Anarchy is the Mother of Order. A story from actor Lev Durov about meeting veteran anarchist Ivan Mokin in Moscow ca. 1972

I was walking past the Kirovskaya metro station [in Moscow] with a journalist mate of mine. And he told me:

- Listen, do you want me to introduce you to a real anarchist? You must have only seen them in films? But if you’re given the part of an anarchist…

- I know! - I waved him away. - Now, wherever you spit, you hit a count or a prince or an anarchist. Where have they all been before?

- You shouldn’t say that, - the journalist was offended. - Ivan Yegorovich Mokin [1] is a real, convinced anarchist. A disciple of the anarchist theoretician Peter Alexeyevich Kropotkin, he served alongside the legendary General Todorsky [2] in [the Tver Region town of] Vesyegonsk.

My God, I remembered with some effort, this must be connected to the Civil War!

- So, how old is your anarchist?

- He’s eighty-five. But don’t you worry - he’s got more energy than you do.

We bought tea, sugar and lots of cookies. As my mate said, the Mokins did not need anything else.

Ten minutes later we were ringing the anarchist’s bell.

He himself opened the door for us - an agile, small, clear-cut man with withered light-blue eyes. His head was carelessly wrapped in a cotton kerchief with a bright flower pattern, tied under his chin. A pink bald head was shining from underneath it, and his entire face was as pink as a baby’s. Even his small button nose was shining. His spouse was a match for him - they were two old doddlers, delicate like flowers. The cinema image of an anarchist as a thug wearing a striped sailor shirt and armed with a Mauser gun has quite faded in my imagination.

I was also amazed by the abundance of books - they were hanging from shelves, stuck out from every corner, were piled on chairs, stools and bed-side tables. Only on Ivan Yegorovich’s own writing-desk there was a single, black-covered book - “Memoirs of a Revolutionist” by Peter Kropotkin [most recent edition at the time was published in Moscow in 1966]. The former “four-storied” Vesyegonsk commissar (commissar for trade, industry, taxation and labour) stayed true to his convictions until the end of his life. And he lived to be ninety-one.

Shortly before his death, at the request of veteran Bolsheviks, it was decided that Mokin should be awarded a personal pension, instead of the normal twenty-three roubles per month. In order to observe a formality, he was asked to come down to the bureau meeting of the district committee of the party - Communist Party, that is. That’s when one of the benefactors, out of respect for the old man, said that Mokin always worked side by side with Soviet authorities, holding positions of responsibility, and as to his youthful fancies, they pass with age, and, well, who has not been infected with the false romanticism of anarchism.

If the old man Mokin had a Mauser in his hand then, he would have put a bullet through the head of his “defender”. He jumped up and looked at the bureau members, his eyes white with rage.

- Look at yourselves! But I am not changing my convictions like gloves! - and he banged the door shut behind him.

He was still awarded the personal pension - the young Bolsheviks did not parade being cornered by the old anarchist.

Ivan Yegorovich did not live to see the day when his benefactors changed their gloves once more. Was that the last time?

And here’s what I thought about. Is the convinced anarchist Mokin really that strange if he refused a personal pension only to prove his convictions? And maybe the hardline, militant atheists who made careers out of their “convictions” are stranger still, now that they hold candles in churches?

I don’t know, I don’t know…

By Lev Durov (b. 1931, Moscow), Soviet and Russian film and theatre actor

From Durov’s official website


1, Ivan Yegorovich Mokin (1887 - 1978) was born in the Vesyegonsk District village of Yogna. Aged 13, left for St Petersburg. Participated in the World War I. In 1917 returned home, organised the district’s first Peasant Deputies’ Soviet, Makarovsky. A commissar for labour, industries, trade and taxation in first lineups of the Vesyegonsk District executive committee. Anarchist. Participated in the Civil War. Buried in Moscow.

From official Vesyegonsk District website

Other Russian on-line sources list him as an anarchist-individualist, a bookbinder by trade, and date his death to 1979. Mokin left memoirs of the 1905 revolution in St Petersburg, and posed for artist Ivan Bilibin when he was an eight-years-old sheep-herder.

2, Alexander Ivanovich Todorsky (1894 - 1965), Bolshevik since 1918, in 1918 published a book about Soviets in the Vesyegonsk District, “A Year with Rifle and Plough”. Soviet military commander, arrested in 1938, released in 1953, rehabilitated in 1955 and granted rank of General-Lieutenant. Compiled one of the first lists of Soviet military commanders repressed under Stalin.

From: Durov's official website Translated by: - Szarapow.