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The Smenovekhovtsy (Russian: Сменовеховцы, IPA: [smʲɪnəˈvʲexəftsɨ]) is the name for a political movement in the Russian émigré community that began shortly after the publication of the magazine Smena Vekh ("Change of Signposts") in Prague in 1921.[1] This publication had taken its name from the Russian philosophical publication Vekhi ("Signposts") published in 1909.

The thoughts published in the "Smena Vekh" periodical told its White émigré readers:

"The Civil War is lost definitely. For a long time Russia has been travelling on its own path, not our path", "Either recognize this Russia, hated by you all, or stay without Russia, because a "third Russia" by your recipes does not and will not exist", "The Soviet regime saved Russia - the Soviet regime is justified, regardless of how weighty the arguments against it are", "The mere fact of its [the Soviet regime's - ed.] enduring existence proves its popular character, and the historical belonging of its dictatorship and harshness".

The ideas in the publication soon evolved into the Smenovekhovstvo movement which promoted the concept of accepting the Soviet regime and the October Revolution as a natural and popular progression of Russia's fate, something which was not to be resisted despite perceived ideological incompatibilities with Leninism. The Smenovekhovstvo admonished its members to return to Russia predicting that the Soviet Union would not last and would give way to a revival of Russian nationalism.[2]

They supported co-operation with the Soviet government in the hope that the Soviet state would evolve back into a "bourgeois state". The cooperation was important for the Soviets, since the whole Russian 'White diaspora' included 3 million people.[3] The leaders of smenovekhovstvo were mostly former Mensheviks, Kadets and some Octobrists. The leader of the group was Nikolay Ustryalov.[4] On March 26, 1922, the first issue of Nakanune (smenovekhovtsy newspaper) was published; Soviet Russia's first successes in foreign policy were praised. Throughout its career, Nakanune was subsidised by the Soviet government. Alexey Tolstoy had become acquainted with the movement in Summer 1921. In April 1922 he published an open letter to émigré leader N.V.Chaikovsky, and defended Soviet government for ensuring Russia's unity and preventing attacks from the neighbouring countries, especially the Polish-Soviet War.[5]

Conservative émigrés such as those in ROVS were opposed to the Smenoveknovstvo movement, viewing it as a promotion of defeatism and moral relativism, as a capitulation to the Bolsheviks, and a desire to seek compromise with the new Soviet regime. Repeatedly, the Smenoveknovtsi were accused of ties with the Soviet OGPU, which had in fact been active in promoting such ideas in the émigré community. Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin commented on the Smenovekhovstvo movement in October 1921, "The Smenovekhovtsy express the moods of thousands of various bourgeois or Soviet collaborators, who are the participants of our New Economic Policy".

There were other émigré organizations which, like the Smenoveknovtsy, argued that Russian émigrés should accept the fact of the Russian revolution. These included the Young Russians (Mladorossi) and the Eurasians (Evraziitsi). As with the Smenovekhovtsy, these movements did not survive after World War II.

In addition, among Ukrainian emigres there was also a movement in favour of reconciliation with the Soviet regime and return to the homeland. This included some of the most prominent pre-revolutionary intellectuals such as Mykhailo Hrushevskyi and Volodymyr Vynnychenko. The Soviet Ukrainian government funded a Ukrainian emigre journal called Nova Hromada to encourage this trend. The Soviets referred to this movement as a Ukrainian Smena Vekh, as did its opponents among the Ukrainian emigres, who saw it as a defeatist expression of Little Russian Russophilia. For this reason, the actual proponents of the trend denied that they were Smenovekhovtsy.[6]

Notable Smenavekhites[edit]


  • Christopher Gilley, The 'Change of Signposts' in the Ukrainian Emigration. A Contribution to the History of Sovietophilism in the 1920s, Stuttgart: ibidem, 2009.
  • Hilda Hardeman, Coming to Terms with the Soviet Regime. The "Changing Signposts" Movement among Russian Émigrés in the Early 1920s, Dekalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 1994.
  • M.V. Nazarov, The Mission of the Russian Emigration, Moscow: Rodnik, 1994. ISBN 5-86231-172-6
  • "Changing Landmarks" in Russian Berlin, 1922-1924 by Robert C. Williams in Slavic Review Vol. 27, No. 4 (Dec., 1968), pp. 581–593

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ Laqueur, Walter (1996). The Dream that Failed : Reflections on the Soviet Union. USA: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-510282-7.  p. 188
  3. ^ "Changing Landmarks" in Russian Berlin, 1922-1924. Robert C. Williams Slavic Review Vol. 27, No. 4 (Dec., 1968), p. 581
  4. ^ "Changing Landmarks" in Russian Berlin, 1922-1924. Robert C. Williams Slavic Review Vol. 27, No. 4 (Dec., 1968), p. 584
  5. ^ "Changing Landmarks" in Russian Berlin, 1922-1924. Robert C. Williams Slavic Review Vol. 27, No. 4 (Dec., 1968), p. 591
  6. ^ Gilley, Christopher (2009). The 'Change of Signposts' in the Ukrainian Emigration. A Contribution to the History of Sovietophilism in the 1920s. Stuttgart: ibidem. ISBN 978-3-89821-965-5.