Mikhail Bakunin, a legendary Russian revolutionary, anarchist, and prolific political writer, was one of anarchism’s most effective propagators in the nineteenth century. His beliefs, as a proponent of the ‘Theory of Collective Anarchism,’ continue to impact today’s labor movements, left-wing groups, and other social movements, including anti-globalization campaigns. He was politically active at a difficult moment in European history, and his powerful works set the groundwork for the international anarchist movement. His works dealt with anarchism’s social and political ideas. Bakunin, the creator of the semi-secret ‘International Brotherhood,’ received a lot of support from countries like Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Belgium, England, France, and Spain. Many modern writers and liberation fighters, like Bhagat Singh, have drawn inspiration from his ideals. His life is a model of tenacious fight; he was imprisoned for many years before being exiled after freeing the working class from the grip of state oppression. Interestingly, during his lifetime, he received little appreciation for his views or efforts.
Childhood and Adolescence
Mikhail Bakunin was the eldest of nine siblings born into a poor household in the Moscow village of Pryamukhino.
He began military training at the Artillery School in Saint Petersburg when he was fourteen years old, having previously been home-schooled.
For a brief while in 1832, he served as a minor officer in the Russian Imperial Guard. He soon left both the military and the civil service to pursue a degree in philosophy.
Career of Mikhail Bakunin
He went to Moscow to study philosophy in 1835, and the following year he translated two works by German philosopher Johann Fichte: ‘Some Lectures Concerning the Scholar’s Vocation’ and ‘The Way to a Blessed Life.’
He moved to Berlin in 1840 after receiving a teaching position in the philosophy department. He became a member of the German intellectual organization ‘Young Hegelians’ and a supporter of the Berlin socialist movement.
He wrote the well-known article ‘The Reaction in Germany-A Fragment by a Frenchman’ in 1842, in which he expressed the ideals of the prevailing social and political revolution.
Due to his strong socialist views, the Russian authorities stripped him of his noble position, curtailed his rights, and confiscated his property in 1844, and he was deported to Siberia.
He gave a political address in favour of the Polish independence movement on November 29, 1847. As a result, on the orders of the Russian Ambassador, he was obliged to leave France and go to Brussels.
His passion in socialism deepened throughout his time in Berlin, and he abandoned his academic career to join the revolutionary, socialist movement.
He wrote ‘Appeal to the Slavs,’ a proposal to destroy European autocracies, in 1848.
He was jailed in Dresden, Germany, following his participation in the ‘Czech uprising of 1848,’ a series of political disturbances across Europe. He was imprisoned at Saint Petersburg’s Peter-Paul Fortress, where he remained until 1857. He was sentenced to labour in Siberia after his incarceration.
He and his wife moved to Eastern Siberia in 1859 to work for the Amur Development Agency.
In 1861, he escaped from Siberia by sea, arriving in Yokohama, Japan, on the American ship ‘SS Vickery.’ Wilhelm Heine and Philipp Franz von Siebold, both revolutionaries, met him here.
He left Japan and went to San Francisco on the ‘SS Carrington,’ where he encountered members of the ‘Forty-Eighters,’ veterans of Europe’s 1848 uprisings.
He returned to Western Europe and joined the Polish revolutionary organization, then traveled over the Baltic in the ‘SS Ward Jackson’ to join the Polish insurgency. He was unable to reach his destination and instead decided to travel to Italy.
He embarked on his voyage to Italy in 1863 and arrived on January 11, 1864. It was here that he began to formulate his anarchist ideals.
In Italy, he formed the ‘International Brotherhood,’ an underground revolutionary organization for which he recruited Italians, Frenchmen, Scandinavians, and Slavs to carry out propaganda.
Apart from Polish and Russian members, he began growing his organization, the ‘International Brotherhood,’ to other nations and had members in Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Belgium, England, France, Spain, and Italy.
From 1867 to 1868, he was a prominent member of the bourgeois-pacifist ‘League of Peace and Freedom,’ as well as the author of the essay ‘Federalism, Socialism, and Anti-Theologism.’
He joined the ‘First International,’ a working-class organization, in 1868 and remained a member until Karl Marx, the revolutionary socialist, ejected him in 1883.
He became active in Russian Revolutionary enterprises with Sergey Nechayev, a Russian revolutionary, from 1869 to 1870.
Major Projects of Mikhail Bakunin
‘Statism and Anarchy,’ published in 1873, was one of his important Russian publications that helped lay the groundwork for the Russian anarchist movement. In the first week after its release, almost 1200 copies were sold in Switzerland alone.
He is the inventor of the ‘Theory of Collective Anarchism,’ often known as ‘anarcho-collectivism,’ which advocates for the eradication of state and private ownership of the means of production. Many people, including Noam Chomsky, an American writer and activist, and Bhagat Singh, have been inspired by this theory.
Personal History and Legacy
He married Antonia Kwiatkowska, a Polish merchant’s daughter, in 1857.
He died in Bern, Switzerland, at the age of 62, and is buried in the Bremgarten cemetery.
Estimated Net Worth
The estimated net worth of Mikhail Bakunin is unknown.