Alexander Herzen

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Alexander Herzen (1812-1870) was a Russian political writer and publisher.

He was the illegitimate son of a rich Russian merchant, and inherited a large fortune on his father's death in 1846.

He lived in freely chosen exile in Western Europe from 1847 until his death in 1870.

He established in England the first publications in the Russian language which were free of censorship, and campaigned in the periodicals "The Bell" and "The Northern Star" against serfdom, and for individual freedom and "Russian socialism". His publications were smuggled into Russia, and were widely read, even by the Tsar Alexander II, and are credited with influencing the Tsarist regime to emancipate the serfs in 1861.

When Herzen opposed the violent repression of the Polish uprising of 1863, the support for his publications in Russia was greatly reduced. He was opposed both to the Tsarist autocracy, and the violent revolutionary methods of the radical opponents of Tsarism.

He wrote an autobiographical work "My Life and Thoughts", which is comparable in literary terms to the great Russian novels of the nineteenth century.