Moscow Workers Union

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Moscow Workers’ Union


the first Social Democratic organization of the Moscow proletariat to follow the St. Petersburg Union of Struggle for the Emancipation of the Working Class in the shift from the propaganda of Marxism within circles of advanced workers to agitation among the proletarian masses. It was founded in 1894.

Social Democratic circles first sprang up in Moscow in 1889–90. In September 1893 a Marxist group called The Six (shesterka) was formed. Its members were A. N. Vinokurov, P. I. Vinokurova, M. N. Liadov, S. I. Mitskevich, E. I. Sponti, and S. I. Prokof’ev. In April 1894 the group convened a clandestine meeting of the representatives of Social Democratic workers’ circles in the factories; at this meeting the Central Workers’ Circle was founded.

The new organization set up libraries of both clandestine and legal literature and a fund to aid comrades under arrest, to acquire printing equipment and moré literature, and to support strikers. The Central Workers’ Circle included K. F. Boie, A. D. Karpuzi, E. I. Nemchinov, F. I. Poliakov, T. T. Samokhin, A. I. Khozetskii, Vinokurov, Liadov, Prokof’ev, and Sponti. The circle published underground literature while guiding existing groups and creating new ones. In the fall of 1894 a women’s Social Democratic circle was set up; among its members were S. I. Muralova, A. I. Smirnova, P. S. Mokrousova-Karpuzi, and Vinokurova; this group conducted propaganda among women workers. The Marxist circles of A. I. Riazanov and other members of the intelligentsia cooperated with the Central Workers’ Circle.

On Apr. 30 (May 12), 1895, the first clandestine observation of May Day was held, attended by about 300 workers from 35 enterprises; here the Moscow Social Democratic organization adopted the name of Workers’ Union. The Central Committee of the Moscow Workers’ Union, composed of 10–12 members, was set up in the summer of 1896. The union was headed at different times by Mitskevich, Vinokurov, Liadov, M. F. Vladimirskii, V. V. Vorovskii, I. F. Dubrovinskii, and D. I. Ul’ianov. Among others actively participating in the work of the union were A. I. Ul’ianova-Elizarova, M. T. Elizarov, V. D. Bonch-Bruevich, Z. Ia. Litvin-Sedoi, L. P. Radin, Z. L. Lavrov, and O. Vasil’ev. V. I. Lenin met with the Moscow Social Democrats on his frequent visits to Moscow.

The union had a clandestine press and published leaflets and brochures; it also used evening Sunday schools for workers to disseminate Marxism. The total membership of the Moscow Workers’ Union reached about 2, 000. It maintained close contacts with the St. Petersburg Union of Struggle for the Emancipation of the Working Class and with the Social Democratic organizations of some 15 industrial centers. With its assistance the Ivanovo-Voznesensk Workers’ Union developed and grew strong. On Feb. 29 (Mar. 12), 1896, on the 25th anniversary of the Paris Commune, the union dispatched an “Address by the Workers of Moscow to the Workers of France,” signed by more than 600 workers from 28 enterprises; the sum of 50 rubles was enclosed, with a letter to P. Lafargue asking him to lay a wreath at the graves of the Paris Communards. The union was also in contact with the Emancipation Labor group. In June 1896 the Moscow Workers’ Union sent a mandate on behalf of 1, 000 of its members to V. I. Zasulich as its representative to the London Congress of the Second International.

The union agitated at 55 large enterprises in the summer of 1896 and led strikes during 1896–97. The Moscow Workers’ Union also participated in the preparations for an all-Russian party congress. Waves of arrests in the summer of 1895, in the summer and fall of 1896, and in the fall of 1897 hindered the work of the union but could not halt it. In early 1898 the Moscow Workers’ Union was renamed the League of Struggle for the Emancipation of the Working Class.


Literatura Moskovskogo Rabochego soiuza: Materialy i dokumenty. Moscow, 1930.
Na zare rabochego dvizheniia ν Moskve: Vospominaniia uchastnikov Moskovskogo rabochego soiuza. (1893–1895). [Moscow, 1933.]
Pervyi s’ezd RSDRP, Mart 1898 g.: Dokumenty i materialy. Moscow, 1958.
Istoriia KPSS, vol. 1. Moscow, 1964.
Ocherki istorii Moskovskoi organizatsii KPSS. Moscow, 1966.
Sanburov, V. I. “K istorii sozdaniia i deiatel’nosti Moskovskogo Rabochego soiuza.” Voprosy istorii KPSS, 1969, no. 1.


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