Nikolay Bauman

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For the steamship, see SS Nikolay Bauman.
Nikolay Ernestovich Bauman
Bauman as a student in the late 19th century.
Born May 29 [O.S. May 17] 1873
Kazan, Russian Empire
Died October 31 [O.S. October 18] 1905
Moscow, Russian Empire
Nationality Russian
Occupation Professional revolutionary
Bolshevik politician

Nikolay Ernestovich Bauman (Russian: Никола́й Эрне́стович Ба́уман, translit. Nikoláy Ernéstovich Báuman) (May 29 [O.S. May 17] 1873 – October 31 [O.S. October 18] 1905) was a professional Russian revolutionary of the Bolshevik party.[1]

His murder by reactionary street crowds upon his release from Taganka Prison in 1905 made him a martyr of the Revolution, and later the Soviet Union.


Early life[edit]

He was born to the owner of a wallpaper and carpentry workshop, and a family of German origins.[2] He attended the 2nd Kazan Secondary School, but dropped out in the 7th grade because of disagreements with his teachers. From 1891 to 1895 he was a student at the Kazan Veterinary Institute. During his student years he was fascinated by illegal populist and Marxist literature, and participated in various underground workers' groups. After receiving his diploma as a veterinary doctor, Bauman began work at the village оf Novye Burasy in the Saratov Region and dreamt of becoming involved in revolutionary propaganda there. However, being known of by the police, and wishing to achieve broad revolutionary activity, in the fall of 1896 he left for Saint Petersburg.

Political career[edit]

Bauman some time before 1917.

From 1896 to 1897 he worked in Petersburg, serving a term in the "Petersburg Alliance for the Liberation of the Working Class." In 1897 Bauman was arrested and imprisoned in the Peter and Paul Fortress, where he was kept in solitary confinement for 22 months. During his stay in the fortress, he was astonishingly allowed to read Karl Marx's Das Kapital.[3]

Bauman was fond of practical jokes, often taking a quite malicious character. At one point he drove a party comrade to suicide, when he drew a vicious cartoon of her as the Virgin Mary with a baby in her womb, with a question mark asking 'who the baby looked like'; the sensitive party member hanged herself as a result.[4] In the wake of this scandal many Social Democrats wanted Bauman expelled from the party, among them Julius Martov, but he was saved by Lenin, who claimed he was a 'good party worker', which in his view was all that mattered. The controversy divided the party, and has been described as 'one of the many personal clashes which came to define the ethical distinctions' between the Bolshevik and Menshevik factions after 1903.[4]

In 1899 he was exiled to Vyatka Governorate, but he managed to escape abroad the same year. In 1900, he became acquainted with Lenin while in Zürich.[citation needed] Bauman became active in the publication and then in the dissemination of the revolutionary paper Iskra – "The Spark." In December 1901, at the order of Lenin he travelled to Moscow, and served in the Moscow committee of the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party. Starting in 1903, he headed the Moscow organization of Bolsheviks and the northern bureau of the Central Party Committee. He was arrested, but managed to escape. In 1903 he was a delegate to the Second Party Congress from the Moscow party organization, and supported Lenin's views on all the questions discussed.[5]

Crossing the border under the name "Grach" (Rook), Bauman returned to Russia at the request of Lenin to aid in the struggle with the Mensheviks and the organization of underground Bolshevik printing houses.[citation needed]

In June, 1904[citation needed] Bauman was arrested and imprisoned in Taganka jail.[4]


In the wake of the October Manifesto, fighting broke out between the Left and the Right. Crowds marched on the prisons to demand the release of political prisoners: In Moscow, crowds marched on the Butyrka, the city's main prison, to demand the immediate liberation of its political prisoners; the demonstration was resolved peacefully when 140 inmates were released, but nationalist crowds carrying pictures of the Tsar and flags attacked them as they made their way back. Prisoners were also released from Taganka prison, where Bauman was imprisoned. Here too there were clashes between the Rightists and the Leftists, and Bauman, who had just been released, was beaten to death by the angry crowd.[6]

He was the first executed Bolshevik.[citation needed]


Bauman's death made him a martyr of the Revolution, which effectively 'cleansed him of his sins'. His death enabled the Bolsheviks to play on the sympathies of the masses for the first time in the party's history. As a result, tens of thousands attended his funeral procession, people who saw in Bauman's death 'the fate of the Revolution' if they 'did not unite against' the reactionaries.[7]

Bauman's funeral was a mighty propaganda exercise. His coffin was carried through the streets of Moscow by six leather-cled 'herculean' party members, with the coffin itself draped in scarlet pall. The procession was led by a party comrade dressed in 'Jesuitical-black', who carried a palm branch which he in time with the music and slow steps swung from side to side. Behind him, the leaders of the party followed, carrying red flags and large velvet banners carrying the 'slogans of their struggle' in gold writing, and wreaths. At their sides they were followed by an 'armed militia' consisting of workers and students. Finally, behind these, over 100,000 mourners followed marching ten abreast in military like formation.[7]

The procession marched all day, only stopping to pick up reinforcements at certain areas of the city. Passing the Conservatory, a student orchestra joined in playing 'You Fell Victim to a Fateful Struggle' – the Revolution's very own 'funeral song' – repeatedly. The procession 'filled the streets with a dark menace', with the heaviness of the procession, the sadness of the music and the military discipline of the long rows of mourners. As night came, several thousand torches were lit; this caused the large red banners achieve a sort of glow, further contributing to the spectacle.[7]

Graveside, the orations were emotional. His widow Medvedeva Kapitolina Pavlovna urged the crowds to avenge the death of her husband Nikolay. As the large group made its way back to the city, some fighting broke out with gangs of the Black Hundreds, a Tsarist-sponsored rightist organisation.[8]


Bolshevik veneration[edit]

Bauman's tomb in the Vagankovsky Cemetery of Moscow.

Under the Bolshevik regime, Bauman's name would be given to factories, schools and streets, and a district of Moscow.[4]

Currently, a region, square, park, Metro station, and street in Moscow are named after Bauman, as well as the Bauman Moscow State Technical University.[citation needed]

Modern appraisal[edit]

Historian Orlando Figes, contends that Bauman was quite unworthy of the 'inflated honours' given him after his death, due to his cruel history of practical jokes; he also notes how his martyrdom cleansed the memory of him.[4]



  • Figes, Orlando (2014). A People's Tragedy: The Russian Revolution 1891–1924. London: The Bodley Head. ISBN 9781847922915.