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Category: History

Victor Mikhaylovich Chernov (1873 1952)


V.M. Chernov

Victor Mikhaylovich Chernov - one of the most picturesque figures in the history of social thought and revolutionary movement of Russia. The bright publicist, the economist and the philosopher, the literary critic, the founder, the leader and the main ideologist of the largest political party of pre-revolutionary Russia - Parties of revolutionary socialists, the clever and highly educated politician, the minister of Provisional government and the chairman of the Constituent assembly... The person at whom the indecision connected to firmness of beliefs. As the democrat he sincerely sought for achievement of social justice and democracy in Russia.

He was born on November 9, 1873 in Novouzensk the Samara province. His father - the former serf who served to the district treasurer and received the nobility, mother came from impoverished noble family.

Since 1883 he studied in a gymnasium in Saratov. During study got acquainted with the former members of "The earth and will" and "National will", participated in work of circles where like sympathies for populists and discussed whether it is possible to repeat "circulation in the people" and to resume terrorist fight. In 1890 it was excluded from a gymnasium for the reason that it appeared in the apartment of a narodovolets

A.V. Sazonova at the time of his arrest.

Fall of 1891 it was transferred for continuation of study to a gymnasium in Derpt.

Upon termination of a gymnasium in 1892 arrived on Law department of the Moscow university. Actively participated in the student's movement, became one of organizers of the All-Russian congress of students, it urged students not to be limited to requirements of the academic character, and to join actively in public life.

In the disputes which arose at the beginning of the 90th between Marxists and populists at first sided with populists, but then began to look for, "third", the solution of the main issues of the Russian life.

In April, 1894 Chernov was arrested and was in prison (in the Peter and Paul Fortress and Remand home) in the matter of the National Right organization. Inquiry did not find the proofs proving its belonging to the organization and in January, 1895 he was released on bail of 1,000 rub. The previous acquaintance to a large number of program documents and periodicals of the revolutionary organizations, reflections over the latest works on philosophy and political economy (especially strong impression was made on it by the book P. B. Struve "Critical notes to a question of development of capitalism in Russia"), discussions with the revolutionaries adhering to different views, work on own articles and, at last, prison finally made of it the socialist.

In November, 1895 Chernov was sent to the Saratov province, to Kamyshin, but managed to achieve transfer to Saratov under the pretext of treatment of sight. Cooperated in newspapers, worked in local zemstvo. Later upon the demand of police he moved to Tambov.

In January, 1898 Chernov married A.N. Sletova, the teacher of sunday school. Conducted classes in political economy in a working circle, at the same time trying to develop work among peasants. It managed to create the first revolutionary country organization "Brotherhood for Protection of the National Rights" to the village of Pavlodar of the Borisoglebsk County. In the charter of "Brotherhood" written to them it was told about cancellation of a private property on the earth and need of country self-government. At the small congress of representatives organized by Chernov from peasants of several counties the "Letter to all Russian peasantry" written to them which urged peasants to unite in the secret organizations was approved.

Emigration began for Chernov in May, 1899 when he legally went abroad with the wife, being wanted in connection with detection in Tambov of secret printing house. Chernova lived in Switzerland and in France. In December, 1901 entered just created G.A. Gershuni and E.F. Azef the Party of Revolutionary Socialists (PRS) and the editorial office of its newspaper "Revolutionary Russia". For the next three years, publishing articles and performing with lectures in various European cities, he formulated and proved the program and tactical principles of the Party of Social Reforms, wrote several versions of the party program. He became her main ideologist. According to I.G. Tsereteli, Chernov held a peculiar position in party: he was not either the organizer, or the practical head, and her ideological mastermind, the creator of ideology and the program. Chernov supported a combination of terrorist fight against grass-roots revolutionary movement.

Chernov returned to Russia after the October events of 1905. The October All-Russian strike pulled out at a tsarism the Manifesto on October 17, and amnesty was announced on October 21. Many revolutionary emigrants also used it. As it was specified in the circular of Department of police, the Russian revolutionaries living abroad decided that they can "arrive with impunity to borders of the empire". Among subjects to search and establishment behind them vigilant police surveillance Victor Chernov, the revolutionary socialist, and Vladimir Ulyanov, the social democrat were called. Chernov lived the next three years in Russia illegally, without passport, without having a constant corner. Supported ballot strike in the I State Duma, activization of terror and preparation of an armed revolt. Having refused boycott tactics, it was elected according to lists of party of Social Revolutionaries to the II State Duma where entered into the agrarian commission and participated in development of the draft of the land law.

In 1906 - 1907 actively was engaged in literary work, was a member of the editorial office and the leading publicist of several periodicals of the eserovsky direction.

After dissolution of the II State Duma moved to Finland, and from there in 1908 it was forced to go abroad. So its following emigration began. He lived in Italy and in France, was much printed. In the years of World War I firmly took an internationalist position, considering inadmissible to support for socialists any of belligerent parties.

On April 8, 1917 together with group of Social Revolutionaries through Great Britain it returned to Petrograd (again almost along with Lenin). Both that, and another were met by the huge mass of people and indispensable attribute of that time - the armored car from which delivered speeches. He steeped in political work, actively participated in all work of party.

In May, 1917 it was a part of Provisional government as the minister

т / • I 1 ^ about

agriculture. Besides, it was included into the Main land committee which was engaged in preparation of a land reform.

In the Party of Social Reforms he always sought to take a centrist position in disputes. According to his party colleague N.I. Rakitnikov, "it is better for these, than any other party member, always personified unity of party". The aspiration to compromises was shown at Chernov and in theoretical researches. It was quite caustically noted by I.M. Maysky: "A little bit Kant, a little bit Marx, a little bit Mikhaylovsky and Lavrov, a little bit socialism, a little bit a gag - such is Victor Chernov's program and all party of Social Revolutionaries". The majority of the compromises offered them did not manage to be realized as it was not succeeded to prevent also split of party of Social Revolutionaries.

5 January, 1918 the Constituent assembly opened, and Chernov was elected it the chairman.

After dissolution of the Constituent assembly by Bolsheviks the Social Revolutionaries decided to try to obtain its restoration by armed struggle. Active preparation of an armed revolt began after the VIII Council of the Party of Social Reforms which as urgent measures of "all democracy" announced failure of the Brest world, liquidation of the Bolshevist power and authorized foreign intervention to Russia. Chernov, the opponent of any agreements with Bolsheviks, was among those members of the Central Committee who were engaged in this work most actively.

Having lived some time in Moscow with illegal status, he left it and by September, 1918 reached Samara where the Committee of members of the Constituent assembly (Komuch) was created.

After the termination of activity of Komucha and the Directory Chernov together with all eserovsky Central Committee moved to Yekaterinburg. After the November revolution in favor of the admiral A.V. Kolchak he participated in attempt to convene the Congress of members of the Constituent assembly and to announce fight against Kolchak. This attempt was stopped by the Czech general Gayda. Chernov was arrested, then thanks to protection of the Czech legionaries released and, having put in cars for the cattle, sent to Chelyabinsk, and then to Ufa. When the city was entered by Kolchak's troops, Chernov went underground and soon moved to the Soviet Russia. He was convinced of a possibility of two-front war: at first, having temporarily stopped armed struggle with Bolsheviks, to open the front against white military dictators, using the released troops of Komucha and all means "up to terror and a revolt", and after the victory over Kolchak to develop the anti-Bolshevist front again.

In March, 1919 Chernov illegally returned to Moscow. He did not trust accepted in February, 1919 (after refusal of a part of Social Revolutionaries of armed struggle with the Soviet power) to the resolution of VTsIK canceling "in the form of experience" the former decision

about an exception of the right Social Revolutionaries of Councils, that is actually legalized party. Therefore he insisted on preservation of the party device in an underground and itself continued to remain with illegal status. Calling the people on fight against Kolchak and Denikin, he at the same time sharply criticized policy of the Bolshevist mode.

In December, 1919 the big group of Social Revolutionaries was arrested by Cheka. In Butyrsky prison there was also his wife. The remained free members of the Central Committee of the Party of Social Reforms insisted on that Chernov went abroad for the organization of publishing. And at the beginning of 1920 he left the Soviet Russia through Revel.

Having located in Prague, Chernov began to issue the magazine of party of Social Revolutionaries "Revolutionary Russia" (till October, 1921 it edited it individually, then it is joint). He sought to reserve position of the leader and main ideologist of party even if and got beaten. At the same time he tried to preserve image of the chairman of the Constituent assembly, seeking to play a role of a peculiar party center for as realization own

political aspirations, and consolidation of the breaking-up party and merging of various groups of eserovsky emigration.

He announced himself and the members of the Central Committee of the Party of Social Reforms of A.R. Gots and E.M. Timofeev who remained in Russia "the party center", and the decisive word belonged in this "three" to it. Chernov claimed that he at departure from Russia of the Central Committee conferred it "emergency powers" as to the member of Foreign delegation of the Party of Social Reforms and the representative abroad the party center. In this quality he also tried to pursue left-centrist policy.

In the same quality he participated in a so-called private Meeting of members of the Constituent assembly which took place in January, 1921 in Paris. On it all former allies of Social Revolutionaries on the coalition were presented: cadets, Octobrists, national socialists. The meeting called a people at large of Russia for "universal revolts", and the foreign states - not to recognize the power of Bolsheviks. At the same time the Meeting rejected the idea of resumption of intervention.

He spoke of the Meeting very crucially, refused even to appear on it, referring to the position of the chairman of the Constituent assembly and unacceptability of the coalition from "tsenzovika". However he took part in work of eserovsky fraction. Supported Chernov's position the Central Committee of party though the Central Committee condemned the Meeting and even threatened those who will be included into the executive committee created by it, an exception of party. Concerning this last part of the decision Chernov sharply objected, being afraid of split. Anyway, its participation in work of eserovsky fraction of a private Meeting of members of the Constituent assembly became one of it the most considerable compromises in the political relation for the sake of maintaining formal unity of party.

Right after the beginning of a speech of sailors of Kronstadt Chernov arrived in Revel to establish connection with risen. The Berlin emigrant newspaper "Golos Rossii" wrote that he "was going to proclaim the new Russian government in case of falling of St. Petersburg". According to Chernov, V.V. Sukhomlin suggested it to create still on March 7 in Revel "Committee of action". The Volya Rossii newspaper which announced itself non-party had to become its body. Chernov directly offered the services to insurgents: "It is ready to arrive personally and to provide the forces and the authority on service of revolution".

The chairman of Interim revolutionary committee of Kronstadt P.I. Petrichenko so characterized the meaning of the proposal of Chernov: "That all leadership in business of fight against the Soviet power was provided to the Constituent assembly". Chernov and the armed help offered. However heads of a revolt did not respond. VRK made the decision to keep in secret both Chernov's proposal, and the fact of its deviation.

Nevertheless Bolshevist heads insistently emphasized the role

Social Revolutionaries, and especially Chernov, in the Kronstadt events. Trotsky said about it. Voroshilov, reporting on events in Kronstadt, quoted Chernov's words: "The Soviet power is so strong that at once it is impossible to overthrow it without workers. It is necessary to work carefully. It is openly necessary to work only against communists, but not against the Soviet power".

Really, the eserovsky slogan "Power to Councils, but not Parties!" was apprehended by residents of Kronstadt, nevertheless they rejected Chernov's proposal on the help. Perhaps, heads of a revolt were not ustaivat that the risen garrison of Kronstadt could demand its return, Chernov's authority on masses still remained. Perhaps, they considered that for overthrow of the Bolshevism the dictatorship is necessary, and Chernov in this plan did not approach. Besides, he remained faithful to the idea of the Constituent assembly and constantly reminded that he is its chairman. They could not accept also the political platform of Chernov. Motives for which they rejected the slogan of return to the Constituent assembly are clear. At the beginning of Civil war this slogan was supported even monarchic by the adjusted officers, and in the east of the country there were various authorities anyway connected from the ideas of the Constituent assembly. These authorities quickly discredited themselves, and now it became impossible to lift the people on protection of the Constituent assembly. At the same time the population had to choose between the power of Councils and the power of White Guards. Therefore authority of Councils on a contrast situation

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Civil war became stronger. Those who understood it put forward a new tactical slogan: "Power to Councils, but not parties!"

Thus, Chernov came to grief in the attempt to head the movement. Its slogans became outdated, and new belonged not to it. At the time it did not give enough attention to the fact that the power of uchredilovets compromised itself with cooperation with white which revenged the peasantry for 1917 Chernov objected to the Ufa agreement, considering that Social Revolutionaries have to conduct fight on two fronts - against white and against Bolsheviks. It got support of the Central Committee of the Party of Social Reforms in it (the made decision and was called - "The Chernovsky diploma"). However he did not reject the Directory created by the Ufa agreement. Nevertheless this "diploma" was used then by Kolchak as the proof of "unreliability" of Social Revolutionaries.

Chernov often criticized eserovsky party for delay in actions. So was also with the New Economic Policy. After introduction of the New Economic Policy the Social Revolutionaries said that Bolsheviks robbed their party, having once again borrowed their program. Chernov complained again: were late. He considered that Social Revolutionaries should seize the opened legal opportunities and some liberalization for return to Councils, gains at the slightest possibility of factory committees, labor unions and "in general all local working bodies".

He was not a supporter of the extremist political line and said that he got up on a position of "long eradication of communism", and the main weapon of party in

this business - the Revolutionary Russia magazine.

Practically all journalism of Chernov in emigrations and the coming-out works had anti-Bolshevist character. The position of Chernov and his supporters was estimated at emigrations differently. Some time Chernov's group (headed by it edition), according to him, was intermediate (right ranked him as the left group), but soon joined "the Parisian oppositionists".

In Russia Chernov's position was also estimated differently, but remembered him and referred to him very often. Some large Soviet workers addressed to the Central Committee of RCP(b) with offers on correction of the political line according to any given practical steps and a political position of the eserovsky management. Quite often the name of Chernov on trial over revolutionary socialists in 1922 appeared. In the indictment V.M. Chernov and other leaders of the Party of Social Reforms were allocated in separate group. And on process from defendants tried to obtain testimonies against Chernov that speaks about maintaining by it of undoubted authority and influence. To Chernov on process charges that in the fall of 1917 it together with Gots said that if Bolsheviks prevent convocation of the Constituent assembly then they will resort to the old, tested tactics - individual terror sounded. Defendants did not try to explain that Chernov meant not terror, but a revolt in protection of the Constituent assembly.

From defendants demanded to dissociate from a foreign part of party, that is first of all from the Foreign delegation headed by Chernov which, according to accusers, sought for the armed overthrow of the Soviet power. His organizer the Administrative center of Nonparty association of Social Revolutionaries created in 1920 appeared. After disintegration of Foreign delegation of the Party of Social Reforms these charges were confirmed in many respects by both Chernov, and other authors of the memorandum of the relation to the Administrative center (1929) which followed split of the organization. They wrote that the Administrative center was created by the right Social Revolutionaries for the purpose of the armed overthrow of the Soviet power though the Central Committee of the Party of Social Reforms did not adhere to this line.

On process demanded from defendants of public censure of Chernov, in connection with his position in relation to a conference of members of the Constituent assembly. However defendants rejected attempts to separate the Russian and foreign parts of party. Chernov tried to disprove charges of Foreign delegation of the Party of Social Reforms publicly. When the Novy Mir newspaper issued in Berlin in Russian repeated the charges brought on process on the pages, he filed against her editor Kersten the legal claim for slander. Chernov announced slander of article in which Social Revolutionaries were accused of attempt at leaders of Bolshevik Party and of receiving money from the German General Staff, the Russian bishops and the French diplomatic mission. The materials published by the newspaper were recognized containing insults, and Kersten was

fined. But Chernov's attempt to carry out a peculiar counter-process was not successful.

The Russian trial of Social Revolutionaries hit the authority of the Party of Social Reforms hard. In March, 1928 also the main support of Chernov - Foreign delegation of the Party of Social Reforms broke up. Her members did not want to recognize Chernov as the head and refused to him the emergency powers allowing to act on behalf of party and to conduct negotiations of both political, and financial character. Then the minority of delegation which together with Chernov left the Foreign organization Party of Social Reforms formed Foreign committee of the Party of Social Reforms and made the above-mentioned memorandum of the relation to the Administrative center.

Thus, Chernov's authority as policy fell. At the same time his authority of the scientist and the theorist kept quite strongly. In 1925 its work "Constructive socialism" was published in Prague. It is, perhaps, the most considerable work from everything that he wrote to emigrations. In it he carries out the central idea that socialism passes three phases in the development: utopian, scientific and constructive. The book was tabooed in the USSR, as well as all emigrant literature carried on authorship to opponents of the Soviet power. Especially as Chernov showed that Russia did not grow to constructive socialism. Therefore the book did not reach the Russian reader.

Even seeing paralysis of the foreign eserovsky organizations, Chernov-politik was not given. In the summer of 1927 it put forward the idea of creation of "League of the New East" which would unite representatives of socialist parties of Ukrainians, Belarusians and Armenians. Chernov went to a long USA and Canada tour with lectures. He tries to unite supporters of its position. He promoted in the USA to creation of eserovsky group. He offered the Mexican government the plan of creation in this country of agricultural colonies from the Russian emigrants. In the lectures he proved that fast falling of the Soviet power is inevitable. He considered that Bolshevist dictatorship can be or is overthrown by a popular uprising, or to be given before its threat. He allocated a role of the head of "a general pressure on ruling state capitalist corporation" (and he considered the system which was established in Russia state capitalism, but not socialism) for party of Social Revolutionaries. However lectures had no its great success. The magnificent speaker, he probably allowed purely tactical miscalculation: the situation in the world changed and performances against the Soviet power were not any more as fashionable as earlier.

Chernov continued to prove that the party of Social Revolutionaries continues to work. In an interview to the Novaya Zhizn newspaper (San Francisco) he claimed that it has influence on the peasantry. However behind this statement there was no something really real. In the conditions of the New Economic Policy still there were private publishing houses including eserovsky. And after the collectivization it was hardly possible to speak about any actions of Social Revolutionaries in general.

In 1933 in emigration widely celebrated V.M. Chernov's 60 anniversary. It was reflected by the emigrant press. It was welcomed not only by the former party fellows, but also Mensheviks. Yu. Martov called "The long-term fellow opponent" him at the time. Many noted not only its role in revolutionary movement, but also theoretical merits. The anniversary committee raised some funds for the edition of its works on history of the Russian revolutions. However only one soon saw the light - "The birth of revolutionary Russia - (The February revolution)". It at once began to be used by foreign historians as a source on the history of Russia.

In the mid-thirties when increase of fascist threat was clearly designated, Chernov supported the offer of creation in the European states of a wide popular front with participation of communists. In October, 1938 he offered Executive committee of the Socialist International the draft resolution about the aspiration to promote rapprochement of England, the USA and France with the USSR to prevent its rapprochement with Germany.

Since October, 1938 Chernov lived in Paris. In 1940, after occupation of the country by Germans, he went to the USA together with other Russian socialists and lodged

with /

in New York. Here it cooperated in "The new magazine". Published in it several literary articles.

After attack of Germany on the USSR he emphasized need "to become on protection of Russia under a condition if the Soviet government stops war with own people and will announce political amnesty".

After the end of World War II he together with 14 Russian socialists signed the appeal "On the way to uniform socialist party". In it it was claimed that history removed all controversial issues between various socialist currents and set for them the task of association in uniform socialist party.

V.M. Chernov died in New York on April 15, 1952

In 1953 in the same place its memoirs "Before a storm" were issued.


V.M. Chernov. Next issue of revolutionary business. London, 1900.

V.M. Chernov Marksizm and agrarian question. SPb., 1906.

V.M. Chernov. Philosophical and socialist etudes. M, 1907.

V.M. Chernov. Agrarian question and modern moment. M, 1917.

V.M. Chernov. War and the third force. Pg., 1917.

V.M. Chernov. Constructive socialism. T. 1. Prague, 1925.

V.M. Chernov Rozhdeniye revolutionary Russia. Paris; Prague; New York, 1934. V.M. Chernov. Before a storm: Memoirs. New York, 1953.


G. Anopriyeva, N. Erofeyev Victor Mikhaylovich Chernov//Political parties of Russia. The end of XIX - the first third of the 20th century: Encyclopedia. M, 1996.

Gusev K.V.V.M. Chernov: Strokes to a political portrait. (Victories and Victor Chernov's defeats). M, 1999.


State archive of the Russian Federation. F. R-5847 - Victor Mikhaylovich Chernov

Edward Love
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