A Virtual Tour of Priamukhino, the Bakunin Family Estate and Museum

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To observe the 210th birthday of the Russian anarchist Mikhail Bakunin, we present a photoessay and virtual tour of his birthplace and family home, Priamukhino, including the museum documenting his life and the lives of his relatives and friends. Owing to the unfortunate conditions prevailing in Russia today, it is not easy for many of us—including many Russians—to visit. This is a misfortune, because Priamukhino has served as a gathering place for anarchists since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

An old photograph of the Bakunin family house.

Mikhail Bakunin’s revolutionary ideas did not spring forth fully-formed like Athena from the skull of Zeus. They emerged from an environment of participatory dialogue and collective education. His sisters were among his earliest and most passionate interlocutors; later, Russian writers including Vissarion Belinsky, Ivan Turgenev, and Leo Tolstoy spent time at Priamukhino with his siblings. This makes it an important focus of study for researchers in a variety of historical, philosophical, and literary fields. We hope that this photoessay will be of use to those who cannot themselves visit—and that the political situation in Russia will change soon.

Mikhail Bakunin.

Mikhail’s equally fierce sister, Varvara Bakunin.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, anarchists began gathering at Priamukhino—some to participate in the Priamukhino Free Artel,1 tending to the land and buildings, others for annual conferences. Some came from as far away as Italy, the United States, and Brazil.

For those who wish to learn the history of the Bakunin family, John Randolph’s The House in the Garden: The Bakunin Family and the Romance of Russian Idealism offers a good starting place. To provide more context for this photoessay, we present a short preface by the photographer.

Plan of the Pryamukhino estate, created on the basis of the “Geometric Special Plan” of the estate from 1797; the buildings that have survived into the present day are highlighted in black. 1 - Manor house; 2 - Church; 3 - Bell tower; 4 - Factory; 5 - Barn; 6 - Gardener’s house; 7 - Consumer co-operative; 8 - Library; 9 - Crypt; 10 - Rotunda; 11 - Gatehouse; 12 - Chapel at the holy spring; 13 - Dam (XIX century); 14 - Hospital; 15 - Dam (XVIII century); 16 - Bolshaya Street; 17 - Sadovaya Street; 18 - Grandfather’s Hill; 19 - Children’s Alley; 20 - Decembrist Oak; 21 - Stable; 22 - Animal Farm; 23 - Cemetery; 24 - Chapel; 25 - Riga (Turkish bath); 26 - Hill named for A.A. Bakunin; 27 - Parterre glade; 28 - Bathhouse; 29 - A gazebo designed by Lvov: 30 - Kutuzovskaya Hill; 31 - Elm Hill; 32 - School; 33 - Spring named for I.M. Bakunin; 34 - Upper new pond; 35 - Batyushkin (sterlet) pond; 36 - Lower new pond; 37 - Artificial pond; 38 - Swimming pool; 39 - Mother’s Pond; 40 - Pond under the garden; 41 - Bath; 42 - Church slope; 43 - Beautiful hill; 44 - Little Grove; 45 - Circle of larches; 46 - Greenhouse; 47 - Greenhouse; 48 - Main village street; 49 - Road to Korostkovo; 50 - Brick factory road.


Weekend at Priamukhino

Finally, I got to see the legendary Priamukhino!

I have been hearing about the “Priamukhino readings” for many years since I became an anarchist. Anarchists have been coming here since the moment that the Soviet Union loosened its grip on political dissent. People used to come to Priamukhino for a few days every year to live collectively, working together to renovate what remains of the Bakunin family mansion and forest, and also to read and discuss anarchist texts outside the distractions of urban life. The Priamukhino readings had been interconnected with the artel work since the 1990s, but they ceased in 2018 due to differences within the Priamukhino Free Artel.

The work of the artel continues, however. The forest around the village beside the Bakunin family mansion needs regular maintenance, and the mansion itself needs renovating.

No active anarchists live in Priamukhino itself, but at least one used to live close by. In addition, there are people in Priamukhino who sympathize with anarchists; since the 1990s, they have undertaken a tremendous effort to preserve the village’s historical heritage and affirm the anarchists’ agenda. Relations with the other villagers are generally good, as well. The only strained relation in the village is with the priest, who openly denounces anarchists. Many villagers prefer to attend church services elsewhere.

What I found in Priamukhino this year was quite different from what I expected. Likely owing to the situation in Russia, only a few people came to join artel work, none of whom I knew from before. Nonetheless, I received a very warm welcome.

We spent the next two days cutting fallen trees, carrying wood, washing monuments, taking out trash, and digging out hogweed, which was invading the whole forest. We also cut the grass to clear paths in the forest around the mansion and the Decembrists’ Oak—an oak that two Decembrists, the brothers Muravyov, planted there in 1816, which was destroyed by lightning in the 1970s. Another oak has been planted there in its place, and nearby, there is another small oak tree planted by anarchists. We worked up to four hours each day and spent the rest cooking food, talking, watching movies (among them, W. Allen’s Love and Death), swimming in Osuga river, and taking walks around Priamukhino’s beautiful scenery of forests, village roads, and river banks. We also took a trip to Kuvshinovo, a nearby town named after the capitalist Julia Kuvshinova, to see its architectural features.

It was interesting to walk the little roads and paths through the forest, to touch the mighty old trees that witnessed the childhoods of all eleven of the Bakunin siblings in the 19th century, to imagine young Mikhail walking here as well, conversing with his sisters and friends. It makes one reflect on how environments and circumstances can influence our lives. Who would imagine that the son of a family that lived in a mansion maintained by more than a hundred serfs could become a world-famous revolutionary, hated and feared by those who own mansions? The mosaic of life’s circumstances can give rise to the most surprising results.

I am honored to visit a place that holds a part of this legacy, where so much love and work has been put into it, connecting anarchist history to one more place on Earth.

A map of Priamukhino in a booklet about the estate.

We attended the Bakunin family museum located on the edge of Priamukhino. The museum is run by a kind old woman who gave us a tour. It documents the history of the family, focusing on each Bakunin starting with Mikhail Bakunin’s father. A significant part of the museum is given over to Mikhail Bakunin himself, exploring his involvement in revolutionary history.

I also encountered some publications about Bakunin that I hadn’t seen before: N. Pirumova’s Bakunin, published in 1970; M.P. Dragomanova’s Critical-Biographical Note on Bakunin, published in 1906, a copy of which was given to the museum by a descendant of the Bakunins; Memories of Bakunin by M.P. Sazhin (Arman Ross), published in 1926 by the publishing house of the All-Union Society of Political Convicts and Exiles, section Library of Exile and Hard Labor. I took the opportunity of being alone in the museum to take some of them out from under the glass and take pictures of them.

I also looked through the samizdat publications of “Priamukhino Harmony,” a zine that anarchists have been producing during the Priamukhino Free Artel and Priamukhino readings. Apparently, in all the years since it first began to appear in the 1990s, this paper has not been photocopied or digitalized, and the only originals were kept in the village. That worries me, because at any time something could happen to them and they would be lost to anarchist history. I hurriedly photographed all of them.

In addition, I recorded a sort of virtual tour of the museum.

A video walkthrough of the museum at Priamukhino. The music is Alessio Lega’s “La tomba di Bakunin.”


The Frogs of Priamukhino

I took this picture of a frog near the Bakunin family house. The frogs at Priamukhino have been part of the legend of the place since at least 1995, when anarchists renovated the ponds that they inhabit. Subsequently, in place of a red star, anarchists put a red frog on a black banner, which has become a symbol of the anarchist project in Priamukhino.

Russian anarchists in 1995 displaying the “kvakanya” red frog banner associated with Priamukhino.

This picture shows volunteers and locals just a couple years ago, displaying the same banner.

Museum

Museum of the Bakunin family.

A map showing some of the places Mikhail Bakunin was active.

A bust of Mikhail Bakunin with books and a torch behind him.

A bust of Mikhail Bakunin.

Another bust of Mikhail Bakunin, showing books and a torch behind him.

The back of the second bust of Mikhail Bakunin, showing books and a torch behind him.

A desk in memorial to Natalia Mikhailovna Pirumova, who contributed a lot to the preservation of Priamukhino and supported the activities of anarchists in the village.

Certificates from descendants of the Bakunin family and various civil institutions expressing gratitude to the Bakunin museum for its cultural and educational work.

Some people who contributed to creating the museum.

A plaque in memorial to Vladimir Ivanovich Sisoyev, a writer, local historian, and activist for the preservation of the Priamukhino estate’s cultural heritage.

A desk observing the 70th birthday of Vladimir Ivanovich Sisoyev.

Mikhail Bakunin as a young man.

The picture in the upper right shows Mikhail Bakunin at the close of the 1840s.

An image of Mikhail Bakunin and depictions of the Dresden uprising of 1849, for which he was condemned to death before being handed over to another country that was also seeking to execute him.

More photographs of Bakunin’s family.

Mikhail Bakunin in 1869.

An invitation to the event in Paris in 1847 at which Mikhail Bakunin made a famous speech in solidarity with Polish people resisting Russian rule, for which he was exiled from France.

A map of the Priamukhino estate and its environs.

The Bakunin family house.

The Bakunin family tree.

Mikhail Bakunin and his sisters Tatiana and Lyubov.

Portraits of Mikhail Bakunin as a young man, his parents, and others.

Portraits of Mikhail Bakunin and the thinkers Immanuel Kant and Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, whose philosophy influenced his.

Portraits of two of Mikhail Bakunin’s sisters.

Another model of the Bakunin house.

Mikhail Bakunin in his youth.

Mikhail’s sister Varvara Bakunin, among others.

A photograph of the Decembrists’ oak in 1967.

A bust of the French author Voltaire. When she lived in Berlin, Varvara Bakunin displayed busts of Friedrich von Schiller, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, and Voltaire in her apartment—German romanticism interrogating French rationalism.

“Penal Servitude and Exile”: Memories about Mikhail Bakunin, by M. P. Sazhin (Arman Ross). Edition by the All-Union Association of Political Convicts and Exiles, Moscow, 1926.

Tatiana Bakunin.


A book written by N. Pirumova about Mikhail Bakunin and his family.

A small concert hall in the museum.

Another room in the museum.

Bakunin, a biography by N. Pirumova.

A part of the room with literature and other items related to Bakunin family.

Editions of Mikhail Bakunin’s works and brochures and books about him.

In the bottom right, a photograph of Giuseppe Garibaldi, Italian revolutionary Republican and socialist and colleague of Mikhail Bakunin.

A portrait of Yekaterina Mikhailovna Bakunina (1810-1894), a Russian nurse during the Crimean War, who contributed to the establishment of nursing in Russia.

Memories of Mikhail Bakunin by M. P. Sazhin (Arman Ross). Edition by All-Union Association of Political Convicts and Exiles, Moscow, 1926

Photos of an Italian delegation to the Bakunin museum. Alexander Bakunin, Mikhail’s brother, fought in Italy in the army of Garibaldi for three years.

A gift to the Bakunin museum from a Bakunin family descendant. Mikhail Aleksandrovich Bakunin. A Critical Biographical Essay, by M. P. Dragomanova. Printing house of D. M. Gran, Gostinodvorskaya Street. Kazan, 1905.


One part of the museum documents the friendship of Mikhail’s brother, Alexander Bakunin, and Leo Tolstoy, the author of War and Peace.

An exhibit showing the connections between the Bakunin family and Leo Tolstoy, who visited the family estate.

A part of the museum dedicated to Leon Tolstoy and his relationship with the Bakunin family.

A couch from the Bakunin house on which Leon Tolstoy and Aleksandr Bakunin, both veterans of the defense of Sevastopol, once sat together.

A black flag with Kvakunya, a frog that inhabits the ponds in Priamukhino that anarchists cleaned in 1995. The flag rests on the couch on which Leo Tolstoy once sat while visiting the house.

A picture of a painting made in 1883, hung a church in a Tazovo village in the region of Kursk. The painting is titled “Tolstoy in Hell,” apparently in response to the decision of the Church to exclude Leo Tolstoy.


Kutuzov Hill

The former Beautiful Hill, now Kutuzov Hill, is named after the Russian military leader who defeated Napoleon at the beginning of the 19th century. The legend goes that Aleksandr Bakunin, Mikhail Bakunin’s father, was friends with Mikhail Kutuzov and the latter stopped at Priamukhino for a day. There is no official evidence confirming this besides the fact that Kutuzov’s regiment once stayed very close to Priamukhino for a day or two for no apparent reason. Aleksandr Bakunin renamed the hill after the defeat of Napoleon.

“Larches grown by Alexander Mikhailovich Bakunin from seeds donated by N.A. Lvov in 1793. A group of trees was planted around the so-called ‘beautiful hill,’ later named ‘Kutuzovskaya Gorka’ [Kutuzov Hill], as well as in the park area behind the Osuga River.”

A monument to Mikhail Kutuzov.

This stone is a memorial stone for Kutuzov. During the Second World War, if I’m not mistaken, there was a military hospital in Priamukhino. The story goes that while Soviet soldiers were making a campfire under the stone, the stone cracked and part of it rolled down the hill and either stayed there or was taken elsewhere. What remains of the stone is still on the hill, as you can see.


The South Wing of the Bakunin House, the Barn, and the Forest

These photos include the Decembrists’ Oak and the ruins of one of the wings of the original Bakunin house.

A map of the area.

“Oak of the Decembrists: At this place in 1815, in memory of their stay at the estate, the Bakunin relatives, the Muravyov brothers (A.N. Muravyov, N.N. Muravyov-Karsky, and M.N. Muravyov-Vilensky) planted an oak tree. At the end of the 1970s, during a thunderstorm, the tree was damaged and collapsed. In 1989, the descendants of the Bakunins planted a new oak tree on this site.”

The sign reads, roughly, “Do not enter! Dangerous to life—collapse!”

A depiction of the Ukrainian anarchist Nestor Makhno.

A depiction of an anarchist sailor, perhaps associated with the Kronstadt uprising.

A depiction of Leo Tolstoy having tea with Alexander Bakunin in 1891. Alexander is depicted in a red Garibaldi shirt on account of his participating in Garibaldi’s campaign in Italy. Tolstoy and Alexander Bakunin both fought in the Battle for Sevastopol in 1885; they met at the Bakunin estate for tea in 1891.

“Manor house (second half of the 18th century to first half of the 19th century). The Pryamukhino estate was purchased in 1779 from the Shishkov nobles by Mikhail Vasilyevich Bakunin (1730-1803) in the name of his wife Lyubov Petrovna. The middle wooden part of the house has been preserved from the previous owners. The Bakunins’ son, Aleksandr Mikhailovich (1765/68-1854), made extensions on both sides and built a two-story outbuilding on the south, in one of the rooms where there was a chapel. On the north side, the outbuilding was one story, and the outbuildings, connected to the main house by brick one-story passages, were decorated with four-column Doric porticoes. There was a ground clearing in front of the house in the park.”

This memorial plaque reads “In this house, Mikhail A. Bakunin was born and spent his childhood and teenage years—a famous militant of the international revolutionary movement, one of the founders of and a theorist of anarchism, a Russian thinker. 1814-1876,” then lists some of the many historical figures who visited the estate.


19th-Century Church

When you enter Priamukhino via the bridge over the river Osuga river, one of the first things you encounter is the old Bakunin church, where you can also find the Bakunin family memorial.

“Bell tower built by Alexander Alexandrovich Bakunin (1821-1908, a famous Tver zemstvo participant and lawyer, and a participant in the defense of Sevastopol during the Crimean War and the famous ‘Expedition of the Thousand’ with Giuseppe Garibaldi in 1861. Built according to the design of the Tver provincial architect V.I. Nazarin in 1903-1907. In place of the old wooden one, the bell tower became the last building built on the estate by the Bakunins. In 1996, a descendant of the Bakunins installed new bells in the bell tower.” Coincidentally, the underground paper that Mikhail Bakunin’s comrades Alexander Herzen and Nikolai Ogarev published was called Kolokol, “the Bell.”


Cascade of Ponds

This cascade of ponds was made in the 19th century. By the 1990s, it was in a horrible state, until anarchists renovated it.

“Cascade of Ponds: A cascade of three ponds was built by the owner of the estate A.M. Bakunin in the first half of the 19th century. Upper pond (containing underground springs and springs that provide water), Sterlyazhiy or Batyushkin pond (in memory of A.M. Bakunin’s father, Mikhail Vasilyevich Bakunin) and Lower pond. Near Father’s Pond, there was a bathhouse and a swimming pool.”


Priamukhino Village and Administration


The Environs of Priamukhino and Lopatino

Walking in the village of Priamukhino and its surroundings.

The road sign for Lopatino. The village of Lopatino is right across the bridge over the Osuga River, a fifteen-minute walk from Priamukhino.

A bridge over the Osuga river.

The Osuga River.

The road sign for Priamukhino.

A Soviet memorial for Priamukhino villagers who went to the front in WWII and didn’t come back.


For More Information

There is a Telegram channel for the Priamukhino artel.

A movie about Priamukhino made by a Swedish visitor.

  1. In prerevolutionary Russia, an artel was a cooperative association of craftsmen living and working together.