Professional Revolutionaries

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Professional Revolutionaries


a term used in Soviet party history to characterize “people professionally engaged in revolutionary activity” (V. I. Lenin, Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 6, p. 124).

In Russia, the first professional revolutionaries were the revolutionary Narodniks (Populists), who included A. I. Zheliabov, A. D. Mikhailov, I. N. Myshkin, M. A. Natanson, S. L. Perovskaia, G. V. Plekhanov (later a Marxist), and V. N. Figner.

Early in the 20th century, the organization of proletarian professional revolutionaries that had formed in Russia around the newspaper Iskra and that was headed by Lenin played a crucial role in forming the RSDLP. The organization included the Iskra agents I. V. Babushkin, N. E. Bauman, O. A. Varentsova, I. F. Dubrovinskii, R. S. Zemliachka, M. I. Kalinin, G. M. Krzhizhanovskii, L. B. Krasin, V. K. Kurnatovskii, P. N. Lepeshinskii, V. P. Nogin, O. A. Piatnitskii, and E. D. Stasova. The professional revolutionaries who became figures in the Communist Party and Soviet state, including F. E. Dzerzhinskii, G. I. Petrovskii, la. M. Sverdlov, J. V. Stalin, and S. G. Shaumian, at first organized vanguard workers, and later the broad masses of the proletariat.

Lenin taught the party that it was essential to train cadres of professional revolutionaries—especially among the ranks of the workers—who had a comprehensive theoretical preparation, a high level of consciousness, discipline, a profound commitment to principle, organizational abilities, fortitude, bravery, and conspiratorial skill. Tsarist persecution and the limited funds of the party condemned professional revolutionaries to deprivation, perils, and separation from those close to them; their work was inevitably accompanied by arrests, prison, exile, and emigration. Lenin praised the role of the nucleus of professional revolutionaries in founding and consolidating the party, a central core “that had worked hardest of all to build up the party and make it what it is” (ibid., vol. 16, p. 103).

The experience of the Russian proletarian professional revolutionaries in illegally establishing a mass party of the working class in autocratic Russia, in politically educating all workers, and in carrying out the socialist revolution has been and is still being utilized by the worldwide revolutionary movement.


Lenin, V. I. Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed. (See Index volume, part 1, p. 512.)
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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