The Intelligentsia Under the Soviets

MUCH of the pre-war interest that the outside world had in Russia was aroused by that peculiar social grouping in the life of Russia, known as the ’Intelligentsia.’ In a very large sense, it was of the Intelligentsia that one usually spoke in speaking of Russia. Yet at present, when interest in Russia has become almost more variegated than even the chaotic Russian reality itself, interest in the fate of the Intelligentsia is, strangely enough, at a very low ebb; and this, too, in spite of the fact that, whatever the passing events in the Russian land, the life of Russia is closely interwoven with the fate of its educated groups, of its national brains, of its Intelligentsia.

Broadly speaking, the word Intelligentsia is used in Russia to designate the educated classes of the people. This designation, however, is something quite apart from the class-distinctions based upon social and economic privileges and peculiarities. The Intelligentsia, is, intellectually, the highest social grouping, but its membership has been and is, naturally, drawn from every walk of life, from every social class and caste. Brought to the top through the process of either natural selection or social and economic opportunity, those who constitute it are not in any sense an Olympus or a world of demi-gods. In many ways the Intelligentsia does represent Russia and reflects her national soul.

A national intelligentsia is not a peculiarly Russian institution, by any means. Every country in the world has it. And if the Russian Intelligentsia attracted special attention in the past, it was largely because it has advanced very far intellectually and artistically; and also, perhaps, because it has never possessed to a marked degree the qualities of intellectual and group arrogance that one so often meets with among the intellectual groups of other countries.

The Bolshevist upheaval, overturning temporarily many institutions of Russian historic development, has also played havoc with the Intelligentsia. At the beginning of the Bolshevist régime the Intelligentsia divided into two general groups: a very small minority which went over to the Bolsheviki, and the overwhelming majority, which remained hostile to them. As the months of suffering went by, the grouping of the Intelligentsia became different. The acceptance or non-acceptance of the Soviet régime ceased to be a test of this grouping. New factors entered more and more. And the story of what has happened to the Intelligentsia under the Soviet régime, of how it reacted to that régime and was treated by it, is one of the most vital and interesting chapters of the events which are transpiring in Russia, and the course of which the whole world watches with such breathless attention and anxiety.


Soon after the Bolshevist revolution of November, 1917, the well-known Russian poet, Alexander Blok, published a series of essays, to which he gave the general title, Russia and theIntelligentsia. The publication of these essays came at a time when the whole of Russia was thrown into chaotic turmoil by the first preachings and actions of the triumphant Bolsheviki, and they aroused very heated and widespread discussion among the Intelligentsia. Even to-day, in discussions concerning the relations between the Intelligentsia and the Soviet régime, one very often finds references to these essays.

In them Blok portrays what he believes to be the relations between the masses of the Russian people — that is, particularly, the peasantry — and the Intelligentsia — the small group at the very apex of Russia’s cultural achievement. He brings out two important points. The first is his conception of the Russian Revolution and what he considers the relation to it of the Intelligentsia; and the second, the relation that exists between the Intelligentsia and the people, which he illustrates by the religious seekings, so strong and so typical in the Russian culture.

In approaching his subject, Blok first of all registers the horror which suddenly rushed over the educated classes of Russia when the Bolshevist triumph shattered to splinters all traditional rules of morality, honesty, and decency. In their despair, the best people of Russia found themselves exclaiming, ‘Russia has perished ’; ‘ Russia exists no more’; ‘Eternal memory to Russia.’ Blok, however, sees the Bolshevist process of ‘deepening’ the Russian revolution in a different light.

But I still see Russia before me; that same Russia, which all of our great writers had seen in their terrifying and prophetic dreams. Russia is destined to pass through the pains and the tortures of humiliation and division, but she will emerge from these trials new and renovated, and, in a new way, great. . . . We love those dissonances, those shouts and ringings, and the constant changes in the orchestra of the revolution. But if we really love them and do not merely regard them as methods of tinkling on our nerves in the fashionable theatre halls, then should we not listen to those sounds now . . . when they come to us from the orchestra of the world? . . .

Music is not a toy, and the abject creatures who have thought that music is nothing but a toy should now be true to their real character, should tremble and cringe, and look after their worldly possessions. We Russians are now living in an epoch to which few are equal in grandeur in the whole history of the world. One involuntarily recalls the words of Tyutchev:—

Blessed is he who visited this world
In moments of its fatal deeds:
The highest Gods invited him to come,
A guest, with them to sit at feast
And be a witness of their mighty spectacle.

To Blok, the scope of the Russian revolution is the realization of all the dreams of mankind, from its earliest gropings in the darkness of ignorance to its loftiest flights into the rare atmosphere of knowledge and morality. ‘What is it that is planned to-day?’ he asks. And he answers his own question thus: —

It is planned to change everything, to make life such that everything will become new, that our false, filthy, tiresome, and ugly life should become just, clean, joyful, and beautiful. When such plans, which had ever been concealed in the soul of man, suddenly break asunder the chains which hold them, rush down in roaring streams, tearing away bridges and dams, shattering the shores — this is called revolution. Things smaller, more moderate, are called insurrection, rebellion, upheaval. But this is called revolution. . . .

The scope of the Russian revolution which wishes to embrace the whole world is this: its fond hope is to start a world-wide cyclone which should bring to the snow-clad reaches of the North the balmy breezes and fragrance of orange groves, and comfort the sunburned deserts of the South with the cooling showers of the North. Peace and brotherhood of nations — such is the standard of the Russian revolution.

This is the subject of the music that those who have ears can hear in the onrush of the torrent. The deadly weariness gives place to new strength. After sleep, fresh thoughts come. In the white light of day these thoughts may seem foolish and stupid. But the white light lies.

Blok considers it ‘ the sin of haughty politics’ that the best men of Russia fly into despair over their disappointment in the masses of the people, and jeer at what appear to be attempts on the part of the masses to win liberty in their own way. Instead of indulging itself in haughtiness and mockery, Blok calls upon the Intelligentsia to ‘listen to that great music of the future, which has filled the air, and not to try to find separate false notes in the grandiose tones of the world-orchestra.’ For, says he, ‘the spirit is music. Once upon a time the Demon ordered Socrates to hearken to the spirit of music. With our whole body, with our whole heart, with our whole consciousness we must listen to the revolution.’

Listening to the music of the revolution, which Blok prescribes as the rule of the day to the Russian Intelligentsia, means, in his conception, to go to the people, to the great masses of the people, to blend with them and work with them. Revolution to him is the selffinding of the masses, the storm that goes to the very bottom of the people’s soul. Crudely, clumsily, destructively, and cruelly, this process of the selffinding of the people goes on, and in it much, indeed, must perish.

Blok considers that all the horrors which are taking place around him are not the fault of the people in the same degree in which they are the fault of the Intelligentsia. In the ideas he presents he gives expression to the spirit of repentance on the part of the Intelligentsia which is met with more than once in the writings of the Russian literary men. This repentance, which borders on self-negation, is now invoked by Blok to explain for himself, perhaps even more than for his readers, the sudden and unexpected events which have burst forth in fury.

In his fervent presentation of this idea, Blok tries to represent the tremendous abyss, which, he holds, separates the Intelligentsia from the people. In his conception they are almost at the opposite poles of that which constitutes spiritual power. He sees the characteristic tragedy of the whole situation in the religious seekings on the two sides of the abyss. With bitter irony he speaks of the religious intellectualism in the Intelligentsia, as contrasted with the primitive forms of the people’s seekings. And yet, despite this irony, Blok realizes that, for generations past, the Intelligentsia had loved the people and had sacrificed much for it. He even conceives the possibility that the Intelligentsia understood the soul of the people; but, to him, such understanding must find expression in an all-embracing love for the people, a love that would include even that which is strange and inimical to the Intelligentsia itself. ‘For,’ says he, ‘not to understand all and not to become enamored of all, even of that which requires the renunciation of things most dear to us, is equivalent to having understood nothing and to loving nothing.’

But what does the Intelligentsia find in the people in response to its efforts to understand and to love? Blok describes this as follows:—

And on the other side you find the silent smirk, the apparent gratitude for the teachings that are brought to the people; the apology for its own ignorance; but back of all this one feels that this is only for the time being. Yet what is this? The dreadful indolence, or the slow awakening of the giant?

And this gulf grows and widens. The educated classes seek to save themselves by the positivism of science, by public activity or art. But even such men become fewer and fewer. Something higher is necessary. And if it does not exist, rebellion takes its place, ‘ things like vulgar iconoclasm and even the frank forms of self-destruction, such as vice, drunkenness, and suicide.’

The soul of the people is much more healthy; that is why the Intelligentsia should go to the people. But here again doubt overcomes him: perhaps it is already too late!

His analysis of the revolution thus comes down to the idea that the masses of the people, after generations of religious seeking, after an accumulation of hatred for the upper classes, based, primarily, upon envy, misunderstanding, and a feeling of utter dependence, have finally risen in elemental fury, sweeping everything away. In this explosion, the place of the educated and the intellectual classes is either out of life, or else in the ranks of the raging mass of the seething revolution, even when what the revolution brings with it is inimical to all the ideals and all the aims of the Intelligentsia itself; even if the revolution brings to the Intelligentsia destruction of its very self.


I have dwelt so long on Blok’s analysis because it contains many elements that are extremely interesting and vital to an understanding of the position which the Intelligentsia occupies in the events which are occurring in Russia. It represents one of the views with which the Russian Intelligentsia approached the Bolshevist revolution.

It is extremely characteristic that the overwhelming majority of the Intelligentsia resented Blok’s views very bitterly. This very resentment is the best commentary on the doctrine preached by the poet. The approach of the Blok analysis is from the standpoint of generalized idealism; it is ‘musical,’ in a very wide meaning of that word, as the author calls it. But this approach, which might have been acceptable to a part of the Intelligentsia from the point of view of historic perspective, was entirely unacceptable from the point of view of the reality itself. Some enthusiasts accepted it; the vast majority rejected it. At the beginning of its career, the Bolshevist régime found itself entirely isolated so far as the Intelligentsia was concerned.

There are at least two vital elements which any generalized idealization of the revolution overlooks, but which are, nevertheless, overwhelmingly important.

In the first place, the idealization of the revolution ignores entirely the class character which it assumed under the Bolshevist developments. The Intelligentsia is not a class in the social sense. It has always considered itself superclass, or non-class. A man of science or of art is, really, outside of the classstruggle which the social and economic developments of the nineteenth century have brought forward so prominently. But the Bolshevist revolution of November, 1917, brought the question of the class-struggle into such sharp relief that to ignore it is to throw a falsifying light on the whole situation.

And in the second place, the idealization of the revolution, such as Blok attempts, puts the whole emphasis on the spiritual aspects; whereas the emphasis is thrown, by the very nature of the events, upon the economic and the social aspects. During the past two years or more, this supposedly spiritual prominence of the Bolshevist movement has been emphasized to a very considerable extent, especially outside of Russia. And in the light of this emphasis, it has become increasingly more difficult for observers of Russian affairs to understand the position of the Russian Intelligentsia and its relation to the Bolshevist movement. For if the movement does represent primarily the spiritual awakening of the people and the self-assertion of the masses, then it is very difficult to understand, much less to justify, the behavior of the Intelligentsia, which, though spontaneous, has been so concerted as to be almost regarded as organized.

There is no doubt that the Russian revolution did represent a spiritual movement to some extent, particularly during its first stages. Such an upheaval as the revolution could not but assume some of the characteristics of a spiritual movement, especially in a people fundamentally as religious as the Russian. But it is also certain that the revolution never developed into anything like a complete self-assertion of the masses of the people — that is, the peasantry. No movement, however severe and deep its agitation, can suddenly, in a few days or weeks, affect such a huge population as Russia’s ponderous millions. It can accentuate and emphasize certain things. It can bring some things to a head. But, unless we believe in a miracle, it cannot change everything overnight.

That there is a gulf between the Intelligentsia and the masses of the peasantry is a fact that cannot be gainsaid. And this gulf is accounted for by more than the difference between enlightenment and ignorance. Throughout the whole modern period of Russian history, since the time of Peter the Great, and even of some of his predecessors, an internal spiritual struggle has been going on in Russia. During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries Russia passed through a period of a violent breaking down of much of her social and spiritual fabric, created and strengthened in the course of preceding generations. She turned her face definitely toward the West. She began to graft upon her national body the culture of the West. Such a process necessarily had to proceed unevenly as between the various social layers. Very naturally, the educated classes far outstripped the less educated. The creation of a gulf between the two became inevitable.

The nineteenth century was the period of the blossoming out of what is now called Russian culture. The process of grafting began to bear abundant and luxurious fruit in the form of the brilliant development of literature, music, art, science, education. The Russian Intelligentsia really came into existence during the last century. And in its social development it became the leaven of Russian life, the very conscience of the Russian people, its voice of protest against the iniquities and injustices of state and social forms. The cultural gulf between the masses of the people and the Intelligentsia remained. But the striving for a better life, the common sufferings at the hands of the oppressive bureaucracy, really constituted a bridge, which spanned the gulf.

The revolutionary movement was, to a large extent, the movement of the Intelligentsia. It is characteristic of it that the words ‘student’ and ‘intelligent’ became almost synonymous with the word ‘revolutionary.’ At least, they were often used interchangeably by the defenders of the old order. The revolutionary movement was led almost exclusively, at almost all of its stages, by the Intelligentsia. And, of course, the parliamentary period of the Russian struggle for liberation was similarly led. The Russian prisons and the places of penal exile in Siberia are the best testimonial to this leadership.


In March, 1917, the Intelligentsia suddenly found itself the inheritor of governmental authority. When the war precipitated the downfall of the imperial régime, the authority which had been wielded by it passed into the hands of the Intelligentsia. This authority it wielded for only seven months. And it was not its spiritual separation from the masses of the people that was responsible for this loss of authority. It was the strange inability on its part to meet a new element that had injected itself powerfully into the revolution from its very start — the element which the idealization of the revolution usually ignores.

The Intelligentsia came into power still exhibiting every characteristic of a powerful opposition. It was not prepared either for summary action or for the work of violent reorganization. It thought and acted in terms of non-class ideology. And when it was confronted by the fact of a fanatical crusade of class-struggle, it became confused, and vacillated. Prince Lvov, the first premier of revolutionary Russia, is reported as saying,—

‘We cannot hang Lenin and his followers: their corpses would haunt us forever.’

And Kerensky is reported as glorying in the fact that he had never signed a single death-warrant.

Both of these incidents are typical of the Intelligentsia. For generations it had been the wrathful conscience of the Russian people, protesting against the violence and the misrule of the imperial régime. How could it, when in power, stoop to the same practices that had made more or less secure for so long the authority of its predecessor?

It was particularly difficult for the Intelligentsia when in power to use the instrumentality of that power in order to oppose agitation against it by means of what appeared to be a violent curtailment of freedom of speech and of the press, and of all the other ‘freedoms’ that it had fought for so long. Loath to use power, the Intelligentsia could not retain it long. It came down from the height of authority as fast as it had ascended. It refused to accept the governmental experience of its predecessor. Its successor took over that whole experience, and improved wonderfully on some of its worst details.

All through this period, however, the influence of the great masses of the people was not felt at all. Certainly, in the events brought about by the Bolsheviki, the great masses of the people had no voice. The Bolsheviki raised to the dignity of statecraft the Marxian ideal of class-antagonism and class-struggle. The masses of the Russian peasantry were not possessed of this ideal. They neither rejected nor accepted it. They remained indifferent, and are just as indifferent to-day. It was a part of the industrial proletariat that constituted the backbone of Lenin’s support—the active part of the city proletariat, trained to some extent in the school of the revolution, making revolution its business, ready to be led by those who exhibit most daring and are ready to promise most. The class-conscious proletariat was largely responsible for the overturning of the imperial régime. It was very largely instrumental in the overturning of the régime of the Intelligentsia.

Coming into power in the face of indifferent masses and of an actively hostile, if defeated, Intelligentsia, the Bolsheviki naturally had to adopt a line of action that would secure their position. The first thing that had to be done was to discredit their predecessor in power. This was especially important since, during the first months of the Bolshevist régime, Russia was still living in the expectation of a national Constituent Assembly. The class character which the Bolshevist revolution wore so prominently was excellently suited for the purposes in hand. The Intelligentsia, still considering itself non-class, could not accept this class character of the new phase of the revolution. To declare the Intelligentsia an enemy of the revolution and to begin proscriptions against it was not only possible, but seemed excellent policy. This policy was adopted and was followed out rigorously for several months.

There was ample reason for the widespread refusal of the Intelligentsia to accept the Bolshevist revolution. Appealing as they did to definite social layers, striking down the ties that held the whole social order together, Lenin and his co-workers let loose the forces of destruction which characterized so prominently the first stage of the Bolshevist régime. These forces were directed against everything that had any semblance of connection with what went before. A spirit of vengeance was in the air. Men breathed it and became intoxicated with it. Things were wrecked that could ill be spared. The Intelligentsia could not remain under such a régime, and did not.


The first six months of the Bolshevist régime deprived Russia’s administrative institutions, its industry, and practically every other phase of its national life, of the specialists, the educated men. The Intelligentsia was thrown out and trampled into dust in some places. It left of its own accord in others. Very few remained or joined the Bolshevist forces. The unscrupulous knew how to find favor with the new régime and make their way to favoritism and reward. Some, like Blok and those who held views similar to his analysis, ignored the realities and fanatically sought in the Bolshevist revolution the idealization that was so dear to them. But the overwhelming majority found itself in the opposition.

In one sense, after November, 1917, the Intelligentsia was in the same position as under the imperial régime: everything it had fought against, the violence, the oppression, the injustice, had returned in worse guise than ever, and against all this it could but protest. The only difference was that under the imperial régime the Intelligentsia had at least a restricted field for its protest, while under the Bolshevist régime its mouth was closed altogether.

But the purely destructive period of Bolshevism did not last very long. It was only for a few months that Lenin was religiously following his theory of piling up enough fragments of the old order to begin building the new. During those few months, the whole Bolshevist hierarchy, from top to bottom, was busy destroying. But at the end of the first half-year, the leaders at the top began to realize that things could not continue long in that way. While the bottom went on with its Saturnalia, the top began to sober up and to cast about for ways out of the situation that had been brought about.

For six months or more the Intelligentsia had been hounded out of life, persecuted, humiliated almost beyond human endurance. Then suddenly it was called back. Lenin sounded the first note. In the summer of 1918 he began to call specialists back to their work. All sorts of inducements began to be offered to the Intelligentsia in order to break its opposition. For dealing with active opposition, the extraordinary commissions were created. And their work of exterminating the protesting intelligentsia has been on a vastly more extended scale than the Tsar’s police itself could ever boast of.

Passive opposition was dealt with in other ways. This passive opposition consisted mostly in refusing to do work under the Soviet government. In the terminology of the Soviet régime this was called ‘sabotage.’ Educated men left their positions, and preferred to starve or sweep the streets rather than work under the new régime.

It was obvious from the start, however, that this state of affairs could not continue long. Starvation and privations are poor food for active opposition. After the Constituent Assembly was dispersed and hope of a speedy overthrow of the Soviet régime began to dwindle away, the Intelligentsia began to face the plain ordinary problem of self-preservation, unadorned by the glory of heroic opposition.

In the meantime, anti-Bolshevist military operations began in different parts of Russia. As many of the Intelligentsia as could get away fled behind the newly formed fronts. Those who could do so escaped abroad. But most of them, naturally, could not leave the country, and were forced to remain. And remaining in Soviet Russia, they had to undergo changes of attitude and point of view.

Last year the Soviet government published a volume of essays, entitled, The Intelligentsia and the Soviet Authority. This volume consists of speeches and articles on the subject of the relations between the Intelligentsia and the Soviet authority, by several responsible leaders of the Soviet régime—men like Lenin, Zinoviev, Radek, Gorky. Included in the book is also an article by a well-known Socialist-Revolutionary, Pitirim Sorokin, who explains why he has given up political activity and, consequently, active opposition to the Soviet régime.

This book is an interesting document, which sheds considerable light on the evolution in the attitude of the Intelligentsia toward the Soviet régime, from the bitter resentment and active opposition of 1917 and the beginning of 1918, to the passive acceptance and the hopeless indifference of the present.


The most characteristic feature of the Soviet régime has been the fact that from the very beginning the government took into its hands the control of the possibilities on the part of the population to earn a living. It did not succeed entirely in controlling the matter of employment and means of subsistence, but it has succeeded in obtaining almost complete control over the distribution of food-supplies. Of course, its authority in these matters extended only over the cities, but it is in the cities that the Intelligentsia is found. And the control which the Soviet government thus acquired over the Intelligentsia put into its hands a tremendous weapon: by persecution and starvation its spirit was broken. The rest was easy. Uncontrolled by the spirit, the stomach may force a man to take any decision.

It is interesting to note, however, that the Bolsheviki want the Intelligentsia only in a subordinate position. They realized early that the work of education and other cultural activities must be resumed. And they also knew that they could get the personnel for these activities nowhere except among the Intelligentsia. So they began to ask back those whom they but a short time before had denounced as their enemies. In a speech delivered before a conference of responsible Communist workers, published in the volume of essays mentioned above, Lenin said:—

When we see that the Intelligentsia make even a half-turn toward us, we should rewrite all our statements about it and say to it: ‘You are welcome. You are mistaken if you think we can act only by violence. We can be reached also by agreement.’ Suppressing ruthlessly the landowners and the bourgeoisie, we must attract to ourselves the small-bourgeois democracy.

Besides his speech, Lenin has also an article in this volume of essays. He builds his argument on the statements of Pitirim Sorokin, which he calls ‘valuable admissions.’ Sorokin explains his position as follows: ‘Those who are in politics may make mistakes. Politics may be good for society or they may be bad. But work in the domain of science and popular education is always necessary.’ Noting these ‘admissions,’ Lenin takes another opportunity to urge the need of utilizing to the utmost the change in the point of view of the Intelligentsia.

Here we have, not only an interesting evolution in that point of view, but a curious development in the Soviet régime itself. Having more or less established its authority on a bureaucratic principle very much like that of the imperial régime, the Soviet authority now seeks to adorn and embellish its régime with the work of education, science, art. In order to achieve this, it needs the Intelligentsia, it needs the services of educated men and women. But just as the imperial régime kept the Intelligentsia out of high places of authority, so the Soviet régime wants to keep it in the position of a servant of the state. It is the imperial Russian or the old Prussian point of view over again.


After all this, what is the position of the Intelligentsia to-day?

Two and one-half years have passed since the Bolshevist régime came into power. All the active forces of opposition have been crushed by the Soviet authority. The hope of its overthrow by military force has grown so small that it has almost disappeared. Faith in the Allies has been disappointed even more cruelly. The Soviet government makes overtures that look enticing after years of indescribable sufferings. And many of the Intelligentsia accept.

Every time I meet a person coming out of Russia, I always ask him what the Intelligentsia is doing now. And the reply is always the same: it is so crushed in body and in spirit that it can offerno active resistance; it accepts its fate with resignation, and works under the Soviet as a means of self-preservation. I have seen educated men coming out of Soviet Russia; their general appearance, and particularly the crushed hopelessness of their mental processes, is a nightmare that haunts me every once in a while. They are a living testimonial to the processes that are taking place in Russia.

The simple classification of the Intelligentsia which was possible at the beginning of the Bolshevist régime is no longer adequate now. Then it was possible to divide it into those who accepted the régime and those who rejected it and would have nothing to do with it. Now it is no longer a question of acceptance or rejection, except for those who are outside of Russia. For the Intelligentsia which is within the territory controlled by the Soviet government, it is now a question of the degree and character of service to be rendered under existing conditions.

The Intelligentsia holds a subordinate position in the affairs of Soviet Russia; it is not admitted to the higher places of the governmental and administrative hierarchy. That this is bound to be so is obvious enough. The Soviet government still claims to be the embodiment of a dictatorship of the proletariat. It is, therefore, an expression of class-authority. Its guiding spirits and responsible leaders must be thoroughly imbued with the ideas of classconsciousness in the proletarian sense. There are very few, if any, among the Intelligentsia who would measure up to these qualifications.

The elections to the local and national soviets are so thoroughly controlled by the Communist party that practically only its members are eligible for election. It was only at the beginning of the present year that the first ‘ intelligent’ was elected to the Moscow Soviet. It was Professor Timiryazev, an eminent scientist of seventy-seven, who has never taken any active part in political life. Undoubtedly his election was permitted because he would be entirely inoffensive to the existing régime, while his presence in the Moscow Soviet would be an excellent excuse for the claim that the opposition of the Intelligentsia to the Soviet régime had been broken. The official poet of that régime, Demyan Byedny, even wrote a poem on the occasion of Professor Timiryazev’s election, in which he laid particular stress on the fact that the Professor is still ‘the first one among us,’ still ‘alone in our midst.’ The Central Executive Committee of the Soviets issued a special rescript, addressed to Professor Timiryazev, in which he was welcomed into the higher institutions of the Communist state. This rescript contained, at the same time, a statement to the effect that the proletariat would forgive the Intelligentsia many of its ‘numerous crimes’ because so eminent a representative was now enrolled in its ranks. And this statement was couched in such a pompous and offensive style, as of a condescending victor, that it will scarcely add to the zest of the Intelligentsia for seeking favor with the government, even if the leaders should seriously consent to meet them even half-way.

Incidentally, the ‘first intelligent’ is no longer in the ranks of the Moscow Soviet. Two months after his election, Professor Timiryazev died.

Somewhat better conditions than in the higher governmental agencies and administrative organs are encountered by the specialists, who are very eagerly sought after by the government. The nationalized industries of Russia are in a most wretched condition, and one of the most important reasons for this lies in the fact that they are deprived of specialists in the various fields. Every effort is made to bring these specialists back, and most enticing offers are made to them by the government. It is now an established rule that at least one third of the members of the committees which constitute the administrative organs of the various enterprises must consist of specialists. At present, Lenin, Trotsky, and most of the responsible leaders of the Soviet government demand even that the whole system of committee administration of industrial enterprises should be abolished and individual management substituted for it, and that this individual management should be placed in the hands of specialists.

The opposition to this plan naturally comes most emphatically from the extreme Communist elements, on the ground that the specialists, who are a part of the Intelligentsia, are not sufficiently imbued with the principles and ideals of Communism to be intrusted with undivided authority, even in their special technical fields.

Realizing the need of specialists, the Soviet authorities do everything in their power to enlist the services of those who are still in Russia. In many cases they are simply mobilized and placed in the fields for which they are best fitted, just as is being done with the officers of the old imperial army, who are now the leaders of the Red armies.


The work of education and the various artistic pursuits under the government offer a refuge for the great majority of the Intelligentsia. Under Lunarcharsky, the Commissar of Education, and Maxim Gorky, the virtual head of the government publication office, many of the Intelligentsia now find the means of subsistence. Into Gorky’s department very few go voluntarily, and when they do, they do not permit their names to be used. This is particularly true of the great writers, none of whom has permitted his name to be used to advance the prestige of the Soviet régime. Classical instances of this are found in the attitude of Andreyev and Kuprin. Shortly before his death Andreyev was offered two million roubles for the rights to his works. In spite of the fact that he and his family were starving, Andreyev spurned this offer. Kuprin, while he was starving in Soviet Russia, was offered unlimited monetary compensation for signed contributions to Soviet publications. He too refused.

The only work which fairly large numbers of the Intelligentsia accept quite willingly is the work of education. Particularly has this been noticeable during the past few months. Typical of this phase of the present-day activities of the Intelligentsia is the attitude of a Petrograd group of writers, educators, scientists, and other members, who are united in a sort of association. In this group are such men as Professor Vengerov, Professor Batushkov, Leo Deutsh, A. F. Koni, V. Nemerovich Danchenko, A. M. Redko, Feodor Sologub, N. S. Tagantsev, K. I. Chukovsky and others — all of them men of national, and in many cases international, reputation. In a recent number of a monthly, published by this Association, called the Viestnik Literatury (The Messenger of Literature), November, 1919, an editorial entitled ‘Our Unpayable Debt’ appeared in prominent display. This editorial read as follows:

One of the foremost questions before us now is the question of universal literacy. And the Russian Intelligentsia, irrespective of party and position, must do everything in its power to bring about the condition of literacy for the whole people. At one time under the imperial régime, the Intelligentsia went to the people, exposing itself to privations and dangers, in order to win for the people liberty and better life. Now it is necessary to go to the people with the torch of light and knowledge.

It may be said that the civil war and the political situation make work of culture impossible. But that is not so. Under all circumstances, under any régime, it is necessary to fight against ignorance and lack of culture. Moreover, the very circumstances of the present-day actuality ought to convince us of the fact that many of our misfortunes and difficulties would have been avoided if the masses had had more education and knowledge.

The men who hold these views, this small portion of the Russian Intelligentsia, have now apparently given up the political struggle — at least, for the time being. They have not been won over to the class dictatorship preached by the Communists; but they have been forced by the cruel realities of life to seek somewhere and in something an opening for the application of their work. Their attitude is typical of many similar groups.

An interesting movement was started lately in Moscow under the auspices of Maxim Gorky. It is an attempt to unite what is called the ‘toiling Intelligentsia.’ A declaration was recently issued by the organizers of the movement, among whom there are eminent professors, men of affairs, and even a former minister of the Kerensky government. This declaration notes particularly the fact that Russia’s situation is very difficult at the present time, both politically and economically. The country needs proper creative work, without which all cultural activity is impossible; also economic reform and the introduction of such measures as would render possible the utilization of all forces. It is not difficult to foretell what path the development of the Russian revolution will eventually take, and what guiding ideas will finally become dominant. But it is clear that it is impossible to bring this about through the application of force.

The thing that is most evident in the whole Russian situation, according to the declaration, is that the population of that great country cannot be forcibly cut off from the rest of the world until its social and political problems have been solved.

In the opinion of the signers of the declaration, the present moment demands the following: —

1. The cessation of all assistance to armed intervention in the affairs of Russia.

2. The resumption of cultural and trade relations with Russia, irrespective of her political régime, as soon as possible.

3. The rendering of all possible assistance to the people of Russia for the regeneration of its economic, cultural, and productive forces.

The vague wording of this declaration makes it rather difficult to tell what course the movement is likely to take. The important part which Maxim Gorky plays in it would make it appear like a movement to enlist the services of the Intelligentsia for the Soviet régime.

Such are the various currents that carry the Intelligentsia along within Soviet Russia itself. Crushed by suffering, persecutions, and starvation, beyond the point where active resistance is possible, rendered incapable of passive resistance by the crushing struggle for the very elementary necessities of life, the Intelligentsia under the Soviets seeks only the means of existence.

Outside of Russia its position is different. There are no large groups in the United States, but there are very large and important groups in every country of Western Europe. Most of them, embittered by their experience under the Bolshevist domination and not crushed completely by the realities of life in Russia, are seeking every means possible for the overthrow of the Soviet régime. A very few groups are for accepting it and returning to Russia for the purpose of fighting there against it and for the regeneration of the country. The most important of these latter is a group recently organized in Berlin.

This is the position of the Russian Intelligentsia to-day. Those portions of it which are scattered over the face of the earth are eagerly or hopelessly awaiting the time when they will be able to return to their native land. Such an exodus of the educated and the intelligent as there has been out of Russia no country has ever seen, and certainly no country can ever afford. With the overthrow or the disappearance of the Soviet régime they will return to Russia. What the future has in store for them and for those who are still there, who can tell? The Intelligentsia has lost everything it had. It has lived to see every ideal it revered shattered, every aim it sought pushed away almost out of sight. The only thing that still remains with it is its aversion to force and its fervent belief in humanitarianism. How much will they avail?

Embittered and hardened in exile, or crushed spiritually and physically under the present government, the tragedy of the the Russian Intelligentsia is the most pathetic and poignant in human history.