Third Element

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Third Element


a term, popularized in the 1900’s, referring to members of the intelligentsia of no particular class who were hired to serve in zemstvo (local self-government) institutions as agronomists, statisticians, technicians, doctors, veterinarians, teachers, and insurance agents.

The “third element” was distinguished from the “first element, ” which was composed of officials appointed to zemstvo organizations by the government, and from the “second element, ” which was made up of members elected to the zemstvo assemblies. Numbering between 65,000 and 70,000 people in 34 provinces in the late 19th century, the third element included a considerable number of bourgeois liberals, Narodniks (Populists), and even Social Democrats.

The third element was largely responsible for the far-reaching successes of the zemstvo institutions, especially in the fields of medicine, sanitation, and education. The tsarist administration and the conservative dvoriane-zemtsy (noblemen who were members of zemstvo organizations) opposed the strengthening of the role of the third element.

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