Aleksandra Kollontai

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Kollontai, Aleksandra Mikhailovna


(maiden name, Domontovich). Born Mar. 19 (31), 1872, in St. Petersburg; died Mar. 9, 1952, in Moscow. Figure in the international and Russian revolutionary movement; Soviet diplomat. Member of the RSDLP from 1906 and of the Communist Party from 1915.

The daughter of a general, Kollontai developed her revolutionary views under the influence of E. D. Stasova, whom she came to know at the end of the 1890’s. At that time she began to contribute to the Social Democratic press. She initiated the founding of the Mutual Aid Society for Working Women in 1905.

In 1908, Kollontai emigrated. Joining the Liquidators, she lectured at the school in Bologna organized by the Vpered group. She also took an active part in the Social Democratic movement in Great Britain, Germany, Denmark, France, Belgium, Switzerland, Sweden, Norway, and the USA. At the international socialist congresses in Stuttgart (1907), Copenhagen (1910), and Basel (1912) she was a delegate from the RSDLP. During World War I she adopted Bolshevik views and conducted antimilitarist propaganda in European countries and in the USA. Maintaining close ties with V. I. Lenin, she carried out his instructions.

After the February Revolution of 1917, Kollontai returned to Russia, where she served as a member of the Executive Committee of the Petrograd soviet. In 1917 she represented the Bolshevik military organization at the Seventh (April) Conference of the RSDLP (Bolshevik). A delegate to the First Congress of Soviets, she was elected to represent the Bolsheviks on the Central Executive Committee. Kollontai was active as an agitator among the soldiers and sailors.

Upon her return in July 1917 from Stockholm, where she had participated in the conference of the Zimmerwald group, Kollontai was arrested by the Provisional Government. At the Sixth Congress of the RSDLP (Bolshevik) in 1917 she was elected in absentia an honorary chairman of the congress and a member of the Central Committee of the party. She was involved in preparing and carrying out the October armed uprising in Petrograd, participating in the session of the Central Committee of the RSDLP (Bolshevik) on Oct. 10 (23), 1917, which decided to stage the uprising.

A delegate to the Second Congress of Soviets in October 1917 and a member of its presidium, Kollontai was elected a member of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee and entered the first Soviet government as People’s Commissar for Social Welfare (then called State Care). She left the Council of People’s Commissars in 1918 because of her “left Communist” views but later admitted her mistakes. In 1920 she was the head of the Women’s Section of the Central Committee of the RCP (Bolshevik). During the discussion on trade unions, Kollontai joined the antiparty “Workers’ Opposition” group.

In 1921 and 1922, Kollontai was secretary of the International Women’s Secretariat, a Comintern organization. She was the world’s first woman ambassador, serving from 1923 as Soviet plenipotentiary and commercial representative in Norway, going to Mexico in 1926, returning to Norway as plenipotentiary (1927–30), and serving as envoy and, later, as ambassador to Sweden (1930–45). After 1945 she was an adviser to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the USSR.

Kollontai was the author of a number of books and articles, chiefly on the women’s revolutionary movement. She was awarded the Order of Lenin, two other orders, the Mexican Order of Águila Azteca, and the Norwegian Order of St. Olaf.


Izbr. stat’i i rechi. Moscow, 1972.
Vospominaniia ob Il’iche. Moscow, 1969.


Itkina, A. M. Revoliutsioner, tribun, diplomat: Stranitsy zhizni A. M. Kollontai, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1970.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
On 7 March 1917, a week after the abdication of the tsar, Lenin completed the first Letter from Afar, which he promptly sent off to Aleksandra Kollontai in Oslo (then Christiana).
Among those mentioned in the sources as helping to edit Pravda in March 1917 are Aleksandr Shliapnikov, Petr Zalutskii, Viacheslav Molotov, Lev Kamenev, Koba Stalin, Matvei Muranov, Mikhail Olminskii, Mikhail Kalinin, Maria Ul'ianova, and (after her return on 18 March) Aleksandra Kollontai. (11) assume that decisions about how to edit Lenin's article were taken collectively, probably with the participation of representatives of the Russian Bureau of the Central Committee and the Petersburg Committee.
On 26 March, Aleksandra Kollontai sent off a long letter to Lenin in Switzerland.
Their topics include the competition between the newly translated terms invented by Yan Fu and by the Japanese in the late Qing, the problem of Wang Guowei in the translation of ethics, the translator's style in Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea (1956), transmitting and translating Aleksandra Kollontai in the early Soviet Union and May Fourth China, and issues in translating Chinese visual poetry.
In Russian and Soviet history, the Bolsheviks' and especially Aleksandra Kollontai's dismissal of feminism as a "bourgeois" cause irrelevant to women workers and peasants has been remarkably effective in pushing the struggle for women's political equality out of the story of the revolution.
Hence, as Bernstein relates, health officials were among the most vocal critics of Aleksandra Kollontai's ideas in the 1920s.
She presents Aleksandra Kollontai in this context as the defender of popular initiative and workers' needs, a role consistent with her leadership in the Workers' Opposition.
Claiming that feminists, not Aleksandra Kollontai or other socialist thinkers, created the ideological bases of the proletarian women's movement, Iukina fundamentally challenges the ways that historians in the West have conceived the origins of Bolshevik policies toward women.8 Every initiative undertaken by the new Soviet government, she contends, was either achieved under the Provisional Government or figured already among feminist aspirations.
(5) Barbara Evans Clements, Bolshevik Feminist: The Life of Aleksandra Kollontai (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1979); Beatrice Farnsworth, Aleksandra Kollontai: Socialism, Feminism, and the Bolshevik Revolution (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1980); Stites, The Women's Liberation Movement, 258-67; Edmondson, Feminism in Russia, 77-78, 87-89.
Aleksandra Kollontai, the leading Bolshevik feminist, declared in 1923 that the Soviet state would "lift the burdens of motherhood from women's shoulders and transfer them to the state." She added that "the family, in its bourgeois sense, will die out." [1] Yet by the 1930s, official Soviet culture endorsed strong families, glorified motherhood, and strove to raise the birthrate.
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