Aleksandr Ivanovich Herzen (April 6 [O.S. 25 March] 1812 – January 21 [O.S. 9 January] 1870) was a Russian writer and thinker known as the “father of Russian socialism” and one of the main fathers of agrarian populism (being an ideological ancestor of the Narodniki). He is held responsible for creating a political climate leading to the emancipation of the serfs (peasants) in 1861. His autobiography My Past and Thoughts, written with grace, energy, and ease, is often considered the best specimen of that genre in Russian literature. He also published the important social novel Who is to Blame? (1845–46). Herzen believed in the right for people to make their own choices, with minimal state intervention.