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Memoirs of a Revolutionist

Peter Kropotkin

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Peter Kropotkin begins his autobiographical Memoirs in his childhood, in a landholding family in Russia. During his adolescence, he notes the difference between the life of the servant class and that of the aristocracy. He relates the political efforts to end serfdom, and the push by reformers for more radical change, which runs against a reactionary response from the Russian rulers.

Graduating from military school, Kropotkin chooses an assignment in Siberia, and goes on geological expeditions to explore the eastern regions of the Russian Empire. Along the way he develops relationships with common peasants and workers, and wishes for a better life for them. After coming back to St. Petersburg and attending university, he starts spending time with like-minded intellectuals and activists, before he is arrested and put into prison. He eventually escapes Russia and spends the next part of his life in western Europe, running newspapers, organizing meetings, and pushing forward his ideas on social reform.

Kropotkin was an anarchist, and did not believe change could be achieved through political methods. The masses would have to rise up and take what they felt was rightfully theirs. And yet Kropotkin was more intellectual than activist. He believed in improving the life of the poor through education, and decentralized, voluntary organizations. The Memoirs were published in 1899, while he was still quite active, with the momentous events of the early twentieth century still to come.

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