Nikolai Aleksandrovich Speshnev

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Speshnev, Nikolai Aleksandrovich


Born 1821, in Kursk Province; died Mar. 17 (29), 1882, in St. Petersburg. Russian revolutionary.

From a family of dvoriane (nobility or gentry), Speshnev studied at the Tsarskoe Selo Lycée (1839) and at the University of St. Petersburg. He lived abroad from 1842 to 1846 and took part in the liberation movement in Switzerland.

Speshnev studied the philosophical and socioeconomic works of L. Feuerbach, C. Fourier, and P. Proudhon and read Marx’ The Poverty of Philosophy. A materialist and atheist, Speshnev attacked idealist anthropologism as a new and refined type of religion. He advocated the overthrow of tsarism, the freeing of the peasants through a popular revolution, and the formation of communist communes on the basis of the existing public wealth.

Speshnev was a leader of the Petrashevskii circle. Late in 1848, the formation of a secret political society was discussed in meetings held in Speshnev’s home. In the spring of 1849, Speshnev organized a conspiratorial group that aimed to print denunciatory agitational works in a clandestine printing shop. At the trial of the Petrashevskii circle, Speshnev was sentenced to be shot; the sentence was commuted to ten years of hard labor, and he was confined at the Aleksandrovskii Zavod Factory in Nerchinsk Okrug until the amnesty of 1856.

From 1857 to 1859, Speshnev edited the Irkutskie gubernskie vedomosti. He accompanied N. N. Murav’ev-Amurskii, the governor-general of Eastern Siberia, on an expedition along the Amur. In 1861 and 1862, Speshnev was a mirovoi posrednik (mediator of the peace) in Pskov Province and defended the interests of the peasants.


“Pis’mo k ottsu (1838).” Katorga issylka, 1930, no. 1.
“Pis’ma k K. E. Khoetskomu.” In the collection Filosofskie i ob-shchestvenno-politicheskie proizvedeniia petrashevtsev. Moscow, 1953.
“Pokazanie N. A. Speshneva.” In Delo petrashevtsev, vol. 3. Moscow-Leningrad, 1951.


Leikina-Svirskaia, V. R. “N. A. Speshnev.” In Petrashevtsy. Moscow, 1924.
Leikina-Svirskaia, V. R. “Revoliutsionnaia praktika petrashevtsev.” In the collection Istoricheskie zapiski, vol. 47. Moscow, 1954.


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