Elena Sorokin. MY LIFE WITH PITIRIM SOROKIN*
International Journal of Contemporary Sociology. January & April 1975. No 1 & 2.
Pitirim Sorokin was born on January 21, 1889, in a small village called Turya, in the province of Vologda, in the northern part of European Russia. Today this region belongs to the autonomous republic of Komi. Some eighty years ago, this region, except its northernmost part near the Arctic Circle, was covered by an imense primeval forest, interrupted only by large rivers such as the Pechora and the Vychegda, with their tributaries.
In his autobiography, Pitirim Sorokin describes his early childhood in these surroundings.
A variety of trees and bushes, but primarily pine and spruce, grew in the forest. Especially magnificent were its tall, slender pines. From the earth covered by beautiful white moss (yagel), thousands of these pines are like the most wondrous spires ascending to the sky in columns, now silent and mysterious as though lost in prayer, now roaring and agitated, as though fighting their aging enemies. Many and many an hour I spent in these cathedrals of nature, fascinated by their majesty, their mystery, and their Godgiven Beauty. They fired my imagination, infected me with their changing moods, and conveyed to me their mysterious messages."
Pitirim's mother was a Komi peasant, his father, a Russian itinerary artisan, whose guild diploma and signboard (blue with gold letters) solemnly certified that Alexander Prokopievich Sorokin is a master of gold, silver and ikon ornamental works. With these parents, tn this natural setting, was comprised the entire social and cultural environment of Pitirim's early life.
The Komi belong to the Ugro-Finnish branch of the Permian people. They have their own language, but most of them know Russian as well. In the statistics of literacy, they occupy third place among Russian nationalities; the first are the Russian Germans, and the Jews the second. Physically, the Komi are tall, strong, healthy, and, like many northern peoples, absolutely honest. Door locks were unknown to them.
As for their esthetic climate, their world of beauty consisted first of the lovely world of nature, huge rivers and lakes uncontaminated by industrial pollution, endless forests, flowering meadows and fields surrounding each village in the summer, and pure white snow in the winter. Their esthetic life enhanced by a man-made world of fairy tales, legends, myths, folk songs, village festivals, dances, and colorful sites attending births, deaths, marriages, and other events."
The old folk songs and folk literature of the Ugro-Finnish people were then still alive in this region, and many composers, such as Rimsky-Korsakov, Mussorgsky, Tchaikovsky, Kastalsky, and others collected them and used them in their compositions.
The villages and hamlets of the Komi are situated for the most part on river banks. In the summer these rivers were channels for travel and transportation from one place to another. In the winter the same routes were traveled by horse-drawn sleigh. Besides the ivers, there were only a few dirt roads and paths connecting one village to another. Later on, while Pitirim was still a student at the University of St. Petersburg, he traveled among the Komi by the boat during summer vacations, which he spent collecting anthropological and ethnographic materials. The results of these studies were published in 1910.
His mother died very young because of complications at the birth of a third son, and for a few years, therefore, his peasant aunt took care of the three little children. Nevertheless, Pitirim was little more than six years old, when he and his elder brother, four years older, took up the itinerant life of their father to work as his assistants. The youngest son was adopted by another aunt in Velikii Ustyug, while the father and his two sons traveled from village to village, doing various kinds of work around the churches, such as renovating and gilding church utensils and ikons, as well as painting the interiors and exteriors of the church buildings.
Like most work, these jobs had their pleasures, drudgery, and dangers. I disliked whitewashing and painting the spacious church ceilings. To accomplish these tasks, I had to remain in various strained positions for hours, with whitewash or paint dripping onto my face and falling into my eyes and ears. In addition, I had to be on guard against falling down from the primitive scaffolding...Later, when I read how Michelangelo painted the immortal frescoes on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, I sympathized with the extraordinary exertions he had to endure to accomplish this gigantic task."
Because of the nature of their work, the father and his sons did not remain for long in the same place, and so Pitirim could not attend elementary school regularly. A peasant woman taught him the three Rs., and subsequent encounters with the intelligentsia of the villages (clergymen, teachers, educated peasants, doctors, etc.) helped him to obtain books:
Somehow or other in this erratic way I acquired elementary school knowledge, increased greatly by my voracious reading of all sorts of books obtainable in the Komi villages. This rapacious reading acquainted me at an early age with the classics of Russian literature. I ead Pushkin, Gogol, Turgenev, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, a few translated classics like Mark Twain's The Prince and the Pauper, some of Charles Dickens' novels, fairy tales and epics, the lives of the saints, religious scriptures, and the elements of history and natural science."
It is interesting here to point out the extent to which even emote Russian villages were supplied with good literature. One of the main reasons was the existence of literary supplements issued to subscribers to the weekly journal, Niva. The publishers would select a classic author of Russian literature; his complete works would then be sent to subscribers as separate paperback volumes each week, together with the latest issue of the journal.
After the death of Pitirim's mother, his father began to drink. Stretches of sobriety lasting for weeks and even months were followed by periods of drunkenness. This resulted in the loss of work and misery for the family. After one of his drinking bouts, he became violent. Snatching a hammer, he struck Pitirim and his brother, producing a numbness in the arm of one and a cut lip on the other. Right then the brothers decided to leave their father and seek work independently (the one was ten years old, the other fourteen), which they did for a couple of years. The father went on living alone and died a year later.
At one time the brothers were working in a village where entrance examinations for an upper-level grade school were being held. After listening to the questions, Pitirim took the examination and passed with flying colors. He enrolled in the school and was given a scholarship of five roubles a year ($2.50), which paid his room and board in the school dormitory. In 1903, after three years at this school, he graduated at the age of fourteen. The authorities were much impressed by his ability and secured for him a modest scholarship at the Teachers Seminary, which was under the Jurisdiction of the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church. This seminary trained teachers for the elementary schools. In August, 1903, he started on the journey to school.
For the first time in my life I traveled by train and steamer, had glimpses of the cities and industrial regions, and shyly observed types of urban people. All this excited, confused, and depressed me. I felt strange in this unfamiliar bustle and environment."
The character of the teachers at the Seminary was different from what one might expect to find in a church-oriented school. Although scholarship was strongly emphasized, there was a lack of formality, and a warm relationship existed between the students and the teachers. The three-year curriculum was quite advanced, and during the first two years Pitirim enjoyed his studies and became a leader among the students.
Since the campus of the school was located near several textile factories, the students often came in contact with a wide variety of people—peasants, factory hands, clerks, clergy, government officials, doctors, writers, journalists, businessmen, leaders of local cooperatives, and representatives, of different political parties. These included Social Revolutionaries, Social Democrats (Bolsheviki and Mensheviki), monarchists, anarchists, liberals, and conservatives of all shades. These contacts, and also his extensive reading in hitherto unknown books, considerably changed Pitirim's outlook on life, and evolutionary ideas began to predominate over those of pure scholarship. He joined the Social Revolutionaries, was soon arrested, and immediately was expelled from school. He was brought to prison in Kineshma on a horse drawn sleigh. To his great surprise, the warden treated him, as all other political prisoners, very well. He permitted them to open their cells for a considerable part of the day and did not prohibit discussions and exchange of books. He even asked Pitirim to do some secretarial work for him, and allowed him access to the telephone, by which he communicated with members of his party.
Soon the jail became the safest place to keep evolutionary propaganda. Thus during the four months of his incarceration Pitirim ead and discussed with his fellow inmates the works of Mikhailovsky, Lavrov, Marx, Engels, Bakunin, Kropotkin, Tolstoy, Plekhanov, Chernov, Lenin, and other evolutionary classics through which he became well acquainted with various evolutionary theories and problems.
After his release from prison under "open supervision by the police," he had no chance to go back to school or to find employment, so he became a professional propagandist for the Social Revolutionary party. His name was changed to "Tovarishch Ivan." He traveled on foot from factory to factory, village to village, organizing meetings, discussing the platform of the party, and calling the people to revolt against the tsarist regime. In torn shoes, without any money, he was a real apostle of Revolution, facing danger and deprivation every minute, having no home, occasionally fed and lodged by sympathizers with the cause, and always on guard against arrest. The meetings at which he spoke attracted the attention of many, often including the police and the Cossacks, who usually charged the crowd with whips and sabers. On one occasion shooting occurred, and several people were killed.
On such encounters the guardian revolutionaries took care to shelter the speakers. Eventually, the search for the elusive Tovarishch Ivan grew very intense, and the party advised him to leave the province. He returned to his aunt among the Komis, but, not finding any work there, decided to move to St. Petersburg.
The decision to go to St. Petersburg was very easy, but the fulfillment required money, of which he had just one rouble. He obtained ten roubles for painting the house of a peasant; and, although the tickets for the steamer and the train would cost sixteen roubles, he decided, nonetheless, to start with his eleven roubles in hand and a basket of provisions from his aunt. The cheapest accommodation on the boat was seven roubles; so, when he reached Vologda to take the train to St. Petersburg, his finances had fallen to four roubles, while the ticket to St. Petersburg cost about eight roubles. His solution was to buy a ticket to the first station, board the train, and travel further in the "rabbit" class, as the ticketless passengers were called. The ticket was good for one inspection of passengers by the conductor; during subsequent inspections Pitirim ode on the steps outside the car. Eventually he was caught, but after hearing of Pitirim's intentions to study in St. Petersburg, the kind-hearted conductor offered him a free passage, if he would agree to help clean the cars and lavatories during the trip.
In St. Petersburg he had a friend named Paul, who worked in a factory and lived in one corner of a room; the three other corners of which were rented respectively to an elderly woman, a young girl, and a fellow worker. The room was very clean and Paul offered to share his corner and meals with Pitirim until he could find a job. All the occupants took an interest in helping the newcomer and suggested that he post a sign at the main entrance to the apartment house offering tutorial and secretarial services for a very low price.
The next afternoon an employee of the central electric station came, interviewed Pitirim, and hired him as a tutor for his two sons, who were students at a gymnasium (high school). In return, he was to live in the room with his pupils, with breakfast and dinner free. His immediate financial problems, therefore, were solved. He had an easy job, room and board, and plenty of free time to prepare for the arduous "examination of matriculation" required for entrance into the University.
Because the tsarist government feared that too many radicals would enter the University, it made the entrance examinations for "externs" particularly difficult, while keeping them comparatively easy for well-to-do students from the gymnasium. Among the Russian intelligentsia there were nevertheless many who wished to further opportunities for talented young people from the laboring and peasant classes, and they organized evening schools with such purposes in mind. One of the liberal intellectuals was a professor of philosophy at the University, Kalistrat Zhakov, whose general background was similar to Pitirim's. It was natural for Pitirim to go to Zhakov for advice on how to enroll in one of those evening schools.
Professor Zhakov's wife was an educator. She taught Russian in one of the progressive private schools, which went by the rather unusual name of the Commerce School of Glagoleva. The teachers of this school wanted to introduce new ideas in education. As these ideas did not fit into the framework of the curriculum under the Department of Education, it was decided therefore to put the progressive school under the jurisdiction of the Department of Commerce, which did not care at all what kind of curriculum the school had.
I was a pupil in the third class in this school and had Mrs. Zhakov as my teacher. It is an interesting coincidence that during the year 1907, while she was teaching me spelling and grammar, she first met and interviewed Pitirim. My family soon moved away to Sevastopol in the south of Russia, and I did not return to St. Petersburg until 1912, when I entered the women's part of St. Petersburg University.
Now, to return to 1907; after Pitirim reached the apartment of Professor Zhakov, his wife opened the door, and, as she told me later in 1912:
There was a country lad, in a Russian shirt, with a small bundle in his hand. To my question as to whom he wanted to see, he answered that he had just arrived from the Komi people and would like to see the Komi professor. When 1 asked where he had left his luggage, the boy pointed to his bundle and said, 'It is here.' Asked whether he had money for his living expenses, he cheerfully answered, 'Yes, I still have fifty kopecks and I have already found a place to live and obtain two daily meals. I am not worried about money. If I need more, I can earn it."
Professor Zhakov arrived soon after this conversation and immediately took great interest in his young countryman. He organized Pitirim's admittance to the school and even procured additional tutorial work for him. Thus there began their lifetime friendship.
During the next two years Pitirim continued to attend the evening school, tutor the boys, and live with the simple, modest family. An interesting passage in his autobiography describes his intellectual growth during these years:
My mental and cultural development was advanced not only by school but also by my avid absorption of the great cultural values collected in St. Petersburg Any great city has, along with an accumulation of hollow and poisonous pseudo-values, a gigantic treasury of universal, eternal, and immortal values stored in its schools and laboratories, cathedrals and libraries, in museums and art galleries, in its theaters and symphony halls, in its great buildings and historical monuments. In this sense a great city is an immense school for man's ennoblement or degradation, for the development or stultification of his creative potentialities. Unfortunately, many urbanites, especially in this age of commercialized and vulgarized pseudo-culture, do not select what they absorb from the great culture of the great city. In such an age huge masses and a crowd of 'sophisticated barbarians' take from this culture—mainly through the press, audio, television, advertising, and other means of communication—empty trivia, glittering nothings, poisonous toys, and shortlived successes."
In 1909 Pitirim successfully passed the "examination of matriculation" and overcame an additional hindrance—the procurement of a "certificate of loyalty" without which people with a evolutionary past could not get anywhere.
In the fall of 1909 Pitirim entered the newly opened Psycho-Neurological Institute. He preferred this school to the University of St. Petersburg, mainly because it offered courses in sociology given by Maxim Maximovich Kovalevsky and E. de Roberty, both international leaders in this field, and sociology was the subject on which he wanted to work. Later on, in 1918, sociology was established at the University of Petrograd, and Pitirim was the organizer of that chair and its first professor.
The first year at the Institute, where contact with his teachers defined the direction his studies would take, was particularly significant to Pitirim. Among these teachers, Maxim Kovalevsky influenced him most. Kovalevsky, an outstanding scholar, was also a very influential figure, a big progressive landowner, and a member of the Russian Senate. Pitirim later became his research assistant and private secretary. Because undergraduates and young scholars in Russian state universities were exempted from military service, whereas students in private schools were not, Pitirim applied in 1910 for transfer to the University of St. Petersburg.
He was accepted in the Law School and was given an excellent stipend. In Russia this school was not only a professional school for training jurists, but also offered the disciplines needed for the study of sociology. Attendance at courses of Russian universities was not obligatory, and the only requirement for course credit was to pass a rigorous oral examination in the subject at the end of a semester or a year. Pitirim writes :
I decided to attend only those courses in which (a) the professor offered something original, (b) where this original theory or knowledge was important or significant, and (c) his theory was not yet published."
He attended just one "half" course during his four years at the University. His contact with the professors was mainly through the seminars, where brilliant intellectual discussion often took place and where Pitirim achieved early recognition as a leader.
I met Pitirim Sorokin for the first time at the Zhakovs, who had literary gatherings in their apartment every month. Liberal intelligentsia, writers, poets, political leaders, students, and others spent pleasant evenings there having tea with sandwiches and enjoying literary readings and music. On one occasion I remember a maid entering the room and announcing that the police had arrived. Thereupon several policemen and a gendarme officer began to search the premises and make lists of all the people present. After the gendarme checked my identification he asked: "How is it that a nice young lady like you is mingling with this crowd of Subversives?" To which I replied hotly, that it was none of his business, and that I preferred the company of these people to that of ruffians like himself. Nobody was arrested that time, and after the meeting ended Pitirim took me home.
During the next few years we met from time to time, either going together to the theatre, to a concert or public lecture, or for a long walk with a group of friends to Krestovskie Ostrova (Islands on the River Neva) and other parks, which were favorite recreation places in Petersburg. Then again at times we would drift apart and not see each other, since both of us were preoccupied with our own interests. Pitirim began to write in various journals and also to work on his first volume, Crime and Punishment, Service and Reward, which was published later in 1914, when he graduated from the University of Petersburg. As for myself, I was busy with laboratory work and in making preparations for scientific expeditions in which I participated during several summer vacations after my second year in college.
Meanwhile, Pitirim did not neglect his political activities and associations with the Social Revolutionary Party. He participated in the educational work of the latter and gave free evening lectures to steel workers of Putilovskii Zavod, instructing them in social studies and the doctrine of the party.
Nation-wide student demonstrations occurred after the death of Leo Tolstoy in November, 1910, and the police attempted to suppress these disorders by mass arrests, imprisonments, and banishments. Due to the vigilance of party members, Pitirim was warned about the impending encounter with the police and was advised to escape for a while abroad, thus successfully eluding "the archangels." The sympathizers arranged for Pitirim to accompany a tuberculous patient to the Italian Riviera and provided him with a false passport and the uniform of a student of the Military Medical Academy. They even drilled him on how to salute and handle the sword.
His last imprisonment by the tsarist regime took place in 1913, the tercentenary year of the Romanov dynasty in Russia. At the request of the party he wrote a critical pamphlet about the crimes, misdeeds, and misrules of this dynasty. Unfortunately, there was an agent-provacateur among the revolutionaries who informed the police, and on arriving at his room late one evening in March he found the 'archangels' (as the gendarmes were nicknamed by revolutionaries) waiting for him there. They promptly arrested him and took him to a prison frequently used for the incarceration of political offenders. To ensure a peaceful celebration of the jubilee, the authorities kept Pitirim in prison for three weeks. They then released him after failing to find proof that he actually wrote the pamphlet, and after Kovalevsky and other influential persons demanded his release. Actually, Pitirim did not much mind the prison at this time—it was clean and comfortable, there was a good library, and, besides, he had lots of time to study. Some times later in his life, he would compare Communist and tsarist prisons in this way: those of the Communists were like the inferno, while the tsarist prisons were like purgatory.
After graduation from the University in 1914, Pitirim stayed on to prepare for a professorship Scholars appointed to that position were given an excellent stipend, were required to fulfil a very thorough study of their subject, pass a rigorous examination, and defend a public dissertation on the selected theme. For example, Pitirim took as his subject criminal law and procedure. The professor of criminal law gave him about 500 titles to read in Russian and in foreign languages: in addition 250 titles were selected in the field of criminal procedure, and 150 titles in constitutional law Some of these titles, such as the German Vergleichende Darstellung of criminal law and procedure comprised one hundred volumes. All these works had to be read and digested within three or four years.
With his extraordinary capacity for work, Pitirim concluded the assigned readings within an unprecedented period of two years, passed four stiff examinations, each lasting four hours or more, and received the degree of Magister of Criminal Law and Procedure. During these years Pitirim and I met quite frequently, being very much in love with each other, but the question of marriage and family did not occur to us.
In February, 1917, the Revolution broke out, quite suddenly, and disrupted for several months the quiet scientific life of the University. There were some preliminary rumblings before, such as the defeat of the army and accusations of treason in high places, including the Tsarina, and the murder of Rasputin, but the real storm approached when the women went out into the streets and with shouts of, "bread, bread," began to break down the windows of stores and anything else in their way. The crowd grew to enormous proportions, and the police, being unable to cope with the situation, called for help from the soldiers. The latter refused to fire into the crowd, and one regiment after another began to change their position and support the revolutionaries. These soldiers were not the regulars of the regiments but newly conscripted men who were waiting to be sent to the front. This probably explains their early surrender to the evolution. The Duma (the Russian House of Representatives) soon became the center of attraction for all revolutionaries.
As soon as the news, had reached my University, I stopped whatever I was doing, and, climbing on a truck full of soldiers, drove with them through the streets of Petrograd, where shooting still continued, to the Smolnyii Institute—the new center of the Revolution. For three or four days I helped distribute food to those who came there after fighting on the streets. Supplies arrived immediately by trucks and students began preparing food in field kitchens. Others served the meals and washed the dishes. After some thirty six hours of work, I fell asleep on huge bags of salt. Why these were sent to the temporary eating place I do not understand. Every minute we heard most exciting news, such as the abdication of the Tsar, the fall of the last strongholds of the regime, and the formation of different stages of the Provisional Government.
The Social Revolutionary party played a very important ole during the existence of the Provisional Government, which, however, lasted only eight months, and Pitirim was one of the most prominent leaders of the party during that time. In his book, Leaves from a Russian Diary, published originally in 1924, and then republished with additions in 1950, he described the February Revolution in great detail.
For both of us personally it was a very important time, since we decided to get married on the 21st of May, 1917. To please my father's old fashioned views on the subject of marriage, we were wedded in a Russian cathedral, but with only three required witnesses, one of whom was my sister, and the two others, two close friends of Pitirim. Immediately after the ceremony, Pitirim had to leave us and go to a very important meeting with the War Secretary, while the two friends, my sister, and I went to a restaurant for dinner. The two friends also had important engagements elsewhere, and so my sister and I landed in a movie, and only late that night did I see my husband. We did not have any honeymoon, and after a week of our married life I had to go away for the whole summer (because of previous commitments) to engage in exploring the meadows along the Volga River and its tributaries.
On my return from the summer project, we rented a furnished apartment which had belonged before the Revolution to a general who had fled south to join the White Army. With the apartment there came the general's cook and the guardian of his property. This arrangement was very satisfactory for us because it relieved us from all the burdens of housekeeping, and at the same time we got very good meals at home. During this time Pitirim was extremely busy; besides being private secretary and consultant to Prime Minister Kerensky, he was also a member of the Soviet of Peasant Deputies.
He was also elected, by three million votes, a member of the Constitutional Assembly (Uchreditelnoe Sobranie) from the Province of Vologda; and before the opening of that body, he participated in the Committee for Elaboration of Rules and Procedures. These meetings often took place in our spacious apartment. On top of this he was also one of the three editors-in-chief of Volya Naroda, the official daily newspaper of the right wing of the Social Revolutionary Party.
As for myself, I worked on the reports of the botanical expeditions, since by then I was one of the principal figures in it.
The October Revolution came without particularly surprising anyone. An orderly parliamentary procedure coupled with a reluctance to arrest fellow socialists (Bolsheviki) who propagandized against them, were characteristic of the Provisional Government. Meanwhile, the Bolsheviks spoke for abolishing the death penalty for everyone, including the soldiers on the front; they promised to end the war at once, to nationalize the banks, the factories, all private property, and to divide everything among the people. All this fascinated the crowds, and the end of the honest democratic government was inevitable.
After the victory of the Communists, Kerensky escaped, but other members of the Provisional Government were jailed in the Bastille of Petrograd, the Fortress of Peter and Paul (Petropavlovskaya Krepost), and two of them were murdered in the prison without any court procedure. At first the Communists did not touch Socialist members of the government, thus Pitirim remained free and began to attack the Communists vigorously in Volya Naroda. The Communists etaliated by closing the paper. The next day the same paper appeared under a different name and continued to appear, always changing names, a few days longer. Soon it was January, 1918, the date scheduled for the opening of the Constitutional Assembly. Pitirim was among those asked to give an opening speech, but the delegates were met by armed soldiers, who declared that the Assembly had been permanently dispersed. On entering the office of the newspaper Volya Naroda, Pitirim and his coeditor Argunov were captured by the Bolsheviks and led to the Fortress of Peter and Paul. Learning about his arrest, I immediately went to the Cheka, that infamous "Special Commission for the Fight against Counterrevolution and Speculation."
During the early days of the Cheka's existence, it was comparatively easy to get inside its headquarters, which had endless corridors and passages. Formerly, this building had been headquarters of the tsarist secret service, called "Okhranka," already familiar to many revolutionaries. As I was walking through its dimly lit corridors, I was startled to encounter a tall, lean man with a large head, disheveled graying hair, a stern face, and penetrating eyes. In a deep voice he asked me who I was, and why I was there. To my answer that I was the wife of Pitirim Sorokin, just arrested, and wanted to know where he was, and was the charge what, he replied that Pitirim was arrested under suspicion of an attempt to assassinate Lenin, that he was in the Fortress of Peter and Paul, and would I convey the message to the leaders of the Social Revolutionary party that, if they attempted anything like this again, they would be destroyed. 1 later learned that this man was the famed Tovarishch Dzerzhinsky, terrorist and executioner of hundreds of thousands of innocent people.
I conveyed the message to the party leaders, and after hearing it they told me it was all nonsense, that Lenin had been riding in a car and become frightened by the sound of a tire blow-out.
"The Bastille of Petrograd" soon filled to capacity with representatives of all former regimes and leading members of all political parties, except naturally the Communists and their allies. Pitirim's prosecutors of tsarist days now shared the same prison with him. Life in the Fortress has been vividly described in Pitirim's Leaves from a Russian Diary. I was allowed to visit him daily and to bring him food, books, and news concerning his case. In my efforts to secure his release I was greatly helped by an old evolutionary who returned from years of hard labor in Siberia. He belonged to the party of Internationalists, who cooperated with the Bolsheviki; nonetheless, he bravely opposed the methods of the Cheka. Proving to the Commissar of Justice that the charges were nonsensical, he succeeded in obtaining the release of Pitirim and Argunoff. This imprisonment lasted for fifty-seven days.
Soon after Pitirim's release, we moved to Moscow and later to Velikii Ustyug, where various groups opposed to the Bolsheviki were making plans to form an anti-Communist government to be organized in Arkhangelsk on the White Sea. The Bolsheviki were to be overthrown by local peasant forces with the help English and American troops. The Russian forces were to start the action in and about Velikii Ustyug in the province uf Vologda, and then the leaders were to move on to Arkhangelsk. Nothing came of this enterprise except that the Bolsheviki only increased their terror and persecutions.
Indeed, the terror spread all over the northern region. In Arkhangelsk alone Commissar Kedrov executed people by the hundreds and thousands, and every day we read in the newspapers figures like these : twenty-eight counterrevolutionaries have been executed in Yaroslavl, fifteen in Vologda, and so on. Who were those counterrevolutionaries? Village and small-town intelligentsia, small merchants, students, and peasants who resisted the requisition of the last sack of grain and the seizure of the last horse or cow.
Pitirim was very well known in Velikii Ustyug, and his chance to escape persecution was small; for a while he hid in different villages, but this soon became impossible, since detachments of Communist soldiers began to penetrate everywhere. Willi another coworker, he fled into the woods, where they walked from place to place picking berries and mushrooms, their main diet, and slept on the soft moss, or made primitive shelters from boughs of spruce to keep off the rain. From time to time they dared to enter a nearby village in order to contact a peasant they knew and to get some provisions. Several times Pitirim's younger brother and I walked some ten to fifteen miles to an agreed on rendezvous, carrying supplies for the fugitives in our knapsacks.
But the days grew shorter, and after the first snow it became impossible to hide in the woods any longer because footprints could not be obliterated and no more food could be found in the forest. Pitirim decided it would be better to surrender to the Cheka than be shot by a detachment of soldiers in the woods. He wrote a letter in which he pointed out that, although he had been elected representative in the Constitutional Assembly by more than three million votes from the Vologda province, and although he fought for these rights, he recognized that he nonetheless had been defeated, that he no longer wished to be involved in politics, and only desired to return to scientific work.
Knowing that the authorities were looking for him, he returned to Velikii Ustyug to surrender. Fortunately for Pitirim, the local authorities were not aware that he had participated in the events in Arkhangelsk. They told him that he was persecuted because he was an enemy of the people, and as such ought to be shot immediately; but since his principal activity has been carried on in Petrograd and also Moscow, they would inquire of the Central Cheka what 10 do with him. "You are too big a fish for us."
He was conducted to prison and put into a common cell with about thirty people, half of whom were students, teachers, lawyers, clergy, and merchants, and the other half, peasants. There were no beds, mattresses, chairs, or benches in this cell. People were sitting or lying on their ages spread out on the floor. Two of them were delirious from typhoid, and others were hunting lice on their bodies. In the evening the execution squad would come and read a list of people to be taken away to be shot. Protesters and hysterical people were shot right in the cell. In one case a man by the name of Feodor Petrov was called, to which he responded that he was Petrov, but his first name was Nikolai, to which the executioner answered, that it made no difference, and took the man away. After a while this man returned in a state of shock and eventually told the inmates that just before giving the order to fire the executioner had asked him what his name was again. Checking his list and finding the difference, he canceled the execution. Later on Pitirim was transferred to a single cell, and one evening he had a strange visitor: the local Commissar of Justice. This official told Pitirim that he was his former student at a worker's evening school in Petrograd, that he really owed his education to Pitirim, and although their present views were different, he would go to Moscow and testify what valuable service Pitirim had performed for the factory workers.
He would try to inform the authorities, and eventually Lenin, about Pitirim's plight. Meanwhile, the daily executions continued, and more prisoners arrived each day. I was permitted to see Pitirim only occasionally, but we had a silent agreement with one of the guards at the prison that every morning I would come to the gate bringing a quart of milk; if the guard took the milk, it means that Pitirim was still alive. Sometimes 1 would bring a big pot roast to be shared by the prisoners, telling the guard it was horse meat, which it was not. The deceit was necessary in order to make sure that the meat reached the prisoners and was not consumed by the guards. The Russian peasants simply would not eat horse meat.
One day Pitirim's brother came home from his work and told me he just had seen a group led to execution that included Pitirim's oldest friend, but he assured me that Pitirim was not there. In retrospect, I now wonder how I survived all these horrors and anxieties!
After a few weeks Pitirim was transferred to the common cell and was permitted to go out in a chain gang to repair the pavements and clean the streets. He was very happy about this, since he had fresh air to breathe and a chance to see me, if only from a distance.
On my regular visits to the Cheka for permits to see Pitirim in prison, I was treated very roughly, and frequently was refused. One day I was amazed to find the Cheka chief smiling and extremely polite. He offered me a seat. The thought flashed through my mind : "He is shot, and this is the last mockery," and I could not believe my ears when he said:
– "Do you know that Lenin himself called us here on a direct wire from the Kremlim and inquired what was the local accusation against Pitirim?
Hearing that there was no specific case against him, he ordered Pitirim to be taken to Moscow at once under safeguard and guaranteed his life. He has left this morning for Moscow in the company of two guards." These two guards were the executioners. The official also told me that I could follow Pitirim in a day or two.
Velikii Ustyug had no ailroad. In summer, communication with the rest of the world was by steamer, and in the winter, one had to go by horses to Kotlas, the nearest ail center. I therefore hired a big sleigh drawn by three horses (troika) and covered with furry robes, I started my journey with a joyful heart, leaving behind all the horrible experiences of the recent past. For the first time I experienced that manner of travel, about which I had read in so many Russian novels.
On arriving in Moscow, I went to the apartment of our mutual friends. Seeing Pitirim's ragged and dirty jacket hanging in the front hall, I realized that he was free and rushed into the room to embrace him. He told me that after he was brought to Moscow he was freed and told to call on Tovarishch Lunacharsky, the Commissar of Public Instruction and Education. The latter offered Pitirim the position of Public Education for Northern Russia.
"I am grateful that Lenin and you saved my life," Pitirim told Lunacharsky but declined the position and indicated that, although he was defeated in his struggle with the Communists, his ideas of education remained unchanged and were different from theirs, and therefore he asked just to be allowed to do some scientific work in his selected field, sociology. This was granted, and in a few days we moved to Petrograd to resume our contact with the University.
Thus after the turbulent year of 1918, we arrived in Petrograd-Leningrad with the intent to leave politics aside and resume our interrupted academic careers. Pitirim was welcomed by his colleagues and elected to organize a chair of sociology and to be its first Professor. On my part, I was left at the University to prepare for a professional career in the field of botany and was given a list of books to study for the Magister degree. The biology requirements were not as difficult as those for the law students.
A dear friend of ours invited us to share her apartment with her, and in a short time our problem of work and living quarters was settled. During this time the Communist government tried to create a real Communist society in the country which had been defeated in World War I and was devastated.
This experiment was a complete failure; and the Communist society lasted only until the Kronstadt rebellion of the sailors in 1921. After this Lenin introduced the New Economic Policy, NEP, which permitted elements of private ownership. Since both Pitirim and I were involuntary members of the Communist society, we experienced all its deprivations, including starvation. This is how we lived at that time.
The University of Petrograd, the Academy of Science, and many other scientific and technical schools were located on Vasilievsky Ostrov (a district of Petrograd), which reminded me of American cities in the grid arrangement of its streets; the parallel streets, called "lines," were designated by numbers.
The buildings were mostly apartment houses, five to six floors closely joined, but each had a separate inner courtyard, which could be reached through an iron gate. The front entrance had an elevator, the ear entrance lacked one. However, during the time I am describing, the elevator did not work, because the electric power was cut off. There was no central heating. In the past the apartments had been heated by wood, in the famous Russian stoves constructed of brick and faced with glazed tiles. These stoves retained the heat very well even during the coldest weather. The wood was carried daily by the custodian (dvornik) on his back to all the floors of the apartment house.
However, at the time T am writing about there was no wood available for people to use in heating their apartments, and therefore the water pipes froze in practically all of the houses and the electric power was cut off. The winter of 1918-1919 was exceptionally cold. We lived at that time on the fifth floor apartment of Madame Darmolatova, a dear friend of ours; she had asked us to move in partly in order to prevent the intrusion of strangers, who could be ordered to move in under the ordinance of the District Soviets, which allotted a certain amount of living space per person. The house in which we lived had been confiscated from the previous owners, and had become the property of the government, which collected no rent. Each house had a commissar, whose duty was to register the tenant's passports with the police, to watch the activities of the people, to report any suspicious doings, and to appoint representatives of each apartment for night duty at the gates of the yard.
Since the front entrances of the apartment complex were permanently closed, the only way a person could enter his home was through the yard gates, which after midnight were locked by heavy bolts and keys. As a result, people usually did not venture outdoors at night, and thus a natural curfew came about. The only people seen out of doors after midnight were the Cheka detachments of the Special Commission, who were constantly engaged in a outline search for counterrevolutionaries and speculators, and sometimes they had orders to arrest specified individuals. On one memorable occasion the husband of Madame D's daughter Nadya was on night duty at the gate, when he saw a patrol approaching; and, since the house commissar was not there, he rang the bell to our apartment, signaling the approaching search. Naturally, we immediately hid the few little treasures we still had and were ready for the Red Guards. The electric light appeared simultaneously with the approach of undesirable visitors, because during a search electric power was connected.
This time they were searching for arms, hidden food, or jewelry, but fortunately not for my husband. Since at the latitude of Petrograd darkness comes early in December and January, and since kerosene was not available for the old fashioned lamps, human ingenuity created koptilka, which means something that burns with smoke. This was a simple device of a little jar with its wick through a cork. It consumed very little kerosene and produced a very dim light. This was the illumination under which a considerable part of Hunger as a Factor was written.
As I mentioned above, the plumbing system was completely frozen. We could use the sewer pipes, but the water had to be carried up five flights from the hydrant in the yard, and therefore water was used sparingly. In the morning we had to break the ice in the pail. Since the temperature was the same in the house as outdoors, and since in January, in Petrograd, forty below zero is not unusual, the people had to invent something to warm the house and to cook food. In this way the famous burzhuika (the feminine gender of bourgeois) was invented. This was a little sheet-iron stove with a long pipe which passed through a round hole cut in the window pane. Anything could be burned in this stove. But since there was no wood available, even the little needed for the small stove, books, furniture, and wooden pavement blocks were broken up and used as fuel. (Many streets in Petrograd were paved with octagonal wooden blocks.) Even this wood could be obtained only when the militia was not in sight.
On one occasion we received notification that wood was to be distributed to citizens at the District Soviet. I took my sled and went there to obtain a slip indicating where to get my quota of wood. On arrival at the spot indicated in my order, I found neither any store of wood, nor anybody to distribute it.
As I turned to go back home, I noticed three sailors gaily approaching the place. They had the Aurora written on their hats with long floating streamers. The cruiser Aurora had stormed the "Winter Palace during the February Revolution, and was one reason for the downfall of the tsarist regime. Since then the sailors from Aurora had a privileged position, like the geese that saved Rome, Trotsky had called them: "The Beauty and the Pride of the Russian Revolution." Noticing that these "beauties" carried heavy tools and gear for breaking things, I stopped and asked them: "Where do I get the wood according to this order?" They looked at me and said: "This house,-' which prior to the evolution had obviously belonged to some wealthy owner, a bourgeois (burzhui) in current terminology. Before I had time to wonder why we were to destroy such a fine building, the wreckers had already made a big gap in the side of it. The sailors were very efficient and powerful in destruction. They gave me a door and a few planks, and I went back home wondering how to get this door up the stairs and also how to saw it. My husband met me at the gate and easily carried the door up to the fifth floor. Late into the night the monotonous sound of our dull saw could be heard, but at last we had enough wood fuel for our burzhuika to heat some water for a bath and to wash our underwear.
Officially, we were both connected with the University. My husband was the founder of the chair and the first professor of sociology, while I was an aspirant in botany. Russian universities did not have graduate students. The requirements for graduation were much higher than in European universities, and those who wanted to continue their university career and had the ability were elected as aspirants. The duty of an aspirant was to study the selected subject, to write an original thesis, and to pass a rigorous examination in two or three years, for the degree of Magister. Under normal conditions this was an excellent system in which the young scholar was not burdened by prescribed courses and teaching of undergraduates. He or she could dedicate full time to study, since there was an adequate stipend connected with the position; but under the conditions I am describing both the salary of the professor and the stipend of the aspirant were worth nothing. It is true we received paper money, thousands of roubles of it, but could not buy even the proverbial pound of bread on the black market.
The most important remuneration for work during this period was the ration card. There were three categories: the physical workers got the first; the intellectuals, the artists, the teachers, the office workers, etc., received the second; and the parasites of society (housewives and old people), especially those of bourgeois origin, were given the third. I suppose the housewives were included in the third category because in the Communist society everybody had to work, and since the children had to be placed in children's homes, and all meals were taken in public halls, there was little for the housewife to do at home. The walls of the dining halls were decorated with the slogans: "Who does not work, does not eat," and "Proletarians of the whole world unite."
The holders of cards of the first category got about one pound of black bread per day, those of the second, half a pound, and the third, one quarter of a pound. The bread contained a large amount of additives, such as bran (which was good), and chaff (which was very bad). People also received, monthly, two pounds of sugar, some vegetables, oil, and frozen potatoes; but the main meals were distributed in the dining halls (stolovki), where every person had to register his card beforehand. Most often the first course was a soup made of water, a small amount of cabbage, and salted herring; the second course was millet cereal. In Eastern Europe millet is used as food for man and fowls, but in the United States it is grown chiefly as fodder for animals. Later on, the Soviet citizenry had so much millet gruel that, when a modernistic sculptor made a bust of Karl Marx with his jutting beard, somebody plastered the beard with this cereal and inscribed: "Eat it yourself."
Even persons of the first category could not live on the rations received, and either they obtained extra rations as privileged Party members (Communist), or as a worker in one of the factories, or else speculated on the black market. The middle aged and the elderly intellectuals suffered the most.
Physically, they were not strong enough to go through the risky adventures of obtaining food from the speculators. (After all, the Cheka detachments and the militia were busy all the time.) Therefore these people just died from hunger. Daily on the streets one could see mournful processions of people heavily pulling a sled with the coffin of their beloved one in the direction of the cemetery.
With the exception of the official trucks and other automobiles, there was very little traffic on the streets. The street cars were functioning, and the ride was free. However, it was very difficult to get into the cars, because they were packed to capacity, and many people were hanging on the steps and the bumpers. Deserters from the front who did not go home to their villages were seeking opportunity in the city and meanwhile they took rides on the streetcars for pleasure. Later, all these idle people were sent to their destinations, and then ides became possible. The majority, however, just walked along the snow covered streets wearing their valenki (peasant felt boots), which were warm and soft and well suited for the purpose. Once I saw a ballerina perform a dance in such boots.
Our daily activities were conditioned by hunger. The first thing in the morning we had to bring water from a hydrant in the yard and carry it to the fifth floor. Then we had to prepare on the burzhuika tea, or coffee (so called, made from roasted wheat grain), after which we had to stand in a long line for the daily ration of bread. Furthermore, we had to walk about two miles to the University dining hall, where our cards were registered, to have dinner.
The evening meal could be taken out and carried home. Since we had been for some time on a near starvation diet, and since the energy spent on all this walking and other activities had to be replenished, the thought of how to get more food was never out of my mind. In sub-chapter five of the book Hunger as a Factor in Human Affairs.  "Deformation in the Totality of Mental Life and Personality," my husband wrote of a considerable decline in his mental capacity during March and April of 1919, which he attributed to deficiency starvation. In spite of this Pitirim remained a keen observer of human behavior and current events, and continued writing, as well as pursuing other intellectual activities. As for myself, I temporarily abandoned my work on geobotany and ecology, the material for which I had collected during the previous three summers on expeditions along the Volga river, and devoted myself entirely to the illegal procurement of food.
For one thing, there were the black markets, where barter flourished, but frequent aids by the militia made this adventure hazardous. There were also speculators operating in their apartments. Friends gave you the addresses, which were frequently changed, but this operation had its own risk. The speculators were often caught and arrested, and then a special agent usually was left in the apartment to catch unwary customers. Fortunately, I was not caught in any of my visits. At the speculators, and at different times, it was possible to obtain flour, butter, cereal, potatoes, and meat. The exchange was in the form of barter for linen, rings, dresses, or whatever goods had escaped seizure by the Communists. The city speculators charged a very high price.
In order to obtain a more profitable trade for one's belongings, it was necessary to go to the villages. Once my friend and I devised such a plan. Because travel on the railroad was free, requiring only an official permit, or kommandirovka, from the place one worked, we went to the commissar of the University. He was a young sailor (a replacement for a highly esteemed former president) and we told him that we had to travel to the Novgorod province to get samples of wheat from different peasants in order to study the amount of weeds in the samples of grain. Whether he believed us or not, I do not know, but we got the permit and an official certificate with his signature. I prepared a number of small bags and labeled them with the names of fictitious peasants.
My friend, however, did not bother to do this, and took just one big bag. We traveled by freight train. On the outside of the car was written: "forty people, or eight horses." There were no seats; we just sat on the floor. After two or three hours of travel, we arrived at the station we had in mind and proceeded to the homes of the peasants, whom we knew, and concluded our barter.
I put the wheat into my prepared bags and carried them openly in a basket. My friend became apprehensive, because she had no special bags, and so she decided to hide her wheat in her coat by pinning the bag to the front of her dress. No sooner had we-arrived at the station to take the train home, than the Red militiaman grabbed her and exclaiming the word, "wheat" led her to the commissar of the station. I followed her, and when our turn came to address the commissar (as there were many ahead of us who had been caught) I stepped forward, showed the commissar my permit, and said: "Tovarishch, I cannot understand what is the matter with the tovarishch Red militiaman. Apparently he cannot read. Here is the official certificate from the University commissar, testifying that we need this grain for our research, here is his official signature, and the seal of the University." To which the station commissar replied: "Ignorance, ignorance, what can you do about it?" And he let us go. So we went safely home and had wheat kasha for many days. Later we made several similar trips, but they were uneventful.
Soon it was customary for scientific people to be attached to more than one institution, and particularly to the agricultural academies, which had experimental farms, and provided dividends in the form of produce and meat.
Pitirim and I were both in the staff of the Institute of Agronomy. On one occasion we heard that meat would be distributed to the staff members of the workers at a certain place. I took my sled and went to Kamenny Ostrov (another part of Petrograd) some miles away. On arrival I was told to go to the barn and help myself to meat. I opened the door of the barn, and to my amazement saw corpses of eight frozen horses lying on their backs with their feet in the air. Soon people came, apparently from the animal husbandry department, and began to saw and dismember the horse flesh. I received for my portion a nice piece of the rump; and when the man in charge told us that we could have extra pieces (heads and feet), I took some for my friends, and for them it was the greatest of gifts.
Living conditions improved as spring approached. The pipes of our house did not burst during winter frost, therefore; after the thaw, we had some running water. The District Soviet announced that people were welcome to work in the communal kitchen gardens. This work was remunerated by produce, adjusted to the amount of time spent at work. Here again the workers were divided into categories, and the physical workers got the highest award. We both were in the first category, Pitirim for his heavy work, heavy digging, and I as an expert in agronomy because of my instructorship at the Institute of Agronomy.
Dining that summer I received a more substantial post at the farm of the Institute in Tsarskoe Selo, now called Detskoe Selo, because a great number of children's homes were moved there from Petrograd. It was twenty-one kilometers from Petrograd, and the trains functioned efficiently. I was in charge of the geobotanical experimental station. The Institute of Agronomy received for its use the farm which before the evolution supplied dairy products to the imperial court. The Alexandrovsky Palace (the suburban real residence of Tsar Nicholas II) was just half a mile away. All the buildings surrounding the palace were given to the Institute to house their laboratories and provide living facilities for students and faculty. I received a two-room apartment originally occupied by guards of the Tsar's palace, a sufficient amount of wood to heat it, some milk and produce from the farm, and a good plot of land on which to raise potatoes and vegetables for the next winter.
I was registered at the Institute under my maiden name but had an official egistration with the police in Petrograd under my married name. This was done intentionally, so that the Cheka would not know where Pitirim lived. Indeed, the Cheka came several times to the apartment of Madam D. with the order to arrest Pitirim, but every time they were given the same answer: "I do not know where he is." As they were seeking to arrest many others, they did not pursue the search for Pitirim, and we continued to live in Tsarskoe Selo until our banishment in 1922.
During the first part of 1922, Pitirim became very popular among the students of the University and other schools in Leningrad. His volume Sistema Sociologii, published in 1920, was widely read, and his lectures were well attended. This greatly displeased the authorities, and even Lenin wrote two articles in Izvestia to the effect that people like Pitirim Sorokin and others were corrupting youth and therefore ought to be expelled from the U.S.S.R.
Banishment abroad for political adversaries, other than assignment to hard labor in Siberia and elsewhere, – was suggested by Lenin in a series of newspaper articles. This unexpected attitude was interpreted by many contemporaries as a desire of the Soviet Union to appear humanitarian and thus deserving of recognition by European countries. These articles by Lenin gave Pitirim the, idea of applying for a permanent exit visa. However, he knew that the Cheka officials in Leningrad, headed by Zinoviev, would rather kill him than let him go abroad, he decided to go to Moscow to try to get the desired banishment decree. Meanwhile the Central Government of Moscow issued an order to exile some two hundred and fifty intellectuals (professors of social science, philosophy, and history, as well as various leaders of cooperative movements). Learning of this, Pitirim, who was in Moscow at that time, went to see two of his friends from student days, now very important Communists. One was Karakhan, acting Minister of Foreign Affairs, and the other was a political strategist named Pyatakov. They received Pitirim in a friendly manner and even had an open discussion about the political development in the U.S.S.R. They felt that the ultimate national goals they espoused were not very different from those envisaged by Pitirim. Only the rates of attainment recommended were different. They maintained that a fast pace of political development was necessary at the time, but opined that eventually it would slow down, at which time U.S.S.R. would invite people like Pitirim to come back and work for the good of the country. Little did they know that in the near future, during Stalin's purge, they would be shot themselves.
Pitirim got his passport with Expulsee written in French, and visas for several countries in Europe. I was allowed to go with him. He wired me to liquidate everything we had and come to Moscow in two days, which I did in a hurry. We were given free passage to the Soviet border, under escort of an armed Red Chekist. I was in a daze after the Red Guard descended from the train at the border station, and I had to pinch myself to realize that this was not a dream, and that we were free. We had enough money to buy a ticket to Berlin and a few dollars for the first days there (which we had obtained before on the black market), but what we were to do after this had not crossed our minds. On arriving in Berlin, we went to a Russian emigre newspaper and learned there that our banishment had made front-page news everywhere.
Soon Pitirim received an invitation from President Massaryk of Czechoslovakia to come to Prague. Pitirim had known Massaryk since the time of the Provisional Government, when the latter came to seek the support of Russia for the creation of an independent Czechoslovakia. Massaryk offered Pitirim a stipend, asked him to stay in the country as long as he wished, and encouraged him to write whatever he wanted. In Prague we found a comfortable oom, in which Pitirim began to write some of his impressions of the Revolution; and I began to work at the Charles University on my doctorate.
Within a year of our stay in Prague, Pitirim received an invitation from Edward C. Hayes of the University of Illinois and Edward A. Ross of the University of Wisconsin to come to the U.S.A. for a tour of lectures with round-trip expenses paid. Pitirim was willing to do it, but there was one slight handicap : he did not speak English (he read it, of course). It happened, however, that during one of our dinner invitations to the presidential palace in Hradchany we met the then president of Vassar College, Henry Noble MacCracken. He invited Pitirim to come to Vassar before his lecture tour, to learn to speak English. Pitirim arrived in the U.S.A. in October, 1923, pursuing the invitation, and spent a delightful three months at Vassar, attending classes and social events in the college. At the end of his stay he delivered in English his first lecture on sociology. After the lecture tour he received an invitation from the University of Minnesota to give a summer school course of lectures. Thus the prospects of his permanent settlement in the U.S.A. became very good. He wired me to come and sent me money. I arrived in New York on March 24, 1924. In August we moved to Minneapolis, where Pitirim had been offered a full professorship, initially for one year, after which it would be a permanent post.
As the boat on which I sailed from Europe came to the landing pier in New York, I saw the face of my beloved husband peeping through the railings, radiant with joy when he perceived me. I was a beautiful beginning for our new life in America. We took a taxi to Pennsylvania station and from there a train to Long Island, where he had rented a small house belonging to Russian friends who had gone away on vacation. When the train emerged from the tunnel under the East River, I looked through the window unable to believe my eyes. Papers, cans, boxes, and all sorts of debris were scattered everywhere along the tracks. This contrasted sharply with European cities, and even Russian cities, which at that time were very clean Soon the train stopped at Laurelton, where we got off. We had some luggage, but there were no taxis available. A man who had just delivered sacks of flour to a store, on seeing our plight, offered us a ride in his truck. We accepted with gratitude. When we arrived at our destination, our coats were covered with flour dust. We joked about it later.
Soon after my arrival Pitirim went to teach summer school at the University of Minnesota. Since this engagement was to be very short, I did not go with him, but went instead to Columbia University and, without being enrolled in the graduate school, began to work in the Department of Botany on my thesis. Things were much simpler fifty years ago. Later, when Pitirim was offered a full professorship for one year at the University of Minnesota, I joined him in Minneapolis. On entering the graduate school there, again I did not encounter any formalities, though I had no documents.
Our life in Minnesota was very fruitful, even significant, and delightful. Pitirim began to develop his creativity to the full, and we formed lifelong friendships. He was extremely popular with the graduate students, because he always tried to inspire independent thinking, to encourage discussion during his lectures as well as elsewhere, when on fishing and camping trips with students in the summer, and in the fall and winter sharing their athletic exercises. Thus many American scholars received their first inspiration from their association with Pitirim.
We enjoyed social life in Minneapolis. We went to parties, entertained friends, attended concerts, lectures, picnics, and other events. During summer vacations we went on camping trips to the parks of northern Minnesota, Colorado, and Wyoming. On some of these trips the Carle C. Zimmermans went with us, and on others other members of the faculty accompanied us.
There was one activity of university life that Pitirim disliked: Commencement exercises. He never attended them, either in Minnesota or at Harvard University. When I was getting my doctoral degree at the Commencement of 1925 (which took place in the football stadium), he arrived there expecting to do his run on the track and was very much surprised to see a big crowd. On being told that this was Commencement, he exclaimed, "Oh, my wife, she is getting her degree!"
This attitude toward me was not because he did not believe in my achievements—quite the contrary, he did, and always encouraged my scientific work; but he felt that as equal partners in our mutual life each of us might pursue professional interests in different fields quite independently. My interests were so specialized that he did not know anything about them, and felt no need to learn about them. For my part, I did not know much about sociology, so we were quite "liberated," and our guests never had to listen to "shop" talk. We regretted leaving Minnesota after pleas-ant years, but were reconciled by prospects for future creative work and by the fact that many of Pitirim's students followed him and enrolled in the graduate school of Harvard University.
In comparison with the University of Minnesota, faculty life at Harvard was more sophisticated, more interesting, but less cordial. At dinner parties, which were often quite elaborate, the conversation was often brilliant, and Pitirim was usually the center of attention. Probably this was because of his great and widely ranging erudition.
Our two sons Peter and Sergei were born soon after we settled in Massachusetts. This entirely changed our way of life. We bought a very pleasant house, adjacent to a large forest reservation in the suburb of Winchester.
I discontinued scientific work and became completely occupied with the task of raising the children. Because of the wooded hill and the beautiful rocks beside our house at the end of the street, Pitirim was inspired to plant an azalea and rododendron garden. Garden catalogues appeared in our house, and every spring the whole family would go to various nurseries to select the best plants in bloom. Shipments would appear every so often from nurseries outside the state, and one or two even came from Belgium.
Soon the garden became famous and thousands of visitors came to admire it every spring. The Garden Clubs listed it in their spring schedules, and benevolent ladies brought disabled patients and shut-ins to see it. In 1956 the Massachusetts Horticultural Society awarded Pitirim a gold medal "for an outstanding azalea and rododendron planting." Photographs in color appeared in House and Garden and in Horticulture. On receiving the award (he did attend this ceremony), he commented to me that he had enjoyed it more than he had the Honorary Doctorate from the University of Mexico and the memberships in the Royal Academies of Belgium and Romania.
Early in our life in Winchester we met Sergei and Natalia Koussevitzky and Michael and Sophia Rostovtzeff, with whom we formed lifelong friendships. They later became the godparents of our two boys. On Sunday mornings the whole family would often go to the Koussevitzkys for breakfast, and at other times they visited us. We attended the symphony concerts and Were frequently invited to their home to celebrate various Russian holidays or visits of important artists and composers. In this way me met almost all the known composers who appeared at that time in Boston.
Music played an essential role in Pitirim's life; he knew it very well and always played records while working. He assembled a substantial collection of recordings of composers of various periods, preferring, however, the music of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
People often asked me how Pitirim could accomplish as much as he did. The answer is that he never wasted time but always worked in a systematic way. For example, during the academic year he would go to the University early in the morning, give his lectures, attend to necessary business, and, except for the days when he had seminars or faculty meetings, return home for lunch.
After a short rest, he would write for an hour or two, then go out for an equal time to work in the garden, or take a walk in the Fells reservation. After an early supper, he would listen to the news on the radio and read a newspaper. Then in the evening he would work for another two hours. Then there were the reading periods at Harvard, when lectures were suspended, in addition to the recesses at Christmas and Easter, which provided additional time for study. In his sabbatical years he never traveled abroad, considering it a waste of time. Instead he intensified his studies at home, and usually such periods coincided with the completion of a monumental volume.
In 1938, we acquired fourteen acres of wooded land and a cottage on the shore of Lake Memphremagog in the province of Quebec. Every summer we spent from six to eight weeks there. Then Pitirim took a complete rest from mental work and read only the Montreal Star and a few detective stories. He spent much time fishing, swimming, and landscaping the cleared grounds about the cottage.
Meanwhile our sons graduated, first from the Winchester public schools and then from Harvard College. The oldest boy, Peter, earned his doctorate in physics and became an authority in the field of laser research, while the other son, Sergei, received his M. D. from Harvard Medical School and became a research specialist in the area of the cell structure and cellular physiology of the lungs. I resumed my own scientific work, first in association with the Biological Laboratories of Harvard University, later on I was elected a scholar member of the Radcliffe Institute.
In 1959, Pitirim retired from Harvard at the age of seventy-one but for several years he continued lecturing at various universities, writing books, and supervising the numerous translations of them into various languages.
In closing, I would like to refer to the forces that shaped a simple peasant lad who at the age of fourteen saw a railroad train for the first time in his life. In the short span of ten or eleven years he had become an erudite specialist in the complex science of jurisprudence, and in ten more years he had become a world-renowned sociologist. The principal things of course were his natural talent and his phenomenal memory, but also important were his ability to work intensively and his care to use his time productively.
* The annual lecture presented at the University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Canada,
March 12, 1974. Parts of this essay were used by the author as a Prologue to Pitirim
Sorokin's book Hunger as a Factor in Human Affairs (translated by Elena Sorokin and
edited by T. Lynn Smith) and are included here with the permission of the University
of Florida Press.
1. A Long Journey. The Autobiography of Pitirim A. Sorokin. New Haven, Conn. : College
and University Press, 1963.
2. Pitirim A. Sorokin, Leaves from a Russian Diary and Thirty Years After. Boston: Beacon,
1950. Now available in a eprint from Kraus Thompson Co., 16 East 46th Street, New
3. Sorokin, Pitirim A. Hunger as a Factor in Human Affairs. Translated by Elena Sorokin,
edited by T. Lynn Smith. Florida University Press. Gairesville Fla, (in press).