The Anarchist Prince: A Biographical Study of Peter Kropotkin

By George Woodcock; Ivan Avakumović | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER II
THE EXPLORER

I

KROPOTKIN'S course at the Corps of Pages was due to end in the middle of 1862. He had entered the Corps with no illusions regarding a military career, and his experiences had in no way increased his leaning towards such a vocation. In March 1860, in the middle of his course, he was writing to his brother that "military science does not interest me. . . . I will busy myself with it out of sheer necessity." And his ideas underwent no fundamental change.

But there seemed no alternative to becoming an officer. Neither he nor his brother had any means of subsistence but what their father provided, and the old Prince was wholly determined that all his sons should pursue distinguished military careers. Rebellion against this future would have meant the immediate end of financial support, which was in any case so meagre that Alexander, whom his father disliked, was usually penniless and often in debt.

What Peter really wanted was to remove himself entirely from military life and continue his scientific studies at the university. But this presented difficulties which seemed almost insuperable. It would have meant following the example of many thousands of Russian students and maintaining himself by private teaching while he pursued his own work. Kropotkin, who had no sense of pride in such matters, would not have found this difficult, but he was in an even worse position than the average poor student, since despite all his family's wealth he had neither a civilian suit of his own nor the money to buy one or take lodgings or buy the few small items, such as books and paper, which were necessary to make a start. Klassovsky,

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