Peter Berngardovich Struve

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Peter (or Pyotr) Berngardovich Struve (January 26, 1870, Perm - February 22, 1944, Paris) was a Russian political economist, philosopher and editor. He started out as a Marxist, later became a liberal and after the Bolshevik revolution joined the White movement. His early life was as a chief spokesman for the movement known as "legal Marxism." Later, he was a founder of the Constitutional Democratic Party, known by the Russian acronym for the party, the "Kadets." After the Bolsheviks coup d'etat against the Provisional Government he wrote and organized against the new government before having to flee for safety to Bulgaria.


Marxist theoretician

Peter Struve is probably the best known member of the Russian branch of the Struve family. Son of Bernhard Struve (Astrakhan and later Perm governor) and grandson of astronomer Friedrich Georg Wilhelm von Struve, he entered the Natural Sciences Department of the University of Saint Petersburg in 1889 and transferred to its law school in 1890. While there, he established himself as the chief spokesperson for legal Marxism. He first became interested in Marxism while attending Marxist and narodniki (populist) meetings (where he met his future opponent Vladimir Lenin). He wrote articles for legally published magazines, from which the term Legal Marxism derived its name. In September 1893 Struve was hired by the Finance Ministry and worked in its library, but was fired on June 1, 1894, after an arrest and a brief detention in April-May of that year. In 1894 he also published his first major book, Критические заметки к вопроси об єкономицеском развитие Россие ("Kriticheskie zametki k voprosu ob ekonomicheskom razvitii Rossii" or Critical Notes on the Economic Development of Russia) in which he defended the applicability of Marxism to Russian conditions against populist critics.

In 1895 Struve finished his degree and wrote an Open letter to Nicholas II on behalf of the Zemstvo, the system of local self-government in Imperial Russia. He then went abroad for further studies, where he attended the 1896 International Socialist Congress in London and befriended famous Russian revolutionary exile Vera Zasulich.[1] After returning to Russia, Struve became one of the editors of the successive Legal Marxist magazines Novoye Slovo (The New Word, 1897), Nachalo (The Beginning, 1899) and Zhizn (Life, 1899-1901). Struve was also the most popular speaker at the Legal Marxist debates at the Free Economic Society in the late 1890s and early 1900s in spite of his often impenetrable (for laymen) arguments and unkempt appearance.[2] In 1898 Struve wrote the Manifesto of the newly formed Russian Social Democratic Labor Party. However, as he later explained:

Socialism, to tell the truth, never aroused the slightest emotion in me, still less attraction... Socialism interested me mainly as an ideological force—which... could be directed either to the conquest of civil and political freedoms or against them.[3]

Liberal politician

By 1900, Struve had become a leader of the revisionist, i.e. moderate, wing of Russian Marxists. Struve and Mikhail Tugan-Baranovsky represented the moderates during the negotiations with Julius Martov, Alexander Potresov and Vladimir Lenin, the leaders of the party's radical wing, in Pskov in March 1900. In late 1900, Struve went to Munich and again held lengthy talks with the radicals between December 1900 and February 1901. The two sides eventually reached a compromise which included making Struve the editor of Sovremennoe Obozrenie (Contemporary Review), a proposed supplement to the radicals' magazine Zaria (Dawn), in exchange for his help in securing financial support from Russian liberals. The plan was frustrated by Struve's arrest at the famous Kazan Square demonstration on March 4, 1901, immediately upon his return to Russia. Struve was banished from the capital and, like other demonstrators, was offered to choose his own place of exile. He chose Tver, a center of Zemstvo radicalism.[4]

In 1902 Struve secretly left Tver and went abroad, but by then the radicals had abandoned the idea of a joint magazine. Struve's further evolution from socialism to liberalism would have made collaboration difficult anyway. Instead he founded an independent liberal semi-monthly magazine Освобождение ("Osvobozhdenie" or Liberation) with the help of liberal intelligentsia and the radical part of the Zemstvo. The magazine was financed by D. E. Zhukovsky and was at first published in Stuttgart, Germany (July 1, 1902 - October 15, 1904). In mid-1903, after the founding of the liberal Союз Освобождение ("Soyuz Osvobozhdeniya" or Union of Liberation), the magazine became the Union's official organ and was smuggled into Russia, where it enjoyed considerable success.[5] When German police, under pressure from okhranka, the Tsar's secret police, raided the premises in October 1904, Struve moved his operations to Paris and continued publishing the magazine for another year (October 15, 1904 - October 18, 1905) until the October Manifesto proclaimed freedom of the press in Russia.[6]

In October 1905 Struve returned to Russia and became a co-founder of the liberal Constitutional Democratic party and a member of its Central Committee. He represented the party in the Second State Duma in 1907. After the Duma's dissolution on June 3, 1907, Struve concentrated on his work at Russkaya Mysl (Russian Thought), a leading liberal newspaper, whose publisher and de facto editor-in-chief he had been since 1906. Struve was the driving force behind Вехи or ("Vekhi" Landmarks, 1909), a groundbreaking and controversial anthology of essays critical of the intelligentsia and its rationalistic and radical traditions. As Russkaya Mysl editor, Struve rejected Andrei Bely's seminal novel Petersburg, which he apparently saw as a parody of revolutionary intellectuals.[7]. With the outbreak of World War I in 1914, Struve adopted a position of strong support for the government and resigned from the Constitutional Democratic party's Central Committee in 1916 over what he saw as the party's excessive opposition to the government in a time of war.

Opponent of Bolshevism

In May 1917, after the February Revolution of 1917 overthrew the monarchy, replacing it with the Provisional Government of Alexander Kerensky, Struve was elected to the Russian Academy of Sciences, whose member he remained until a Bolshevik-engineered expulsion in 1928.

Immediately after the October Revolution, Struve went to the South of Russia where he joined the Volunteer Army's Council. In early 1918 he returned to Moscow, where he lived under an assumed name for most of the year, contributed to Iz Glubiny (variously translated as De Profundis, From the Deep or From the Depths, 1918[8]), a follow-up to Vekhi, and published several other notable articles on the causes of the revolution. With the Russian Civil War raging and his life in danger, Struve had to flee. After a three month journey, he arrived in Finland, where he negotiated with Gen. Nikolai Yudenich and the Finnish leader Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim before leaving for Western Europe. Struve represented Gen. Anton Denikin's anti-Bolshevik government in Paris and London in 1919 before returning to Denikin-controlled territories in the South of Russia, where he edited a leading newspaper of the White Movement. With Denikin's resignation after the Novorossisk debacle and Gen. Pyotr Wrangel's rise to the top in early 1920, Struve became Wrangel's foreign minister.[9] With the defeat of Wrangel's army in November 1920, Struve left for Bulgaria, where he relaunched Russkaya Mysl under the aegis of the emigre "Russko-Bolgarskoe knigoizdatel'stvo" publishing house,[10] and then Paris, where he remained until his death in 1944. His children were prominent in the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia.


Stuve's attempt to help bring a modern, democratic state to Russia ultimately failed, even as the revolution itself succeeded. He quickly turned against the Bolshevik regime's anti-democratic tendencies and fought them in the Russian Civil War. However, the White movement was composed of many counter-revolutionary forces of the old regime and was thus unable to mount a credible challenge. Struve was forced to flee the country in failure. However, his descendants would carry on his own personal legacy.


Peter Struve's son Gleb Struve' (1898-1985) was one of the most prominent Russian critics of the twentieth century. He taught at the University of California, Berkeley and befriended Vladimir Nabokov in the 1920s. Pyotr's grandson Nikita Struve (b. 1931) is a professor at a Paris university and an editor of several Russian-language periodicals published in Europe.

Works in English

  • Collected Works in 15 volumes, ed. Richard Pipes. Ann Arbor, MI: University Microfilms, 1970.
  • "Past and present of Russian economics" in Russian realities & problems: Lectures delivered at Cambridge in August 1916, by Pavel Milyukov, Peter Struve, Harold Williams, Alexander Lappo-Danilevsky and Roman Dmowski. Cambridge: University press, 1917.
  • "Foreword," in Alexander A. Valentinov. The assault of heaven; the black book containing official and other information illustrating the struggle against all religion carried by the Communist government in Russia. Berlin, M. Mattisson, ltd., printer, 1924, xxiv.
  • Food Supply in Russia During the World War. Yale University Press, 1930, xxviii.

Works in Russian

  • Sub'ektivism i idealizm (Subjectivism and Idealism), 1901.
  • Na raznye temy (On Various Topics), 1902.
  • Khozyaistbo i tsena (Enterprise and Price), in 2 volumes, 1913-1916.
  • Itogi i suschestvo kommunisticheskago khozyaistva (The End Results and the Essence of the Communist Enterprise), 1921.
  • Sotsial'naya i ekonomicheskaya istoriya Rossii (Social and Economic History of Russia), 1952.


  1. See Christian Rakovsky, "An Autobiography", in Christian Rakovsky, Selected Writings on Opposition in the USSR 1923-30, ed. Gus Fagan (London & New York: Allison & Busby, 1980, ISBN 0-85031-379-1).
  2. See Yel. Kots, "Kontrabandisty" (Vospominaniya) ("Contrabandists" ("Memoirs")), in Byloe (Leningrad series), 1926, 3 (37), (magazine closed down in 1926, issues 2 and 3 remained unpublished until 1991), ISBN 5-289-01021-1, p.43.
  3. See Slavonic and East European Review, vol. xxii, no. 34, p. 350., quoted in Alan Woods, Bolshevism: The Road to Revolution, (Wellred Publications, 1999, ISBN 1-900007-05-3) Part One: The Birth of Russian Marxism.
  4. See Shmuel Galai, The Liberation Movement in Russia 1900-1905 (Cambridge University Press, 1973, ISBN 0-521-52647-7), 113.
  5. See Leopold H. Haimson, The Making of Three Russian Revolutionaries: Voices from the Menshevik Past (Cambridge University Press, 1987, ISBN 0-521-26325-5), 469.
  6. See the catalog of the Library of Congress (LCC 52056132) for publication details.
  7. See Oleg A. Maslenikov, The Frenzied Poets (Berkeley, University of California Press, 1952), 124. quoted in Arthur Levin, "Andrey Bely, M. O. Gershenzon and Vekhi: A Rejoinder to N. Valentinov" in Andrey Bely: A Critical Review (The University Press of Kentucky, 1978, ISBN 0-8131-1368-7), 178.
  8. Since the book was printed illegally and its distribution history is obscure, there is some disagreement regarding its publishing history. Some sources, e.g. Religion and Nationalism in Soviet and East European Politics, ed. Pedro Ramet (Duke University Press, 1989, ISBN 0-8223-0891-6), 437, mention that the book was printed in 1921. It was reprinted by YMCA Press in Paris in 1967.
  9. See W. Bruce Lincoln, Red Victory: A History of the Russian Civil War, 1918-1921 (NY: Simon and Schuster, 1989, (Da Capo Press paperback reprint, 1999) ISBN 0-306-80909-5), 426.
  10. See Sergei Glebov, "Russian and East European Books and Manuscripts in the United States" in Russian and East European Books and Manuscripts in the United States: Proceedings of a Conference in Honor of the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Bakhmeteff Archive of Russian and East European History and Culture (Slavic and East European Information Resources, Volume 4, Number 4 2003), eds. Jared S. Ingersoll and Tanya Chebotarev (The Haworth Press, 2003, ISBN 0-7890-2405-5), 29.

ISBN links support NWE through referral fees

  • Flikke, Geir. "Democracy or Theocracy: Frank, Struve, Berdjaev, Bulgakov, and the 1905 Russian Revolution" in Meddelelser nr. 69 (1994) Retrieved May 26, 2008.
  • Frank, S.L. Biografiya P. B. Struve. New York, 1956.
  • Pipes, Richard. Struve:
    • Vol 1. Struve: Liberal on the Left, 1870-1905. Harvard University Press, 1970, xiii. ISBN 0-674-84595-1
    • Vol 2. Struve: Liberal on the Right, 1905-1944. Harvard University Press, 1980, xix. ISBN 0-674-84600-1
  • ———— Bibliography of the published writings of Peter Berngardovich Struve (Bibliografiia pechatnykh rabot Petra Berngardovicha Struve). Ann Arbor, Mich., Published for Russian Research Center, Harvard University by University Microfilms International, 1980. ISBN 0-8357-0503-X


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