Kropotkin, Piotr Alekseyevich, Prince

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Kropotkin, Piotr Alekseyevich, Prince

Piotr Alekseyevich Kropotkin, Prince (pyô´tər əlyĬksyā´ĬvĬch krəpôt´kĬn), 1842–1921, Russian geographer and anarchist. He came from a wealthy princely family and as a boy was a page to the czar. Repelled by court life, he obtained permission to serve as an army officer in Siberia, where his explorations and scientific observations established his reputation as a geographer. After returning to European Russia, he became an adherent of the Bakuninist faction of the narodniki and engaged in clandestine propaganda activities until arrested in 1874. Two years later he escaped to Western Europe, where he worked with various anarchist groups until his imprisonment in France (1883). Pardoned in 1886, partly as the result of the popular clamor for his release, he moved to England and spent the next 30 years mainly as a scholar and writer developing a coherent anarchist theory. In his most famous book, Mutual Aid (1902), he attacked T. H. Huxley and the Social Darwinists for their picture of nature and human society as essentially competitive. He insisted that cooperation and mutual aid were the norms in both the natural and social worlds. From this perspective he developed a theory of social organization—in Fields, Factories and Workshops (1898) and elsewhere—that was based upon communes of producers linked with each other through common custom and free contract. Returning to Russia following the February Revolution of 1917, he attempted to engender support for a continued Russian effort in World War I and to combat the rising influence of Bolshevism. Following the Bolshevik triumph in the October Revolution (1917), he retired from active politics. Consistently nonviolent in his anarchist beliefs, Kropotkin, as both thinker and man, was admired and acclaimed by many far removed from anarchist circles.

See his Memoirs of a Revolutionist (1899, repr. 1989).

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