Brusnev Group

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Brusnev Group


one of the first social democratic organizations of Russia. Formed in 1889 in St. Petersburg as a result of the unification of revolutionary students and vanguard workers, it was the successor to D. Blagoev’s and P. V. Tochisskii’s groups.

The Brusnev group took as its objective the propagandizing of Marxism among advanced workers to prepare them as leaders in the labor movement. The group was called the Central Workers’ Committee and the Worker’s Union; it was later named after its leader, M. I. Brusnev. By autumn 1890 it had divided into two parts. The intellectual center (Brusnev, L. B. Krasin, G. B. Krasin, V. S. Golubev, V. V. Sviatlovskii, and others) worked among the intelligentsia and also planned the program and method of propaganda in workers’ circles. The central workers’ committee (N. D. Bogdanov, E. A. Klimanov, F. A. Afanas’ev, V. V. Buianov, P. E. Evgrafov, V. I. Proshin, and V. V. Fomin) directed the workers’ circles organizationally. Communication between both committees was carried out by a representative of the intelligentsia in the central workers’ circle. Students of the University of St. Petersburg and the technological, mining, and forestry institutes played a leading role in the Brusnev group. Workers’ circles (from five to seven persons in each) united workers of the main enterprises of the city; the most stable circles were at the Putilov, Obukhov, and Baltic plants. The circles were of two types: in the first type, the intellectuals were study leaders; in the second, the workers themselves were leaders and propagandists. In 1890 the group had up to 20 circles of the first type and several of the second.

The Brusnev group followed the program of the Liberation of Labor group, with which it maintained connections. It considered the formation of an independent workers’ party necessary for victory over tsarism and the bourgeoisie. Members of the group thought that it was necessary to prove to the peasants that the proletariat was to play the role of the advanced champion of liberty; they categorically rejected terror, although several of them had not freed themselves from the errors of the Narodniks (Populists). The Brusnev group tried to unite with the labor movement. During the winter of 1890-91 members of the group participated in the strikes of workers at the dock and the Thornton Factory. During the strike at the Mitrofanov Factory in the summer of 1892, the group printed leaflets and distributed them at many establishments. It published two numbers of the hectographed newspaper Proletarii. It organized a demonstration at the funeral of N. V. Shelgunov (1891) and the first May Day meeting in Russia. (In 1891, 80 persons attended; in 1892 up to 200 persons attended.) The speeches of workers at the May Day meetings were soon published in St. Petersburg and by the Liberation of Labor group abroad.

Striving for the creation of an all-Russian workers’ organization, members of the Brusnev group maintained connections with circles in Moscow, Nizhny Novgorod, Kazan, Tula, Kiev, Kharkov, Ekaterinoslav (modern Dnepropetrovsk), and Warsaw. In its “Open Letter to Polish Workers,” the group hailed the May Day strikes of Łódž workers in 1892. In early 1892, Brusnev and Afanas’ev organized a conference in Moscow with leaders of the Moscow circles to work out a program and plan of common actions. On Apr. 22, 1892, the leaders of the Brusnev group were arrested in Moscow. Its members, exiled or scattered across the country to avoid arrest, developed their work in new places. The Brusnev group took the first step toward a labor movement in Russia, although its propagandizing of Marxism was primarily limited to narrow circles. The activity of the group assisted the education of the first constellation of social democratic workers and prepared the soil for the further development of a social democratic labor movement in Russia.


Brusnev, M. I. “Vozniknovenie pervykh sotsial-demokraticheskikh organizatsii (Vospominaniia).” Proletarskaia revoliutsiia, 1923, no. 2.
Krasin, L. B. Dela davno minuvshikh dnei. Moscow-Leningrad, 1930.
Istoriia KPSS, vol. 1. Moscow, 1964. Pages 159-62.
Polevoi, Iu. Z. Zarozhdenie marksizma v Rossii, 1883-94 gg. Moscow, 1959.
Kostin, A. F. Ot narodnichestva k marksizmu. Moscow, 1967.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.