The intelligentsia (Latin: intellegentia, Polish: inteligencja, Russian: интеллигенция; IPA: [ɪntʲɪlʲɪˈɡʲentsɨjə]) is a status class of educated people engaged in the complex mental labours that critique, guide, and lead in shaping the culture and politics of their society. As a status class, the intelligentsia includes artists, teachers, and academics, writers, journalists, and the literary hommes de lettres. Historically, the political role of the intelligentsia (the production of culture and ideology) varies between being either a progressive influence or a regressive influence upon the development of their societies.
The intelligentsia status-class arose in the late 18th century, in Russian-controlled Poland, during the age of Partitions (1772–95). In the 19th century, the Polish intellectual Bronisław Trentowski coined the term intelligentcja (intellectuals) to identify and describe the educated and professionally-active social stratum of the patriotic bourgeoisie who could be the cultural leaders of Poland, then under the authoritarian régime of Russian Tsarist autocracy, from the late 18th-century to the mid-20th century.
In Imperial Russia, before the Bolshevik Revolution (1917) the term intelligentsiya described the status class of educated people whose cultural capital (schooling, education, enlightenment) allowed them to assume practical political leadership. In practice, the status and social function of the intelligentsia varied by society. In Eastern Europe, intellectuals were deprived of political influence and access to the effective levers of economic development; the intelligentsia were at the functional periphery of their societies. Whereas in Western Europe, especially in Germany and Great Britain, the Bildungsbürgertum (cultured bourgeoisie) and the British professions had defined roles as public intellectuals in their societies.
In Europe, the Intelligentsia existed as a status class (social stratum) before the coinage of the term intelligentsia (the intellectuals) in the 19th century. In their status-class functions, the intellectuals were associated with the cultural development of cities, the dissemination of printed knowledge (books, texts, newspapers), and the economic development of rental-housing (the tenement house) for the teacher, the journalist, and the civil servant. As people whose professions placed them (physically, economically, and socially) outside the traditional places and functions of the town-and-country monarchic social-classes (royalty, aristocracy, bourgeoisie) of the time, the intelligentsia were an urban social-class.
In The Rise of the Intelligentsia, 1750–1831, Maciej Janowski identified the intelligentsia as intellectual servants to the modern State, to the degree that their state-service policies decreased social backwardness and political repression in partitioned Poland. In the Polish language, the popular definition of the word inteligencja is close to the contemporary definition, coined by the philosopher Karol Libelt, which became common usage in Polish science, with the publication of O miłości ojczyzny (1844, On Love of the Fatherland). Libelt defined the inteligencja status-class as the well-educated people of society, who undertake to provide moral leadership, as scholars, teachers, lawyers, engineers et al.; the intelligentsia “guide for the reason of their higher enlightenment.”
In 1860s Russia, the writer Pyotr Boborykin made the term intelligentsiya popular; and claimed to have originated the concept of the intelligentsia, as a social stratum. From the German word Intelligenz (intelligent), derived the Russian word intelligentsiya, which identified and described the social stratum of people engaged in intellectual occupations; moreover, Boborykin also expanded the definition of intelligentsiya (producers of culture and ideology) to include artists (producers of high culture).
Vitaly Tepikin identified the characteristics of the people who are the intelligentsia as follows:
- advanced for its time moral ideals, sensitiveness to fellow creature, tact in manifestations;
- persistent self-education;
- patriotism, which is based on faith in its own people and whole-hearted, inexhaustible love [of] little and big Motherland;
- creative activity as a crucial part of intelligentsia lifestyle (this applies not only to artists, as many would consider, but also to scientists and engineers - from a creative approach of their main occupation, to recreational culture; various hobbies and self-improvement practices, like sports and hiking);
- independence, aspiration toward freedom of self-expression and finding of themselves in it.
- 19th century
In 1844 Poland, the term intelligencja, identifying the intellectuals of society, first was used by the philosopher Karol Libelt, which he described as a status class of people characterised by intellect and Polish nationalism; qualities of mind, character, and spirit that made them natural leaders of the modern Polish nation. That the intelligentsia were aware of their social status and of their duties to society: Educating the youth with the nationalist objective to restore the Republic of Poland; preserving the Polish language; and love of the Fatherland.
Nonetheless, the writers Stanisław Brzozowski and Tadeusz Boy-Żeleński criticised Libelt’s ideological and messianic representation of a Polish republic, because it originated from the social traditionalism and reactionary conservatism that pervade the culture of Poland, and so impede socio-economic progress. Consequent to the Imperial Prussian, Austrian, Swedish, and Russian Partitions of Poland, the imposition of Tsarist cultural hegemony caused many of the political and cultural élites to participate in the Great Emigration (1831–70).
- 20th century
After the Invasion of Poland (1 September 1939), by Nazi Germany and the Soviet union, in occupied Poland each side proceeded to eliminate any possible resistance leader. In their part of occupied Poland, the Nazis began the Second World War (1939–45) with the extermination of the Polish intelligentsia, by way of the military operations of the Special Prosecution Book-Poland, the German AB-Aktion in Poland, the Intelligenzaktion, and the Intelligenzaktion Pommern. In their part of occupied Poland, the Soviet Union proceeded with the extermination of the Polish intelligentsia with military operations such as the Katyn massacre (1940)
The Russian intelligentsiya also was a mixture of messianism and intellectual élitism, whom the philosopher Isaiah Berlin described as: “The phenomenon, itself, with its historical and literally revolutionary consequences, is, I suppose, the largest, single Russian contribution to social change in the world. The concept of intelligentsia must not be confused with the notion of intellectuals. Its members thought of themselves as united, by something more than mere interest in ideas; they conceived themselves as being a dedicated order, almost a secular priesthood, devoted to the spreading of a specific attitude to life.”
The Idea of Progress, which originated in Western Europe during the Age of Enlightenment in the 18th century, became the principal concern of the intelligentsia by the mid-19th century; thus, progress social movements, such as the Narodniks, mostly consisted of intellectuals. The Russian philosopher Sergei Bulgakov said that the Russian intelligentsia was the creation of Peter, that they were the “window to Europe through which the Western air comes to us, vivifying and toxic at the same time.” Moreover, Bulgakov also said that the literary critic of Westernization, Vissarion Belinsky was the spiritual father of the Russian intelligentsia.
In 1860 there were 20,000 professionals in Russia and 85,000 by 1900. Originally composed of educated nobles, the intelligentsia became dominated by raznochintsy (class-less people) after 1861. In 1833 78.9 per cent of secondary-school students were children of nobles and bureaucrats, by 1885 they were 49.1 per cent of such students. The proportion of commoners increased from 19.0 to 43.8 per cent, and the remaining percentage were the children of priests. In fear of an educated proletariat, Tsar Nicholas I limited the number of university students to 3,000 per year, yet there were 25,000 students, by 1894. Similarly the number of periodicals increased from 15 in 1855 to 140 periodical publications in 1885. The "third element" were professionals hired by zemstva. By 1900 there were 47,000 of them, most were liberal radicals.
Although Tsar Peter the Great introduced the Idea of Progress to Russia, by the 19th century, the Tsars did not recognize “progress” as a legitimate aim of the state, to the degree that Nicholas II said “How repulsive I find that word” and wished it removed from the Russian language.
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In Russia, the Bolsheviks did not consider the status class of the intelligentsiya to be a true social class, as defined in Marxist philosophy. In that time, the Bolsheviks used the Russian word prosloyka (stratum) to negatively identify and define the intelligentsia as a separating layer without a social function, because the intellectuals and the managers are an unproductive mid-layer (status class), between the workers (working class) and the exploiters (bourgeoisie).
As a status-class, the intelligentsia grow by recruiting members of the working class, but the results of their intellectual labours are a product ordered and paid by the exploiter class. Hence, the intelligentsia merely are an ideological illusion, a class of lackeys of the bourgeoisie and the landowners. Despite being a de facto oppressed status-class, the intelligentsia lack revolutionary drive. among many others. In the creation of post-monarchic Russia, Lenin dismissed the intellectuals and managers, because the “intelligentsia is not the ‘brain of the nation’, it is the ‘faeces of the nation.”.
The Russian Revolution of 1917 divided the intelligentsia and the social classes of Tsarist Russia. Some Russians emigrated, the political reactionaries joined the right-wing White movement for counter-revolution, some became Bolsheviks, and some remained in Russia and participated in the political system of the USSR. In reorganising Russian society, the Bolsheviks rid themselves, by fair and foul means, of class enemies, by way of deportation on Philosophers' ships, forced labour in the gulag, and summary execution. The members of the Tsarist-era intelligentsia who remained in Bolshevik Russia (the USSR) were tentatively integrated to Soviet society, and were employed in service to the working class. Although the Bolsheviks recognised the managerial importance of the intelligentsia to the future of soviet Russia, they distrusted their ideological commitment to Marxist philosophy.
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The Soviet intelligentsiya arose from the ideological commitment of the Communist government for the education (professional, scientific, technical) of Russia. Initially, the status-class form of the technocrat intelligentsia was undefined; hence, as a measure of employability, the Russian bureaucracy classified the mental labour of professionals, scientists, and artists as was classified the physical labour of proletarian workers. So classified, the intellectuals were formally consolidated into intellectual-worker trade unions, such as the Union of Soviet Writers and the Union of Soviet Composers, and given strict standards for evaluating their work, enforced by the corresponding expert boards. In the late Soviet Union the term "intelligentsia" acquired a formal definition of mental and cultural workers. There were subcategories of "scientific-technical intelligentsia" (научно-техническая интеллигенция) and "creative intelligentsia" (творческая интеллигенция).
The approach to intelligentsia was varying: for example, scientists were kept in check by ideological sections of their universities, and, if doing sensitive research, were restricted both territorially and socially to so called "closed institutes" with top secret clearance or even "closed cities" that gathered such scientists in remote research and development campuses. Artists, on the other hand, weren't contained physically, but any release, publication or performance needed to go through Union evaluation; their "means of production" (from printing presses to film labs) were strictly regulated and centralized. Therefore, Soviet Union was able to let the natural creative process crucial for nation's survival continue, but at the same time didn't allow for any official and ideological authority for the intellectual class on its own, as a social class.
Between 1917 and 1941 there was a massive increase in the number of engineering graduates: from 15,000 to over 250,000.
In the post-Soviet period, the members of the former Soviet intelligentsia have displayed diverging attitudes towards the communist regime. While the older generation of intelligentsia has attempted to frame themselves as victims, the younger generation, who were in their 30s when the Soviet Union collapsed, has not allocated so much space for the repressive experience in their self-narratives. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the popularity and influence of the intelligentsia has significantly declined, therefore it is typical for the post-Soviet intelligentsia to feel nostalgic for the last years of the Soviet Union (perestroika), which they often regard as the golden age of the intelligentsia.
Vladimir Putin has expressed his views on the intelligentsia.
We should all be aware of the fact that when revolutionary — not evolutionary — changes come, things can get even worse. The intelligentsia should be aware of this. And it is the intelligentsia specifically that should keep this in mind and prevent society from radical steps and revolutions of all kinds. We’ve had enough of it. We’ve seen so many revolutions and wars. We need decades of calm and harmonious development.
Derived from the Russian cultural concept, the word intelligentsiya entered the languages of Europe; in English usage, “intelligensia” identifies the intellectual status-class in the countries of Central Europe (e.g. Poland) and Eastern Europe (e.g. Russia) in the 19th and 20th centuries. A narrower term 'intellectuals', according to Pierre Bourdieu, can be applied to those members of intelligentsia who not only work using their intellect, but also create cultural wealth. The emergence of elite classes of intellectuals or well-educated people had been observed in other European countries (e.g., intellectuels in France and Gebildete in Germany.)
In contemporary usage, the denotations and connotations of the term Intelligentsia include the intellectuals and the managerial middle-class whose professional and societal functions are the creation, distribution, and application of knowledge throughout society.
The sociologist Max Weber defined the intelligentsia as a major social category (status class), which is essentially distinct, in their social function, political attributes, and national interests, from the other social categories of society. In Economy and Society: An Outline of Interpretive Sociology (0000), Weber used the term intelligentsia in chronological and geographical frames of reference, such as “this Christian preoccupation with the formulation of dogmas was, in Antiquity, particularly influenced by the distinctive character of ‘intelligentsia’, which was the product of Greek education.”
- Mass intelligentsia
In the 20th century, from the status-class term Intelligentsia, sociologists derived the term mass intelligentsia to describe the populations of educated adults, with discretionary income, who pursue intellectual interests by way of book clubs and cultural associations, etc. That sociological term was made popular usage by the writer Melvyn Bragg, who said that mass intelligentsia conceptually explains the popularity of book clubs and literary festivals that otherise would have been of limited intellectual interests to most people from the middle class and from the working class.
In the book Campus Power Struggle (1970), the sociologist Richard Flacks addressed the concept of mass intelligentsia:
What [Karl] Marx could not anticipate . . . was that the anti-bourgeois intellectuals of his day were the first representatives of what has become, in our time, a mass intelligentsia, a group possessing many of the cultural and political characteristics of a [social] class in Marx’s sense. By intelligentsia I mean those [people] engaged vocationally in the production, distribution, interpretation, criticism, and inculcation of cultural values.
- Philippine ilustrado
- Creative class
- Organic intellectual
- Pascal Ory and Jean-François Sirinelli, Les Intellectuels en France. De l’affaire Dreyfus à nos jours (The Intellectuals in France: From the Dreyfus Affair to Our Days), Paris: Armand Colin, 2002, p. 10.
- Williams, Raymond. Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society (1983) Rev. Ed., p. 170.
- Tomasz Kizwalter (Oct 2009). transl. by Agnieszka Kreczmar. "The History of the Polish Intelligentsia" (PDF file, direct download). Reviews. Acta Poloniae Historica: 241 242. Retrieved 16 December 2013.
Jerzy Jedlicki (ed.), Dzieje inteligencji polskiej do roku 1918 [The History of the Polish Intelligentsia until 1918]; and: Maciej Janowski, Narodziny inteligencji, 1750–1831 [The Rise of the Intelligentsia, 1750–1831].
- Billington, James H. Fire in the Minds of Men (0000), p. 231.
- Oxford English Dictionary, p. 1387.
- Malgorzata Szpakowska. "Dzieje inteligencji polskiej do roku 1918 [History of Intelligentsia Before 1918 in Poland]". Zeszyty Literackie (Literary Letters): 1 / 6. Retrieved 16 December 2013.
Dzieje inteligencji polskiej do roku 1918 ed. by Jerzy Jedlicki. Vol. I: Maciej Janowski, Narodziny inteligencji 1750–1831; Vol. II: Jerzy Jedlicki, Błędne koło 1832–1864; Vol. III: Magdalena Micińska, Inteligencja na rozdrożach 1864–1918. Warsaw, Polish Academy of Sciences Institute of History – Neriton, 2008, s. 260, 322, 232.
- Dr hab., Prof. UW Andrzej Szwarc (2009). "Kryteria i granice podziałów w badaniach nad inteligencją polską" [Criteria and Divisions in Research of Polish Intelligentsia]. Instytut Historyczny UW (University of Warsaw Institute of History). Retrieved 16 December 2013.
- С. В. Мотин. О понятии «интеллигенция» в творчестве И. С. Аксакова и П. Д. Боборыкина. Известия Пензенского государственного педагогического университета им. В.Г. Белинского, 27, 2012 (in Russian)
- Пётр Боборыкин. Русская интеллигенция. Русская мысль, 1904, № 12 (in Russian)
- Пётр Боборыкин. Подгнившие "Вехи". Сб. статей В защиту интеллигенции. Москва, 1909, с. 119–138; первоначально опубл. в газете "Русское слово", No 111, 17 (30) мая, 1909 (in Russian)
- Tepikin, V. (2006). Culture and Intelligentsia. Ivanovo: Ivanovo University
- Boy-Żeleński, T. (1932) Nasi okupanci | the Nazi Occupation.
- Berlin, Isaiah. A Remarkable decade. Published in: Russian Thinkers, Penguin UK, 2013, ISBN 978-0-14-139317-9
- Сергей Булгаков. Героизм и подвижничество. Вехи (сборник статей о русской интеллигенции), 1909
- Richard Pipes, Russia Under the Old Regime, p. 262.
- Pipes, Richard. Russia Under the Old Regime p. 264.
- Ascher, Abraham. The Revolution of 1905: Russia in Disarray, p. 15.
- Trotsky, L. (1910). The Intelligentsia and Socialism. https://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1910/xx/intell.htm
- Lenin, V. I. (1915). Letter from Lenin to Gorky. http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/archives/g2aleks.html
- Smith, Steve (1983). "Bolshevism, Taylorism and teh Technical Intelligentsia in the Soviet Union, 1917-1941". Radical Science Journal (13): 3–27.
- See Kaprans, M. (2010) "Retrospective Anchoring of the Soviet Repressive System: the Autobiographies of the Latvian Intelligentsia." In Starck, K. (ed.) Between Fear and Freedom: Cultural Representations of the Cold War. Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Publishing. P. 193–206.
- See Procevska, O. (2010). "Powerlessness, lamentation and nostalgia: discourses of the post-Soviet intelligentsia in modern Latvia." In: Basov, N., Simet, G.F., Andel, J. van, Mahlomaholo, S., Netshandama, V. (eds). The Intellectual: A Phenomenon in Multidimensional Perspectives. Oxford: Inter-Disciplinary Press. ISBN 978-1-84888-027-6. P. 47–56.
- Ehrenreich, B. (1989). Fear of Falling: The Inner Life of the Middle Class. New York: Harper Collins
- Weber, Max. Economy and Society: An Outline of Interpretive Sociology, ISBN 0-520-03500-3 p.462
- "We think, therefore we are - FT.com".
- Rockhill, Elena (2011). Lost To The State. Berghahn Books. p. 141. ISBN 978-1-84545-738-9.
- "Melvyn Bragg on the rise of the mass intelligentsia".
- Flacks, Richard (1973). Campus Power Struggle. Transition Books. p. 126. ISBN 0-87855-059-3.
- Boborykin, P.D. Russian Intelligentsia In: Russian Thought, 1904, # 12 (In Russian; Боборыкин П.Д. Русская интеллигенция// Русская мысль. 1904. №12;)
- Zhukovsky V. A. From the Diaries of Years 1827–1840, In: Our Heritage, Moscow, #32, 1994. (In Russian; Жуковский В.А. Из дневников 1827–1840 гг. // Наше наследие. М., 1994. №32.)
- The record dated by February 2, 1836 says: "Через три часа после этого общего бедствия ... осветился великолепный Энгельгардтов дом, и к нему потянулись кареты, все наполненные лучшим петербургским дворянством, тем, которые у нас представляют всю русскую европейскую интеллигенцию" ("After three hours after this common disaster ... the magnificent Engelhardt's house was lit up and coaches started coming, filled with the best Peterburg dvoryanstvo, the ones who represent here the best Russian European intelligentsia.") The casual, i.e., no-philosophical and non-literary context, suggests that the word was in common circulation.