Zemstvo and Municipal Unions

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Zemstvo and Municipal Unions


(full name, the All-Russian Zemstvo Union for Aid to Sick and Wounded Soldiers and the All-Russian Union of Cities), national military-social organizations of liberal pomeshchiki (landlords) and the bourgeoisie, created in 1914 to assist tsarism in organizing the home front for conducting the imperialist war of 1914–18.

The Zemstvo Union was founded in Moscow on July 30, 1914, at the Congress of Representatives of Provincial Zemstvos. The Union of Cities was also founded in Moscow, on Aug. 8–9, 1914, at the Congress of Mayors. The congresses elected central committees of the unions, headed by central representatives. The Zemstvo Committee was headed by Prince G. E. L’vov, who was close to the Constitutional Democrats (Cadets), and the Municipal Committee was led by the mayor of Moscow, the Cadet M. V. Chelnokov. District, provincial, front-line, and regional committees of the Zemstvo Union and the Municipal Union were created. In the beginning, the unions were engaged mainly in assisting the sick and wounded, performing such tasks as equipping hospitals, hospital trains, and food-serving centers, preparing medicines and linen, and training medical personnel. Subsequently they also began to fulfill orders of the main commissariat for clothing and boots for the army and to organize aid for refugees. The finances of the Zemstvo and Municipal unions were made up of government subsidies, contributions from local organizations of the unions, and donations. After the defeat of the tsarist troops in the summer of 1915, the unions helped in mobilizing the handicrafts industry to supply the army with armaments and equipment. With this aim in mind, they created a unified committee, Zemgor, on July 10, 1915. Through Zemgor and the war industries committees (a group created for the same purposes by leading industrialists) the bourgeoisie attempted to take control of supply of the army. However, the government established the Special Conferences in August 1915, which were state bodies for the regulation of the military economic structure, thus leaving the war industries committees and Zemgor only an intermediary role in fulfilling state orders. Representatives of Zemgor were members of the Special Conferences.

The Zemstvo and Municipal unions were political bodies of the commercial and industrial bourgeoisie and of the segment of the pomeshchiki that were becoming bourgeois; the unions were among the supports of the Progressive Bloc. The congresses of these unions held in Moscow on Sept. 7–9, 1915, came out in support of the inclusion of bourgeois figures in the government. The congresses sent a delegation to the tsar which was to declare the need for a “renewal” of the membership of the government, but the tsar did not receive the delegation. The tsarist government, displeased with the interference of these unions in politics and suspecting them of attempting to seize power, prohibited a joint congress of them and the war industries committees in December 1915. In December 1916 the congresses of the Zemstvo and Municipal unions in Moscow were dispersed by the police. The leaders decided to take part in a palace coup, hoping that the replacement of the tsar and the formation of a “responsible ministry” headed by Prince G. E. L’vov would bring the war to “a victorious end” and avert a revolution. After the February Revolution, the leading figures of the unions, including L’vov and A. I. Shingarev, became members of the bourgeois Provisional Government. The Zemstvo and Municipal unions greeted the Great October Socialist Revolution with hostility and took part in organizing sabotage and counterrevolutionary conspiracies. A decree of the Council of People’s Commissars of Jan. 4 (17), 1918, abolished the central committees of the Zemstvo and Municipal unions and transferred their property to the Supreme Council on the National Economy. However, funds sent abroad by the unions were used to finance the White armies and the White émigrés.


Izvestiia glavnogo komiteta Vserossiiskogo zemskogo soiuza pomoshchi bol’nym i ranenym voinam. Moscow, 1914–17.
Izvestiia Vserossiiskogo Soiuza gorodov pomoshchi bol’nym i ranenym voinam. Moscow, 1914–17.
Pogrebinskii, A. P. “K istorii soiuzov zemstv i gorodov v gody imperialisticheskoi voiny.” In the collection Istoricheskie zapiski, vol. 12. Moscow, 1941.


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