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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.

Many of the Old Guard were removed from power, convicted of treason in show trials and imprisoned or executed during the Great Purge of 1936–38, or died under suspicious circumstances.[citation needed]



The "Old Bolsheviks" (Stalin, Lenin and Mikhail Kalinin, pictured in 1919) were members of the Bolshevik Party before the Russian Revolution

Initially the term referred to Bolsheviks who joined the party before 1905. On February 13, 1922 the Society of Old Bolsheviks (Общество старых большевиков) at the Istpart (ru:Истпарт, Commission on the Study of the History of the October Revolution and RCP(b)) was established. The first Statute required membership before January 1, 1905, with admission in some cases of other Social Democrats with the same career time who later joined the Bolsheviks. Initially there were 64 members. Later it was renamed into the All-Union Society. The 1931 Statute had requirement of continuous party membership of at least 18 years, with exceptions to be granted by the Society Presidium (approved by the Society Council). By 1934 there were over 2000 members. It was self-dissolved in 1935 announcing that "it has completed its tasks".[1] 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.[2]

Vladimir Lenin wrote that what one could call the "old party guard", a "thinnest layer", had a "huge, unshared prestige".[3]

Over time the definition of "Old Bolsheviks" has become more lax. For example, according to a 1972 Soviet book by D. A. Chygayev, in 1922 there were as many as 44,148 Old Bolsheviks.[4][verification needed]

Joseph Stalin removed many of the Old Bolsheviks from power during the Great Purge of the 1930s. Some were executed for treason; some were sent to Gulag labor camps.

Various things in the Soviet Union, such as a publishing house, several steamships, motorboats, kolkhozes and populated places, had the name Old Bolshevik.[5][6][7]

Notable Old BolsheviksEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Great Soviet Encyclopedia, article "Общество старых большевиков"
  2. ^ Vadim Rogovin, Was There An Alternative?
  3. ^ «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
  4. ^ "Shameless Classic" Archived 2013-12-03 at the Wayback Machine, Mark Deutsch, Moskovsky Komsomolets, 2003, citing Д.А.Чугаев, "Коммунистическая партия – организатор СССР".
  5. ^ 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)
  6. ^ 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"
  7. ^ Robert C. Tucker. "Letter of an Old Bolshevik". Slavic Review, Vol. 51, No. 4 (Winter, 1992), pp. 782–785 (in English)