Chronology of Peter Kropotkin's Life
1842: Peter Kropotkin is born on December 9 to Aleksei Petrovich Kropotkin and Yekaterina Nikolaevna Sulima. Aleksei was a relatively wealthy army officer and came from a noble lineage (Peter was in fact a prince). Although he maintained strict military discipline at home, Aleksei's military career was not terribly successful. Aleksi met Yekaterina during a military campaign in 1831. The couple had four children: Nikolai (1834), Yelena (1835), Alexander (1841), and Peter (1842). Yekaterina, the daughter of a Cossack army officer, was an artistically gifted person who enjoyed reading, writing and painting. Peter remained close to Alexander and Yelena throughout his life.
1846: Peter's mother died of consumption. This left Peter and his siblings care to their rather strict father. While both Peter and Alexander were too young to remember many experiences with their mother they both felt a strong feeling of devotion to her throughout their lives.
1848: Peter's father married (at the request of his commanding officer) Yelizaveta Mar'kovna Korandino. Yelizaveta caused a great deal of tension in the house. An aggressive, domineering woman, she attempted to erase all traces of the children's departed mother rather than offering them comfort. These actions caused further resentment between the children and their father.
1853: Nikolai leaves the family home for military service in the Crimean War. He left just before Peter began to become impressionable. As a result, he did not have a tremendous amount of impact on Peter's life. According to Peter, he left at the first opportunity available because, of all the children, he had the worst relationship with their father. Even after he won the Cross of St. George for Bravery, and was subsequently promoted to officer, he was unable to win the favor of their father. After the war, he developed a drinking problem, which eventually led to his removal from military service and installation in a monastery. In 1864 he escaped and was never heard from again.
1856: Alexander left home to live at the Moscow Cadet Corps. Peter and Alexander had spent a great deal of their early lives together. The void that Alexander's absence created was filled by Nikolai Pavlovich Smirnov, Peter's Russian tutor. While Peter had other tutors, he and Smirnov were able to forge a friendship. Much of Peter's early intellectual development was inspired by Smirnov.
Around this time Peter also entered the First Moscow Gymnasium. He was not terribly impressed with the school, feeling that "all the subjects were taught in the most senseless manner." Part of the problem was that this was Peter's first exposure to a group learning experience. Despite his dislike for the school, he managed to receive an excellent grade in geometry and found pleasure in history and geography.
1857: In August of 1857, Peter began a new phase in his life when he entered the Corps of Pages. Perhaps because of his resentment towards his father Peter openly rebelled against the various forms of authority at the Corps. Due to a difference in interests, Peter also found it extremely difficult to relate to his classmates. Rather than merge with the group, Peter spent his time reading books, writing letters and publishing a journal. During this time, Peter and Alexander grew very close through their written correspondence.
1858: Peter's writings suggest that at this time he became intensely interested in the fields of political economy and statistics. He even did significant research at the Nikol'skoe trade fair in order to develop a statistical analysis of all products bought and sold and their prices. While his intentions had been to develop a better understanding of statistics, this experience provided him with something much more important. This was his first real contact with peasants.
1861: This is perhaps one of the most important years in Russian history. At this time, all Russians peasants became emancipated. This action greatly effected many of the social and economic conditions of Russia for decades to come. Peter strongly supported this move and felt awe for Tsar Alexander II because he thought this proved that the Tsar was a great reformer.
In this same year, Peter first experienced what it was like to lose one's liberty. The Corps received a new assistant director who removed many of the benefits granted to upperclassmen. For his part in the resulting protest, Peter spent several weeks in the Cropspi prison. This was really Peter's first experience acting with revolutionary behavior.
Despite this run-in with authority, Peter still entered his final year as first in his class. Because of this, he was appointed to be page de chambre of the Emperor during his final year of classes. This was an important step toward a distinguished career in the military. In this position, Peter spent a great deal of time in the court's social functions. Due to this exposure, Peter lost much of his confidence in Tsar. He saw the wasteful extravagance of the court. When he compared this to the peasant's working and living conditions that he had witnessed at the Nikol'skoe trade fair, Peter could no longer respect the Tsar.
1862: As Peter's graduation neared, he began to consider his future. Because of his rank in his class, he knew that he would have his choice of commissions. Because of his interest in math, he strongly considered attending the Artillery Academy. However, due to his developing disillusionment with the government, he decided not to attend the academy. Instead he sought a position in which he could change social conditions, and, in doing so, help the lower classes of Russian society.
The one place that he felt that he could do this was Siberia. Unfortunately, both his father and his schoolmasters were reluctant to support this career choice. It was only because of Peter's heroics during a fire at the Apraksin Palace that he was finally allowed to join the Siberian service. This marked the beginning of a decade of wandering for Peter. When he arrived in Siberia, in October, Peter was placed under the command of General Kukel. His projects were exactly what Peter had hoped for. To Peter, Kukel represented a liberal reformer who could begin to make significant changes in Russia.
One of Peter's first projects in Siberia was to serve as secretary of a prison reform committee. On scheduled visits to the prisons, the committee witnessed the deplorable conditions first hand. A set of proposed reforms was drawn up and sent to St. Petersburg. Unfortunately, the recommendations were largely ignored. Peter was, however, deeply affected by the inhumanity that he saw in the prisons.
In November of 1862, Peter was sent to investigate the activities of an official named Markovich. There had been reports that Markovich had been abusing his power by robbing and beating peasants. By talking to the peasants governed by Markovich, Peter was able to gather enough evidence to have Markovich removed from his post. Peter became bitterly disappointed in the events that followed this dismissal. Markovich was related to the governor of Irkutsk, Ye. M. Zhukovskii. He used his power to have Markovich appointed to a higher position in another province shortly after the dismissal. This furthered Peter's disillusionment with government.
1863: This disillusionment only increased as time passed in Siberia. In February, Kukel was ordered by Zhukovskii to report to Irkutsk. Apparently Kukel had been implicated in Michael Bakunin's escape from Siberia. In addition to this charge, Zhukovskii did not agree with the sympathetic manner in which Kukel treated many of the exiles. As a result of these accusations, Kukel was removed from his post. It was conceivable to Peter that the system allowed men like Markovich and Zhukovskii to remain in power, while Kukel was relieved of his duties.
In order to get away from his post temporarily, Peter volunteered to lead a string of barges down the Amur River. The supplies carried on the barges were essential to the survival of several villages along the river. This trip allowed Peter to escape the disappointments and strains that he had experienced thus far in Siberia. During the trip, his diary shows that he was quite happy being surrounded by nature. Unfortunately, nature took a turn for the worse. During a storm, all 43 barges were lost.
As he traveled back, he did have a chance to see what the peasant's lives were really liked. He also saw the results of the government's grand plan: the exiles in Siberia were put to work and with luck they would turn into excellent laborers. In reality these people had merely been forced into a life a slavery. Peter realized that the government's plan would never work.
Due to the value of the lost barges, Peter was required to personally report to St. Petersburg in November. He hoped that he could persuade the official to improve the ships used on the Amur to avoid future accidents. He made little progress when faced with the St. Petersburg bureaucracy, however. After much effort, the minister of war, Miliutin, finally seemed to take Peter seriously. He requested that Peter develop a formal report of the accident and the proposal for improved ships for the ministry. Peter would find out much later that his suggestions had not been implemented.
1864: In January, Peter returned to Siberia thinking that he had finally begun to make progress. Before his departure, he had been appointed official of special missions in Eastern Siberia. He brought with him a copy of John Stuart Mill's On Liberty. When arrived in Irkutsk in February, he began to criticize the government through articles in various publications. He called for studies of the Amur region so that the government's decisions would no longer harm the residents of the region. Although this criticism attracted the attention of many officials in the Siberian administration, no disciplinary action was taken.
By May, Peter had become so dissatisfied with his work that he considered quitting. However, he did not know which area he would chose to go into if he did quit. As he was becoming more withdrawn from the government's activities, another opportunity came along. He was offered the chance to participate in a geographical survey of Manchuria. Geography had always been an interest for Peter, so he gladly accepted the offer. He prepared for the expedition by reading all material available for the area to be studied. Peter's diary for June and July (the period of time that he spent in Manchuria) shows that he thoroughly enjoyed the geographical work.
1865: Peter dedicated himself entirely to geographical work during this year. This work would eventually gain him fame among the geographic community. It also served to help him forget the many troubles that many of the people in his country faced.
1866: In this year, Peter finally realized that he had to leave the military. This decision stemmed from two events. The first took place when Peter visited the Lena gold mines on an expedition. The conditions here were even worse than those that Peter had experienced in other towns in the Amur region were. A series of letters to his brother conveys Peter's shock at the manner in which workers were treated. He suggested that the only way to remedy the situation would be to drastically alter the existing economic system.
The second event occurred in June. A group of Polish exiles staged an uprising with the hope of escaping to China. The Siberian administration quickly took care of the situation by sending in the army. The army restored order, and the five leaders of the uprising were shot. Given, the conditions that he had just witnessed at the Lena gold mines, Peter understood why the Poles would want to escape. Furthermore, he could not justify to himself the use of the army when the revolt posed no real threat to anybody. In the next few months Peter immersed himself in reading, studying works by J.S. Mill, Renan, Heine, Herzen, and Proudhon.
1867: In April, Peter finally left Irkutsk and returned to St. Petersburg. Although he had left military service, Peter could not bring himself to leave government service. He became a member of the Central Statistical Committee. This position required very little work and allowed Peter to concentrate on work for the Geographic Society. He also enrolled in the university, but did not complete the requirements for graduation due to financial concerns.
1868-1870: Peter concentrated on geographic work.
1871: In the fall, Peter's father died. His father had maintained a great deal of control over Peter's life. When he finally passed away, Peter finally had control over his own life. At this point, he quit his civil service position. The Imperial Geographic Society offered him the position of secretary (a great honor for a man of his age). Peter viewed a career in the Society as wasteful and declined the offer. Peter had become interested in the worker's movement during the Franco-Prussian War due to the newspaper coverage of the Paris Commune. In this period of transition within his life, Peter planned to travel abroad to learn more about the worker's movement.
1872: In February Peter left Russia to travel to Switzerland. Upon arriving in Zurich Peter immediately joined the local chapter of the International. He was given socialist literature unavailable in Russia. After reading numerous works on socialism, Peter continued his vigorous study of the subject by traveling throughout Switzerland to question various socialist leaders. At this time, he began to attend the worker's meetings of the International (rather than the leader's meetings). In March, a friend suggested that Peter visit the centers of the Jura Federation in Neuchatel.
In Neuchatel, Peter met Guillaume, one of Bakunin's closest associates. Peter received a positive impression of both Guillaume and the Jura Federation. Fascinated by the lack of organization in the federation, he wished to see it in action. To see the Jura workers themselves, Peter traveled to Sonvilier, where he met another Federation leader, Adhemar Schwitzguebel. He introduced Peter to the workers in the region, most of which were watchmakers. The isolated and self-sufficient nature of the workers impressed Peter. He saw a community of workers that succeeded when permitted to work according to their own interests. It is at this exact point in his life where he felt that he became an anarchist. He even considered staying in Switzerland as a permanent fixture in the Jura Federation. Guillaume convinced him that this was impractical. One of the great ironies of this trip was that despite being separated by only a small distance, Peter never met Bakunin. This was probably their best chance, but for various reasons, Peter did not travel to Locarno to meet Bakunin. As a result, the two most prominent Russian anarchists never met.
When he returned to Russia in May, Peter brought with him a large collection of socialist literature which were "unconditionally prohibited by the censor." This was his first subversive act against the state. He took this tremendous risk so that he could share these works with his brother. Encouraged partially by this literature, Alexander traveled to Switzerland to meet with the socialists himself. As a result of this trip, he sided with Lavrov's forces. This side was rival to Peter's side. Luckily, this did not cause much friction between brothers. The choice of sides reflected the personality of each brother.
Upon his return, Peter was anxious to share his findings with others. The subject matter, however, made this type of activity very risky. Peter had to find a group of people that he could trust. He found this trust in the Chaikovskii Circle, a group formed to spread revolutionary consciousness throughout Russia. He did have some difficult in joining this group. He possessed different ideological views than several leaders in the Circle, and he was seven to ten years older than most members of the Circle. Some felt that he would be unable or unwilling to fully contribute to the Circle's cause.
1873: Peter proved his critics wrong with his work on the committee heading the knizhnoe delo. This committee was formed to change the type of socialist literature available to the peasants. At this time, only intellectual approaches had been taken. The Chaikovskii Circle felt that this type of literature would not encourage the peasants to revolt. Instead, they needed to be provided with stories of successful revolts by the masses. The actual writing of these pamphlets would also have to be extremely simple, due to the lack of education among the working class. These pamphlets were well received by the peasants, and eventually the government deemed them to be "extremely harmful" and outlawed them. While Peter was only solely responsible for writing one of the pamphlets, he did have an important influence on the development of the committee.
By the summer, Peter began to become involved in other projects within the Circle. However, when he sold one of his family estates, he refused to give any money to the Circle, an action that angered many. There was further tension as the Circle questioned whether they should take sides in the battle for power between Bakunin and Lavrov. Peter felt that siding with Lavrov (as many in the Circle wanted to) would negate much of their progress in planting the seeds of revolt in the workers.
Peter had become very involved with the workers themselves through the rabochee delo activities of the Circle. Involvement in this committee required Peter to give lectures to worker groups. Often, he would disguise himself as a peasant named Borodin to both through off the police and to better relate to the peasants (his target audience). Because of this and his exposure to the working class throughout his early life, Peter experienced much more success than other lectures. Furthermore, he greatly enjoyed being directly involved with the workers and witnessing the impact that his words had on them. They hoped that the lectures would eventually allow the workers to unite and overthrow the existing system of government.
1874: Before the Chaikovskii Circle could complete their goals, they experienced a significant set back. In March, the apartment of a student was raided by the police. Inside, the police found copies of a revolutionary manifesto authored by P. A. Kropotkin. Although this manifesto was Peter's first major political statement, the police concluded that he was the leader of the entire khozhdenie v narod (movement to the people). When Kropotkin found out about the discovery, he immediately planned to leave the country. However, before leaving, Peter wanted to present a paper to the Geographic Society. He had all of his belongings packed so that he could leave after his presentation. The paper was well received and it looked as though Peter would be able to escape. As he entered a cab, he was approached by another cab filled with workers. Peter, thinking that the workers had escaped arrest and may need his assistance, got out of the cab to talk to the workers. As soon as he was out of the cab, a group of police officers emerged from the workers cab and arrested Peter, not as Prince Peter Kropotkin, but as Bordoin, anarchist peasant.
As Peter had been delivering his paper, the police had searched his apartment. Inside they found Peter's diary, many of his books and writings that he and others had done, all of which was incriminating evidence. Peter was questioned at great length, but refused to give any information. The police eventually bribed workers to testify against Peter. Given that information, he was moved to the infamous Peter and Paul Fortress in April.
The conditions in this fortress were extremely harsh. The cells were damp and often kept uncomfortably warm. The prisoners were separated, so Peter would go for weeks at a time with no human contact. Writing was not allowed in the prison, a great punishment for an intellectual like Peter. There were only two activities that allowed Peter to keep his sanity, reading and exercise. Most of what Peter read involved science and history and was provided to him by his sister and brother. Each day he was allowed to stroll on the prison grounds. This short time did not satisfy Peter. He spent many additional hours pacing in his cell.
Peter's academic and family contacts eventually started to affect his treatment. In September, the Geographic Society was able to convince the prison officials to give Peter special permission to write and work on several geographic papers for several hours each day. The result was a large study on glacial periods that was published in 1876.
1875: By the middle of this year, more political prisoners had been arrested and the fortress was becoming filled. The silence that had existed when Peter first arrived at the prison was now broken. The prisoners eventually worked out a system of communication through knocking. About this time Peter received an unexpected visitor. One afternoon Grand Prince Nikolai Nikolaevich, the brother of the czar, entered Peter's cell totally unannounced. This was an unprecedented action. The Grand Prince had come to meet Peter in an attempt to understand why a man of such noble status would become involved in a revolutionary movement. The meeting did not go well as each man disliked the other, and felt the other was a danger to society. The Grand Prince left the cell without further understanding of Peter's reasoning.
By the end of this year, Peter was beginning to lose hope. The interrogations had continued, and the police resorted to all sorts of means to attempt to get Peter to confess. At this time, his health was beginning to deteriorate. The damp, warm conditions of his cell had led to Peter contracting rheumatism. In December, the Ministry of Justice ordered that Peter be moved to the St. Petersburg House of Detention since his trial was nearing. Peter had spent 21 months in the Peter and Paul Fortress.
1876: After Peter was moved to the Detention House, his living conditions improved. This was because the House was, in Peter's words, "a huge showplace for foreign visitors." Peter was allowed to openly interact with friends and relatives now. Despite the improved living conditions, Peter's health continued to deteriorate. His new cell was much smaller than the one in the Peter and Paul Fortress (four feet wide), and Peter would get dizzy when he tried to continue his walking routine. After a short time, he began to suffer from claustrophobia.
His sister became extremely worried about his health. She managed to convince a physician to suggest that Peter be transferred to a military hospital until his health improved. In May, he was finally transferred to the St. Petersburg Military Hospital. This was significant for several reasons. First, Peter finally got the necessary treatment to improve his mental and physical health. Almost immediately, he began to feel better. However, he did not let this be known to his doctors. This brings us to second reason why Peter's transfer to the hospital is of importance; the security was much more lax at this institution than any other. Peter immediately began working on a plan for escape.
By the end of June, Peter had come with an elaborate plan to escape during one of his daily walks on the hospital grounds. Many other people were to be involved in distracting the guards, signaling that the coast was clear for the escape, and to drive Peter away in a carriage. When the day of the escape arrived, disaster struck. His accomplices could not find any red balloons, which was to be the sign that the coast was clear. The escape did not happen on that day, and for that Peter was lucky. A line of peasant carts had been blocking the escape route. If Peter had tried to escape, he surely would have been recaptured.
During the next 24 hours, Peter's friends worked frantically to come up with a new plan. After much work, they made the necessary changes to Peter's original plan. One problem remained, they had to let Peter know what the changes were. This was accomplished by hiding a written summary of the plan inside a watch. Then, one of Peter's close friends, visited him, giving him the watch as a gift. Peter was told to examine the watch carefully. When he did, he found the note. He now knew of the new plan. The next day everything went as planned. Peter escaped from the prison, and none of his accomplices were apprehended. That night, the group celebrated in one of St. Petersburg's finest restaurants. They guessed (correctly) that the police would never look for them here. The next day Peter left Russia at the Finnish border. From Finland he took a ship to England.
Peter's first few month's in England were spent establishing contacts. His main objective was to let Guillaume know that he wanted to work for the Jura Federation again. Guillaume was delighted to hear this and asked Peter to begin writing articles for the Bulletin de la Federation Jurassienne. He also spent some time writing for the Imperial Geographic Society. However, his primary interests laid with the worker's movement.
1877: In January, Peter left England to live in the Neuchatel region, in Switzerland, so that he could devote all of his time to the Jura Federation. When he returned to the federation, he found that it had lost much of its energy that he had seen in 1872. Much of the problems stemmed from the lack of leadership in the federation. This seemed to cause a lack of direction, and Peter felt that they had very little effect on the worker's movement. One person in the group that Peter was attracted to was Paul Brousse. Peter and Brousse organized a demonstration in Bern on March 18 to commemorate the Paris Commune. Peter hoped that this bit of unrest would help stir the workers. Some members of the Federation feared that there would be clashes with the police at the demonstration. This is actually what Peter hoped for. He knew that police intervention would make great propaganda.
The clash with the police did occur. The group carried the red flag in honor of the commune. Switzerland law outlawed the public display of the flag. The police attempted to seize the flags from the protesters through force. Six or seven of the police officers were injured along with several protesters. The police failed, however, in seizing all of the flags. The flags were carried to a hall where speeches were given. Overall the day was a huge success. The police brutality had a tremendous effect on the workers. The size of the federation nearly doubled after the demonstration. Guillaume disagreed with Peter's assessment that the demonstration had been a success. Guillaume disapproved of the violent tactics that had been used which caused a division to begin between Peter and him.
During the next few years, Peter became very involved in social congresses. In September, he attended the last meeting of the International. The organization had become doomed when Marx moved the headquarters to New York. As the International was falling apart, Peter saw problems developing between the North and South sections of the Jura Federation. These divisions undermined many of the resolutions passed at this meeting.
The week after the International meeting, Peter attended the Universal Socialist Congress in Ghent. Although he had been named one of the two secretaries of the session, Peter was forced to leave the Congress early when he learned that the police were looking for him. Fearing that the Belgium authorities would extradite him back to Russia, he left the country, traveling to England. After a short time, he returned to Switzerland.
1878: Peter spent much of this year working with to strengthen the Jura Federation. By August, he had developed his first major political program. This program was presented at the annual Jura congress. There were some major figures from the Federation present, however, Guillaume and Bakunin were not present (Guillaume because he was no longer active and Bakunin because he was no longer alive). Their absence left a void, which Peter sought to fill. His program was composed of four parts:
2. the negation of the state
3. acceptance of the social revolution and the end of capitalism
4. propaganda of the deed (violence) as a means to end the state
Peter hoped for a society influenced by the Paris Commune. He hoped that by improving the living conditions of the working class that their work initiative would also improve. This would be the beginning of the social revolution.
1879: Peter realized that the Jura Federation was not in a condition from which it could properly organize a revolution. Therefore during most of this year, Peter worked with Brousse to reorganize the Federation. Their efforts peaked at the Federation congress in October. Most of the old leadership was no longer involved with the Federation, so Peter saw this as an opportunity to move its efforts in a new direction. He gave a speech entitled "The Anarchist Idea from the Viewpoint of Its Practical Realization." This speech laid out Peter's plans for the future. While much of the argument is similar to the views expressed at the previous congress, Peter also argued that the anarchists should not become a political party. These ideas were generally well accepted at the congress.
Sometime during this year, Peter was quietly married.
1880: Peter was the leading force at the Federation congress in this year. While he did not formulate any major new stances here, he did work to refine many of the views that the Jura Federation held. At this point, the Federation began to move away from its traditional views, which had been developed by Bakunin, and towards the views expressed by Peter. The primary differences arose in the question of wages. Bakunin had supported a system in which wages were based on the type and amount of work performed. Peter preferred the idea that the means of production and survival could be evenly divided among all those in a society. His speeches at this time formed an important basis for the socialist movement.
1881: In July of this year, Peter attended the International Anarchist Congress in London. The records of this congress show that Peter played an important role in its leadership. This is significant because it shows that Peter is beginning to gain acceptance in revolutionary circles outside the Jura Federation. At this congress Peter also clarifies his views on violence as a means of encouraging revolution. Although he still has problems justifying all types of violence, he states that an explosion is far more effective than a vote. However, it should be the terrorist act of the people rather than an individual.
Throughout these years, Peter was also very active in journalism. Besides writing for the Jura Bulletin, he did work for the Arbeitter Zeitung, L'Avant-Garde, La Justice, and started his own paper LeRevolte. The topics of these articles ranged from ideological positions on economics to the debate over the propaganda of deed.
He wrote several articles on the subject of propaganda of deed after Czar Alexander II was assassinated in March of this year. Peter saw this event as a sign that social revolution was near. The assassination resulted in numerous executions in Russia. Peter called for public protests of these actions. These calls for protests, along with Peter's support for the Czar's execution, led to his expulsion from Switzerland in August.
At about the same time, the new Czar of Russia, Alexander III, formed the Holy Brotherhood. This was a secret organization formed to start a counteroffensive against revolutionaries. One of the Brotherhood's first actions was to issue two death warrants. One was for Lev Gartman, a member of the Narodnaia Volia and the other was for Peter Kropotkin. Luckily Peter found out about this plot and exposed it in his own paper and in the London Times and Newcastle Chronicle. The Russian government was deeply embarrassed by the exposure and recalled the agents. This event did convince Peter that he should not return to Russia. Instead, he traveled throughout England giving lectures and writing articles for various publications.
1882: For most of this year, Peter busied himself with writing articles about Russia for the Newcastle Chronicle. The subject of most of these articles regarded the treatment of the working class in Russia and corruption of the government. Despite earning an impressive reputation, Peter was not happy in England. He felt that there was no worker's movement in England nor were there any major social organizations for him to become involved with. In October, moved to the French town of Thonon. Unfortunately, his reputation as an anarchist preceded him. He was in France only two months before he was arrested and sentenced to five years in prison for his involvement in the International (which no longer existed).
1883-1886: Peter spent these three years in a French prison, despite a strong international effort to free him. The conditions in the French prison, while not good, were much better than those of the Russian prisons. Peter was allowed to see his wife, read non-political works and write on a limited basis. One of Peter's strongest supporters during this time was Elisée Reclus. Reclus supplied Peter with scientific works and worked continually to improve Peter's living conditions. Finally in January of 1886, the French government decided that Peter would be less of a threat if he was out of the country. He was released under the conditions that he would leave as soon as possible.
1886: Several weeks after his release from prison, Peter returned to England. The time in prison had clearly taken its toll on him though. He had very little energy to engage in revolutionary activities. Later in the year Peter experienced two personal hardships. First, his wife became seriously ill with typhus. She did eventually recover. Second, Peter's brother Alexander committed suicide while exiled in Siberia for a political offence. This was especially hard on Peter since they had been so close to each other. Alexander's wife came to live with Peter until she recovered from the tragedy.
When Peter found the time and energy over the next few years, he did give several lectures around England and attempted to establish an anarchist newspaper in England.
1890's: During this decade Peter's popularity in England peaked. He was a friend with many notable scholars in England at the time. Due to illness, however, he stopped lecturing almost completely. In the spring of 1896 Peter was invited to France to help raise funds to restart La Révolte. The French authorities met him just as he was about to leave England and stopped him. In 1897, he was invited to visit Canada for the British Association for the Advancement of Science. After visiting Canada, Peter, traveled through the United States, giving several lectures. He was disappointed that his lectures were so poorly attended in places such as Boston and New York. He was pleased though that the Atlantic Monthly agreed to publish his memoirs.
Much of Peter's time was taken up by writing. Aside from continually writing articles for various revolutionary publications, we also continued work on three separate books: Fields, Factories, and Workshops, Mutual Aid, and Ethics. In these books and articles, Peter attempted to develop an anarchist-communism view of society.
1901: Peter again visited America. The trip was especially hard on him, and during this year he told Guillaume that he did not have long to live.
1901-1909: Peter began to become more involved in Russian politics again, perhaps sensing that a social revolution was near. He helped start a Russian anarchist paper, the Khleb i volia, in 1903. This anarchist paper was different than others Peter had written for before. Previously, he had enjoyed a great deal of control over the content of the papers. Now, because of his position within the paper, he could only hope to control the content through his influence. This became a problem in 1904 when he disagreed with the paper's treatment of terrorism. He felt that promoting violence in Russia from abroad was irresponsible and could possibly turn away potential supporters for the revolutionary movement. The paper ended in 1905.
In 1905, there was a social uprising in Russia that gave Peter hope that perhaps a new social order was near. A series of meetings were held between 1905 and 1907 among anarchists to discuss how to handle to the Russian revolution. Peter even considered travelling to Russia to help the anarchist cause. The Russian State was eventually able to put down the revolution.
In the time that followed the Russian revolt, radical groups experienced problems as police and government agents attempted to infiltrate their ranks. In 1908, Peter acted as a judge in a tribunal where a gentleman was accused of being a double agent. Peter did not feel comfortable in the role of judge, and felt that the whole trial accomplished very little.
During this time Peter also published books on Russian literature and the French Revolution, demonstrating the breadth of his scholarly ability.
1909-1914: His health continued to worsen during this time. He tried moving to Brighton, which was warmer than London. In 1908, he began to spend his winters in Italy and Switzerland to escape to damp English winters. In 1913, he convinced the Swiss authorities to allow him to permanently reside in Switzerland. They allowed him on the condition that he refrain from all anarchist activities.
In February of 1912, the workers at one of the Lena gold mines (which Peter had visited earlier in his life) went on strike demanding better working conditions. In an attempt to break up the strike, soldiers fired into a crowd of people, killing 270 and wounding 240. Peter immediately tried to publicize this event, hoping that it would lead to further worker revolts. Other gold mines went on strike to protest this event. However, before a revolution could begin, World War I distracted everyone.
1914-1917: Peter's stance on World War I was very clear. He encouraged every country to rise in arms against Germany. He told everyone that was important that France be protected from the Germans. This was because he felt that France would be the country, which would inspire the world to social equality and liberty. He also considered the Germans "an army of Huns," who had no respect for the rules of humanity. Whenever his health permitted he spoke to rally support against Germany.
Peter's excitement stemmed from the possibilities that could occur if Germany was defeated. He realized that the rebuilding process that would follow this type of war could provide the ideal conditions for social change. To Peter, the war against Germany was a war against the state.
1917: The events of February 1917 took almost everyone by surprise. The Russian Revolution was the spontaneous revolution that Peter and others had written about for decades. When it became clear that the revolution was a success, Peter began packing to return to Russia. He did warn people that it was still important to continue the fight against Germany. Only after the war ended would the new Russian society be safe.
Peter arrived in Petrograd on May 30, 1917. Although many revolutionaries were returning at this time, Peter's notoriety caused a large crowd to gather to greet him. The new government even sent representatives to meet with him. He took this opportunity to deliver a rather long speech in which he praised the revolutionaries and urged the defense of Russia against Germany. He was ecstatic that Russia had become the first country in history to guarantee equality to all citizens and nationalities.
During the rest of this year, Peter participated in the formation of government policy. He encouraged the adoption of a system similar to that of the United States, where local autonomy was encouraged. His ideas met some resistance though due to the war. Once the Bolsheviks came to power, Peter ended much of his activity with the government.
1918-1921: In 1918, there were some rumors that Peter had been imprisoned by the Bolsheviks, however he remained free. He was extremely unhappy due both to the uncomfortable living conditions that the civil war had caused and because the he saw the rise of the Bolsheviks as a sign that the revolution had failed.
In the remaining years of his life, Peter used the time to finished some of his unfinished works, including Ethics. He was offered several positions at various universities, but had to turn them down due to his failing health. He continued to write articles for various publications throughout Europe.
By 1920, his health had deteriorated so much, that he was unable to sustain conversations with his friends. Several people encouraged Peter to move out of Russia to a healthier climate. Peter was content with where he was though. On February 8, 1921, Peter Kropotkin died. With Lenin's personal approval, a huge funeral was arranged by the anarchists. This was the last mass gathering of anarchists in Russia.
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