1. - BIRTH, PARENTAGE, AND DESCENT.
Michel Alexandrovitch Bakunin was born on May 8th, 1814, at the family seat of his father, at Pryamuchina, situated between Moscow and St. Petersburg, renamed Petrograd a century later, and now called Leningrad. What a cycle of history these changes indicate!
Bakunin was born two years after his friend, Alexander Herzen, first saw the light by the fires of Moscow. Those fires were lit by the order of Prince Rostopchin, as intelligent as reactionary a man, in order to drive Napoleon and his Grand Army out of the Russian Capital. Rostopschin considered that Russia faced a graver enemy in her idealistic nobility than in any foreign invaders. He observed that, in other countries, aristocrats planned insurrection in order to secure power for themselves: and democracy rose against the aristocracy in order to broaden the basis of privilege, to widen the opportunity and illusion of power: but in Russia the privileged and the aristocrats plotted revolution, and risked terrible oppression and persecution, with no other object than the abolition of their own privileges. Not only Bakunin's career, but the story of his father, timid sceptic though he was, and of his relatives, bear out the truth of Rostopschin's observation.
The future apostle of Nihilism was the son of a wealthy landed proprietor, who boasted a line of aristocratic ancestors. He was very rich and was what was then called the owner of a thousand slaves. Only the men were counted. Women did not count. Even as slaves, they were without consequence. They were out of the bill entirely. Thus he was the unrestricted ruler of 2,000 slaves, men and women. He had the right to sell them, to banish them to Siberia, or to give them to the State as soldiers. To speak plainly, he could rob them and enjoy himself at their expense.
As a child of nine years of age, he been sent to Italy, to the Russian Embassy in Florence. There, in the house of the Russian Minister, who was related to the family, he was brought up and educated. At the age of thirty-five he returned to Russia. One can say, therefore, that he spent his youth and received his education abroad. He returned to Russia a man of intellect and culture, a true philanthropist, possessed of a broad mind and generous sympathies. He was a Freethinker but not an Atheist. He had owed his sojourn abroad to the fact that his uncle, also a Bakunin, had been Minister of the Interior, under Catherine II.
Peter the Great had introduced European Civilization into Russia. In his ruthless way, he forced the aristocratic proprietors