Engelgardt, Aleksandr Nikolaevich

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Engel’gardt, Aleksandr Nikolaevich


Born July 21 (Aug. 2), 1832, at the estate of Klimovo, Smolensk Province; died Jan. 21 (Feb. 2), 1893, in the village of Batishchevo, Smolensk Province. Russian publicist and agrochemist.

After graduating from the Mikhail Artillery Academy in 1853, Engel’gardt served at the St. Petersburg Arsenal, where he managed a chemical laboratory and was in charge of casting cannons for the defense of Sevastopol’. He also taught chemistry at the Alexander Lycée. Together with N. N. Sokolov, he founded and edited the first Russian chemical journal, Khimicheskii zhurnal (1859–60). From 1866 to 1870, Engel’gardt was a professor of chemistry at the St. Petersburg Forestry Institute (now the S. M. Kirov Leningrad Academy of Timber Technology), where he carried out a series of experiments in organic chemistry that earned him an honorary doctorate in chemistry from the University of Kharkov in 1870.

In the same year, Engel’gardt was arrested for disseminating democratic ideas among college students and was imprisoned in the Peter and Paul Fortress. In early 1871 he was exiled to the village of Batishchevo, where he lived under police surveillance. At Batishchevo he established a model farm on capitalist principles and founded a school to train “educated farmers.”

Engel’gardt was the author of a series of 12 letters entitled From the Country; the first 11 were originally published in Otechestvennye zapiski between 1872 and 1882, and the twelfth appeared in Vestnik Evropy (1887, no. 5). Separate editions of the letters were published in 1882 and 1960. Engel’gardt also wrote numerous agricultural works in which he described the postreform Russian countryside and the capitalist evolution of the farms of the pomeshchiki (large-scale landowners). K. Marx was familiar with Engel’gardt’s works, and V. I. Lenin praised them highly. Lenin noted the duality of Engel’gardt’s views, which combined bourgeois Enlightenment ideas with elements of narodnichestvo (Populism).

Engel’gardt believed that the principal reason for the poverty of the peasants was the existence of vestiges of serfdom that retarded the development of productive forces in agriculture. He defended the Narodniks’ theory of Russia’s special, noncapitalist path of economic development, and he advocated eliminating land ownership by pomeshchiki and giving the land to the peasants. Engel’gardt thought it possible to effect a democratic transformation of agricultural relations by means of reforms. He called on the intelligentsia to settle on the land, and he supported the establishment of artels of “educated peasants,” who would transform agriculture on a scientific basis. The system of farm management employed on his own estate disproved Engel’gardt’s Narodnik theoretical views.


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