The educational project “Personalities of the Russian Community Abroad. 1920-1945”

Pitirim Sorokin

04.06.2020
Pitirim Sorokin

Pitirim Sorokin

(1889 – 1968)

A sociologist, creator of social stratification theory and social mobility theory.

He was born in 1889. He left home when he was a child and had to earn for living all by himself. When he was an adolescent he got inspired by revolutionary ideas which caused his arrest. After that he moved to St. Petersburg where he entered the Psychoneurology Institute and later studied at the legal department of the St. Petersburg University. In 1917 he was a secretary to Kerensky. He did not accept the ideas of the Bolsheviks which caused his arrest by the Cheka and he was eventually condemned to death. While in prison he wrote and published a letter titled “Renunciation by Pitirim Sorokin”. Thanks to the letter, they let him return to Petrograd. Soon after, he was exiled from the country on a “Philosopher’s Ship” (1922).

At first he moved to Prague following the invitation from his friend Tomáš Masaryk, the then-President of Czechoslovakia. Soon afterwards, Sorokin was offered to deliver lectures in the USA where he eventually stayed. In 1931 Sorokin established the sociology faculty at Harvard University and headed it up to the year 1942. He was the first ever professor of sociology at Harvard University.

His students included children of USA President Franklin Roosevelt and future US President John Kennedy. With the latter, Sorokin was corresponding later.

As a scientist, Sorokin founded the Russian sociology school for criminal law and criminology. Besides, Sorokin actually predicted the establishment of the European Union: “Salvation is not based on the national principle. It is based on federal states and on the organization of entire Europe beyond the state level, based on equality of all personalities involved – and as long as they form an initial group – the nations as well.”

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