Viktor Mikhailovich Chernov Biography

Viktor Mikhailovich Chernov (December 7, 1873 – April 15, 1952) was a Russian revolutionary and one of the founders of the Russian Socialist-Revolutionary Party. He was the primary party theoretician or the 'brain' of the party, and was more analyst than political leader.

Early years

Viktor Chernov was born in Novouzensk, a town southeast of Saratov in Samara guberniya. He was the son of a former serf peasant who had risen to become a low-level functionary in the local civil service.

Chernov attended gymnasium in Saratov, a hotbed of radicalism, where he joined a populist discussion circle in which he studied the works of Nikolay Dobrolyubov and Nikolay Mikhaylovsky. His radical proclivities attracted the attention of the local police and Chernov transferred to school in Iurev for his final year of study.

Chernov enrolled in the Law department of Moscow University, where he once again joined a radical discussion circle, defending populist views against Marxists. He was arrested for his political activitities in the spring of 1894 and spent 9 months in Peter and Paul Fortress in St. Petersburg. Following his incarceration, Chernov was sentenced to a period of administrative exile in central Russia.

Political career

By the end of the 1880s he was involved in revolutionary activity. He attended the law faculty of Moscow University and in the early 1890s joined the narodniks; in 1894 he joined Mark Natanson's "People's Will" (Narodnoe pravo) group, an attempt to unite all the socialist movements in Russia, and with other members was arrested, jailed, and exiled. After spending some time organizing the peasants around Tambov, he went abroad to Zurich in 1899. He joined the Socialist-Revolutionary Party upon its founding in 1902 and became the editor of its newspaper Revolutionary Russia. He returned to Russia after the Revolution of 1905; after boycotting the elections for the First Duma, he won election to the Second Duma and became a leader of the SR faction.

Under Alexander Kerensky's provisional government in 1917, Chernov was the Minister for Agriculture. He was also the only Chairman of the Russian Constituent Assembly until its disbandement on January 6, 1918. Following the Bolsheviks' rise to power, he became a member of an anti-Bolshevik government in Samara, before fleeing to Europe and then the United States.