twenty years until his death on March 17, 1882. 173 Evans, The Modern Encyclopedia of Russian and Soviet History, 48. 174seddon, The Petrashevtsy, 238. The hardship of prison and exile had evidently softened Speshnev's stance toward his old rival. 175 Though his support for peasants following their emancipation made him very unpopular with the gentry. Evans, The Modern Encyclopedia of Russian and Soviet History, 48. 78

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Any discussion of Speshnev as revolutionary should include a consideration of his seriousness and commitment. Here was a rich, perhaps conceited world-traveler who clearly enjoyed his enigmatic, intimidating image. His talk of violent rebellion and desperate commitment excited his friends (of both.sexes) and boosted his popularity so it is' tempting to question Speshnev's earnestness. For all of his ruthless talk, our subject never took a landlord's life or attempted the assassination of a hated government official.176 Further, Speshnev formulated a conspiratorial plan, but he never put it int.o action.177 Was the investigating Commission's characterization of Speshnev as a harmless nobleman playing at revolution for entertainment was accurate? The answer to this qu_estion surfaces when we consider what Speshnev learned, risked and lost. Speshnev's words and those of his comrades show the seriousness with which the Russian pursued his studies. His enlightenment (and self-indoctrination as a revolutionary) 176 Actions which would almost de rigeur for later Russian revolutionaries. 177 I might also mention that though he consistently supported emancipation of the serfs as a crucial priority, Speshnev failed to release his 500 serfs, and it is not known whether Speshnev attempted to improve conditions for his servants. 79

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began at the Lyceum, and Speshnev never ceased in his quest for an exhaustive knowledge of secret societies and socialist thought. His usual visit to Petrashevsky's included .little more than an evening of reading in the .host's extensive library. Speshnev invested a great deal of time and energy in his plan for insurrection. Planning a secret society in 1840's Russia was no small matter to the Tsar's Third Section. Speshnev was aware of the great risk he was taking at Petrashevsky s by voicing his support for a peasant uprising. The circle's membership was not controlled, and in fact it was a government agent's infiltration of the group that led to the April arrests.178 While we must not underestimate Speshnev's ability to operate behind the scenes, he was often willing to express his views personally -especially when arguing against Petrashevsky. If revolution was a game for Speshnev, he certainly lost. He paid for his radical ideas and activities with disgrace, hard labor and exile. It seems unlikely that such a proud, elitist figure would risk bitter privation had he 178 P.D. Antonelli was present at several meetings, including those where Speshnev's followers argued for his revolutionary program. See Frank, The Seeds of Revolt 1821-1849, 283-4. 80

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not felt a true dedication to his cause. It is hoped that investigation of his letters will shed additional light on the motivation for Speshnev's dangerous activities. Speshnev's stands out as an important founder of Russian communist and revolutionary thought. Several of his ideas would be put into practice by later Russian radicals. Examples include the use of secret societies, commitment to violence, acceleration of the revolutionary process, and propaganda distribution private press.179 Speshnev's arguments with Petrashevsky provided the framework for later debates between jacobin nihilists and democratic populists. Finally, Speshnev was one of the first Russian radicals to manifest an interesting internal contradiction that would appear in many future revolutionaries. He harbored not only a genuine concern and empathy for the suffering for the peasants, but also a brutal, almost 179 The radical group Zemlia i volia (the early 1860's version) was a network of five-member revolutionary cells (similar to Speshnev's Russian Society). Lenin also believed in the top-down approach and attempted to accelerate revolution. Violence and terrorism became more commonplace among revolutionaries near the century's end. Finally, friends of author/agitator Nikolai Chernyshevsky started the one of first of many Russian underground publications (Velikoross) produced with a private press in 1861. See Seddon, The Petrashevtsy, 236. 81

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amoral desire to see their masters perish. For Speshnev the lives of the oppressed had sanctity; the lives of their oppressors did not. 82

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BIBLIOGRAPHY In Russian Delo petrashevtsev, Ed. A.N. S.S.S.R., 3 vols., Moscow: 1937, 1941, 1951. Grossman, L.P. "Speshnev i Stavrogin," Spor o Bakunine i Dostoevskom. Leningrad: 1926, pp. -:-168. Koz'rnin, B. "N.A. Speshnev o sebe samom.".Katorga i ssylka, No. 1 (1930), pp. 93-97. Leikina, V.R. "Petrashevets N.A. Speshnev (For the 75th Anniversary of the Petrashevtsy Affair)." Byloye, No. 25 (1924), pp. 12-31. Ovseiannkova, N. Ed."Rasskaz A.N. Maikova o Dostoevskorn i petrashevtsakh." Istoricheskii arkhiv, vol. 2 6 (1948) pp. 222-226. Shchegelov, P.E. Ed. Petrashevtsy, .Sbornik materialov. 3 vols., Moscow: 1926-1928. Additional Readings Gorkirn, O.M. Poeti-Petrashevtsy. Leningrad: 1940. Kann, P. Ia. Petrashevtsy. Leningrad: 1968. Usakina, Tatyana. Petrashevtsy i literaturnoobshchestvennoe dvizhenie godov XIX veka. Saratov: 1965. Yegorov, B.F. Petrashevtsy. Leningrad: 1988. 83

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:In English Dostoevsky, Fyodor. The Devils. London: Viking, 1971. Durkheim, Emile. Socialism and Saint-Simon. Edited by Alvin W. Gouldner. Yellow Springs: Antioch, 1958. Evans, John. entry for Speshnev, Nikolai Aleksandrovich in The Modern Encyclopedia of Russian and Soviet History. Gulf Breeze, Fl: Academic International Press, 1976. Evans, John. The Petrasevskij Circle. The Hague: Mouton, 1974. Frank, J. Dostoevsky. The Seeds of Revolt {1829-1849). Princeton: Princeton University Press 1976. Fried, Albert and Sanders, Ronald, Eds. Socialist Thought: A Documentary History. New York: Columbia University Press, 1992. Gardiner, Patrick L., Ed. Nineteenth-Century Philosophy. New York: The Free Press, 1969. Germino, Dante. Machiavelli to Marx: Modern Western Political Thought. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1972. Kjetsaa, Geir. Fyodor Dostoyevsky: A Writer's Life. New York: Viking, 1987. Knapp, Liza, Ed., Dostoevsky as Reformer. Ann Arbor: Ardis, 1987. Lincoln, W. Bruce. In the Vanguard of Reform: Russia's Enlightened Bureaucrats 1825-1861. DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 1982. McLellan, David. The Young Hegelians and Karl Marx. New York: Frederick A. Praeger, Publishers, 1969. Payne, Robert. Dostoevsky: A Human Portrait. New York: Knopf, 1961. Poster, Mark, Ed. Harmonian Man: Selected Writings of Charles Fourier. New York: Doubleday & Co., 1971. 84

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Riasanovsky, N.V. The Teaching of Charles Fourier. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1969. Seddon, J.H. The Petrashevtsy: A Study of the Russian Revolutionaries of 1848. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1985. Stirner, Max. The Ego and His Own. Ed. John Carroll. New York: Harper & Row, 1971. Whittaker, The Origins of Modern Russian Education. DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press 1984. Additional Readings Alston, Patrick. Education and the Stat"e in Tsarist Russia. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1969. Kaplan, F.I. "Russian Fourierism of the 1840s: A contrast to Herzen' s Westernism." American Slavic and East European Review, vol. xvii, April (1958). Pomper, Philip. The Russian Intelligentsia. Arlington Heights, Illinois: Harlan Davidson, Inc., 1993. Riasanovsky, N.V. "Fourierism in Russia: An Estimate of the Petrashevtsy." American Slavic and East European Review, vol. xii, October, (1953). Walicki; Andrzej. A History of Russian Thought from the Enlightenment to Marxism. S.tanford: Stanford University Press, 1979. 85