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(en) Russia, PRYAMUKHINO, Tver Region, [smygo] Media, Anarchists Go on Pilgrimage to Bakunin place at Tver

From Dan Clore <clore@columbia-center.org>
Date Fri, 15 Aug 2003 06:44:24 +0200 (CEST)

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The Moscow Times [Photos on website]
PRYAMUKHINO, Tver Region -- Pavel Glazkov is fed up with
people who hear the word anarchy and instantly conjure up
thoughts of debauched sailors wreaking havoc and chaos.
Anarchism is a moral thing above all, Glazkov says, and it
hinges on order, self-discipline and mutual assistance.
A graduate student from Tambov, Glazkov is in the process of
writing a thesis on Mikhail Bakunin, the 19th-century
philosopher whose ideas laid the foundation for modern
anarchism. And he is active in spreading the gospel of
anarchy. Glazkov posts leaflets at his university urging
students to take action. At a children's summer camp where
he works as an educator, he tells children stories about
anarchism before bedtime. The Tambov bar where he once
worked as a bartender turned into a sort of a revolutionary
circle full of conversation and debate, not unlike one of
Bakunin's many secret societies.

"I'm trying to educate people," says Glazkov, 24, a gentle
giant who wears black-rimmed glasses and two earrings in his
left ear. "When I was a kid with an anarchy badge on my
chest listening to the Sex Pistols no one told me what I was
supposed to do as an anarchist."

Late last month, Glazkov traveled 10 hours by train and bus
to Pryamukhino, the Bakunin family estate in the Tver
region, in search of like-minded people. What he found was
an improbable mix: white-bearded intellectuals studying the
Russian gentry culture alongside pierced and tattooed
20-somethings in black T-shirts and ragged jeans who were
doing little more than frolicking in nature away from their
parents' control.

Glazkov spent a weekend in Pryamukhino. He took part in a
scientific conference and civic duties like picking up trash
in a park. At night he listened to romances -- lyrical,
sentimental songs -- and drank vodka with the academics.
Then it was time for a drunken rendition of the "Mother
Anarchy" song by the kids, who described themselves as
anarcho-communists, Marxists, Maoists, hippies and
anti-fascist skinheads.

"It was great," Glazkov enthused. "I met young people who
are into ideas, and they don't just stick to some stiff,
outdated beliefs, but take them further."

The Pryamukhino Free Co-Op was created in 1995, when a group
of students from Moscow decided that Bakunin's birthplace,
which was formally protected by the state, actually needed
protection from the state. Since then, a few dozen
anarchists from central Russia and, occasionally, from
abroad, have come here every summer to work in the park,
scandalize the locals by skinny-dipping in the creek and
debate anarchism around the campfire. They live in a cramped
log house with a black anarchy flag flying from the roof and
a sign over the door that reads, "Work is the best hangover

The anarchist movement can encompass certain elements of
other ideologies, such as Maoism and communism, while
rejecting those components relating to authoritarian
political control. The anarchist movement is not uniform,
but this doesn't appear to present a problem. "What's
important is the rejection of the state, hierarchy,
clericalism, dominance, all dogmas, everything that's dead
and rotten," said Vasily Prytkov, who helped organize this
summer's co-op. "People who come here share these ideals.

Pryamukhino's mixed appeal is the result of its rich
heritage. In the 19th century, this traditional nobles' nest
was a nationwide cultural magnet. Bakunin's parents and 10
siblings were well-educated people known for their various
talents, bon vivant habits and a taste for sophisticated
company. Leading lights of the times, such as literary
critic Vissarion Belinsky, novelists Ivan Turgenev and Leo
Tolstoi and thinker Nikolai Stankevich, walked among the
exotic plants that grew in the estate's sumptuous park.

All in all, the Pryamukhino harmony, as the contemporaries
described life on the estate, shared little of the
rebellious spirit of its most famous resident -- the man who
was all passion and bustle and pure will, the prototype of
Richard Wagner's Siegfried and the very model of a
thunderbolt-hurling revolutionary.

Bakunin believed that the state and capitalism are evil and
must be destroyed. He fought for a society based upon
justice, equality and freedom. Being more of a doer than a
writer, he threw himself into the insurrections that burst
across Europe like thunderstorms in his day. Bakunin is
often contrasted with Karl Marx, and credited with
forecasting the inevitable connection between state
communism and the Gulag.

Bakunin's prophecies came true in the Soviet Union, and
although streets across the country were named after him,
his legacy was forgotten or distorted and anarchy became
almost a swearword. Similarly, his family's country estate
was plundered and destroyed. The great park, with fish
ponds, artificial waterfalls and hills, became neglected and

Today, Bakunin's followers include the ragtag members of the
international New Left movement, who share the values of
anti-globalism, pacifism, environmentalism and human rights.
In Russia, they are few and have little formal organization,
with few exceptions, including the groups Avtonomnoye
Deistviye, or Autonomous Action, and the Russian branch of
the Rainbow Keepers, a radical eco-anarchist group.

"Collective social activity is much more important than
setting up formal organizations," said Mikhail, 31, one of
the founders of the Pryamukhino Free Co-Op, who asked that
his last name not to be used. "In Russia, people don't have
faith left in collective action and social change. But it's
necessary to keep trying."

The anarchists occasionally participate in joint actions and
social protests like the annual anti-capitalism rally in
Moscow. Otherwise they are largely invisible on Russia's
political landscape.

On a recent Sunday morning, a group of anarchists, looking
slightly woozy from the night before, trickled into a
garden. While some camp goers are serious about anarchism,
others are clearly there for the lifestyle that the relaxed
environment provides -- especially given the fact that the
Bakunin Foundation covers all transportation and food costs.

The anarchists settled on the grass among flowers and
buzzing bees, where they conducted a meeting concerning the
areas of the camp that needed the most work. Soon, armed
with a variety of garden tools, they began trimming plants
in the park and cleaning up a pond under the supervision of
Sergei Kornilov.

Kornilov is a director of the Bakunin Foundation, which was
created to promote the legacy of the Bakunin family and
restore the estate. A former theater director who says he
was too brainwashed to care about anarchism in Soviet times,
Kornilov, 65, has dedicated his life to the Pryamukhino
estate since he moved there from Moscow in 1998.

A tanned and energetic man who looks like a 19th-century
aristocrat, Kornilov mapped out Pryamukhino's future as an
artist would. Tourists were to stay in the recreated
interiors of the Bakunin house, and church services, grand
balls and theater plays would be staged in the vaulted
basement of the remaining south wing of the estate.

"I looked up plays about Mikhail Bakunin, and there weren't
any," Kornilov said. "So I decided to write one myself."
Kornilov has written a trilogy of plays about Bakunin.

Meanwhile, Glazkov, the Bakunin scholar from Tambov,
wrestles with applying his ideas to contemporary realities.

"Go tell a Muscovite whose relative was killed in a
terrorist act that Russia needs anarchism and they'll tell
you, 'What are you, crazy?'" he said. "People are tired of
terrorism, Marxism, and other isms. What they want is
stability and strong leadership."

Friday, August 15, 2003 Anarchists Go on a Pilgrimage to Tver
By Yulia Solovyova
Special to The Moscow Times
Dan Clore

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