Yevgeni Preobrazhensky

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Yevgeni Preobrazhensky
Eugenio Preobrazhenski.jpg
Е.A. Преображeнский
Member of the 10th Secretariat
In office
5 April 1920 – 16 March 1921
Personal details
Born 15 February 1886 (O.S.)
Bolkhov, Orël guberniia, Russia
Died 13 February 1937 (age 51)
Moscow, USSR
Political party Russian Social Democratic Labour Party, Communist Party

Yevgeni Alekseyevich Preobrazhensky (Ru: Евге́ний Алексе́евич Преображе́нский) (1886-1937) was a Russian revolutionary and economist. A member of the governing Central Committee of the Bolshevik faction and, its successor, the All-Union Communist Party, Preobrazhensky is remembered as a leading voice for the rapid industrialisation of peasant Russia through a concentration on state-owned heavy industry.

Closely associated with Leon Trotsky and the Left Opposition movement of the 1920s, Preobrazhensky fell afoul of the secret police during the decade of the 1930s, suffering expulsion from the Communist Party and internal exile in 1932 and a new arrest ending in execution in 1937 during the Ezhovshchina.


Early years[edit]

Yevgeni Alekseyevich Preobrazhensky was born in Bolkhov, Orël guberniia, Russia on 15 February 1886 (O.S.). His father was the son of a Orthodox priest who taught for seven years in a zemstvo school before his ordination in 1883.[1] Following his appointment as a parish priest in Bolkhov in the summer of 1883, the elder Preobrazhensky opened an elementary school for the parish at his own expense.[1] It was in this school that Yevgeni was first educated.

In an autobiography written for the Russian Granat Encyclopedia, Yevgeni Preobrazhensky recalled both a religious and an intellectually-oriented upbringing, as well as an early loathing of inequality.[2] He was an early and active reader.[2] After leaving his father's private school, Preobrazhensky spent two years attending the state-operated Bolkhov public school.[3] He subsequently left the town to attend the classically-oriented gymnasium in the provincial capital of Orël, where Preobrazhensky remembered himself as the "second-best student in the class."[4]

It was during his years at the Orël gymnasium that Preobrazhensky first became interested in politics, turning from the subjects taught in the classical gymnasium to reading newspapers, intellectual journals, history textbooks, and socially-oriented novels.[5] He also later claimed to have abandoned his belief in God at the age of 14, as the end result of his religious upbringing clashing with the pervasive rationalist philosophy which permeated the world of the Russian intelligentsia at the turn of the 20th Century.[5]

Preobrazhensky's philosophical rebelliousness brought him into conflict with his priestly father, who in 1902 was appointed dean of the network of church-run schools in Bolkhov parish.[6] The estrangement between father and son would last for decades.[6]

During his fifth of eight years at the gymnasium, Preobrazhensky began to accumulate illegal radical literature, including a proclamation by revolutionary students of the Ekaterinoslav Mining Institute, an account of a beating of protesting students at the hands of Cossacks, and hectographed editions of radical poetry and song lyrics.[7] That summer, upon his return to the family home at Bolkhov, Preobrazhensky closely reviewed this and other illegal material and determined to himself become actively involved in the revolutionary movement seeking the overthrow of the Tsarist regime in Russia.[8]

Underground revolutionary[edit]

An advertisement for a hectograph. Preobrazhensky and other Russian revolutionaries frequently reproduced their underground proclamations and leaflets using this simple printing technique.

Preobrazhensky decided to henceforth "devote a minimum of time to the gymnasium's subjects" — merely enough to attain passing marks — so as to dedicate the bulk of his hours to the study of history and economics.[9] Among the budding revolutionaries who were his friends was one Alexander Aleksin, the son of a local printer, whom Preobrazhensky persuaded to steal lead type from his father's printing works with a view to establishing an illegal print shop of his own that could produce better results than a hectograph could provide.[9]

Preobrazhensky attempted to set type for a pamphlet reproducing revolutionary song lyrics and a declaration "We Renounce the Old World," but his inferior printing equipment fell apart before he could master the process and the type was eventually returned to Aleksin's print works without any printed publications being produced.[9]

During his seventh year at the gymnasium, Preobrazhensky felt himself compelled to choose which revolutionary organisation to support, being torn between the competing strategies of the peasant-oriented Socialist-Revolutionary Party (PSR) and the Marxist Russian Social Democratic Labour Party (RSDLP).[10] Influenced by the Communist Manifesto and another work by Frederick Engels, Preobrazhensky cast his lot with the latter organisation, believing its approach to be scientifically based.[10] Together with two friends, Preobrazhensky declared his formal allegiance to the RSDLP late in 1903 and was accepted into the illegal organisation two or three months later.[11]

During the summer prior to his eighth and final year at the Orël gymnasium, Preobrazhensky worked as a RSDLP propagandist to the workers of the Dyatkovo factory in Bryansky raion.[12] Preobrazhensky was able to recruit the son of the Bryansky police to the RSDLP and successfully managed to conceal his small rotary mimeograph machine from searching authorities in a locked drawer of the inspector's own desk.[12] Periodic meetings were held in the neighboring forest.[12]

In the middle of October 1905, Preobrazhensky traveled to Moscow with the approval of the Moscow Committee of the RSDLP.[13] There he was promoted to the position of chief propagandist for the urban Presnensky raion, thereby entering national politics as a party activist.[13]

From autumn 1909 Preobrazhensky was a member of the Bolshevik Party bureau in Irkutsk.

From March 1917 he was a delegate on the Chita Soviet. At the 6th Congress of the Bolshevik Party, beginning near the end of July 1917, Preobrazhensky was elected as a candidate member (alternate) to the party's governing Central Committee.[14]

Years in authority[edit]

From January 1918, a candidate member of the Ural Provincial Committee of the Bolshevik Party. As President of the Presidium of the Ural Regional Committee from May 1918, the killing of Nicholas II and his family occurred on Preobrazhensky's watch.

In 1918 Preobrazhensky joined the Left Communists faction opposing the draconian peace with Germany established by the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk.[14] It was at this time that Preobrazhensky became closely affiliated with Nikolai Bukharin, himself a popular Left Communist leader and member of the party Central Committee.

Preobrazhensky was elected a full member of the Central Committee of the Russian Communist Party at its 9th Congress, which opened at the end of March 1920.[14] He was at the same time elected to the RKP's three member secretariat.[14]

In 1920-1921 was Secretary of the Central Committee; in 1921 President of the Financial Committee and a member of the Council of People's Commissars of the RSFSR; Chief of the People's Commissariat of Education. Through the 1920s he was a leading Soviet Economist, developing the plan for industrialization of the country and an opponent of the NEP.

He co-wrote the book The ABC of Communism with Nikolai Bukharin, with whom he would strongly disagree on the industrialization issue. He also wrote The New Economics, a polemical essay on the dynamics of an economy in transition to socialism, Anarchism and Communism and The Decline of Capitalism.

In 1924 he became one of the editors of the newspaper Pravda in 1924, a supporter of Trotsky as member of the Left Opposition; 1924-27 a member of the Board of People's Commissariat of Finance. After 1927, expelled from the party "for the organization of illegal anti-party printing house." From January 1928, sent to the Urals and worked in the planning agencies. In summer 1929, together with Karl Radek and Ivar Smilga wrote a letter claiming a "ideological and organizational break with Trotskyism."

In January 1930, restored to the party and appointed to the Nizhniy-Novgorod Planning Committee; in 1932 member of the Board of the People's Commissariat of the Light Industry, acting head of the People's Commissariat of State Farms.

Exile and execution[edit]

In January 1933, expelled, arrested and interrogated by the GPU; sentenced to 3 years exile; finally expelled in 1936 and arrested again on 20 December 1936; he refused to confess and on 13 July 1937 he was sentenced to death and shot. He was rehabilitated by the government of Mikhail Gorbachev in 1988.

Economic ideas[edit]

He argued in the new economics that the USSR had to undertake the "primitive accumulation" that early capitalist societies had had to. That is, the peasants' agricultural surplus had to be appropriated to invest in industry. Thus the Soviet Union had to undertake by planning in "socialist primitive accumulation" what England had undergone by happenstance in the 17th century. This theory was criticized politically and associated with Trotsky and the Left Opposition, but in fact was put into practice by Stalin in the 1930s, as when Joseph Stalin said, in his speech to The Captains of Industry, that the USSR had to accomplish in a decade what England had taken centuries to do in terms of economic development in order to be prepared for an invasion from the West.


  1. ^ a b Mikhail M. Gorinov, "Foreword," in Richard B. Day and Mikhail M. Gorinov (eds.), The Preobrazhensky Papers: Archival Documents and Materials: Volume I, 1886-1920. Chicago, IL: Haymarket Books, 2015; pg. xxi.
  2. ^ a b Gorinov, "Foreword," pg. xxiii.
  3. ^ Gorinov, "Foreword," pg. xxvi.
  4. ^ Quoted in Gorinov, "Foreword," pp. xxvi-xxvii.
  5. ^ a b Gorinov, "Foreword," pg. xxvii.
  6. ^ a b Gorinov, "Foreword," pg. xxix.
  7. ^ Gorinov, "Foreword," pg. xxxii.
  8. ^ Gorinov, "Foreword," pp. xxxii-xxxiii.
  9. ^ a b c Gorinov, "Foreword," pg. xxxiv.
  10. ^ a b Gorinov, "Foreword," pg. xxxvi.
  11. ^ Gorinov, "Foreword," pg. xxxviii.
  12. ^ a b c Gorinov, "Foreword," pg. xxxix.
  13. ^ a b Gorinov, "Foreword," pg. xlv
  14. ^ a b c d Donald A. Filtzer, "Introduction," to E.A. Preobrazhensky, The Crisis of Soviet Industrialization. London: Macmillan, 1980; pg. xiii.


English translations[edit]

  • ABC of Communism: Volume 1. With Nikolai Bukharin. Patrick Lavin, trans. Detroit, MI: Marxian Educational Society, 1921.
  • Third Anniversary of the Russian Revolution. Glasgow, Scotland: Union Publishing Co., 1921.
  • The New Economics. Brian Pearce, trans. London: Oxford University Press, 1965.
  • From NEP to Socialism: A Glance into the Future of Russia and Europe. Brian Pearce, trans. London: New Park Publications, 1973.
  • The Crisis of Soviet Industrialization: Selected Essays. Donald A. Filtzer, ed. London: Macmillan, 1980.
  • The Decline of Capitalism. Richard B. Day, trans. Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 1985.
  • The Preobrazhensky Papers: Archival Documents and Materials: Volume I, 1886-1920. [2014] Richard B. Day and Mikhail M. Gorinov, trans and eds. Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2015.

In Russian[edit]

  • О крестьянских коммунах. (Разговор коммуниста-большевика с крестьянином) (On Peasant Communes: Conversation of a Communist-Bolshevik with a Peasant). Moscow: Kommunist, 1918.
  • Нужна ли хлебная монополия? (Do We Need a Grain Monopoly?) Moscow: Izdatel'stvo Vserossiiskogo Tentral'nogo Ispolitel'nogo Komiteta Sovetov R., S., K. i K. Deputatov, 1918.
  • С кем идти крестьянской бедноте? (With Whom Will the Peasant Poor March?) Smolensk: 1918.
  • Крестьянская Россия и социализм. (К пересмотру нaшeй aграрнoй программы) (Peasant Russia and Socialism: Towards Revision of Our Agrarian Program). Petrograd: Priboi, 1918.
  • Азбука коммунизма: Популарное объяснение программы Российской коммунистической партий большевиков (The ABC of Communism: A Popular Explanation of the Program of the Russian Communist Party of Bolsheviks). With N.I. Bukharin. Moscow: Gosudarstvennoe izdatelʹstvo, 1920.
  • Трёхлетие Октябрьской революции (Third Anniversary of the Russian Revolution). Moscow: Gosudarstvennoe izdatelʹstvo, 1920.
  • "Перспективы новой экономической политики" (Perspectives on the New Economic Policy). Krasnyi nov', (1921) No. 3, pp. 201-212.
  • Анархизм и коммунизм (Anarchism and Communism). Moscow: Gosudarstvennoe izdatel'stvo, 1921.
  • Бумажные деньги в эпоху пролетарской диктатуры (Paper Money in the Epoch of Proletarian Dictatorship). Tiflis, Georgia: Gosudarstvennoe izdatel'stvo, 1921.
  • Финансы в эпоху диктатуры пролетариата (Finances in the Epoch of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat). Moscow: People's Commissariat of Finance, 1921.
  • Вопросы финансовой политики (Questions of Financial Policy). Moscow: Gosudarstvennoe izdatel'stvo, 1921.
  • "Русский рубль за время войны и революции" (The Russian Ruble in Time of War and Revolution). Krasnyi nov', (1922) No. 3, pp. 242-257.
  • "Крах капитализма в Европе" (The Collapse of Capitalism in Europe). Krasnyi nov', (1922) No. 5, pp. 151-165.
  • Причины падeния курса нашего рубля (Reasons for the Declining Course of Our Ruble). Moscow: People's Commissariat of Finance, 1922.
  • Ot NEPa k sot︠s︡ializmu (vzgli︠a︡d na budushchee Rossii i Evropy) (From NEP to Socialism: View of the Future of Russia and Europe). Moscow: Moskovskii rabochii, 1922.
  • Итоги Генуезской кoнфerenции и хoзияственные перспективы Европы (Results of the Genoa Conference and the Economic Prospects of Europe). Moscow: Gosudarstvennoe izdatelʹstvo, 1922.
  • О морали и классовых нормах (On Morals and Class Norms). Moscow-Petrograd: 1923.
  • О нем (About Him). Moscow: Gosizdat, 1924.
  • В.И. Ленин: Сoциолoгичeский набросок (V.I. Lenin: A Sociological Sketch). Moscow: Krasnyi nov', 1924.
  • Русские финансы и европеиская биржа в 1904-1906 г.г. (Russian Finances and European Market in 1904-1906). Moscow: Moskovskii rabochii, 1926.
  • Экономика и финансы современной Франции (Economics and Finances of Contemporary France). Moscow: Izdatel'stvo Kommunisticheskoi akademii, 1926.
  • Новая экономика: Опыт теоретического анализа советского хозяиства (The New Economics: Experience of the Theoretical Analysis of the Soviet Economy). Moscow: Izdatel'stvo Kommunisticheskoi akademii, 1926.
  • Закат капитализма: Воспроизводство и кризисы при империализме и мировой кризис 1930-1931 г.г. (The Sunset of Capitalism: Reproduction and Crises associated with Imperialism and the World Crisis of 1930-1931). Moscow: 1931.

Further reading[edit]

  • Edward Hallett Carr, A History of Soviet Russia: Socialism in One Country, 1924-1926: Volume II. London: Macmillan, 1959.
  • Stephen F. Cohen, Bukharin and the Bolshevik Revolution: A Political Biography 1888-1938. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1973.
  • Richard B. Day, "Preobrazhensky and the Theory of the Transition Period," Soviet Studies, vol. 27, no. 2 (April 1975), pp. 196-219. In JSTOR
  • Isaac Deutscher, The Prophet Unarmed: Trotsky, 1921-1929. New York: Oxford University Press, 1959.
  • Isaac Deutscher, The Prophet Outcast: Trotsky, 1929-1940. New York: Oxford University Press, 1963.
  • M.M. Gorinov, S.V. Tsakunov, and Konstantin Gurevich, "Life and Works of Evgenii Alekseevich Preobrazhenskii," Slavic Review, vol. 50, no. 2 (1991), pp. 286-296. In JSTOR
  • James R. Millar, "A Note on Primitive Accumulation in Marx and Preobrazhensky," Soviet Studies, vol. 30, no. 3 (July 1978), pp. 384-393. In JSTOR
  • Alec Nove, The Soviet Economic System. Second Edition. London: George Allen & Unwin, 1977.

External links[edit]