Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 185
Kropotkin was born into an ancient aristocratic family of Russia. His father valued his membership in the Russian ruling class, but Kropotkin rejected it wholly. Volunteering for military service in Siberia, he established for himself a high reputation as a professional geographer.
Kropotkin’s alienation from the feudal system into which he was born grew until, by the time of his thirtieth birthday, he had rejected all forms of government that rested on authority. He put his faith in what he called “mutualism,” a belief that the natural self-interest of the individual dictated cooperation with one’s fellows to solve the problems of social living. Because these views challenged the legitimacy of existing authority, he was imprisoned in 1874. Transferred to a military hospital in 1876, he managed a spectacular escape. After fleeing to western Europe, Kropotkin spent most of the rest of his life in exile. There he published a number of books in which he explained his anarchist theories. He returned to Russia after the 1917 revolution. At the time of his death his previously banned books were being published in Russia for the first time.