Fighting Druzhinas of 1905–07

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Fighting Druzhinas of 1905–07


armed companies of workers, students, and democratic strata of the urban population, set up by the revolutionary parties of different political orientations during the 1905–07 Revolution. The first fighting druzhinas arose upon the initiative of the Bolsheviks soon after the Ninth of January, 1905 (Bloody Sunday) in St. Petersburg. They were subsequently formed in Riga, Moscow, Rostov-on-Don, Novorossiisk, Tiflis, Kharkov, Ekaterinoslav, Nizhny Novgorod, Krasnoiarsk, Irkutsk, Chita, and other cities. The organization of the fighting druzhinas was especially intensive between October and December 1905. In Moscow the largest fighting druzhinas were at N. P. Shmit’s Furniture Factory (druzhina chief, metalworker M. S. Nikolaev), at the Miussy Streetcar Yard (chief, engineer M. P. Vinogradov; deputy chief, metalworker, P. M. Shchepetil’nikov), and at the Moscow-Kazan Railroad (chief, office worker D. M. Kotliarenko). In St. Petersburg the fighting druzhina of the Narva district was led by the Putilovo worker A. P. Serebrovskii, the druzhina at the Neva district (at the Neva Shipbuilding Plant) by P. M. Tsabo and M. A. Gordeev-Bitner, and that at the Obukhovo Plant by E. P. Onufriev, among others. In Samara one of the leaders of the fighting druzhinas was P. I. Voevodin; in Ekaterinburg, F. F. Syromolotov; in Ufa, I. S. Iakutov; in Nikolaev, I. A. Chigrin; in Ivanovo-Voznesensk and Shuia, I. N. Utkin and M. V. Frunze; in Tbilisi, Kamo (S. A. Ter-Petrosian), in Sormovo, P. S. Mochalov, and in Krasnoiarsk, K. V. Kuznetsov and others; in the Donbas, one fighting druzhina was headed by A. S. Grechnev. All these fighting druzhinas were led by Bolsheviks.

Structurally, there were party and mixed fighting druzhinas. Mixed fighting druzhinas included not only members of revolutionary parties but also nonparty revolutionaries. The Bolsheviks viewed the fighting druzhinas as a nucleus of the revolutionary army needed for an armed uprising. In deciding whether a particular armed action was advisable, the Bolshevik committees of the RSDLP took into account the relation of forces, the sentiment of the masses, and the conditions for the actual moment of revolution. The Mensheviks restricted the functions of the fighting druzhinasto defending participants in meetings and strikers from attacks by Black Hundreds, police, and troops. The Socialist Revolutionaries’ fighting druzhinas were set up to commit acts of terrorism, but they proved totally unprepared for the organization of a popular uprising. The Bolsheviks, especially at the time of the highest tide of the 1905–07 Revolution, when an armed uprising became a pressing problem of the day, fought for a rallying of all left-wing forces; to this end, they concluded temporary fighting agreements with other revolutionary parties.

As a rule, the fighting druzhinas had regulations that defined the tasks of the fighting druzhinas, admission procedures, and duties of the members. Admission to the fighting druzhina was upon recommendation of a party organization and, in some cases, of two druzhina members. The fighting druzhinas admitted people who were at least 16 years old and had distinguished themselves through determination and devotion to the revolutionary cause. A fighting druzhina had several dozen members. Each group of ten was headed by a group leader (desiatskii). Large industrial centers had several fighting druzhinas. In preparation for an uprising, the druzhina members received military training. The Bolshevik Party organizations provided their fighting druzhinas with arms, set up the production of these arms, and taught their members the tactics of street fighting. Several local RSDLP organizations set up special groups that were in charge of the technical preparation of the uprising. During the December armed uprisings the fighting druzhinas constituted the chief force of the workers’ uprising and fought courageously against the tsarist troops. In Moscow the fighting druzhinas resorted to partisan tactics. After the December battles of 1905 the activity of the fighting druzhinas assumed the character of individual partisan actions—the assassination of police spies, the blowup of police precincts, attacks on banks, confiscation of money for revolutionary parties, and other operations—and continued through the spring and summer of 1906. The partisan movement developed spontaneously; representatives of different revolutionary parties participated in it, which made leadership of it difficult. The fighting druzhinas were disbanded by the decision of the Fifth (London) RSDLP Congress in 1907, when the revolution had subsided. The experience of the fighting druzhinas was utilized in 1917 in setting up the Red Guards.


Lenin, V. I. “Chernye sotni i organizatsiia vosstaniia.” Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 11.
Lenin, V. I. “Ot oborony k napadeniiu.” Ibid.
Lenin, V. I. “V boevoi komitet pri Sankt-Peterburgskom komi-tete.” Ibid.
Lenin, V. I. “Zadachi otriadov revoliutsionnoi armii.” Ibid.
Lenin, V. I. “Uroki Moskovskogo vosstaniia.” Ibid., vol. 13.
Lenin, V. I. “O partizanskom vystuplenii PPS.” Ibid.
Lenin, V. I. “Partizanskaia voina.” Ibid., vol. 14.
Lenin, V. I. “K voprosu o partizanskoi voine.” Ibid.
Vysshii pod’’em revoliutsii 1905–1907 gg.: Vooruzhennye vosstaniia, Noiabr’-dekabr’ 1905 g., parts 1–4. Moscow, 1955.
Vtoroi period revoliutsii: 1906–1907 gg., part 1, books 1–2; part 2, books 1–3. Moscow, 1957–63.
Iakovlev, N. N. Narod i partiia v pervoi russkoi revoliutsii. Moscow, 1965.


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