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Herzen, Ogarev and Nechaev: Proto-revolutionary movement in the middle of the 19th century
Herzen, Ogarev and Nechaev: Proto-revolutionary movement in the middle of the 19th century

Very interesting material about the proto-revolutionary movement in Russia in the middle of the 19th century, which focuses on the figures of Herzen, Ogarev and Nechaev.

In fact, this is a story about what happened before the Narodniks, Narodnaya Volya, Social Democrats, Socialist-Revolutionaries, Mensheviks and Bolsheviks.

It is clear enough to see why that generation did not succeed both with the issues of revolution and with the issues of reform of the autocracy as a way to avoid revolution and bloody Russian revolt.

Herzen and Ogarev in the Nechaev epic

1868-1869 were very difficult for Ogarev. His favorite work - the publication of "The Bell" - was dying before his eyes. There were no connections with Russia. He hardly saw his old friend, Herzen, since he spent most of his time traveling around Western Europe and only dropped in Geneva for a short time. Other emigrants kept aloof from him. They converged, started joint ventures, organized the publication of books and magazines, waged fierce political disputes and, convinced of the impossibility of reaching an agreement, disagreed with each other like enemies. Information about all this reached Ogarev in fits and starts and with great delay. It is enough to look through his letters of these years to Herzen to see how little Ogarev knew about the affairs of the Geneva emigration.

Under such conditions, he felt abandoned by everyone, an old man of no use to whom people of the next generation refuse to acknowledge his merits before the revolution. But if the “children” did not understand and did not want to understand, as Ogarev thought, their “fathers”, then, perhaps, the new generation, the “grandchildren” who replaced the “children” will turn out to be more objective and fair and will pay tribute to their “grandfathers” "On the revolution? This idea was repeatedly developed by both Ogarev and Herzen.

Meanwhile, after a long period of deep reaction, rumors began to be heard from Russia, testifying to the beginning of a social awakening. In some parts of Russia there were peasant unrest, information about which even penetrated the legal press. The opposition press (Otechestvennye Zapiski, Nedelya, Delo) began to speak in a more harsh language than in previous years. In St. Petersburg, from the end of 1868, student unrest began, which in March of the following year assumed a very significant size and was accompanied by the closure of a number of higher educational institutions and the expulsion of dozens of students from St. Petersburg. After a long interval, a printed proclamation reappeared in Russia; she laid out the demands of a worried student body. Both Herzen and Ogarev followed with deep interest the events unfolding in Russia.

On March 31, 1869, an event took place in Ogarev's life, to which he attached great importance. Here is what he reported to Herzen the next day:

A day later, he again wrote to Herzen:

And the student message … very young, very young, nevertheless reminds of his youth and gives hope for new strength

Why, then, did the letter received by Ogarev (the author was S.G. Nechaev) made such a strong impression on him that he was inflamed with hopes for the revival of the foreign revolutionary press? Knowing Nechaev, we can, without risking a mistake, assume that already in this letter, as he did later, he presented himself not just as a student who suffered in connection with student unrest, but as a representative of a powerful and mysterious revolutionary committee, allegedly existing in St. Petersburg and leading the entire student movement.This gave Ogarev reason to suppose that in the person of Nechaev he was acquiring a connection with the very center of the revolutionary movement in Russia. He was also bribed by the fact that the student who had supposedly miraculously escaped from the Peter and Paul Fortress turned for assistance not to Bakunin, not to the "young emigration", but to Herzen. Obviously, Ogarev thought, the "grandchildren" understood better and more justly appreciated the "fathers" than the "children."

At the beginning of April, Nechaev himself appeared in Geneva. Ogarev introduced him to Bakunin.

Undoubtedly, under the impression of conversations with Nechaev, Ogarev conceived an intention to respond on behalf of the old generation of emigrants to the student movement, and he wrote a proclamation entitled "From Old Men to Young Friends." According to Ogarev, this proclamation should have been signed by Herzen, him and Bakunin. But here his first disappointment awaited. Herzen severely criticized his proclamation and advised him to let it go without a signature. Obeying this instruction, Ogarev had to remove the title of the proclamation, which was inappropriate given its anonymous nature.

Disappointed by all this, Ogarev did not want to give up his intention, however, and began to write a second proclamation about student unrest. This time he called the proclamation "Our story" [10].

It is unlikely that such a kind of argumentation could have seemed convincing to Herzen, who with good reason could answer that neither he nor Ogarev had ever thought of engaging in revolutionary conspiracy with the mayors of their fathers. Rather, on the contrary, the lines quoted by Ogarev could have made Herzen especially wary of Nechaev. It must be said that, moreover, Nechaev's proclamation to the students did not make a favorable impression on Herzen.

Herzen arrived in Geneva on May 10, and then negotiations began between him, Ogarev, Nechaev and Bakunin about the Bakhmetev fund. As Ogarev had foreseen, Herzen did not like Nechaev.

At the same time, it must be added that Herzen could not have been unaware of what was known to the entire Geneva emigration, namely, that M.F. Negreskul (P.L. Lavrov's son-in-law), a man closely associated with Petersburg revolutionary circles, categorically argued that Nechaev lies, posing as a representative of a secret society that exists in Russia. Negreskul, without hesitation, declared to all emigrants that Nechaev was a charlatan, that he had never been arrested and therefore could not flee from the Peter and Paul Fortress, that Nechaev should be feared and not a single word of him should be trusted [17]. Ogarev and Bakunin did not believe Negreskul's revelations: the first, because he was afraid to part with the illusions with which he consoled himself, the second, because of the desire to use Nechaev for personal political purposes as a representative of the Alliance founded by Bakunin in Russia. On Herzen, however, Negreskul made the impression of a "faithful man" [18], whose words cannot be ignored.

Herzen refused the proposal to use the Bakhmetev Foundation for agitation purposes. He feared that this money would serve in the hands of Bakunin and Nechaev and lead to the useless death of many people in Russia. Then Ogarev said:

In the end, Herzen had to compromise. He decided to leave to Ogarev to dispose of half of the Bakhmetev fund at his discretion [20].

Thus, the agitation campaign conceived by Ogarev, Nechaev and Bakunin received a material base. It is not our task to provide details of how this campaign proceeded. It is enough for us to note only those aspects of it that are directly related to Ogarev and Herzen.

First of all, it must be stated that Ogarev's participation in this campaign was much greater than the researchers who have dealt with this issue hitherto assumed. In 1869 addition to the two above-mentioned proclamations of Ogarev, his brochure "In memory of the people on December 14, 1825" was published, with an appeal to the Russian army to take part in the uprising, and a leaflet with Ogarev's poem "Student", which, as is known, at Bakunin's suggestion, was dedicated to Nechaev, although its content had nothing to do with him. With a high degree of likelihood, Ogarev can be credited with two more proclamations that came out in the same year: "Goy, guys, Russian people", and "What are you brothers!" [21].

Not so much these works of Ogarev, as the notorious "catechism" of Bakunin, the leaflet "People's Massacre", which called for a bloody revolution in order to exterminate all signs of "statehood", and other proclamations of Bakunin caused a sharp protest from some part of the Geneva emigration, namely: Utina and his group. In No. 7-10 of Narodnoye Delo (November 1869), a very sharp "inquiry" was made to Herzen, Ogarev and Bakunin about their involvement in Nechaev's campaign. Referring to the named proclamations as "stupid leaflets" containing "obscene play with the great, holy work of the revolution" and capable of causing "disgust" in any "sober and serious person," the authors of the request wrote:

In conclusion, the authors of the inquiry asked whether the old emigrants were in solidarity with the named leaflets, and offered them the pages of Narodnoye Delo to answer this inquiry.

Of course, none of the old emigrants took advantage of this offer.

Indeed, Herzen had the right to consider himself not involved in the Nechaev propaganda campaign, against which he protested more than once, wittily calling the Bakunin-Nechaev proclamations "printed slaps" [23].

Sergey Nechaev

The agitation campaign of 1869, as well as Nechaev's trip to Russia, undertaken in August 1869, in order to organize the secret society "People's Massacre", exhausted the part of the Bakhmetev fund that Ogarev had at his disposal. New means had to be found to continue the agitation. But Ogarev did not dare to pose this question to Herzen. He was waiting for Nechaev's return. Ogarev was not aware of what Nechaev was doing in Russia. Therefore, rumors of numerous arrests carried out in St. Petersburg and Moscow, which began to reach abroad at the end of 1869, aroused great alarm in him. Whether Nechaev survived and whether he will be able to escape - these questions worried both Ogarev and Bakunin, who also lost contact with Nechaev. But finally, in the first days of January, a letter came from Nechaev, and after him he himself appeared in Geneva. At the news of this Bakunin "jumped so much for joy that he almost smashed the ceiling with his old head" [24]. Undoubtedly, Ogarev, who sincerely fell in love with Nechaev, was no less happy.

Even in a letter preceding Nechaev's appearance in Geneva, Nechaev informed Ogarev of his desire to see Herzen. Ogarev hastened to notify his friend who was living in Paris at the time. It was not difficult for Herzen to guess why Nechaev needed him, and he answered Ogarev:

No matter how categorical Herzen's refusal to meet with Nechayev was, he certainly would not have stopped the latter. The Nechaevs' visit to Herzen did not take place only as a result of Herzen's death.

After the death of Herzen, the Bakhmetev Foundation was placed at the disposal of his children, who, in essence, had nothing to do with this money, since they were not engaged in revolutionary activities and did not intend to be engaged. Bakunin, following Nechaev, insisted that Ogarev demand money from Herzen's children.

As you know, Herzen's heirs agreed to transfer the remainder of the Bakhmetev fund to Ogarev. Thus, the continuation of the campaign was ensured.

In 1870, Nechaev and company issued a number of proclamations addressed to various strata of Russian society, those strata that, in the opinion of the authors of these proclamations, should be in opposition to the existing political order in Russia.Here there were appeals addressed to the nobility, merchants, to the "rural clergy", the middle class, the students, to the Ukrainians ("Leaf to the Whole") and to women. These proclamations were of a mystifying nature. The proclamation to the nobility, addressed to the serf owners who were in opposition to the abolition of serfdom, had the signature: "Descendants of Rurik and the Party of the Russian Independent Nobility." The proclamation to the merchants came out under the signature of the "Office of the Company of Free Russian Merchants", and to the petty bourgeoisie - "Duma of all free bourgeoisie". The proclamation to the clergy was signed by the True Shepherds. All of these proclamations were built on the incitement of the class and group interests of those to whom they were addressed.[27]. In addition, with the money received from Herzen's heirs, it was decided to resume the publication of "The Bell", but we will have to talk about this below.

In addition to issuing proclamations, Nechaev and Ogarev, as mentioned above, set up the release of the renewed "Kolokol". In total, they published six issues: the first of them with the date "April 2", and the last - "May 9, 1870". The revived "Kolokol" had subtitles: "The Organ of Russian Liberation, Founded by A.I. Herzen (Iskander) "and" Edited by agents of the Russian case "[28]. At the beginning of the first issue, the following letter from Ogarev was printed:

In the article "To the Russian public", placed in No. 1 "Bells", the editorial board declared that its magazine seeks to become the organ of "all honest people who sincerely want the transformation and liberation of Russia, all who are dissatisfied with the present order and the course of things." All these people must unite to pursue one task - to fight against the autocracy.

Now for all people of honest and goodwill in Russia there is only one important thing ahead: changing the existing order

This idea is carried out throughout all the numbers of "The Bell".

“Forces should be concentrated and directed to one point. This point is an empire ", - we read in the editorial number 2.

The editorial board sees in the rallying of all "honest" people a means to avoid the people's revolution that threatens Russia

However, the editors are confident that the time has not yet come for Russia to raise this question "so deeply"… From her point of view for Russia, a completely different question is important and interesting: can or cannot the autocracy turn into a constitutional monarchy through peaceful, legal reforms (advanced number 4).

Putting forward such a modest and moderate program, the Kolokol editors openly declared:

Proclaiming the primacy of practice over theory, the editorial board disparages the remarkable mental movement that took place in Russia in the 60s.

In conclusion of the characteristics of the direction of the "Bells" of 1870, we note that in the leading article No. 4 we find a vivid eulogy to the Milyutin brothers. ON THE. Milyutin is portrayed here as a true democrat, full of the best intentions, who made only one mistake in his activities: "he wanted to liberate through imperial power." His brother, Minister of War D.A. Milyutin.

Nechaev and Ogarev, praising D. Milyutin, strengthening the might of the tsarist army, this stronghold of despotism! What could this mean? And how, in general, can we reconcile the program settings of the Bell with the content of the proclamations that we have listed?

Here - the limitation of the autocratic power of the tsar, as the crown of all aspirations and desires. There - the complete destruction of all statehood and the creation of free communities on its ruins. Here is the desire to unite all the oppositional elements of the population of Russia. There - the declaration of enemies of everyone who does not fully share the Nechaev-Bakunin plans and fantasies. Here - a mocking and disdainful attitude towards the "radicalism of principles" and "transcendental dreams". There - an unrestrained revolutionary phrase and a deliberate image of the "leftism" of their views. Here is the desire to prevent the "horrors" of the people's revolution.There are calls for uprising and terror. Here are hymns in honor of liberal bureaucrats like the Milyutin brothers. There - a threat of bloody reprisals to all servants of tsarism. - What do these strange contradictions mean, which baffle researchers who have to touch on the question of Nechaev's "Bell"? It cannot be said that the explanations given so far for these contradictions would be convincing.

They referred to the desire of the editorial board of the revived "Kolokol" to support Herzen's traditions and to keep the magazine in the same direction in which it was conducted under Herzen. They talked about the influence of Herzen's daughter Natalya Alexandrovna, whom Ogarev and Nechaev managed to partly lure into their conspiracy. However, both explanations do not stand up to criticism. First, because the direction of the "Bell" of 1870, as we have already seen, was by no means the same as the direction of Herzen's "Bell". Herzen would have turned over in his grave if he could have learned about what is written in the revived Bell.

The second is because N.A. In the eyes of Ogarev, and especially Nechaev, Herzen was by no means such a valuable collaborator that, for her sake, they would start keeping a journal in a direction that did not correspond to their own views.

In order to solve the riddle of the "Bell" and to understand the meaning of its direction, in our opinion, it is necessary to consider it not in isolation, but in connection with the entire Nechaev campaign, of which this magazine was a part. Speaking about the proclamations of 1870, we indicated that they were addressed to various classes and groups of Russian society. Revising these proclamations, we see that their authors, without forgetting about the noble serfs, merchants and rural priests, for some reason completely ignored the liberal part of Russian society, from which they had, in any case, more reason to expect opposition to the government than, for example, on the part of the merchants. By the liberal part of Russian society, we mean both the liberal-minded strata of the nobility, who dreamed of "crowning the building" of government reforms, that is, of the constitution, and the bourgeois intelligentsia, which at that time was becoming a noticeable social force in its significance, and, finally, the advanced strata of the merchant class, whose mental horizon was not limited to the interests of the pocket and who understood the need to Europeanize the Russian political order. In any case, there was more reason to appeal to the opposition of these strata of Russian society than to appeal to the Zamoskvoretsky Tit Titichs and rural priests.

It was this missing link in the agitation campaign of 1870 that was made up by the "Bell". And since the assistance of the liberal part of society, or at least its transition from a hidden opposition to an open and effective one, seemed to be a very significant factor in the “turmoil” that, according to its organizers, should have been caused by their agitation in Russia, then naturally, that they paid more attention to this part of Russian society than to others, and did not confine themselves to one proclamation in relation to it, but set up the publication of a special magazine. Nechaev and Ogarev cared less about the revolutionary-minded strata of Russian society: these strata were already in opposition and therefore needed the agitational influence on them less than others; moreover, they were not disregarded, - two issues of the "People's Massacre" were intended for them.

If we take such a point of view about Kolokol, then all the features of this magazine, up to the praises of the Milyutin brothers, become quite understandable. The Bell program was not the program of Ogarev and Nechaev; it was a program adapted to the views and tastes of the Russian liberals. The Kolokol editors were undoubtedly confident that their magazine would make the right impression on the circle of readers for which it was intended.

When a proclamation addressed to the nobility urged the nobles to fight for the establishment of a noble oligarchy in Russia, its author (or authors) set forth not his aspirations, but aspirations that, in his opinion, are characteristic of the addressees of this proclamation. When in another proclamation we find complaints about the insufficient protection of the interests of the merchants by the existing customs tariff, it is clear that this technique was specifically designed to more effectively influence the merchants. Under such conditions, even in Kolokol it was necessary to talk about subjects that might interest readers, and not at all about those that were of interest to Ogarev and Nechaev themselves. With each group of Russian society it was necessary to conduct a conversation about issues that were close to her, and in a language that was understandable for her. The organizers of the agitation campaign tried to achieve this. True, they did it badly. (one had to be very naive to believe in the possibility of achieving an effect with the help of the proclamations they issued), but they did everything they could, to the best of their understanding.

As we have already indicated, No. 6 of "Kolokola" came out on May 9, after which the publication of "Kolokol" was suspended. The reasons for this are still not fully understood. It is possible that Bakunin's intervention played a certain role in this matter.

Back in No. 2 of Kolokol, his letter to the editor was published, in which Bakunin, who lived in Locarno at that time and therefore was deprived of the opportunity to take a direct part in the affairs of Kolokol, wrote:

“Having read with attention the first issue of the“Bell”you are renewing, I was left at a loss. What do you want? What is your banner? What are your theoretical principles, and what exactly is your final goal? In short, what kind of organization do you want in the future for Russia? No matter how hard I tried to find the answer to this question in the lines and between the lines of your journal, I confess and grieve that I did not find anything. What are you? Socialists or advocates of the exploitation of the people's labor? Friends or enemies of the state? Federalists or Centralizers? "

The editorial staff of Kolokol dismissed these doubts by Bakunin with a little intelligible phrase:

The editorial board allows itself to think that with a unanimous struggle against the existing order, the importance of the matter itself will smooth out and reconcile all the contradictions between serious people of different parties

Of course, these words were not a sufficient answer to the question directly posed by Bakunin. However, from the very content of the subsequent issues of The Bell, Bakunin could find out exactly the program of this magazine and make sure that it had nothing to do with the program of Bakunin himself. This could not but provoke heated protests from the latter. He, apparently, wrote about this to Ogarev and made him think seriously whether the "Kolokol" was being conducted correctly and expediently. In response to his doubts, Nechaev limited himself to swearing at Bakunin and making fun of him [32]. However, this did not work on Ogarev. He had known Bakunin too long and well enough to break his friendship with him, and therefore he began to insist on the need to change the Bell program. The emigrant S. Serebrennikov, in his note about Nechaev, reports that, at Bakunin's demand, the Bell was to become an “open and sincere” organ of “socialism” [33]. This explains the suspension of the "Bell". However, it was not possible to re-publish this magazine with a modified program.

Nechaev's attempts to discredit Bakunin, one must think, made a heavy impression on Ogarev. Added to this were other facts that lowered Nechaev's authority in the eyes of Ogarev. First, not content with receiving the Bakhmetev fund, Nechaev intended to demand from Herzen's heirs interest on it for the entire time that the money was at Herzen's disposal, accusing the latter of “hiding” this interest [34].Secondly, Nechaev began to persuade Henry Satterland, whom Ogarev treated like a son, to join a gang of gangs, which Nechaev intended to organize in order to rob tourists traveling in Switzerland.

Under the influence of these facts, Ogarev joined the demand of Bakunin (who had his own reasons for being dissatisfied with Nechaev) that Nechaev left Switzerland. Nechaev agreed, but before leaving he stole from Ogarev, Bakunin and H.A. Herzen a number of documents that, according to Nechaev, could compromise these persons. In September 1870, Ogarev learned about the publication by Nechaev in London No. 1 of the magazine "Community", which contained an open letter from Nechaev to Bakunin and Ogarev demanding that the remaining part of the Bakhmetev fund be transferred to him. In this letter, Nechaev renounced "any political solidarity" with his former companions in agitation work and expressed the hope that they would never again appear "as practical leaders of the Russian revolution." In the editorial of the Community, Ogarev read the following lines:

“The generation to which Herzen belonged was the last, final manifestation of the liberal nobility. His theoretical radicalism was a greenhouse flower that blossomed magnificently in the greenhouse temperature of a wealthy life and quickly faded at the first contact with the ordinary real air of practical business. They criticized and ridiculed the existing order with caustic salon dexterity, refined political language. They were interested in the very process of criticism. They were happy with their roles. "

This is how Ogarev's beloved "granddaughter" understood and appreciated his "grandfather" in the revolution

In one of his letters to T. Kuno, Engels wrote:

Nechaev … either a Russian agent provocateur, or, in any case, acted as such

We now know that Nechaev was not an agent provocateur, but that he "acted as such" is beyond doubt. A man indisputably devoted to the cause of the revolution and devoted his whole life to serving it, Nechaev did more harm than good to the revolutionary cause. The lies and hoaxes widely practiced by him, his desire to subordinate everyone to his will, his unfriendly attitude towards those with whom he had to work, introduced disorganization into the uncrowded circle of revolutionary leaders in his time. These traits of Nechaev were clearly manifested in his relationship with Ogarev. In one of his letters to Ogarev, Bakunin wrote about his and his participation in the Nechaev epic:

There is nothing to say, we were fools, and how Herzen would laugh at us if he was alive, and how he would be right in swearing at us

Unfortunately, Bakunin and Ogarev realized this too late.

As for Ogarev, the Nechaev story made such a strong impression on him that he forever refused any participation in revolutionary work, although he did not cease to be keenly interested in the fate of the revolutionary movement in Russia.

Boris Kozmin

- completely by reference (there is a lot of material about the pitfalls of the revolutionary activities of Herzen, Nechaev and Ogarev).

On the topic of Nechaev, I also recommend these materials:

right here

right here

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