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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a policy of the tsarist government with regard to the worker question in Russia at the beginning of the 20th century. It consisted in spreading legal, progovernment workers’ organizations that operated under secret police surveillance and that were designed to divert workers from the political struggle against the autocracy and direct the workers’ movement into the channel of purely economic demands. “Promises of more or less extensive reforms, actual readiness to carry out the tiniest fraction of what has been promised, and the demand to refrain from political struggle in returnfor this—suchis the essence of Zubatovshchina,” wrote V. I. Lenin (Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 7, p. 37).

Zubatovshchina arose in the context of the development of the proletarian’s economic struggle into political struggle, the growth of workers’ consciousness and the spontaneous desire of the workers to unite, and the growing influence of revolutionary Social Democracy. The tsarist government was forced by these developments to supplement its increased repression with more flexible measures in the struggle against the mass revolutionary movement. Its initiator was the head of the Moscow division of the Okhranka (tsarist secret police), S. V. Zubatov; in developing and implementing Zubatovshchina, he drew on the ideas of Bernsteinism, legal Marxism, and economism. The first organization based on this policy was created by the Okhranka in Moscow in May 1901 as the Society of Mutual Aid of Workers in Mechanical Production. In the summer of 1901 agents of Zubatovshchina who had previously belonged to the Bund established the Jewish Independent Workers’ Party in Minsk and Vilnius. Between 1901 and 1903 organizations and groups of Zubatovshchina were founded in St. Petersburg, Kiev, Kharkov, Ekaterinoslav, Nikolaev, and Perm’, while organizations of “independents” were established in Minsk, Odessa, Vilnius, Grodno, and Bobruisk. Meetings of these societies discussed the necessity to attain higher wages and shorten the workday; it was even proposed that the workers buy the factories. The demagogic statements made by the leaders of Zubatovshchina caused the revolutionary press to call it “police socialism.” Members of the liberal intelligentsia (such as I. Kh. Ozerov and A. E. Vorms) were enlisted to work in the societies. On Feb. 19, 1902, a demonstration of thousands of workers was organized at the monument to Alexander II in order to arouse monarchist feelings.

Revolutionary Social Democracy and Iskra waged a merciless struggle against Zubatovshchina, explaining to the workers that it was essentially provocation. Lenin foresaw that Zubatovshchina would inevitably turn against the government itself and the capitalists, since the legalization of the workers’ movement would entail “attracting the attention of ever larger numbers, including the most backward sections of the workers, to social and political questions” (ibid., vol. 6, p. 115). Many strikes begun by organizations of Zubatovshchina turned into political actions under the influence of revolutionary Social Democratic agitation. This was demonstrated with particular clarity by the general strike of 1903 in the south of Russia. The government rejected Zubatov’s proposed method of combating the revolutionary movement, and the entrepreneurs found him unacceptable as well. In the summer of 1903 the organizations of Zubatovshchina were liquidated.


Lenin, V. I. Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed. (See Reference Volume, part 1, p. 164.)
Korelin, A. P. “Russkii ‘politseiskii sotsializm’ (Zubatovshchina).” Voprosy istorii, 1968, no. 10.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Thus we have chiefly only Zelnik and the group of Zubatovshchina (police socialism) studies on the state's direct engagement with workers, or "histories from above." (9) All other studies are "histories from below," of the condition of workers and their movements against the state and employers, almost to the point of ignoring the state, bizarre as that may appear in a situation like the Russian one.
Morskoi, Zubatovshchina (Moscow: Sytin, 1913), 52-75, esp.