Alexander Herzen

Russian author, philosopher, and revolutionary (1812-1870)

Aleksandr Ivanovich Herzen [Алекса́ндр Ива́нович Ге́рцен] (April 6 1812 – January 21 1870) was a Russian writer and thinker known as the "father of Russian socialism" and one of the main fathers of agrarian populism (being an ideological ancestor of the Narodniki, Socialist-Revolutionaries, Trudoviks and the agrarian American Populist Party). With his writings, many composed while exiled in London, he attempted to influence the situation in Russia, contributing to a political climate that led to the emancipation of the serfs in 1861. He published the important social novel Who is to Blame? (1845–46). His autobiography, My Past and Thoughts (written 1852–1870), is often considered the best specimen of that genre in Russian literature.

Quotes edit

  • Personal freedom is a magnificent thing; by it and by it alone can a nation achieve its true freedom. Man must respect and honor his freedom in himself no less than in his neighbor or in the people at large.
    • Letter from Paris to His Friend in Moscow (March 1st, 1849), Imperial Russia, A Sourcebook 1700-1917
  • It is both painful and shameful to be a slave. But it is even more distressing and painful to acknowledge that our slavery is necessary and normal and that it is a natural phenomenon. A great sin rests on our souls. We have inherited it but are not responsible for it. We are keeping our inheritance unjustly. Like a heavy rock it pushes us to the bottom, and with it around our necks we cannot swim. WE are slaves because our forefathers sold their human dignity for inhuman rights which we now enjoy. We are slaves because we are the masters. We are slaves because we are nobles, that is, nobles without any faith in our tights. We are slaves because we hold our brothers in slavery. They are our equals in birth, blood and language. We will never enjoy freedom as long as the wretched conditions of serfdom oppress us and as long as the hideous shameful, and totally unjust slavery of our peasants exists among us.
    • "Appeal to Nobles", (June 1853), Imperial Russia, A Source Book 1700-1917
  • The peasants will be emancipated if there is a future for Rus and for the Slavic world.
    • "Appeal to Nobles", (June 1853), Imperial Russia, A Source Book 1700-1917
  • An empire that cannot distance itself from such a gruesome sin that so deeply affects its internal structure does not have the right to education, to future development and participation in history.
    • "Appeal to Nobles", (June 1853), Imperial Russia, A Source Book 1700-1917

My Past and Thoughts(1852-1870) edit

  • We were a small group of college friends who kept together after our course was over, and continued to share the same views and the same ideals. Not one of us thought of his future career or financial position. I should not praise this attitude in grown-up people, but I value it highly in a young man. Except where it is dried up by the corrupting influence of vulgar respectability, youth is everywhere unpractical, and is especially bound to be so in a young country which has many ideals and has realised few of them. Besides, the unpractical sphere is not always a fool's paradise: every aspiration for the figure involves some degree of imagination; and , but for unpractical people, practical life would never get beyond a tiresome repetition of the old routine.
    • Childhood, Youth and Exile, Chapter Seven.
  • I have a sincere pity for any nation where old heads grow on young shoulders; youth is a matter, not only of years, but of temperament.
    • ibid, Ch. 7, s.3
  • A religion of life had come to replace a religion of penance and emaciation, of fasting and prayer. The crucified body had risen in its turn and was no longer abashed Man had reached a harmonious unity: he had discovered that he is a single being not made, like a pendulum, of two different metals,= that check each other; he realised that the foe in his members had ceased to exist.
    • ibid, Ch. 8, s. 12
  • Socialism and rationalism are to this day the touchstones of humanity, the rocks which lie in the course of revolution and science. Groups of swimmers, driven by reflection or the waves of circumstance against these rocks, break up at once into two camps, which, under different disguises, remain the same throughout all history, and may be distinguished either in a great political party or in a group of a dozen young men. One represents logic; the other, history: one stands for dialectics; the other for evolution. Truth is the main object of the former, and feasibility of the latter.
    • ibid, Ch. 8, s. 12
  • There is no art more akin to mysticism than architecture. Abstract, geometrical, musical and yet dumb, passionless, it depends entirely upon symbolism, form and suggestion. Simple lies, and the harmonious combination and numerical relations between these, present something mysterious and at the same time incomplete.

Quotes about Alexander Herzen edit

  • The world carnage put an end to the golden era when a Bakunin and a Herzen, a Marx and a Kropotkin, a Malatesta and a Lenin, Vera Sazulich, Louise Michel, and all the others could come and go without hindrance. In those days who cared about passports or visas? Who worried about one particular spot on earth? The whole world was one's country.
    • Emma Goldman "The Tragedy of the Political Exiles" (1934) in The Nation

External links edit

Wikipedia has an article about: