6 Apr, 2021

Alexander Herzen – writer-publicist

Alexander Ivanovich Herzen was born (March 25) on April 6, 1812 in Moscow. He was the illegitimate son of a wealthy Russian landowner I. Yakovlev and a young German bourgeoisie, Louise Hague from Stuttgart. The boy received the fictitious surname Herzen (from the German word for “heart”).

He was brought up in the house of Yakovlev, received a good education, got acquainted with the works of French enlighteners, read the forbidden verses of Pushkin, Ryleev. Herzen was deeply influenced by friendship with a talented peer, the future poet N. Ogarev, which lasted all their lives.

In 1829, Herzen entered the Physics and Mathematics Faculty of Moscow University, where he soon formed a group of progressive-minded students. By this time, his attempts to present his own vision of the social structure belong. Already in the first articles, Herzen showed himself not only a philosopher, but also a brilliant writer

In 1833, Herzen graduated from the university with a silver medal. In 1834 he was arrested – for allegedly singing songs in the company of friends that defame the royal family. In 1835 he was exiled first to Perm, then to Vyatka. He was friends with the architect A.L. Vitberg and other exiles, corresponded with his cousin N.A. Zakharyina, who later became his wife.

At the end of 1837, Herzen was transferred to Vladimir, where he served in the governor’s office. From Vladimir, Herzen secretly traveled to Moscow to see his bride, and in May they got married. From 1839 to 1850, four children were born in the Herzen family.

Turning to fiction, Herzen wrote the novel “Who is to blame?” (1847), the novellas Doctor Krupov (1847) and The Thief Magpie (1848), in which he considered his main goal to denounce Russian slavery.

In 1847, Herzen and his family left Russia, leaving for Europe. In 1850-1852, a series of Herzen’s personal dramas took place: the death in a shipwreck of his mother and youngest son, the death of his wife from childbirth. In 1852, Herzen settled in London.

By this time he was perceived as the first figure of the Russian emigration. Together with Ogarev, he began to publish revolutionary publications – the almanac “Polar Star” (1855-1868) and the newspaper “Kolokol” (1857-1867), whose influence on the revolutionary movement in Russia was enormous. But his main creation of the emigre years is “The Past and Thoughts”.

In 1865, Herzen left England and went on a long journey through Europe. During this time, he estranged himself from the revolutionaries, especially from the Russian radicals. Arguing with Bakunin, who called for the destruction of the state, Herzen wrote: “You cannot liberate people in outer life more than they are liberated inside.” These words are perceived as Herzen’s spiritual testament.

(9) On January 21, 1870, Alexander Ivanovich Herzen died in Paris. He was buried in the Pere Lachaise cemetery. Later, his ashes were transported to Nice and buried next to the grave of his wife.