Childhood & Early Life
Peter Kropotkin was born on December 12, 1842 in Moscow, Russia.
His father was Prince Aleksei Petrovich Kropotkin, a Prince from Smolensk, and his mother was Yekaterina Nikolaevna Sulima, the daughter of a Cossack general.
His father married Yelizaveta Markovna Korandino two years after his own mother died of tuberculosis in 1846.
He had two elder brothers, Nikolai and Alexander and an elder sister named Yelena.
He joined the ‘First Moscow Gymnasium’ initially where he developed great interest for geography and history.
In 1957, he joined the ‘Corps des Pages’ at St. Petersburg when he was fifteen years old and became a personal page of Czar Alexander II four years later.
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In 1862 Peter Kropotkin joined the ‘Corps of Pages’ and received a commission in the Cossack Regiment stationed in Eastern Siberia.
He worked as an ‘aide de camp’ for the governor of Transbaikalia located in Chita for some time and then as an attaché to the governor-general of East Siberia located at Irkutsk for Cossack affairs during 1863.
In 1864, finding very little administrative work in Irkutsk, he toured North Manchuria from Tranbaikalia up to Amur and then up the Sungari River with scientific expeditions.
Seeing the impossibility of any reforms occurring in Siberia, he started reading the works of the French anarchist and political thinkers like Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, Alexander Herzen and John Stuart Mill in 1866.
In 1867 he resigned from the army and chose to study mathematics at the ‘Saint Petersburg Imperial University’.
His father disinherited him for giving up his military career and joining the geography section of the ‘Russian Geographical Society’. He explored the glacial formations in Sweden and Finland for the Society around this time.
His reports on the structure and topology of the area in Siberia won him great accolades and in 1971 he was offered the post of the secretary of the ‘Imperial Geographical Society of St. Petersburg’ which he refused to accept.
He paid a visit to Switzerland in 1972 and joined the local chapter of the ‘International Workmen’s Association’ and visited the ‘Jura Federation’ centers.
In May 1872 he declared himself an anarchist and after returning to Russia, became a member of the ‘Tchaikovsky Circle’ It was considered to be an illegal organization by the government as it was involved in spreading revolutionist ideas among the peasants of St. Petersburg and Moscow and for publishing articles written by Karl Marx, Charles Darwin and others.
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In March 1874 he was arrested by the Russian police for his revolutionary manifesto, diary and other incriminating documents. He was convicted and imprisoned.
In 1876 he escaped from the ‘Peter and Paul Fortress’ and fled to Switzerland where he became quite famous in various radical circles.
In 1880 he published an article ‘An Appeal to the Young’ which impressed thousands of people all across the globe.
He visited England in 1881 for a year and took part in the ‘Anarchist Congress’ in London held on July 14, 1881. He also gave talks on anarchism at the ‘Stratford Radical and Dialectical Club’ and the ‘Homerton Social Democratic Club’.
When Czar Alexander II was assassinated in 1881, the Russian government pressurized the Swiss government to expel Kropotkin who had to move to Thonon in France.
Under pressure from the Russian government, the French government arrested Kropotkin in 1883 for being a member of IWA, tried him on false charges and sentenced him to five years of imprisonment.
He was released from prison in 1886 after repeated agitations by the ‘French Chamber’ and travelled to England on an invitation from Charlotte Wilson. Kropotkin co-founded with Wilson an anarchist newspaper named ‘Freedom Press’ and stayed in England at different places such as Harrow, Ealing, Acton, Bromley and Highgate at different times.
In 1897 he visited Canada at the invitation of James Mavor, a professor of political economy at the ‘University of Toronto’ and the United States at the invitation of fellow anarchist Johann Most.
Kropotkin was allowed to return to Russia after the ‘February Revolution’ of 1917 and was welcomed by thousands of people lining the roads of St. Petersburg. He was offered the post of the head of the ministry of education which he refused as it would be against his principles.
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His hopes of the formation of a stateless society in Russia changed to bitter disappointment when the Bolsheviks came to power after the ‘October Revolution’.
Disappointed with the Bolsheviks he founded an anarchist cooperative society in the village of Dmitrov located to the north of Moscow and remained there during his last days.
Peter Kropotkin published the book ‘In Russian and French Prisons’ in 1887 and his autobiography ‘Memoirs of a Revolutionist’ in 1899.
His famous second book ‘Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution’ was followed by ‘The Conquest of Bread’ and then by ‘Fields, Factories and Workshops’ during 1901 to 1902.
His book ‘The Great French Revolution’ published in 1909 turned him into a world renowned figure.
Personal Life & Legacy
He married a fellow Russian refugee Sophie Anaiev in 1876.
He had a daughter named Alexandra.
Peter Kropotkin died of pneumonia in Dmitrov near Moscow, Russia, on February 8, 1921.