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Herzen, Aleksandr Ivanovich (1812–70)

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-E016-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved July 07, 2020, from

Article Summary

Lauded by Nietzsche as ‘a man of every distinctive talent’ and admired by Lenin as the founder of the Russian revolutionary movement, Herzen eludes all neat categorizations. As a moral preacher he stands alongside Tolstoi and Dostoevskii (who praised him as a poet). As a philosopher, he was the principal interpreter and popularizer of Hegel’s thought in Russia in the first half of the 1840s, while the rebellion against metaphysical systems in his mature work has led him to be seen as a precursor of existentialism. Through the Russian press that he founded in emigration he helped to shape the beginnings of a public opinion in his country and played a major role in debates on Russia’s political future on the eve of the emancipation of the serfs, while laying the foundations of the Russian populist movement through his writings on Russian socialism. He is best known in the West for his memoirs, Byloe i dumy (My Past and Thoughts) (1861, 1866), which rank among the great works of Russian literature, and for S togo berega (From the Other Shore) (1850), the most brilliant and original of the works in which he expresses his rejection of all teleological conceptions of history.

Citing this article:
Kelly, Aileen. Herzen, Aleksandr Ivanovich (1812–70), 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-E016-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2020 Routledge.

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