Union of Welfare

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Union of Welfare


a secret society of Decembrists, founded in early 1818, after the dissolution of the Union of Salvation. Members of the union included A. N. Murav’ev, N. M. Murav’-ev, S. I. Murav’ev-Apostol, M. I. Murav’ev-Apostol, P. I. Pe-stel’, I. D. Iakushkin, and M. S. Lunin. The directing body of the union was the Fundamental Council, and the executive body was a six-member council (duma). The union had regional boards in St. Petersburg, Moscow, Tul’chin, Kishinev, and other cities. Most of its approximately 200 members were of the dvorianstvo (nobility or gentry).

The union set forth its system of organization and the legal procedures it followed in the first part of its charter, the Zelenaia Kniga (Green Book). The second part of the Zelenaia Kniga, known only to the highest-ranking members, stated the union’s secret goals: the abolition of autocracy and serfdom and the establishment of constitutional rule; these goals were to be achieved by relatively peaceful means. The union sought to overcome the parochialism and the conspiratorial tactics of the Union of Salvation by swaying public opinion. It succeeded in winning to its side a number of literary and educational associations, Masonic lodges, and newspapers. Its members published economic, historical, philosophical, and literary works, in which they criticized serfdom, despotism, and the reactionary military reforms of A. A. Arakcheev. They also denounced the disregard for the law shown by the tsarist courts and administrative bodies and the censors. They distributed works expounding freedom and conducted revolutionary agitation among soldiers.

In January 1820 members of the Fundamental Council met in St. Petersburg and spoke in favor of establishing a republic after listening to a report by Pestel’. At the same time they discussed plans for a “military revolution.” Disagreements eventually arose among union members over policy and tactics.

In early 1821 a congress of the Fundamental Council in Moscow disbanded the Union of Welfare in order to rid the union of untrustworthy and especially radical members and to mislead the authorities. The most active members then founded the Northern Society of Decembrists and the Southern Society of Decembrists.


Bazanov, V. G. Uchenaia respublika. Moscow-Leningrad, 1964.
Porokh, I. V. “Deiatel’nost’ dekabristov v Moskve, 1816–25.” In the collection Dekabristy v Moskve. Moscow, 1963.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
This group was not an extension of the Decembrist Union of Welfare (as the initial inquiries of the Investigatory Committee posited, and as many Soviet scholars later argued) or an equivalent of the semipublic and more rarefied Arzamas, but rather a secret society devoted to drinking, sex, and literature.

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