Old Bolshevik

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Old Bolshevik (Russian: ста́рый большеви́к, stary bolshevik), also Old Bolshevik Guard or Old Party Guard, became an unofficial designation for those who were members of the Bolshevik party before the Russian Revolution of 1917. Those who joined the party after the February Revolution were considered Old Bolsheviks as their membership predated the Bolsheviks' seizure of power during the October Revolution. Many of the Old Guard were either tried and executed by the NKVD during the Great Purge of 1936–38 or died under suspicious circumstances.[citation needed]


Vladimir Lenin expressed the opinion that what one could call the "old party guard", a "thinnest layer", had a "huge, unshared prestige".[1]

According to a 1972 Soviet book by D. A. Chygayev, in 1922 there were 44,148 Old Bolsheviks.[2] Vadim Rogovin cites the statistics published by the 13th Congress of the Russian Communist Party (Bolsheviks), that in 1924, of 600,000 Party members, 0.6% joined before 1905, 2% joined in 1906–1916 and <9% joined in 1917.[3]

Joseph Stalin removed many of the Old Bolsheviks from power during the Great Purge of the 1930s. The most prominent survivors in the Communist Party were Lazar Kaganovich, Kliment Voroshilov, and Stalin himself, while remaining Vyacheslav Molotov and Anastas Mikoyan had fallen out of Stalin's favor and could have perished in another purge had Stalin lived longer.[citation needed]

Some were executed for treason; some were sent to labor camps (the Gulag); and a few, such as Alexandra Kollontai, went abroad as ambassadors, preventing them from participating in the central government. Many communist opponents of Stalin, most notably the Trotskyists, cite this fact in support of their argument that Stalin betrayed the aims of the revolution; they believed in Permanent Revolution, while Stalin and his supporters believed in Socialism in One Country.

Various things in the Soviet Union, such as a publishing house, several steamships, motorboats, kolkhozes and settlements, gained the name Old Bolshevik.[4][5][6]

The first prominent Old Bolshevik to die was Yakov Sverdlov in 1919; the last was Lazar Kaganovich in 1991 who also reached the greatest age, 97 - he died a mere five months before the Soviet Union itself was dissolved.

Significant Old Bolsheviks[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ «Если не закрывать себе глаза на действительность, то надо признать, что в настоящее время пролетарская политика партии определяется не ее составом, а громадным, безраздельным авторитетом того тончайшего слоя, который можно назвать старой партийной гвардией. Достаточно небольшой внутренней борьбы в этом слое, и авторитет его будет если не подорван, то во всяком случае ослаблен настолько, что решение будет уже зависеть не от него», V.Lenin, March 26, 1922
  2. ^ "Shameless Classic" Archived 2013-12-03 at the Wayback Machine., Mark Deutsch, Moskovsky Komsomolets, 2003, citing Д.А.Чугаев, "Коммунистическая партия – организатор СССР".
  3. ^ Vadim Rogovin, Was There An Alternative?
  4. ^ Подвиг экипажа парохода “Старый Большевик” Victory of crew of "Stari Bolshevik" (in Russian) (Article about one of 5 steamships called "Old Bolshevik" or "Stari Bolshevik)
  5. ^ Печать в Москве в 1917 году : отражение борьбы партий в печати[permanent dead link] (in Russian). Example of book edited by "Stari Bolshevik" or "Old Bolshevik"
  6. ^ Robert C. Tucker. "Letter of an Old Bolshevik". Slavic Review, Vol. 51, No. 4 (Winter, 1992), pp. 782–785 (in English)