Mikhail Bakunin

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In Moscow, Bakunin soon became friends with a group of former university students, and engaged in the systematic study of Idealist philosophy, grouped around the poet Nikolay Stankevich, “the bold pioneer who opened to Russian thought the vast and fertile continent of German metaphysics” (E. H. Carr). The philosophy of Kant initially was central to their study, but then progressed to Schelling, Fichte, and Hegel. By autumn of 1835, Bakunin had conceived of forming a philosophical circle in his home town of Pryamukhino; a passionate environment for the young people involved. For example, Vissarion Belinsky fell in love with one of Bakunin’s sisters. Moreover, by early 1836, Bakunin was back in Moscow, where he published translations of Fichte’s Some Lectures Concerning the Scholar's Vocation and The Way to a Blessed Life, which became his favorite book. With Stankevich he also read Goethe, Schiller, and E.T.A. Hoffmann.

He became increasingly influenced by Hegel and provided the first Russian translation of his work. During this period he met slavophile Konstantin Aksakov, Piotr Tschaadaev and the socialists Alexander Herzen and Nikolay Ogarev. In this period he began to develop his panslavic views. After long wrangles with his father, Bakunin went to Berlin in 1840. His stated plan at the time was still to become a university professor (a “priest of truth,” as he and his friends imagined it), but he soon encountered and joined radical students of the so-called “Hegelian Left,” and joined the socialist movement in Berlin. In his 1842 essay The Reaction in Germany, he argued in favor of the revolutionary role of negation, summed up in the phrase

After three semesters in Berlin, Bakunin went to Dresden where he became friends with Arnold Ruge. Here he also read Lorenz von Stein's Der Sozialismus und Kommunismus des heutigen Frankreich and developed a passion for socialism. He abandoned his interest in an academic career, devoting more and more of his time to promoting revolution.The Russian government, becoming aware of his radicalism, ordered him to return to Russia. On his refusal his property was confiscated. Instead he went with Georg Herwegh to Zürich, Switzerland.

Switzerland, Brussels, Prague, Dresden and Paris

During his six month stay in Zürich, he became closely associated with German communist Wilhelm Weitling. Until 1848 he remained on friendly terms with the German communists, occasionally calling himself a communist and writing articles on communism in the Schweitzerische Republikaner. He moved to Geneva in western Switzerland shortly before Weitling's arrest. His name had appeared frequently in Weitling's correspondence seized by the police. This led to reports being circulated to the imperial police. The Russian ambassador in Bern ordered Bakunin to return to Russia, but instead he went to Brussels, where he met many leading Polish nationalists, such as Joachim Lelewel, co-member with Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels at Brussels. Lelewel greatly influenced him, however he clashed with the Polish nationalists over their demand for a historic Poland based on the borders of 1776 (before the Partitions of Poland) as he defended the right of autonomy for the non-Polish peoples in these territories. He also did not support their clericalism and they did not support his calls for the emancipation of the peasantry.

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