Peter Struve

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Petr Struve, Pjotrs Struve, Петр Струве, Петр Бернгардович Струве, Pēteris Strūve, Pyotr Struve
Academician, Communist, Marxist, Philosopher, Professor, Publicist, Scientist
 german, russian
St Geneviеve des Bois

Peter (or Pyotr or Petr) Berngardovich Struve (Russian: Пётр Бернга́рдович Стру́ве; pronounced [pʲɵtr bʲɪrnˈɡardəvʲɪtɕˈstruvʲɪ]; January 26, 1870 in Perm – February 22, 1944 in Paris) was a Russian political economist, philosopher and editor. He started out as a Marxist, later became a liberal and after the Bolshevik revolution joined the White movement. From 1920 he lived in exile in Paris, where he was a prominent critic of Russian Communism.


Marxist theoretician

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

In 1895 Struve finished his degree and wrote an Open letter to Nicholas II on behalf of the Zemstvo. He then went abroad for further studies, where he attended the 1896 International Socialist Congress in London and befriended famous Russian revolutionary exile Vera Zasulich.

After returning to Russia Struve became one of the editors of the successive Legal Marxist magazines Novoye Slovo (The New Word, 1897), Nachalo (The Beginning, 1899) and Zhizn (1899–1901). Struve was also the most popular speaker at the Legal Marxist debates at the Free Economic Society in the late 1890s—early 1900s in spite of his often impenetrable-to-laymen arguments and unkempt appearance. In 1898 Struve wrote the Manifesto of the newly formed Russian Social Democratic Labour Party. However, as he later explained:

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

Liberal politician

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

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

In October 1905 Struve returned to Russia, and became a co-founder of the liberal Constitutional Democratic party and a member of its Central Committee. In 1907 he represented the party in the Second State Duma.

After the Duma's dissolution on June 3, 1907, Struve concentrated on his work at Russkaya Mysl (Russian Thought), a leading liberal newspaper, of which he had been publisher and de facto editor-in-chief since 1906.

Struve was the driving force behind Vekhi (Milestones, 1909), a groundbreaking and controversial anthology of essays critical of the intelligentsia and its rationalistic and radical traditions. As Russkaya Mysl editor, Struve rejected Andrey Bely's seminal novel Petersburg, which he apparently saw as a parody of revolutionary intellectuals.

With the outbreak of World War I in 1914 Struve adopted a position of support for the government, and in 1916 he resigned from the Constitutional Democratic party's Central Committee over what he saw as the party's excessive opposition to the government in a time of war.

Opponent of Bolshevism

In May 1917, after the February Revolution of 1917 overthrew monarchy in Russia, Struve was elected as member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, until he was excluded by the Bolshevik-engineered expulsion of 1928.

Immediately after the October Revolution of 1917, Struve went to the South of Russia where he joined the Volunteer Army's Council.

In early 1918 he returned to Moscow, where he lived under an assumed name for most of the year, contributed to Iz Glubiny (variously translated as De Profundis, From the Deep or From the Depths, 1918 [8]), a follow-up to Vekhi, and published several other notable articles on the causes of the revolution.

With the Russian Civil War raging and his life in danger Struve had to flee; and after a three-month journey arrived in Finland, where he negotiated with Gen. Nikolai Yudenich and the Finnish leader Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim before leaving for Western Europe. Struve represented Gen. Anton Denikin's anti-Bolshevik government in Paris and London in 1919, before returning to Denikin-controlled territories in the South of Russia, where he edited a leading newspaper of the White Movement. With Denikin's resignation after the Novorossisk debacle and Gen. Pyotr Wrangel's rise to the top in early 1920, Struve became Wrangel's foreign minister.[9]

With the defeat of Wrangel's army in November 1920 Struve left for Bulgaria, where he relaunched Russkaya Mysl under the aegis of the emigre "Russko-Bolgarskoe knigoizdatel'stvo" publishing house,[10] and then for Paris, where he remained until his death in 1944.

His children were prominent in the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia.


Peter Struve's son Gleb Struve' (1898–1985) was one of the most prominent Russian critics of the 20th century. He taught at the University of California, Berkeley and befriended Vladimir Nabokov in the 1920s.

Pyotr's grandson, Nikita Struve (1931-2016), is a professor at a Paris university and an editor of several Russian-language periodicals published in Europe.



Images Title Relation type From To Description Languages
1Universitas Tartuensis, Tartu UniversitāteUniversitas Tartuensis, Tartu Universitātelv



        Relation nameRelation typeBirth DateDeath dateDescription
        Бернгард СтрувеFather00.00.182724.02.1889
        2Otto StruveOtto StruveUncle07.05.181916.04.1905
        3Wilhelm von StruveWilhelm von StruveGrandfather15.04.179323.11.1864
        4Никита СтрувеНикита СтрувеGrandson16.02.193107.05.2016
        5Jacob StruveJacob StruveGreat grandfather21.11.175502.04.1841

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