Nikolai Aleksandrovich Serno-Solovevich

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Serno-Solov’evich, Nikolai Aleksandrovich


Born Dec. 13 (25), 1834, in St. Petersburg; died Feb. 14 (26), 1866, in Irkutsk. Russian revolutionary and publicist.

The son of a civil servant, Serno-Solov’evich graduated from the Aleksandrovskii Lycée in 1853. He served in the State Chancellery, retiring from the civil service in December 1859. In 1860, while abroad, he established friendly ties with A. I. Herzen and N. P. Ogarev, became acquainted with G. Mazzini and P. Proudhon, and began contributing to the publications of the Free Russian Printing House in London. He made his first contribution to Sovremennik (The Contemporary) in 1860 and early in 1861 became one of N. G. Chernyshevskii’s closest colleagues.

From the autumn of 1861 to the spring of 1862, Serno-Solov’evich helped organize the secret revolutionary society Land and Liberty in St. Petersburg and became a member of the society’s central committee. Most historians consider him the author of “Answer to Velikoruss,” a program document of the future Land and Liberty society. He helped unify the democratic forces, to elaborate the society’s program, tactics, and organizational principles, and to develop ties between the St. Petersburg and London centers of the Russian liberation movement.

Serno-Solov’evich scathingly criticized the reform of 1861. His pamphlet The Final Resolution of the Peasant Question (1861), published abroad on account of the censorship, asserted that the peasant problem could be justly resolved only by means of popular revolution. Serno-Solov’evich opposed both serfdom and capitalism. He was a supporter of Russian communal socialism. Although a materialist, Serno-Solov’evich was an idealist in his understanding of the historical process. However, his revolutionary democratism was responsible for the materialist elements in his views of society: he was aware of the irreconcilability of the propertied and the propertyless and approached a scientific concept of the masses as the motive force in the development of society.

On July 7, 1862, Serno-Solov’evich was arrested with Chernyshevskii and imprisoned in the Petropavlovsk Fortress, where he remained until June 1865. There, he continued his literary activity, writing works on philosophy, economics, sociology, and law, as well as a number of fictional works. At the Trial of the 32 he was sentenced to “deprivation of all rights of the estate” and to exile for life in Siberia. On the way to exile, he established contacts with Polish revolutionaries and helped organize the Circum-Baikal Rebellion of 1866 in Siberia. He died at the height of preparations for the uprising.


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The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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