(literally “Saturday work,” from Russian subbota, “Saturday”), a form of voluntary work without pay of the Soviet working people for the general welfare, characterizing the communist attitude of the masses toward labor. The work methods and content of the subbotniki contained in embryo the idea of socialist emulation and were an early manifestation of it.
Communist subbotniki arose in the spring of 1919, during the Civil War and military intervention, in response to V. I. Lenin’s appeal to improve the work of the railroads and upon the initiative of the party cell at the depot of Moskva-Sortirovochnaia of the Moscow-Kazan railroad. On the night of Saturday, April 12, 15 Communists at the depot worked ten hours and repaired three steam locomotives. May 10 saw the first mass subbotnik, involving 205 people, on the Moscow-Kazan railroad. In May subbotniki were held on the Aleksandrov, Nikolaev, Riazan’-Urals, Moscow-Vindava, and Kursk railroads. Workers at factories and plants in Moscow and other cities followed the lead of the railroad workers and conducted subbotniki, and the movement soon embraced broad strata of the working class.
Lenin generalized the experience of the first subbotniki in his appeal “A Great Beginning.” Noting the enormous historic significance of the subbotniki, Lenin called them the actual shoots of communism, a great “conscious and voluntary initiative of the workers in developing the productivity of labor, in adopting a new labor discipline, in creating socialist conditions of economy and life” (Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 39, p. 18). The new upswing of the subbotniki in November and December 1919 was part of the struggle with the country’s fuel crisis. In the circular letter of the Central Committee of the RCP (Bolshevik) “The Battle Against the Fuel Crisis,” Lenin called on the party organizations to conduct subbotniki on a regular basis. Subbotniki were also conducted in military units and in villages.
The movement attained its greatest scope in 1920. In January, during Front Week, thousands of workers worked on subbotniki to help the war front. On the decision of the Ninth Congress of the RCP(B), the All-Russian May Day Communist Subbotnik was staged on May 1, 1920. Lenin participated in a subbotnik in the Kremlin. The subbotniki drew 425,000 participants in Moscow, 165,000 in Petrograd, and hundreds of thousands in other cities. The year 1920 also saw subbotniki to help the Western and Southern fronts and to express solidarity with and to help French and Hungarian workers, as well as subbotniki during Peasant Week.
Communist subbotniki and voskresniki (”Sunday work”) were held during the years of the restoration of the national economy, the industrialization of the USSR, and the Great Patriotic War (1941–45). At the present time they are conducted to accelerate the construction of industrial facilities, clubs, and schools and the landscaping and beautification of cities. Almost the entire able-bodied population of the country participated in the All-Union Communist Subbotnik that commemorated the 50th anniversary of the first Communist subbotniki (April 1969), the All-Union Communist Subbotnik in Honor of the Centennial of the Birth of V. I. Lenin (April 1970), and the All-Union Communist Subbotnik in Honor of V. I. Lenin’s Birth and the 50th Anniversary of the Formation of the USSR (April 1972). The participants in each subbotnik of 1970 and 1972 produced more than 600 million rubles worth of industrial output.
REFERENCESLenin, V. I. “Velikii pochin.” Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 39.
U istokov kommunisticheskogo truda. Moscow, 1959.
Kukushkin, Iu., and D. Shelestov. Pervye kommunisticheskie subbotniki. Moscow, 1959.
IU. A. POLIAKOV