Underground Presses of the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Underground Presses of the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party (Bolshevik)


illegal presses that published proclamations, newspapers, pamphlets, and other revolutionary literature in Russian from the late 1890’s to October 1917.

After the Second Congress of the RSDLP in 1903, the immediate direction of the underground presses of the RSDLP Central Committee became the responsibility of the Central Technical Bureau, which was subordinate to the Central Committee. Regional technical groups subordinate to the Central Technical Bureau and to the bureau of the Central Committee were in charge of disseminating literature. The RSDLP presses were financed primarily with contributions from workers, but Gorky and V. F. Komissarzhevskaia were among the individuals who gave substantial material assistance.

In the late 1890’s printing was done by hectograph. In 1894, L. P. Radin, a member of the Workers’ Union in Moscow, invented a mimeograph machine. From the early 20th century printing machines were used by the RSDLP underground print-shops. The technique of printing with matrices and stereotypes was mastered. Sometimes hundreds of thousands of copies of a single proclamation were printed.

The first major printshops of the RSDLP, which served as central suppliers, were the Nina Press, which was operated by Lenin’s Iskra organization in Baku from 1901 to 1905, and the press organized by L. I. Gol’dman in Kishinev, which was in operation from 1901 to 1902. The Kishinev press reprinted the tenth issue of Iskra and published articles by V. I. Lenin and G. V. Plekhanov, as well as N. K. Krupskaia’s pamphlet The Working Woman. From 1902 the underground press of the Nizhny Novgorod Committee of the RSDLP filled orders for the Iskra organization, printing several issues of Iskra from matrices, as well as separate articles. In 1903, 3,000 copies of issues number 41 and 43 of Iskra were printed by an underground Iskra press established in Uman’ by the organizing committee of the Second Congress of the RSDLP and directed by M. S. Makhad-ziub and later by P. G. Smidovich.

In 1902-03 there were many local underground presses, operated by the RSDLP committees in cities such as St. Petersburg, Nikolaev, Tomsk, Kiev, Odessa, and Tiflis. Among the party’s major underground printshops between 1903 and 1907 were the Avlabar Press (1903–06) and the press run by the the RSDLP Central Committee in Moscow on Lesnaia Street, which printed the newspaper Rabochii, as well as leaflets (1905-06; organized by L. B. Krasin and T. T. Enukidze). The underground press in Rzhev (1902–06), which was organized by E. M. Komarov, was run by the Moscow committee of the RSDLP from the autumn of 1904 and by the Central Committee of the RSDLP from July 1905. It published the workers’ newspaper Golos truda. Also among the party’s major underground printshops from 1903 to 1907 were the press operated by the Central Committee’s Eastern Bureau in Samara (1904–05), the Severnaia (Northern) Press of the Central Committee near Yaroslavl (1905), and presses in Samarkand and Vladimir. The underground press of the Moscow Committee of the RSDLP, which was located on Rozhdest-venskii Boulevard in Moscow (1906-07), printed approximately 1.5 million leaflets.

From 1910 to 1914 most of the underground presses were operated by the RSDLP organizations in St. Petersburg, Moscow, Kiev, and Baku. From 1914 to 1917 the St. Petersburg committee of the RSDLP had the largest underground presses. The RSDLP (B) began to issue its publications openly in February 1917, but after the July Days of 1917 the party presses went underground until the victory of the October Revolution of 1917.


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