Union of Liberation

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Union of Liberation


in Russia in 1904 and 1905, an illegal political association of the bourgeois intelligentsia and liberal members of zemstvos (district and provincial assemblies). The founding of the union was planned at conferences of supporters of the journal Osvobozhdenie (Liberation), held July 20–23, 1903, in Schaffhausen, Switzerland, and Sept. 15–17, 1903, in Kharkov. The founding congress of the Union of Liberation, held Jan. 3–5, 1904, in St. Petersburg, represented political circles in 22 major Russian cities.

The congress ratified the union’s program, which supported constitutional monarchy, universal suffrage, protection of “the interests of the toiling masses,” and the right of nations to self-determination. It also approved a charter describing the union as “a federation of self-governing organizations and groups of a local, professional, and mixed character,” directed by an annually elected council. The chairman of the council was zemstvo member I. I. Petrunkevich, and the deputy chairman was the economist and public figure N. F. Annenskii. The union’s second congress, held Oct. 20–22, 1904, in St. Petersburg, recommended the launching of the Banquet Campaign, a series of banquets held in November to spread reformist ideas. The congress also established political trade unions.

The outbreak of the Revolution of 1905–07 encouraged union members to work more actively. The union’s third congress, held Mar. 25–27, 1905, in Moscow, adopted a program supporting the transferral of plots of land from pomeshchiki (landowners) to peasants with little land, the institution of an eight-hour workday, and other reforms. Seeking to increase its influence on the masses, the union organized an illegal press, where it printed both legal and illegal publications. The fourth congress, held Aug. 23–25, 1905, in Moscow, advocated the union’s participation in the elections to the Bulygin Duma and the founding of the Constitutional Democratic Party in conjunction with the Union of Zemstvo Constitutionalists.

The union’s left wing, which included Annenskii, V. Bogu-charskii, V. V. Vodovozov, E. D. Kuskova, S. N. Prokopovich, A. V. Peshekhonov, and V. V. Khizhniakov, was centered on the magazine Bez zaglaviia (Without a Heading). The Bolsheviks, headed by V. I. Lenin, opposed the attempts of the Union of Liberation to seize the leadership of the revolutionary-liberation movement and fought to free the union’s radical wing from the influence of the liberals. In October 1905, after the creation of the Constitutional Democratic Party, the Union of Liberation was disbanded.


Lenin, V. I. Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed. (See Index Volume, part 1, p. 649.)
Shakhovskoi, D. I. “Soiuzosvobozhdeniia.” Zarnitsy, 1909, no. 2.
Shatsillo, K. F. “Novoe o ‘Soiuze Osvobozhdeniia’.” Istoriia SSSR, 1975, no. 4.
Shatsillo, K. F. Obzor dokumentänykh materialov kruzhka “Beseda” i “Soiuza osvobozhdeniia” v fonde D. I. Shakhovskogo: Arkheograficheskii ezhegodnik za 1974 g. Moscow, 1975.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
The Union of Liberation, the Social Democratic party (SDs) and the Socialist Revolutionaries (SRs) were all formed during these years, the SDs splitting into Bolshevik and Menshevik wings in 1903.
The Union of Liberation, composed primarily of intelligentsia and urban liberals, and the zemstvo movement of liberal landowners, were now openly demanding political reform.
Gapon, however, alarmed the authorities by his socialist attitude and took advice from the Union of Liberation, an organisation of middle-class liberal intellectuals campaigning to parliamentary democracy.
Their petition, inspired by the Union of Liberation, asked for the working day to be cut to eight hours, for the right to strike and for the election of a constituent assembly by secret ballot and universal suffrage.

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