Exemplifying political ideas

Russian revolutionary circles before 1917

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Caroline Humphrey Anthropologist ch10001@hermes.cam.ac.uk

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Abstract

Contradictions lie at the heart of revolutionary groups operating in underground conditions: how can the trust and secrecy of the circle be combined with spreading the message to far-flung masses? Can the ideals for the future society be manifested in the way the revolutionaries are themselves organized? This paper examines the disputes on these questions that raged among Russian radicals before 1917, which are important because of their subsequent global influence. It analyzes the dynamical changes in the forms taken by certain major revolutionary circles, and argues that the differentiated social forms, which morphed via crucial decisions from their origin in egalitarian multi-voiced circles, stemmed from the internal debate that was essential to the circle and was to a great extent an outcome of the philosophical and revolutionary ideas espoused.

When starting to write this article I wondered whether to put “revolutionary circles” in inverted commas, since they are as much an image of a social form as they are an actuality. Whether in real life or in the imagination, they have a secretive character, as illegal groups aiming at liberation of the oppressed and the overthrow of hated state structures. They are the forging ground of new political ideas, and they have work to do not only to strategize how best to attack the old order, but also and more importantly to conceptualize what the contours of the desired new society should be. Examining the case of early-twentieth-century Russia, I argue here that the circle was not only the name given to a practical necessity, indicating the circumscribed character of the small groups of underground activists. The circle was also a concept that represented in condensed metaphorical form certain key ideals of the future socialist society: human equality, frank internal debate, and the unity of trusted and committed comrades in the face of reactionary forces. At the same time, the real-life circles became crucibles for the instantiation of these ideas in relations among the revolutionaries themselves. Always at personal cost, riven by bitter disagreements as well as by contradictions with alternative social mores, the mode of relating of the revolutionary circle was a restless testing ground for political theories and the ethical formation of the members.

Contrary to much social theory that from Durkheim onward has argued that it is social institutions that must give rise to characteristic forms of thought (“collective representations”), and indeed contrary to the beliefs of many Marxist-inclined revolutionaries themselves, with revolutionary circles there is an example of the reverse—the political ideas come first, and the groups form out of the people who want to define and spread those ideas and use them to make revolution happen. In the Russian case, while some aspects of the real-life forms were brought about by the exigencies of underground existence, it was more importantly the variation in the political ideas themselves—their actual content in terms of values and visions of the future society—that gave shape to the different relational patterns we can think of as “circles.”

The Russian circles had no other raison d'être than to create those interactions wherein eventful political and hence moral decisions were hammered out. For all its strengths, the post-Foucauldian turn to “ordinary ethics” is of little help here (Lambek 2010). For the moral questions hotly argued in the circles were not everyday ones. They did not stem from a cultural way of life. Often, they aimed first at destruction and were in conscious collision with the ordinary dilemmas of conducting a decent life. Ethical questions of practices of the self certainly figured for the revolutionaries, but they were formed within the larger “Kantian issues” of which grand moral principles to adopt as primary and overriding, in view not only of the particular vision of the ideal society to come, but also in the tortuous process of struggling to achieve it in the here and now.

Revolutionary circle as an analytical term

For the concept of the “revolutionary circle” to be useful cross-culturally and cross-temporally it is necessary to start with a preliminary definition: an informal association of trusted people engaged in planning to attack and overturn an unjust government and create a better, fairer society. In the period considered here, approximately 1890–1917, small, politically radical underground groups of this kind were significant in Germany, India, and China, to name but a few countries. Some were in touch with, or influenced by, the Russian thinkers discussed in this article, but many sprang up independently. It is therefore interesting to think about the idea of a social “circle,” with its connotations of self-enclosure and mutual equivalence of members. One of the purest examples of the circle as a sociopolitical form comes from provincial China in the period between the 1870s and the 1920s, when Mongolians formed secret resistance groups called duguilang (from dugui, “circle” or “wheel”) to protest against tax rises and sales of their land by government officials to Chinese peasants. The groups took the name duguilang because the participants sat in a ring at their meetings, and also because they signed their names on protest documents in a circle, like rays from an absent focal point, in order to indicate solidarity and the absence of a leader who could be picked off and arrested. Over the decades, the duguilangs moved from the articulation of popular discontent, through the instigation of violent actions, to the promotion of revolutionary-style uprising, and in the last period they were influenced in part by the Russian precedents (Atwood 2002: 213–230).

I cite this case not to erect a timeless, abstract notion of the revolutionary circle, but as an exercise of comparison in what Detienne (2008) calls “concrete practices of assembly.” The Mongolian protest document (Figure 1) is a diagram that illustrates particularly clearly the aptness of the circle to represent the idea of political equality. This is a concept of a group of people with no head and no hierarchy, in which all social differentiation of the revolutionary subjects has been erased. There are similarities and differences between this and the Russian revolutionary circle, as will become clear throughout this article.

Figure 1.
Figure 1.

An Inner Mongolian duguilang.1 The inner “spokes” are complaints and demands. The outer words beyond the circle of names are slogans. Photograph courtesy of Tengis, 2021.

Citation: focaal 2021, 91; 10.3167/fcl.2021.910102

The history of change and the intensification of political action in both Russian and Mongolian cases indicate that any analytical concept of the revolutionary circle needs to incorporate the possibility of “topological” variants and historical developments in the empirical manifestations of the form. Since early in the nineteenth century and the escalation of Tsarist repressive autocracy under Alexander I, Russia had seen the springing up of countless small, informal critical or oppositional groups that met in secret (Raeff 1990: 91–95). These were known as “small circles” or kruzhki (singular, kruzhok, from krug, “circle”). They could emerge among writers, among students, or in various professions and occupations. A difference in morphology from the Mongolian case in that they usually assembled around a named founder, although it was not necessarily the case that this person's opinion dominated. Only later did some of these circles determine on the path of revolution, and even then, every possible kind of revolution was envisaged by one group or another, from a reformist parliamentarian type, through peasant liberation, to anarchist chaos or Marxist class war.2

This article will start by discussing the revolyutsionnyye kruzhki in St Petersburg in which Vladimir Il'ich Ul'yanov (later known as Lenin) participated in the 1890s before he was arrested and exiled to Siberia. However, while exile prevented Ul'yanov from attending meetings of kruzhki in the metropolis, it did not put an end to his participation in a “revolutionary circle.” This latter we can now see as a more complex analytical idea than the kruzhok, since its form incorporated the geographical extensions in the social-political life of the members, such as the links that continued to tie the Siberian exiles to the members remaining in the city, the trans-Russia networks maintained through correspondence, or the organization of revolutionary agitation among workers beyond the circle itself. These expanded relations would not naturally be called kruzhki by Russians, since the term refers to the particular social phenomenon of the face-to-face group. “Revolutionary circles” in an analytical sense morphed out of kruzhki and, as a political form, took on their own character, which I suggest was inherently dialogical and changeful.

The argument will be that the mutable morphological character of the revolutionary circle over time correlates with that taken by the course of revolutionary thinking—the future-oriented, multiple, reiterative, and occasionally even reversible process of confrontational decision-making about an as-yet-virtual world. Indeed, the modus operandi of revolutionary circles—position papers, critiques, counterarguments, votes, and contested “resolutions”—was confrontational and deliberately intended to produce changes. If kruzhki were like mushrooms that spring up and disappear, “revolutionary circles” were elastic, could be pulled or stretched almost to breaking point, and yet could also coagulate into composites before dividing again or generating subgroups. Yet within this general characterization certain very different empirical configurations arose. The contrast of relational “shapes,” notably that between the Bolshevik and Menshevik circles, was correlated, I suggest, with what substantively it was as different political goals and moral principles that people in the initially conjoined revolutionary group had decided were their sticking points.

From kruzhok to revolutionary circle

In St Petersburg in the 1870s, kruzhki aimed at political and philosophical self-education flourished. They were made up of college youth, or of middle-class people from provincial towns; they were not initially revolutionary, debating various works that were legal at the time. The Lavrov group, for example, rejected Narodnik Anarchist terror and acknowledged only the ethical aspect of those teachings, namely the debt the radical intelligentsia owed to the people for their own privileged position. They agreed to “go to the people,” but only in the form of giving useful service (as doctors, educators, advocates, etc.). They rejected the idea of taking political propaganda to the peasants, taking the view that they needed to improve their own education first (Balandin 2007). A particularly active and close-knit kruzhok of this kind was called the Chaikovskii circle. In this case, however, once they started reading Marx and papers about the working class in Russia, they moved underground and turned to revolutionary thinking. In 1872, they accepted the eminent anarchist Petr Kropotkin as a member, and his memoirs tell us much about the character of these groups:

Acceptance into a secret society was not accompanied by any oath-taking or ceremonies. Even the idea of ritual would have made us laugh. The kruzhok didn't even have a charter. They took only people they knew well, people had been tested many times, so they could be trusted.

Our kruzhok was a close family of friends. Never again did I meet such a group of ideationally pure and ethically exceptional people as that twenty I met at my first session in the Chaikovskii kruzhok. To this day I am proud that I was accepted into such a circle. (Kropotkin 1971: 317)

Kropotkin, a nobleman and easily the best educated of the group, was chosen to write a position paper. “Should we engage in rethinking the ideal future structure?” was discussed in autumn 1873 and accepted as providing the general direction. But Kropotkin's concrete proposals—his arguments for inciting a peasant uprising and seizure of land and property—were approved by only three people. Instead, what was decided was to try to get the Tsar to approve a constitution—a task assigned again to Kropotkin because of his contacts at court (Balandin 2007).

From this we see two things: first, that the task of a kruzhok was not so much to produce unanimity but to work through ideas with a plurality of voices. Its diverse social composition, bringing together people of different classes, ages, genders, and ethnicities, was the deliberate antithesis of Russia's archaic, estate-structured patriarchal hierarchy.3 This is illustrated in Makovskii's painting (Figure 2), where a young girl declaims, an old man ponders, an officer looks doubtful, one man applauds while another objects, and in the background a woman commits an impropriety—she lights up a cigarette. The painting is one of many illustrating how such clandestine gatherings were imagined in Russia: surrounded in darkness, an inspired speaker ringed by intent faces, lit from above by a single round lamp. Such a circle was a dramatic mini-stage. In the circumscribed orbit of such an assembly the people that outside society ignored could be seen by all and heard by all (Detienne 2008: 85–86).

Figure 2.
Figure 2.

“Evening party” by V. E. Makovskii, a painting that is widely understood to depict a revolutionary kruzhok. Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow.

Citation: focaal 2021, 91; 10.3167/fcl.2021.910102

Second, it is evident from the decisions taken by vote by the Chaikovskii circle—to accept Kropotkin's grand idea about the need to rethink the ideal future structure of society and to limit immediate action to the request for a constitution—that the virtual temporal quality of the longed-for ideals had to coexist with the limitations of immediate reality. This was a contradiction intrinsic to the revolutionary circle. What actually happened in the Chaikovskii case is that the Tsar haughtily rejected the notion of a constitution, but the three friends who had backed Kropotkin's proposal for action did go off to start revolutionary agitation among factory workers. This was later reported on, and after one student attached to the kruzhok was captured and gave away the others, virtually the entire Chaikovskii circle was arrested. After many such disasters, even the debating kruzhki in colleges and universities would take steps to ensure their continuation. As soon as an organizing committee was elected, they chose the members of the following committee in case they themselves were arrested. This second committee did the same. One early socialist activist recalls that over a period of only a few months, he became a member of the seventh such committee of a student kruzhok, whereupon he too was arrested (Ivanov-Razumnik 1965: 10).

In 1894, when Ul'yanov (Lenin) arrived from the provinces bearing a recommendation letter as to his revolutionary credentials,4 he had long since “fallen in love with Marx and Engels— literally, in love,” as he told his sisters (Sebestyen 2018: 57). He immediately sought out contacts in the most Marxist kruzhki, those of the Social Democrats, and took the “decisive step” of entering the comprehensively undercover way of life he was to continue for many years to come. Such a step, for women revolutionaries especially, most of whom came from educated bourgeois backgrounds, meant making a shocking and courageous break with former lives. Friendships within the circle replaced conventional society, and were sustained by conviction in the rightness of the common goal (Clements 1997: 57). Ul'yanov was recommended via an acquaintance to a certain German, Krasin, who had a characteristic biography (belonged to an earlier circle of radical bent, arrested when the group was busted by the police, exiled for several years, and returned to the struggle). Krasin had founded a new circle in 1891–1892, composed mainly of students from the Technological Institute. After careful investigation Ul'yanov was allowed to join, it being explained that his letter alone could not be taken on trust because the strictest caution was now necessary (Loginov 2018: 149–150). Twenty years earlier, Kropotkin and friends had used traditional methods to maintain secrecy: the agitator-friends had adopted primitive disguise (peasant dress) to work in the factories, and when Kropotkin himself was on the eve of being dispatched to exile, he recalls feverishly teaching the few people left hundreds of names and addresses to be memorized to avoid committing them to paper (Balandin 2007). In the 1890s, however, after so many kruzhki had been obliterated (and we should remember that Ul'yanov's own brother had been executed for plotting to assassinate the Tsar) and after the arrival of Ul'yanov, with his erudition in Marxist theory, aggressive language, and sharp decisive mind, Krasin's kruzhok was soon to encounter the changes whereby it would morph into a revolutionary circle proper.

This involved a process of intensification on three fronts—which, although the three jarred against one another, could be said to have produced a step change in combination:

  • Reinvigoration of Marxist theory by Ul'yanov and Tsederbaum (later known as Martov) to produce an intellectual argument for proletarian revolution in Russia;

  • Professionalization of the practices of undercover activity;

  • Working out practical ways to get the message across to “the masses,” such as setting up a newspaper and founding or encouraging kruzhki among the workers.

The fundamental paradox of the illegal revolutionary group—how to combine the exclusive, clandestine leadership of a small, trusted group with broadcasting revolutionary ideas and fervor among the people at large—was never entirely solved.

In 1897, Ul'yanov and Tsederbaum were arrested and exiled separately to Siberia. When they returned to St Petersburg three years later it was fleetingly; as former exiles, they were forbidden to live there. Even before their arrest they evidently already no longer saw their group as a kruzhok; they named their circle more ambitiously the League of Struggle for the Emancipation of the Working Class and had a solemn photograph taken of the seven members (Rappaport 2010: 10). The League made a resolution: to create a newspaper and a unified political party. But the leaders had little money and were under constant Okhrana surveillance. Evidently, the great tasks would have to be conducted from exile abroad. However, before I turn to that new era, I will provide a brief note on how we might conceptualize the geographically stretched revolutionary circle that includes those in exile.

The revolutionary circle as a trans-spatial skein

Ul'yanov seems to have enjoyed his three years of exile in a relatively comfortable village in southern Siberia, using it to read voraciously, write a major book, The Development of Capitalism in Russia, go hunting in the forest, and recuperate his health. But he was made intensely anxious by the difficulties and slowness of contact with the people who mattered to him, the activist core in St Petersburg and his exiled colleagues scattered across Siberia. He constantly wrote letters, impatiently ordered piles of books, and lived for the moment the post (and money) would arrive at the nearest town (Loginov 2018: 290–295; Rappaport 2010: 12–13). This suggests that the revolutionary circle can be imagined as a thin, trans-spatial, and fluctuating skein, one that expands and contracts with the moves of the members. Jughashvili (nicknamed Koba or Soso, later known as Stalin), who became a long-range member of Ul'yanov's circle, was to experience eight arrests, seven exiles, and six escapes (Deich 1903; Sebag-Montefiore 2007: 117–118)—in other words, there were many stretches of his “circle”—but usually followed by a rapid return, so it contracted again.

Another way of conceiving the revolutionary circle in exile would be as a pulsating nexus of multiple circulations. Thin in the strict sense of membership, since the core comprised only closely tied but often physically distant revolutionary colleagues, the circle nevertheless also had a certain fullness of local activity; this included letters written to potential sympathizers asking for money; travel to meet fellow exiles (even of uncongenial political persuasion); gossip, drinking parties, and affairs; short-lived friendships with officials and police guards who could relax restrictions; negotiations with secret “escape sections”; and, very importantly, the circulation of books and tracts. There were rules and mores of the circle: provisioning and housework were to be shared, escape opportunities taken in turn, unneeded gifts and warm clothing circulated, and the books left by a released exile were to be distributed equally among those remaining. A modest, egalitarian lifestyle was to be accepted as a precursor of the future socialist ideal (cf. Al-Khalili, this issue). Ul'yanov or Lenin was exemplary in this regard. He was to describe marriage as slavery (while being silent about own marriage in what would become classic Soviet style) and he was known to sew on his own buttons (Clements 1997: 192).

In short, an attempt was made to reproduce comradely ethical relations. This was possible because while Siberia was flooded with exiles of every ilk, the “politicals” were mostly treated far more leniently than the criminals, and led an existence that was more or less separate not only from them but also from the local Siberians. They could live off their own incomes if wealthy (like Ul'yanov), receive money, books, food stores, medicines, alcohol, photographic equipment, and even guns, and most were paid a basic pension by the state (Clements 2016: 78–82). Yet many were poor, ill, and lonely. Distributed in ones and twos among far-flung villages of generally unfriendly natives, it was rarely possible to form a local group of the politically like-minded. The original circle remained the crucial lifeline. Sometimes it was stretched almost to breaking point, as for example when Jughashvili, banished to Arctic Siberia in 1914, agonized that he had been forgotten when he heard that Lenin had sent money for an escape—but for another exile, not himself (Sebag-Montefiore 2007: 285–289).

Internal tension of the revolutionary circle

After Ul'yanov moved to Western Europe in 1900, the elastic of the inner circle of the Social Democrats (SDs) stretched to its extreme tensile range—from Geneva to exiled comrades marooned in Arctic Siberian wastes. Leaving behind the Russian kruzhki with their endless debates,5 Ul'yanov emigrated because he intended to create an “organ” for his circle, a newspaper that would convey a definitive view for wide distribution, and he knew that it would be too dangerous to try to accomplish this in Russia. My focus now moves to the shapes that the revolutionary circles eventually assumed. The tension within them arose from fundamental contradictions: the need to define what kind of revolution was desired, bourgeois-democratic or socialist, and to determine which class would be its instrument, the peasants, the workers, or a combination of both, all of which was debated amid the swirling plenitude of philosophies and scientific theories of the early twentieth century.

I discuss the Social Democrats since they are by far the best documented. But it should not be forgotten that there were many other competing Russian revolutionary movements located both inside and outside the country: congeries of descendants of the Narodniks, who advocated peasant insurgence; various strands of Anarchists; the widely popular Social Revolutionaries (SRs), whose means included terror and assassination; the Bund, the Jewish national liberation group; and others who argued for “bourgeois revolution” of one kind or another (parliamentary, legal, constitutional, etc.). The SDs were the most orthodox Marxists and the only grouping to maintain that revolution must be based on armed insurrection by the industrial proletariat, not on the amorphous peasantry, and not on some hazy notion of “the people,” still less “the nation.” These various groups had some common features: a small clique of leaders, a network of activists, and publishing activity to convey the message. But they were otherwise very different, in structure, degree of organization, funding, popularity, legality, numbers of adherents, and main locations. A full study of revolutionary circles should properly compare them with one another, but in the confines of a short article I will examine only the forms taken by the Social Democrats, first while they were united in one fractious circle, and then the bifurcation that eventuated in the emergence of two distinct circles.

In 1900, Ul'yanov went with his long-standing SD colleagues Potresov and Tsederbaum to Geneva to get the support of Plekhanov, the grandfather-in-exile of Russian revolution, for the creation of the newspaper. Plekhanov and Axelrod, along with their faithful colleague Vera Zasulich, had earlier founded the émigré-based “Emancipation of Labor” circle. The two groups met amid suspicion and tantrums, for their aims were very different. Plekhanov saw the newspaper primarily as a venue for discussion of his own Marxist theories, whereas Ul'yanov, Potresov, and Tsederbaum wanted it to have a far more radical role, as an instrument of revolution. Still, they agreed on a name for the paper, Iskra (‘the Spark’), with an editorial board of the six abovementioned people. This small group we can now see as the nucleus of the new Iskra revolutionary circle. The atmosphere was like a stormy version of a kruzhok. Intractable and arrogant, Plekhanov rejected Ul'yanov's draft declaration, complained at his dull writing style, and furthermore insisted that the new newspaper be produced in comfortable, neutral Geneva under his leadership. After petulant resignations from the editorial board of the still nonexistent paper, matters were patched up to Plekhanov's advantage (Rappaport 2010: 22–23). Iskra was published. For three years the editorial board just about held together. For the time being, projecting the Iskra point of view against rival socialist opinion took priority over internal matters.

During this period (1900–1903), Ul'yanov was preoccupied with the intensification and regulation of conspiratorial methods. It was also in these years that he adopted “Lenin” as his political identity. I will argue that these two seemingly unrelated facts were connected, since both were agentive in the form the revolutionary circle now took.

Konspiratsiya, konspiratsiya, and again konspiratsiya!” Ul'yanov/Lenin exhorted. What he meant by this, however, was not a conspiracy, for which Russians have another word (zagovor). In Russian, konspiratsiya is the principle of secrecy and above all the technical methods for securing it. The word is neutral and does not have negative connotations. In ordinary speech, konspiratsiya is said to have “laws” and “rules” to ensure its watertightness—and many of these precepts were honed by Lenin. The success of his remotely controlled operation in Russia depended on observation of his strictures regarding safe houses, passwords, aliases, use of disguise and comportment, correct construction of false-bottomed suitcases, fabricated or stolen passports, the chemical components of invisible ink, and constant changes in the complex numerical or alphabetical codes used for writing letters. The tiny clique in Switzerland now took charge of what later came to be hundreds of men and women activists in Russia who had given up ordinary life and gone underground. Their main work was distributing Iskra (known as “sowing”) and printing pamphlets and broadsides. They rarely communicated with one another beyond a few close-knit comrades, but were given instructions by activist nodes, such as Elena Stasova in St Petersburg, who was a master of tekhnika as it was known (information gathering, managing smuggling routes, arranging safe houses for meetings and printing operations, hiding illegals on the run, and liaising between supporters across Russia) (Clements 1997: 68–75; Rappaport 2010: 36–50).

As Iskra activity increased, so did that of the highly competent Okhrana. The revolutionaries’ relatively unsophisticated codes were intercepted and easily decoded. Police spies were active in every Russian city, with a foreign arm based in Paris. Ul'yanov decided that a broad grassroots movement of undisciplined groups in Russia would remain prey to endless police infiltration and arrests. “Such broad democracy,” he argued, “amid the gloom of the autocracy and the domination of the gendarmerie is nothing more than a useless and harmful toy” (quoted in Rappaport 2010: 54). He decreed instead an elite professional leadership. At this point, his enhanced rules of konspiratsiya were the main technology for disciplining far-flung agents. But they also must have served to create the desired elite by distinguishing degrees of trust and access, and this provides one way in which we may begin to discern an inner differentiation: the revolutionary circle distinguished from the outer tentacles. Ul'yanov informed his headman in Kharkov that all underground activists were to be instructed in self-discipline, conspiratorial methods, and conduct under questioning. However, only some people were entrusted with the codes, and very few indeed were allowed to know Ul'yanov's current alias or permitted to write to him at his own address rather than that of a safe house. Yet even this information must have been conditional on the degree of intimacy. For in winter 1900–1901, Ul'yanov had four addresses in Germany alone, and for the use of his mother and sisters also two special routes for correspondence via addresses in Paris and Prague. The address of a key safe house, the one used by the people publishing Iskra, was given only to a “narrow circle” (Deich 1969: 50–52). Konspiratsiya thus began to give shape to the topological consistency of the network.

A way of getting at the inner consistency of the revolutionary circle is via the practices of naming. In 1902, Ul'yanov published What Is To Be Done? (Chto delat’) under the name N. Lenin, a work that resounded among revolutionaries and was henceforth considered to be his defining interpretation of Marxism to achieve revolution. For years he had used a confusing succession of pseudonyms as an author (he is thought to have used a total of over 150 up to 1917; Rappaport 2010: 56), not to mention countless aliases and false identities for undercover work. Around this time almost all of the revolutionaries and writers attracted to the social democrats adopted new and henceforth relatively stable publishing and party names (often thereby obscuring a Jewish family background). In the early 1900s, Tsederbaum, for example, chose the name Martov (Getzler 1967: 1), Apfelbaum became Zinoviev, Rozenfeld became Kamenev, and Lev Bronstein changed his surname to Trotsky. Although they continued occasionally to use other pen names, the time had come for each man to adopt a revolutionary-political identity, leaving behind the earlier family one. Soon the new names came to indicate a recognizable public persona that could convey messages with each author's distinctive voice. Over the years, “Lenin” came to signify the relentless, far-sighted, uncompromising political leader who gathered devoted adherents across Russia.

These names were revolutionary and projected outward, but among themselves the members used neither the old family names nor the new ones. A separate set of nicknames indicated the intimacy of personal trust and was used in informal communications among members. This practice may have been rationalized as a precaution against censorship of correspondence, but it was also a matter of friendship and brevity, inflected by a shared take on people's personalities. Thus Ul'yanov/Lenin was referred to as “Starik” (“Old Man”);6 Tsederbaum/Martov was “Aleksei,” “Pakhomii,” and various other nicknames; Litvinov was “Papa”; Kulyabko was “Mouse”; Lyadov was “the Nymph”; Zemlyachka was “the Demon”; and so forth.7 Thousands of miles of distance were obliterated when it could be taken for granted that your correspondent would know to which pair of sister activists “Bulochki” (“Small Buns”) referred. Outsiders were simply not party to this. It increasingly came to be the custom among Lenin's close colleagues to call him “Il'yich” (his patronymic, son of Il'ya), a usage that was respectful but also familiar in a village-y kind of way, with its implication that we know who Il'ya is.8 Only his wife, mother, and sisters continued to call Lenin by the old domestic diminutive “Volodochka,” while he signed his letters to them “Your V. U.” or “Your V. Ul'yanov” (Hill and Mudie 1937; Rappaport 2010: 57)—both practices indicating a subtle distinction within the comradeship of the circle. It can be seen that the revolutionary person retained a number of coexistent identities, and that the one known to the public obscured the presence of intimate names or personae used by ever-smaller numbers of people. This was a function of the concentric form of the revolutionary circle, and its simultaneously inward and outward-facing character.

Political ideas and group morphology

The “golden period” of Iskra comradeship lasted only three years. Meanwhile, Lenin increased his control of the small Russian Social Democratic Labor Party (RSDLP), which had been founded in Russia in 1898, intending to turn it into a forceful modern party under his leadership. The RSDLP at this point was nothing like the “machine” (see Cooper, this issue) it would turn into decades later. In Russia it consisted, rather, of tenuously connected nodes of activists (“revolutionary circles”) in a handful of major cities. The émigrés in Europe were acknowledged as leaders and Lenin's articles and exhortations were read eagerly, but they were far from universally accepted. In Europe too, despite his bitter row with Plekhanov, Lenin maintained that “open polemics” were necessary in order to resolve deep disagreements (Loginov 2018: 363). At this point, the party was still coterminous with the revolutionary circle, with its argumentative character.

In 1903, at an RSDLP conference held in London, disagreement between Lenin and Martov boiled to the surface over the membership of the Iskra editorial board. Lenin manipulated the meeting, all but excluding Plekhanov and Axelrod, and also sidelining Martov (who disliked London and was absent some of the time). Temporarily, the board was reduced from six to the three of Lenin's group. In fact, Lenin and Martov, who had earlier been close friends, went on jousting for years, now separating in anger and now joining together in strategic partnership. I cannot here detail these convoluted maneuvers, which have been described in different versions in many histories (Ali 2017; Getzler 1967; Loginov 2018; Rappaport 2010; Sebestyen 2018; Volkogonov 2013). I focus on the fact that the seemingly procedural quarrel was spurred by a sharp divergence in political ideals and ethics, and that it was the latter that determined Lenin and Martov's views on how a future political party should be constituted and how it should act. The key difference concerned the kind of revolution sought: one in which the industrial proletariat was led by a vanguard party that would take complete control by force (Lenin) or a more gradualist and socially encompassing one led by progressive socialists (Martov). Until 1912, the two circles remained in the same party, the RSDLP, but from 1903 onward it was divided into two factions, Lenin's Bolsheviks (“the Majority,” actually numerically smaller) and Martov's Mensheviks (“the Minority”). These factions continued to be called “revolutionary circles,” for example by Lenin (1965), and each became gradually more unified in its position. From 1904 on they had separate publishing organs;9 far more clearly than before, the groups “circled” around a single leader with a distinctive agenda—around two men, it turned out, of utterly different character, the fanatically hard-working, disciplined, authoritarian Lenin and the convivial, disorganized, and inconsistent Martov. However, it was not so much the personalities as the politics they espoused that led to the sharp contrast in the topology of the respective circles. For Lenin, a fuzzy-edged group that included passive adherents, the ill-educated, and bourgeois doubters was simply not up to the task of spearheading revolution.

So it is not in fact strange that the first conflict should have arisen about the composition of the editorial board of Iskra. For the disagreement in broad terms was about whether the board, and by extension the party, should consist of a plurality of broadly equal voices (a collegium as it was termed), or a disciplined unity primed for aggression. In the latter view, Lenin's, the reduction of the board to just three, consisting of himself and two loyal followers, was entirely desirable (whatever fine words about democracy the party was supposed to follow); whereas inclusion of the others, with their integrity and their “softness”—by which Lenin meant allowing personal morality to interfere in revolutionary politics—was an obstacle, an irritating distraction, from the main task. The quarrel soon escalated into a conflict about the membership of the party. For Martov, “a conspiratorial organization makes sense only if it is embedded in a wide social democratic party” (quoted by Getzler 1967: 79). It should serve as a flywheel, bringing into motion a mass upsurge, and its illegal existence would eventually become redundant. Lenin, by contrast, insisted that party members could only be full-time revolutionaries enrolled in a tight hierarchical structure. He was bitterly to attack the Mensheviks as “liquidators” (of the heroic exclusive party) and taunt them for holding views that would confine Social Democrat politics to legal trade union activities.

The ideational difference can be illustrated by showing how the two sides responded to a scandal. N. E. Bauman, an outstanding Iskra agent and one of Lenin's most trusted men inside Russia, had earlier been exiled to Orlov. There he had had an affair with a married comrade before fleeing abroad. After his escape, Bauman cruelly mocked her feelings for him, while a friend of his, who remained in Orlov, circulated suggestive cartoons implying her promiscuity and lampooning her pregnancy. In a desperate attempt to “defend her honor,” she committed suicide. In a farewell letter, she appealed to “the party of the struggle for the freedom, the dignity, and the happiness of man”; she complained of the indifference in the party to the personal morality of comrades and expressed the hope that her “undeserved end” would draw the attention of comrades to the question of the private morals of public figures (quoted in Getzler 1967: 66–67). In 1903, her husband traveled to put the matter before the Iskra board, then the party's highest tribunal. Lenin, to the dismay of Martov, Potresov, and Zasulich, ruled it out of order as a purely personal matter, outside the competence of Iskra, and detrimental to the interests of the party. Though in a minority, by sheer obstinacy Lenin prevailed, and the matter was shelved. The Mensheviks were outraged. Relations with Lenin, already tense, went completely to pieces, as Potresov recalled (quoted in ibid.: 67).

Thus was a Leninist pattern established that relegated personal scruples in deference to the superordinate moral good of achieving revolution and a just society. Lenin soon assembled a “young guard” including “the lecher Bauman,” a dull bully called Krasikov, and the violent Kamo, and he bludgeoned through his reduced version of the editorial board. His tactics included the hurtful reneging on a promise to include the young and talented Trotsky, as well as spreading the lie that Martov had agreed to the exclusions beforehand (implying that Martov's objections to the reduced board were a mere show and that he had secretly intrigued over the elimination of Axelrod, Zasulich, and Potresov) (Getzler 1967: 81). Martov countered with a bitter parody, a mock “Constitution” for “the party of the hards.” This attack was published in Iskra after Lenin had already set up his own organ, a newspaper called Vpered (ibid.: 87). In Martov's imagination, the shape of this “hard” Leninist party would be a layered pyramidal hierarchy of the “sitters” and the “sat upon”; it was crowned by a leader “whose rights of sitting are limited only by the laws of nature,” in Martov's ironical phrase.10 Thus Martov foresaw, from his pained observation of the revolutionary circle around Lenin, the organizational shape that would become a model in broad outline for the form eventually taken by the Bolshevik party.

At issue was the delineation of “the revolutionary”—the constituent element of the revolutionary circle. Martov stood for egalitarian socialist collectivism. As he put it in 1903, “I am not accustomed to say ‘I’, when a collegium ought to speak” (quoted in Getzler 1967: 81). With this went his aversion to Lenin's “mad” desire for personal control and the “cancer of Nechaevism” that he feared would destroy the party under Lenin's hand. Sergei Nechaev, nihilist author of the inflammatory pamphlet The Revolutionary's Catechism (1869), had declared:

The revolutionary knows that in the very depths of his being, not only in words but also in deeds, he has broken all the bonds which tie him to the social order and the civilized world with all its laws, moralities, and customs. … He is their implacable enemy, and if he continues to live with them it is only in order to destroy them more speedily.

Lenin's reaction to Bauman's sleazy behavior had been a Nechaev-ian one.11 But for Martov, the “ethical principle” should guide a socialist in all their relations. The danger facing the revolutionary was a self-censorship of “extraneous” feelings, thoughts, and scruples. This was a danger far more insidious than the official state censorship. In fact, many among the Russian intelligentsia had been alert to it ever since the great émigré thinker Herzen had written about the exiled revolutionaries of 1848: “A persecuted tradition, with its crown of thorns on its head, limits the intellect, the heart and the will” (quoted in Kelly 1987: 193). Herzen was referring to the self-limitation and self-mastery demanded by the then (1860s) widely popular idea of heroic, ascetic revolutionary virtue.12 After 1905, when self-censorship (renamed as “party discipline”) was setting in among Lenin's followers, the Menshevik circles indeed had a more socially diffuse shape. This was correlated with their ideas: they were more ideologically variegated, literary, prone to reflection, and aware of advances in European philosophy and psychology. Many intellectuals were inoculated by now against narrow revolutionary “fanaticism.” They were also repelled by Lenin's advocacy of the necessity of revolutionary terror (Lenin 2014), by his forceful, vengeful use of language,13 and by his acceptance of funding from the proceeds of the violent bank robberies and extortions carried out by Jughashvili (Stalin). The same Bolshevik versus Menshevik debates raged among the SDs in Russia. One by one, former enthusiasts for the Bolsheviks among the intelligentsia fell away.

From the revolutionary circle to the party cell

The people who remained were the dedicated body of professional revolutionaries that Lenin argued were necessary to lead the proletariat (Ali 2017: 88). During the period ca. 1905–1917 an extraordinary variety of revolutionary circles continued to contest one another in Russia, while Lenin's own circle, sometimes shrunk to a handful, strove to maintain control over the faraway and scattered adherents of the Bolsheviks.14 It was not this practical problem, however, but Lenin's political theory concerning the structure of the revolutionary party that gave rise to a new vocabulary. As early as 1905, the organizing nodes in Russia, now clearly designated as subordinate to the leadership in Switzerland, were known as “party committees,” while groups of activists on the ground began to be called “cells” (yacheiki). “Cells … are small, very flexible groups with their own combat tasks,” wrote Lenin (quoted in Kharkhordin 1999: 82). Not expected to debate policy, but rather to accept assignments from above, their overall goal was to convey the Bolshevik political line through a network of legal workers’ organizations around them in order arouse resistance. In practice, however, amid the despondency that set in after the failure of the 1905 revolution and the wave of arrests that followed, they did not operate as the new name suggested, as small homogenous compartments of an organized whole. In most Russian provinces they had to enter the fray of local SD forums where the Mensheviks were far more popular, not to mention conflicts with the SRs and other movements (none of which operated with the Leninist idea of the cell). They forgot assignments, confided in informers, failed to provide reports, lost their nerve, or simply refused to work hard. Decisions were taken on the spot about whether or not to obey an order from above. In places, people even moved back and forth between the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks depending on the issue under debate (Clements 1997: 80–82). Meanwhile, in the seething cauldron of the Caucasus the SDs were frankly uncontrollable, consisting as they did of strikingly different groupings, such as the armed Red Battle Squads recruited by Stalin; the circle of Rosenfeld (the future Kamenev) who was at this point a wealthy, non-Leninist moderate; militant groups of miners and railway workers; or the group that met to organize attacks and uprisings behind the façade of the couturier business of the three Svanidze sisters (Sebag-Montefiore 2007: 120–144). In short, the groups Lenin liked to think of as “committees” and “cells” were for a long time almost indistinguishable from “revolutionary circles” as I have been using the term. Only during the revolution in 1917 did they cease simply to call for organization and decisiveness and actually begin to become organized and decisive (Clements 1997: 81). It was not until 1919 that cells were instituted as the official “primary units” of the Bolshevik party to be set up compulsorily in all workplaces.

Despite the long period in which “party cells” were mainly a way of imagining an organization, a comparison of the circle with the cell as two different concepts of social form is nevertheless illuminating (see also Cooper, this issue). The biological etymology of the cell implies its existence as a part of a larger organic whole; it only makes sense as one among many homologous others, each of which works microscopically to sustain this greater entity. The idea of the circle on the other hand implies a separate unit that is sufficient to itself. This article has suggested that Russian revolutionary circles had this character of independence, along with a sense of self-enclosed elevation over surrounding unenlightened people. This fact of their detached positionality—their withdrawal from and opposition to mainstream society and their consciousness of their “advanced” vantage point vis-à-vis the past—enabled circles to become the generators of altogether new concepts of liberation.

The activist groups inside Russia ran on conviction and ardent enthusiasm conveyed from the prototype circle-in-exile in Switzerland. It was Lenin who had the intellectual energy to create the compelling images whereby his own vision was transferred to and then re-sited in the working masses. He wrote:

Revolutions are the festivals of the oppressed and the exploited. At no other time are the masses of the people in a position to come forward so actively as creators of a new social order. At such time, the people are capable of performing miracles. … We shall be traitors to and betrayers of the revolution if we do not use this festive energy of the masses and their revolutionary ardour to wage a ruthless and self-sacrificing struggle for the direct and decisive path. (Lenin 2014: 124)

Although Lenin was in his way a genius and a man of extraordinarily clearly targeted willpower, he did not do his work of conceptualizing the revolution entirely on his own. The ferment of voices and the endless dialogism of “the circle” provided his enabling niche. Within it he could set out his ideas, and have them criticized, voted on, and as it happened, often defeated. Both Kamenev and Zinoviev (usually wrongly described as yes-men), as well as Stalin, would argue with him inside the inner circle. And even much later, “On Our Revolution” (Lenin 1923), which has been described as Lenin's ideological testament, was written as a polemic in debate with Sukhanov, Martov, and Kautsky (Getzler 1992: 94). With a lingering memory of the “circle,” such disagreement could be accommodated. Martov remained in a way a dear friend of the humane Il'yich, even though the same man in his predominant militant persona of “Lenin” would rage at him as “stupid” and a “toad of petty bourgeois chauvinism.” Getzler (ibid.: 102) maintains that Lenin, who did after all share a vision of socialism with his friend, remained to his dying day in perennial argument with Martov. Meanwhile, the Mensheviks, and even the more outlying circles of Gorky, Bogdanov, and Trotsky, arrived at their self-understanding and self-definition as European Social Democrats largely in the process of fencing themselves off from Lenin (ibid.: 91).

The revolutionary circles in this way wrenched forth political-strategic ideas for the first time in history: for neither the precedent of the French Revolution nor Marx's writings were of much use in the case of Russia, a country declared by Marxists (including for a long time Lenin) to be too underdeveloped to sustain a socialist revolution on its own. However, the kind of unprecedented “thinking in-and-with events” that Lenin and the others forged out of the confrontations within the revolutionary circle was inconceivable in the context of a cell.

Conclusion

The revolutionary circle can be seen as a transient social technology for producing political ideas and putting them into effect. Historically and culturally, it was a development of the clandestine kruzhok, which was essentially an oppositional debating forum—in which there might be a leader, but heterogeneity and multiplicity of ideas were essential. When the kruzhki began to aim not only to discuss but also to carry out socialist revolution, they developed the characteristics of the “revolutionary circle” that I have described here. Such a circle involved (ideally): exclusivity to those of similar revolutionary goals; concealment, but not the obliteration, of previous private identities behind political personae; equality of these persons; mutual support; loyalty to the group; disapproval of self-seeking ambitions; “activism” and willingness to express opinions; the ability to observe secrecy and konspiratsiya; and, especially in the case of the Bolsheviks, unshakable resoluteness in the face of temptations and backsliding.

As an epilogue it is worth contemplating this very last point, since the transmogrification of “resoluteness” after 1917 is a gauge of the demise of the revolutionary circle. The quality of tverdost’ (hardness) was mentioned earlier as a slur aimed at Lenin long previously by the Mensheviks. But for the embattled underground activists in Russia to be tverdokamennyi (literally “stone hard,” “steadfast,” or “resolute”) was an aspiration and a high compliment. However, after the October Revolution, when the task of the Bolsheviks was no longer to take power, but to keep it and manage it, “hardness” transformed into the capacity to exercise, or at least tolerate, revolutionary terror. Meanwhile, it fell to the party cells, now flooded with new recruits, to carry forward the revolution among the unawakened workers. As Oleg Kharkhordin (1999: 125–128, 213–235) so thoughtfully describes, what would make such cells “real” and hard was the process of oblichenie, the public accusations of wrongdoing and self-purging of each member's extraneous personal matters, in order to reveal new, homogenous revolutionary selves and thus enable the cell to attain a pure collective identity. With this transmogrification from insurrection to praetorian duty, the cell or kollektiv, not the individual, was now theorized as the primary subject of thought and action (ibid.: 125)—a solid ball, one might say, rather than a ring of people. With this ideological shift, a new era of different kinds of social assemblages dawned and the last glimmer of the old revolutionary circles wavered and was eventually extinguished.

Notes

1

This image is found on several Chinese websites, including https://kknews.cc/zh-cn/history/pvl3lz8.html and https://zhuanlan.zhihu.com/p/163058019 (accessed 26 July 2021). The date and place of the image are not stated, but as one signatory was the well-known Uljijargal, also known as Shine Lama, the image is likely to belong to Ordos in the 1930s. The scribe was Datao Lama.

2

Countering all this, conservatives, aristocrats, army officers, and others also organized kruzhki to debate the ideas and values of holy Christian Tsarism, the nature of patriotism, and so forth.

3

A no-holds-barred debate about the merits of the Social Democratic versus the Social Revolutionary tenets and the calm authoritative voice of the girl who took over as the moderator of a raucous student circle is vividly described in Nikolai Bukharin's autobiographical novel How It All Began (1998).

4

The letter confirmed that Ul'yanov's brother had been executed in 1886 for planning to assassinate the Tsar.

5

A radical kruzhok existed in Pskov, the assigned residence of Ul'yanov at this time, held in the mansion of the progressive Prince Obolenskii. But Ul'yanov refused to attend it, preferring to spend time in the library (Loginov 2018: 331).

6

“In my memory, the young Lenin was never youthful,” writes Potresov, “It's not surprising we called him Old Man, with his pale face, bald head, thin reddish beard, cunning and somewhat lowering narrowed eyes, and his strong elderly voice” (quoted in Loginov 2018: 196).

7

These examples are taken from Lenin's letters to comrades; see Hill and Mudie (1937). For Tsederbaum's various nicknames and his reason for choosing “Martov,” see Getzler (1967: 1).

8

Later, this name, conveying belonging in an inner party comradeship, was taken up by millions of Soviet people.

9

From January 1904, Lenin started a new newspaper, Vpered (‘Forward’), which called for a boycott of the “old Iskra” and the Menshevik “disorganizers” of the party. It contained reports from Russia about supportive groups there. Articles rebutted the common criticisms of Lenin for his “centrism” and attempt to “command workers from some Geneva or other.”

10

“Na ocheredi,” Iskra, no. 58, 25 Jan 1904.

11

According Sebestyen (2017: 408), Lenin was a great admirer of Nechaev and reminded his followers of Nechaev's genius for ruthlessness.

12

For discussion of the influence of Chernishevskii and Nechaev on mid-nineteenth-century Russian thought and later on Leninism, as well as criticisms of this trend, see Kelly (1987).

13

The literary theorist Viktor Shklovsky, a sympathizer with the SRs, wrote in 1924: “Lenin spoke language headlong, rolling his thoughts like huge cobble-stones; when he spoke about how simple it would be to achieve social revolution, he passed over doubts just as a wild boar brushes through reeds” (quoted in Kalinin 2018: 606).

14

In 1912, the Bolshevik and Menshevik factions of the RSDLP broke off relations and the former declared themselves a separate party, the RSDLP (b). The two sides remained under the same Social Democrat umbrella, however, until after the 1917 revolution, when the RSDLP became the Communist Party and expelled the Mensheviks in 1921.

References

  • Ali, Tariq. 2017. The dilemmas of Lenin. London: Verso.

  • Atwood, Christopher. 2002. Young Mongols and vigilantes in inner Mongolia's interregnum decades, 1911–1931. Vol. 1. Leiden: Brill.

  • Balandin, Rudol'f. 2007. “Revolyutsionnyye kruzhki Peterburga” [Revolutionary circles of Petersburg]. In Tainyye obshchestva russkikh revolyutsionerov. Moscow: Veche. http://www.e-reading.club/chapter.php/1056009/30/Balandin_Rudolf_-_Taynye_obschestva_russkih_revolyucionerov (accessed 27 July 2021).

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Bukharin, Nikolai. 1998. How it all began. Trans. George Shriver. New York: Columbia University Press.

  • Clements, Barbara Evans. 1997. Bolshevik women. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

  • Deich, Lev Grigorevich. 1903. Sixteen years in Siberia: Some experiences of a Russian revolutionist. Trans. Helen Chisholm. New York: Dutton & Co.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Deich, G. M. 1969. “Voprosy konspirativnoi tekhniki ‘Iskry’ v pis'makh V. I. Lenina 1900–1903 godov” [The security rules of “Iskra” in V. I. Lenin's letters 1900–1903]. Voprosy Istorii 9: 4966.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Detienne, Marcel. 2008. Comparing the incomparable. Trans. Janet Lloyd. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

  • Getzler, Israel. 1967 Martov: A political biography of a Russian social democrat. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

  • Getzler, Israel. 1992. “Martov's Lenin.Revolutionary Russia 5 (1): 92104.

  • Hill, Elizabeth, and Doris Mudie, eds and trans. 1937. The letters of Lenin. London: Chapman and Hall.

  • Ivanov-Razumnik, R. V. 1965. The memoirs of Ivanov-Razumnik. Trans. P. S. Squire. London: Oxford University Press.

  • Kalinin, Il'ya Aleksandrovich. 2018. “Kak sdelan yazyk Lenina: material istorii i priem ideologii” [The making of Lenin's language: Historical material and ideological device]. Vestnik Sankt Peterburgskogo Universiteta, yazyk i literatura 15 (4): 605617.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Kelly, Aileen. 1987. “Self-censorship and the Russian intelligentsia, 1905–1914.Slavic Review 46 (2): 193213.

  • Kharkhordin, Oleg. 1999. The collective and the individual in Russia. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

  • Kropotkin, Peter. 1971. Memoirs of a revolutionist. Trans. Nicolas Walter. New York: Dover Publications.

  • Lambek, Michael, ed. 2010. Ordinary ethics: Anthropology, language and action. New York: Fordham University Press.

  • Lenin, Vladimir Il'ich. [1905] 2014. Two tactics of social-democracy in the democratic revolution. Peking: Foreign Languages Press.

  • Lenin, Vladimir Il'ich. [1906] 1965. “Philistinism in revolutionary circles.” In Lenin Collected Works, vol. 11, 246256. Moscow: Progress Publishers.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Lenin, Vladimir Il'ich [1923] 1965On our Revolution.” In Lenin Collected Works, vol. 33, 47880. Moscow: Progress Publishers.

  • Loginov, Vladlen Terent'evich. 2018. Vladimir Lenin: put’ v revolyutsiyu. Moscow: Akademicheskii Proyekt.

  • Nechaev, Sergey. 1869. The revolutionary's catechism. https://www.marxists.org/subject/anarchism/nechayev/catechism.htm (accessed 27 July 2021).

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Raeff, Marc. 1990. Russia abroad: A cultural history of Russian emigration, 1919–39. New York: Oxford University Press.

  • Rappaport, Helen. 2010. Conspirator: Lenin in exile. The making of a revolutionary. London: Windmill Books.

  • Sebag-Montefiore, Simon. 2007. Young Stalin. London: Phoenix.

  • Sebestyen, Victor. 2018. Lenin the Dictator. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson.

  • Volkogonov, Dmitri. 2013. Lenin: A new biography. Trans. H. Shukman. New York: The Free Press.

Contributor Notes

Caroline Humphrey is an anthropologist who has worked in Russia, Mongolia, China (Inner Mongolia and Heilongjiang), India, Nepal, and Ukraine. She has researched Soviet and post-Soviet provincial economy and society; Buryat and Daur shamanism; Jain religion and ritual; trade and barter in Nepal; environment and the pastoral economy in Mongolia; the history and contemporary situation of Buddhism in Inner Mongolia; and urban transformations in post-Socialist cities (in Buryatia, Uzbekistan, and Ukraine). She has written on inequality and exclusion; the politics of memory; naming practices; and ethics and conceptions of freedom. Recently she has completed an international research project on socio-economic interactions on the Russia–Mongolia–China border. https://orcid.org/0000-0002-6705-4498 E-mail: ch10001@hermes.cam.ac.uk

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Journal of Global and Historical Anthropology

  • Figure 1.

    An Inner Mongolian duguilang.1 The inner “spokes” are complaints and demands. The outer words beyond the circle of names are slogans. Photograph courtesy of Tengis, 2021.

  • Figure 2.

    “Evening party” by V. E. Makovskii, a painting that is widely understood to depict a revolutionary kruzhok. Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow.

  • Ali, Tariq. 2017. The dilemmas of Lenin. London: Verso.

  • Atwood, Christopher. 2002. Young Mongols and vigilantes in inner Mongolia's interregnum decades, 1911–1931. Vol. 1. Leiden: Brill.

  • Balandin, Rudol'f. 2007. “Revolyutsionnyye kruzhki Peterburga” [Revolutionary circles of Petersburg]. In Tainyye obshchestva russkikh revolyutsionerov. Moscow: Veche. http://www.e-reading.club/chapter.php/1056009/30/Balandin_Rudolf_-_Taynye_obschestva_russkih_revolyucionerov (accessed 27 July 2021).

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Bukharin, Nikolai. 1998. How it all began. Trans. George Shriver. New York: Columbia University Press.

  • Clements, Barbara Evans. 1997. Bolshevik women. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

  • Deich, Lev Grigorevich. 1903. Sixteen years in Siberia: Some experiences of a Russian revolutionist. Trans. Helen Chisholm. New York: Dutton & Co.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Deich, G. M. 1969. “Voprosy konspirativnoi tekhniki ‘Iskry’ v pis'makh V. I. Lenina 1900–1903 godov” [The security rules of “Iskra” in V. I. Lenin's letters 1900–1903]. Voprosy Istorii 9: 4966.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Detienne, Marcel. 2008. Comparing the incomparable. Trans. Janet Lloyd. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

  • Getzler, Israel. 1967 Martov: A political biography of a Russian social democrat. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

  • Getzler, Israel. 1992. “Martov's Lenin.Revolutionary Russia 5 (1): 92104.

  • Hill, Elizabeth, and Doris Mudie, eds and trans. 1937. The letters of Lenin. London: Chapman and Hall.

  • Ivanov-Razumnik, R. V. 1965. The memoirs of Ivanov-Razumnik. Trans. P. S. Squire. London: Oxford University Press.

  • Kalinin, Il'ya Aleksandrovich. 2018. “Kak sdelan yazyk Lenina: material istorii i priem ideologii” [The making of Lenin's language: Historical material and ideological device]. Vestnik Sankt Peterburgskogo Universiteta, yazyk i literatura 15 (4): 605617.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Kelly, Aileen. 1987. “Self-censorship and the Russian intelligentsia, 1905–1914.Slavic Review 46 (2): 193213.

  • Kharkhordin, Oleg. 1999. The collective and the individual in Russia. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

  • Kropotkin, Peter. 1971. Memoirs of a revolutionist. Trans. Nicolas Walter. New York: Dover Publications.

  • Lambek, Michael, ed. 2010. Ordinary ethics: Anthropology, language and action. New York: Fordham University Press.

  • Lenin, Vladimir Il'ich. [1905] 2014. Two tactics of social-democracy in the democratic revolution. Peking: Foreign Languages Press.

  • Lenin, Vladimir Il'ich. [1906] 1965. “Philistinism in revolutionary circles.” In Lenin Collected Works, vol. 11, 246256. Moscow: Progress Publishers.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Lenin, Vladimir Il'ich [1923] 1965On our Revolution.” In Lenin Collected Works, vol. 33, 47880. Moscow: Progress Publishers.

  • Loginov, Vladlen Terent'evich. 2018. Vladimir Lenin: put’ v revolyutsiyu. Moscow: Akademicheskii Proyekt.

  • Nechaev, Sergey. 1869. The revolutionary's catechism. https://www.marxists.org/subject/anarchism/nechayev/catechism.htm (accessed 27 July 2021).

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Raeff, Marc. 1990. Russia abroad: A cultural history of Russian emigration, 1919–39. New York: Oxford University Press.

  • Rappaport, Helen. 2010. Conspirator: Lenin in exile. The making of a revolutionary. London: Windmill Books.

  • Sebag-Montefiore, Simon. 2007. Young Stalin. London: Phoenix.

  • Sebestyen, Victor. 2018. Lenin the Dictator. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson.

  • Volkogonov, Dmitri. 2013. Lenin: A new biography. Trans. H. Shukman. New York: The Free Press.

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