Petrashevskii, Mikhail

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Petrashevskii, Mikhail Vasil’evich


(also M. V. Butashevich-Petrashevskii). Born Nov. 1 (13), 1821, in St. Petersburg; died Dec. 7 (19), 1866, in the village of Bel’skoe, now in Krasnoiarsk Krai. Russian revolutionary.

The son of a doctor, Petrashevskii was a member of the gentry class. He graduated from the lycée at Tsarskoe Selo in 1839 and the law faculty of St. Petersburg University in 1841. He worked as a translator in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Petrashevskii was the editor and the author of the majority of the theoretical articles of the Pocket Dictionary of Foreign Words (fasc. 2, 1846), which propagandized democratic and materialist ideas and the principles of Utopian socialism. Beginning in 1844, meetings were held in Petrashevskii’s home; they became weekly —every Friday—in 1845 and acquired fame among the progressive public. The participants in these Friday gatherings made use of Petrashevskii’s library, which contained forbidden books on materialist philosophy, Utopian socialism, and the history of revolutionary movements. Petrashevskii considered himself a follower of C. Fourier and argued for the democratization of Russia’s political system and the emancipation of the peasants with land. In late 1848 he took part in discussions on the organization of a secret society. He advocated extended preparation of the popular masses for revolutionary struggle.

In 1849, Petrashevskii was arrested and sentenced to be shot. Instead of being executed, however, he was sent to do hard labor for life, a sentence he served in Eastern Siberia. A penal settler from 1856, Petrashevskii lived in Irkutsk, where he organized the newspaper Amur in 1860. For speaking out against the despotism of the local authorities, he was exiled to Minusinsk District in February 1860.

The publishers of Kolokol made public the documents concerning the Petrashevskii circle case and the fate of Petrashevskii.


In Delo petrashevtsev, vol. 1. Moscow-Leningrad, 1937.
In Filosofskie i obshchestvenno-politicheskie proizvedeniia petrashevtsev. Moscow, 1953.


Semevskii, V. I. M. V. Butashevich-Petrashevskii i petrashevtsy. Moscow, 1922.
Nikitina, F. G. “Obshchestvenno-politicheskie i filosofskie vzgliady M. V. Butashevicha-Petrashevskogo.” In the collection Iz istorii russkoi filosofii XVIII-XIX vv. Moscow, 1952.
Prokof’ev, V. Petrashevskii. Moscow, 1962.
Dulov, A. V. “Sibirskaia publitsistika M. V. Petrashevskogo.” Tr. Irkutskogo universiteta, 1970, vol. 59: Seriia istoricheskaia, issue 2.


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