Georgi Plekhanov

A New Champion of Autocracy


If Mr. Tikhomirov were noted for the same indiscriminate love of fame as Herostratus, he would naturally bless the day and the hour when it occurred to him to write the pamphlet: Why I Ceased to be a Revolutionary. For that pamphlet made him the centre of general attention. His fame, which even before was not negligible, grew enormously. But Mr. Tikhomirov is not one who can be satisfied with the fame of the insane Greek; he tries to instruct, not to surprise, or if you like, he must surprise his readers by the instructiveness of his history and the extraordinary maturity of his political tendencies, those “fully formed ideas on social order and firm state authority” which “have long made” him “notable among revolutionaries. [1] Naturally he does not refuse to scourge himself for his former revolutionary errings, Such a refusal is incompatible with the “fully formed” ritual of setting the revolutionary on the road to truth. But Mr. Tikhomirov is very skilful in the way he carries out the necessary ceremony of self-flagellation. While making an appearance that he is going to scourge himself, he, instead, manages to lash his former comrades, the revolutionaries in general and that revolutionary “groups” which were able for a time to “tie and prostrate” even such a remarkable man as he. Decency is fully observed but at the same time the self-flagellation, far from inflicting pain on our repentant author, is a pleasant exercise which gives him the opportunity to show off before the public. Another vulgar violator of basic principles repents with the coarse simplicity of a thoroughly ill-bred man. “In my rage, I frequently called the sacred person of His Imperial Majesty a fool,” said, for instance, one of the accused in the Petrashevsky affair. That is not altogether elegant and by no means sagacious. Does it please His Imperial Majesty to hear such confessions? Is not the point to incline him to clemency? Mr. Tikhomirov behaves differently. Not without reason has he written a lot in his time: he knows how to use words. He so cunningly composes his psalm of repentance that it is at the same time a chant of victory on Mr. Tikhomirov defeating the revolutionary hydra and a hymn of praise to Russian autocracy ... and also, by the way, to Mr. Tikhomirov himself. All the moved and reconciled monarch can do is to fold the prodigal son in his august embrace, press the unruly head to his fat breast and give orders for the fatted calf to be killed for a solemn celebration. “Our brother the Russian is a rogue!” Belirisky [1*] once exclaimed. He should have said: “Our brother the writer is a rogue!”

Seriously speaking, we do not know how fat the calf is that is going to be slaughtered on the occasion of loyalty being aroused in Mr. Tikhomirov’s heart. But we can see that certain preparations, are being made for the celebration from the envy that has seized the good sons of Russian autocracy who have never revolted against their tsar. This feeling was expressed in Russky Vestnik [2*], which obstinately refuses to be reconciled with Mr. Tikhomirov and grumbles angrily at the “Petersburg departmental offices” for their too lenient attitude to the former terrorist. So the compliments paid to Katkov have not done any good! It must be presumed that the solicitous authorities will not delay in calling the editors of the paper in question to reason by reminding them of the moral of the parable of the prodigal son. But still the sorties of Russky Vestnik will spoil the pleasure of Mr. Tikhomirov’s reconciliation with “firm authority.”

Were it not for the Russky Vestnik, Mr. Tikhomirov would consider himself the happiest of mortals. lie is extremely satisfied with himself and with his metamorphosis. He “invites the hesitating and the irresolute to give it great attention, and, sure beforehand of their enthusiastic approval, he presents them with a whole collection of counsels containing wonderfully original and sensible thoughts. He tells them that they must learn to think and not to be carried away by phrases, and so on. But let us imagine that we are among “the hesitating and the irresolute” and let us “give attention” to the metamorphosis our author has gone through. Its history is told in the pamphlet Why I Ceased to be a Revolutionary.



1. Why I Ceased to be a Revolutionary, p.11.



1*. See Belinsky’s well-known letter to N.V. Gogol. (V.G. Belinsky, Selected Philosophical Works, Moscow 1956, p.536.)

2*. Russky Vestnik (Russian Messenger) – a monthly journal which became the mouthpiece of aristocratic reaction arid the Russian autocracy after the sixties.


Last updated on 21.8.2003