Northern Union of Russian Workers

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Northern Union of Russian Workers


one of the first revolutionary working-class organizations in Russia.

Founded in St. Petersburg by the revolutionary workers S. N. Khalturin and V. P. Obnorskii, the Northern Union of Russian Workers was an outgrowth of workers’ circles already operating in the city in the winter of 1876–77. Organizationally, it took shape toward the end of 1878. An underground organization, it had about 200 members and approximately as many sympathizers. Only workers were admitted as members. There were sections of the organization in various working-class districts of St. Petersburg. Each section was headed by a local committee, a representative of which belonged to the central circle that directed all the organization’s activities. The central circle had a library and a treasury. Among the active members of the Northern Union of Russian Workers were L. I. Abramenkov, I. A. Bachin, S. I. Vinogradov, A. E. Gorodnichii, K. A. Iva-nainen, P. A. Moiseenko, S. K. Volkov, D. N. Smirnov, and A. N. Peterson.

At the founding conference on Dec. 23 and 30, 1878, the Northern Union of Russian Workers adopted a program entitled “To the Russian Workers!” (published as a leaflet on Jan. 12, 1879). A number of clauses in the program echoed the demands of the Eisenach Program of the German Social Democrats (1869), as well as the ideas of the First International. The program was the first to raise the issue of building an all-Russian working-class organization. The authors of the program maintained that the success of the social revolution depended entirely on the workers, arguing that the workers constituted “the strength and importance of the country” and that they had the “great task of renewing themselves and their brothers” and the “duty of rebuilding the world.”

In a number of clauses, the program differed from the views of the Narodnik intelligentsia, who regarded the coming revolution as a peasant socialist revolution. The program proclaimed the fraternal solidarity of the proletariat in all countries. The chief aim of the Northern Union of Russian Workers was the overthrow of the existing political and economic order. The originality of the organization’s program lay in its linking the demand for political freedom with the vital interests of the proletariat. However, the program also included Utopian and Narodnik demands for the establishment of a free people’s federation of communes. It lacked a concept of capitalism and failed to describe the class character of the proletariat.

The members of the Northern Union of Russian Workers carried on revolutionary propaganda in the factories of St. Petersburg, took part in and led strikes, raised money for strikers, and issued proclamations. Its leaders established ties with workers in Moscow, Kolomna, Sormovo, and Rostov-on-Don. In 1879 workers’ circles in Warsaw and Kraków studied the program of the Northern Union of Russian Workers.

In February 1880 the Northern Union published the first illegal worker’s newspaper, Rabochaia zaria (Worker’s Dawn), in St. Petersburg. In March of the same year, after the publication of the first issue, the Union’s printing press was destroyed. Soon after, the Northern Union of Russian Workers ceased to operate, as a result of the arrest of its most prominent members.


Lenin, V. I. “Popiatnoe napravlenie v russkoi sotsial-demokratii.” Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 4.
Lenin, V. I. “Protest rossiiskikh sotsial-demokratov.” Ibid., vol. 4.
Plekhanov, G. V. “Russkii rabochii v revolutsionnom dvizhenii (Po lichnym vospominaniiam).” Soch., 3rd ed., vol. 3. Moscow-Leningrad, 1928.
Korol’chuk, E. A. “Severnyisoiuz russkikh rabochikh”i rabocheedvizhenie 70-kh gg. XIX v. v Péterburge. Moscow, 1971.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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