Guy A. Aldred Archive

Chapter 2
Boyhood and Home Life

Written: 1940.
Transcription/Markup: Andy Carloff
Online Source:; 2021

One of the main reasons which caused a change in Bakunin’s father’s life was his marriage. Already over forty, he fell in love with a girl of eighteen, likewise of aristocratic birth, beautiful but poor. He married this young thing; and in order to quieten his conscience for this egoistic act, he endeavored for the rest of his life, not to raise her to his level but to reduce himself to her’s.

Bakunin’s mother came from the family Muraview. She was a niece of the hangman Muraview and of a hanged Muraview. She was a very common woman, vulgar and selfish. None of her children loved her. But they loved her father so much the more; for, during their childhood, he was always kind and affectionate towards them.

Although there were eleven children, of whom two sisters and five brothers were alive when Bakunin was at the height of his revolutionary career. Thanks to the influence of their father they were brought up more in a European than in a Russian style. They lived, so to speak, outside the Russian reality. The world immediately about them was decorated with feeling and imagination, and was far removed from all realistic influence. Their education was, at first, very liberal. But after the unhappy end of the conspiracy of December, 1825, the father got frightened and changed his plan. From now on he tried, with all his might, to make his children true servants and subjects of the Czar. For this reason he sent Bakunin as a boy of fourteen, to St. Petersburg, in order to join the Artillery School. There he spent three years; and when he was a few months over the age of seventeen years, became an officer.

At home he had acquired much learning. Besides Russian, he already spoke French and understood a little German and English. His father had given his children lessons in ancient history, and one of his uncles taught him arithmetic. Religious instruction was entirely overlooked. The priest-a dear man whom Bakunin learned to love because he brought him all kinds of sweets-came into the house often but exercised no influence regarding religion. Bakunin was always more of an unbeliever than a believer. Or rather, he was absolutely indifferent to religion.

His ideas and opinions on morals, right, and duty, were vague. He possessed instinct, but no principle. He loved the good and despised the bad, without being able to give reasons when he considered the one good and the other bad. Every injustice and injury was repulsive to him. Revolt against and hatred of all injustice, were developed more strongly within him than all others. His moral education suffered through the fact that his material and intellectual existence was founded on a gigantic injustice and on an entirely immoral foundation, the slavery of the peasants, whose sweat kept the “better class” in wealth.

Bakunin’s father felt this. He knew it quite well. But he was one of the practical men, and therefore never spoke to his children about this. He preferred to leave them in ignorance.

Bakunin’s passionate desire for adventure was a conspicuous feature of his early youth. His father used to relate his traveling recollections. To listen to them was his children’s greatest joy. His tales were very interesting. He planted the same love of nature in his children. But he never took the trouble to satisfy their wishes and give them scientific explanation. To travel, to visit different countries and new worlds-that was the wish and ideal of his children.

Bakunin’s imagination developed very much under the influence of such desires. He dreamed of nothing but travels. His brain pictured vividly how he escaped from home and found himself far, far away; far away from his father, his sisters and brothers, whom he, nevertheless, loved and honored.

So he dreamed and thought when he entered the Artillery School. This was his first meeting with real Russian life.