Post-Crisis Integration of My Mental Life

From: "Sociology of My Mental Life", in: Allen, P.J., ed. Pitirim A. Sorokin in Review. The American Sociological Forum. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1963. Xxii; pp.4-36

Post-Crisis Integration

1917. Prime-Minister of the Provisional Government of Russia Mr.Alexander Kerenski (center) and his cabinet.

Iarrived in St. Petersburg practically penniless. To keep my body and soul together, I had to obtain some job at once. A helping-hand to the janitor of an apartment house, a factory worker, a clerk, a tutor to the boys of mainly middle-class families, an occasional writer of articles in provincial papers—these were my jobs during my first two years in St. Petersburg. The earnings hardly met my elementary needs but somehow they kept me alive. In subsequent years I earned my living by more remunerative tutoring and writing for various periodicals, by a secretarial and research assistantship to such an eminent scholar and statesman as Professor M. M. Kovalevsky, by the scholarship granted to me by the University of St. Petersburg, and after 1914-15, as a lecturer of the Psycho-Neurological Institute and Privatdocent of the University of St. Petersburg.

Anxious to continue my education, very soon after my arrival in the capital of Russia in 1907 I was permitted to attend one of the good night schools (Tcherniaevskie kursy), which I did for two years. During these two years I prepared myself and successfully passed, in the spring of 1909, a rather stiff "examination of maturity"—the equivalent of the examination for the whole eight years of the Russian high school (gymnasium). Passing this examination entitled me to enroll at the newly opened Psycho-Neurological Institute in 1909, and at the University of St. Petersburg in 1910. Graduated with the highest honors from the university, I was "retained by the university for preparation to professorship" in criminal and administrative law. (At that time there were no sociology courses in the university's curriculum.) In 1916 I successfully met all the requirements for and had conferred upon me, by the university, the degree of "the magister of criminal and administrative law"; and in 1920 I received my degree of Doctor of Sociology from the same university. Sociology was introduced into the curriculum of the university in 1918.

Such, in brief, was the course of my group and social class affiliations during this period of 1907-16 (up to the eve of the Revolution of 1917 and subsequent years).

As to the course of my mental and cultural life during these years, its main trends consisted in an intensive absorption of the immortal cultural values in music and literature, in painting and sculpture, in architecture and drama, and in enrichment, development, and integration of the Weltanschauung ushered in by the crisis. Fairly soon after my arrival in St. Petersburg, I became acquainted with several Russian leaders in literature, music, painting, and the theater. Through attendance of, and participation in, various literary and artistic groups, and philosophical, ethical and cultural societies; through visiting various museums, concerts, and plays; and through personal study, I became fairly well oriented in these cultural fields. Continuation of my revolutionary activities had led me to two new imprisonments in 1911 and 1913 and well acquainted me with political leaders of the Social-Revolutionary, the Social-Democratic, the Constitutional-Democratic, the Anarchist, the Monarchist, and other parties. My co-operation in revolutionary and in scientific work in the seminars of the university with several Social-Revolutionary and Social-Democratic students who eventually became leaders in the Kerensky and the Communist governments resulted in our mutual close friendship. When in 1918 I was condemned to death, this friendship with the Bolshevik students saved me from execution by the Communist firing squad. (When Karakhan, Piatakov, and others learned about the sentence of death passed upon me by Veliky Oustiyg Communist Cheka, they went to Lenin and demanded from him an immediate cancellation of the sentence and my release from prison. Lenin did precisely that and simultaneously published his first complimentary article about me in Pravda. Later on he published three uncomplimentary articles about me, calling me "the foremost ideologist of reaction," "the defender of slavery and serfdom," "our implacable enemy," and so on.)

This active political work firmly grounded me in the field of political science and practical politics. Finally through meeting the stiff requirements of the curriculums of the night school, of the Psycho-Neurological Institute, and of the university, I acquired a substantial knowledge of philosophy, and of mathematical, physical, biological, and psycho-social sciences. This knowledge was notably increased by my intensive study of the basic problems in these disciplines and in sociology, social philosophy, and philosophy of history, the disciplines in which I had become deeply interested already in the Teachers School.

Thus, during these years of 1907-1916 I succeeded in enriching notably my cultural and scientific equipment and—what is more important—in integrating its parts into one fairly consistent system. Philosophically, this system was a variation of an empirical neo-positivism or critical realism, based on logical and empirical scientific methods. Politically, it was a variety of socialistic ideology, founded upon the ethics of co-operation, mutual aid, and freedom. My sociological views represented a sort of synthesis of Comtean-Spencerian sociology of evolution-progress, corrected and supplemented by the theories of Russian scholars such as Mikhailovsky, Lavrov, De Roberty, Petrajitsky, Kovalevsky, Rostovtzeff, Pavlov, Tolstoi, Dostoievsky, and Jakov, and by the theories of Durkheim, Sfmmel, Weber, Stammler, Pareto, Marx, and other Western scholars, to mention but a few names. All in all, it was an optimistic Weltanschauung, fairly similar to the prevalent "World View" of the Russian and Western thinkers of the pre-catastrophic decade of the twentieth century.

My scientific and semi-popular papers and my volume on Crime and Punishment, published in the years of 1911-16, reflect various aspects of this Weltanschauung. These publications and then my active participation in various seminars, scientific, philosophical, and political conferences and, finally, my course of lectures on sociology given in the Psycho-Neurological Institute earned me the reputation of a talented scholar, notable political figure, and eloquent speaker and writer. My name became fairly well known in Russian intellectual circles, among various peasant-labor groups, and among Tsarist officials and police. Such, in brief, were the main changes in my mental life of this period. [ Top ]