À. À. BOGDANOV

Biographic essay

Alexander Alexandrovich Bogdanov (original family name – Malinovsky, other most famous pen-names – Maximov, Ryadovoy, Verner) was born on 10 (22) of August, 1873, in Sokolka town of Grodnenskaya province. He was the second of six children in the family of a people’s teacher A.A.Malinovsky, born in an aboriginal family of Vologda. “My farther soon rose to the post of teacher-inspector in the municipal college, and due to this fact, being 6-7 years old, I got access to the college library and its small cabinet of Physics, - Bogdanov wrote in his autobiography. – Studied in Tula gymnasium, lived in barracks or prison-like conditions; its malicious and stupid administration taught me to hate and be afraid of powerful and deny authorities”1. Being just a boy, Alexander gave financial help to his family, earning by working as a coach; after finishing the gymnasium with golden medal, in 1893 he entered Natural department of the Moscow University. For participation in “Narodnaya volya” of the Union of Northern Countrymen Associations in December of 1894 he was expelled from the University and exiled to Tula, where a worker-armourer Ivan Savelyev draw him in studies in working circles. Talking with workers on economical and political themes, Bogdanov soon felt unsatisfied with legal text-books on politeconomy (N.A.Karysheva, I.I.Ivanyukova and others), and following Savelyev’s advice, guided by “Capital” of Marx, began compiling special lectures. Those lectures later grew into “Short course of economic science” (M., 1897), serving in pre-Revolutionary years as one of main manuals on studying Marxist economic theory in working circles. In his review of the 1st edition of the course V.I.Lenin called it “a remarkable phenomenon in our economic literature” “ the absolutely best” manual on the given problem2, marking main merits of this work to be contained in the fact, that the author “gives clear and exact definition of the subject of political economy” and “consistently sticks to historical materialism”3

Bogdanov’s intercourse with workers was conductive to his passage from ideas of “Narodnaya volya” to social-democratism4, and his acquaintance with the article by V.I.Lenin “Economic content and critics of Narodnaya volya in a book by Mr.Struve” became “a decisive factor towards Marxist theory”5.

On the basis of A.A.Bogdanov-I.I.Savelyev’s circle, whose each member had to create his own circle of 3-5 workers, by 1897 there has grown Tula social-democratic organization6. Wide and diverse requirements of workers impelled Bogdanov to a thorough study of “common worldview” problems, which resulted in his first philosophic work “Basic elements of historical view on nature” (Cïá.,1899). In 1899 Bogdanov graduated from Kharkov University, medical department; the same year he married a doctor’s assistant Natalya Bogdanovna Korsak (1865-1945), a daughter of a landlord, left her family and joined in active Revolutionary work.

Bogdanov soon was arrested for social-democratic propaganda, spent half a year in a Moscow prison, and then was exiled to Kaluga, where he was at the head of political convicts circle, later become Bolsheviks (I.I.Skvortsov-Stepanov, A.V.Lunacharsky, B.V.Avilov, V.A.Bazarov). Being suspect Bogdanov was exiled from Kaluga to Vologda for 3 years, where he worked as a doctor in a hospital for mental deseases. Polemical articles against the market theory of M.I.Tugan-Baranovsky and idealistic philosophy of N.A.Berdyayev, S.N.Bulgakov, S.L.Frank are also dated by this period.

Those, personally knew Bogdanov, marked his versatility and universal education, as well we his deep honesty, sincerity, tactful attitude towards his comrades.7

After the banish was over, in spring of 1904, Bogdanov left for Switzerland, where took resolutely the side of Bolsheviks in their desperate fight against Mensheviks8. After a meting of “22 steadfast” (30 July-1 August,1904), proposed the task to fight for a new Party Congress, Bogdanov returned to Russia as a representative of the Bureau of majority committees and did a great job on attracting major workers to participate in the III Party congress9. On the Congress, took place in London on 12-27 of April in 1905, “Comrade Maximov” came out with a summary report on behalf of Organizational committee of Bureau of majority committees, with a report on armed revolt and a report on organizational problems (about the Party Rules) 10.

Then he was already elected in CC RSDLP, where he was reelected on IV (1906) and V (1907) Party Congress11.

Bogdanov took an active part in the First Russian revolution, was arrested for being a member of executive committee of St. Petersburg Soviet of Workers’ Deputies, after discharge from prison, returned again to Party work. In 1907 he became a member of the three, editing Bolshevist’s CO “Proletary” (V.I.Lenin, I.F.Dubrovinsky, A.A.Bogdanov).

It was the editorial office, where a heated argument between V.I.Lenin and A.A.Bogdanov flared up.

First V.I.Lenin condemned “ultimatism” of A.A.Bogdanov and his supportes (demands of ultimatum submission of the Duma faction to “revolutionary Party tactics”) for being a revolutionary phrase, and then criticized A.A.Bogdanov’s attempts “to supplement” Marxism with elements of E.Mach’s idealistic philosophy and V.Ostvald’s energetism. Analyzing mistakes of Bogdanov’s works “Empiriomonism” (1904-1906) and “Iz psikhologii obschestva” (Of the society psychology) (1905), V.I.Lenin convincingly showed “dead philosophical idealism to catch live Marxist Bogdanov”. “Bogdanov personally, - he underlined, - is a sworn enemy of every reaction and bourgeouis reaction in particular. Bogdanov’s substitution and the theory of identity of social being and social consciousness, serve this reaction. This is a sad fact, but it’s still a fact"12.

For propagandizing views, incompatible with Marxist philosophy, on an enlarged session of “Proletary” editorial board (July, 1909), Bogdanov was removed from its staff and from Bolshevist Center, and on a “uniting” plenum of Central Committee of RSDLP (January, 1910) – from the Party Central Committee.

However, Bogdanov never stopped his scientific work during this period: he edited a complete translation of K.Marx’s “Capital” by V.A.Bazarov and I.I.Skvortsov-Stepanov, and together with I.I.Skvortsov-Stepanov wrote the 1st volume of the full “Course of political economy” (Ì., 1910).

In 1909 Bogdanov with A.M.Gorky, A.V.Lunacharsky and a worker-revolutionary N.E.Vilonov established a “higher social-democratic school” on the Capri island, which was conceived by the organizers as a center, where workers-propagandists were trained for Russia and problems of “proletarian culture” were worked out. But “philosophy of proletarian struggle” popularized in the school, was of some left-opportunistic character, which made its activity somehow factional, and this caused a protest among a number of workers, headed by N.E.Vilonov, left Capri for Paris, to V.I.Lenin.

At the end of 1909 Bogdanov and his supporters formed a group “Vpered”, characterized by V.I.Lenin as “lampoon Bolsheviks"13. Bogdanov’s aspiration for creating an organization for culture education of proletariat on the basis of the group “Vpered” turned to be futile. G.Aleksinsky, acquired considerable influence on the group, began to demoralize it with his “degenerative ambitions”14, denied Bogdanov’s idea of “proletarian culture”, tried to involve the group in political intrigues and make it an instrument of struggling against Central Committee of RSDLP. Having come out against Aleksinsky’s intrigues, Bogdanov broke up with the group “Vpered”15and stepped aside from active political activity, starting his work at “Universal organizational science”.

During the First world war he was mobilized into Field Forces and served a year as a front doctor. With respect to imperialistic war he took a consistent internationalist position.

A.A.Bogdanov took no part in the Great October Revolution, but considered it to be the greatest social achievement16 and worked actively in Soviet organizations. According to V.I.Lenin’s directions he was engaged in teaching activity17. In 1918-1921 he was working as professor of political economy of the 1st MSU; was one of the founders of Socialist (later Communist) academy (1918), a member of its Presidium (1918-1926), working in the ideological section and commission on translating into Russian of K.Marx’s and F.Engels’s works.

Being a member of Comacademy, A.A.Bogdanov participated actively in economic discussions of 20s – about historical boundaries of political economy (1925), “the law of value” (1926), abstract labour (1927). At the first of the mentioned discussions Bogdanov resolutely supported I.I.Skvortsov-Stepanov, come out with critics of “limiting” interpretation of politeconomy, widely spread in 20s, advocating Marx’s thesis about political economy in the broad sense of the word. Bogdanov and Skvortsov-Stepanov consistently defended historical method in political economy in their two-volume fundamental “Course of political economy”, endured a number of editions.

À. À. Bogdanov criticized an opinion (expressed by Sh.M.Dvolaitsky) about non-applicability of the method of K.Marx’s “Capital” to the analysis of non-capitalist social-economic formations, having underlined that the problem lied not in variation of investigation methods, but in variation of “initial abstractions”, thus, though indirectly, rising the problem of initial economic categories of different methods of production.

In the course of discussion about “the law of value” A.A.Bogdanov exposed to fair criticism an identification by E.A.Preobrazhensky of law of value with law of supply and demand, taking at the same time the position of non-historical understanding of value as public labour input. Bogdanov’s concept of the general “law of the labour costs”, proceeding spontaneously, as law of value, in commodity-capitalist economy, and regularly under socialism, caused a sharp discussion in Soviet economic literature.

In 20s there were repeatedly reedited “A short course of economic science” and “Elementary course of political economy”, written by Bogdanov. These text-books had both positive sides (lucidity and good composition of statement, critics of bourgeois economic theories), and negative ones (mechanicism, division of economic epochs into periods in accord with the degree of barter progressing and others), but as a whole, they played an important role in distribution of economic knowledge.

À. À. Bogdanov was one of the pioneers of Not movement in the USSR. Yet in 1913 he wrote a brochure “Between a Man and machine”, where he analyzed separate progressive sides of Taylor system and its reactionary social nature. In the supplied edition of this work (1918) he rose a question about the use of scientific elements of Taylor system for “rising working capacity of masses up to the highest level, compatible with maintaining health of workers and possibility to develop culturally"18. With the example of Taylor system Bogdanov showed, that “we had to learn from the bourgeois world everything, suitable for achieving our goals, but take it consciously, with critics, analyzing what and where should be applied, giving up all useful or just unfit. Then we’ll be able to rise above the bourgeois world and conquer it both in the struggle and in construction"19.

At the first All-Union conference on scientific labour organization (1921) Bogdanov suggested an idea of discriminating organizational art and organizational science, close to modern ideas about correlation of management science and art.20

In 1918-1920 Bogdanov was a member of Central Committee of Proletkult. Bogdanov’s concept of “proletarian culture” had much erroneous and disputable, but, undoubtedly, there were positive moments as well. He proposed democratization of scientific knowledge, based on creation of workers’ encyclopedia, establishment of workers’ universities, development of proletarian art, imbued with the spirit of labour collectivism and comradely cooperation. The task of new culture – is formation of a “new human type, harmonious-integral, free from former narrowness, generated by crushing of a person within specialization, free from individual reserving of will and feelings, caused by economic separation and fight”21. A problem of proletarian culture, he believed, “should be solved on the basis of live reality”, in its versatility, not proceeding “entirely” from machine production engineering (as, for example, A.K.Gastev thought)22. "A new culture comes form the old one, learns from it"23.

As for the problems of the art form, Bogdanov stated, that it was “simplicity, lucidity and clearness of forms” characteristic of Russian classics in XIX century, that best corresponded the aims of arising proletarian art. "We use to have great masters, - he wrote, - deserving to be first teachers of art forms for the great class"24.

In 20s there were repeatedly reedited and enjoyed a great popularity works of fiction by Bogdanov “Red star” and “Engineer Menni”. A high appreciation of “Red star”, written in 1908, was given by a famous soviet writer, Vice-president of the World Association of Science-fiction Yeremey Parnov25. A little less successful was “Engineer Menni” (written in 1911), reflected in a number of moments philosophical delusions of the author. V.I.Lenin, after reading the novel, pointed at machism, deeply “hidden” in it 26.

À. À. Bogdanov was the first to see great prospects, which mastering of atomic energy reveals for the mankind, as well as that jeopardy, concealed in its uncontrolled use. He warned, that achievements of the science of substance constitution can result in the fact, that “militarism of nations, hostile to each other, would have destructive arms of unprecedented power, and the whole planet could be devastated within several months"27. Application of atomic energy, he believed, should be carried out just by the power of common to all mankind collective.

In his last years of life, Bogdanov was energetically working as a director of the first Institute of blood transfusion in the world, founded by him in 1926. He considered the method of blood transfusion as an opportunity to apply in medicine theses, developed by “universal organizational science”, as means of rising an organism viability, extending human life.

The idea of creating the Institute of blood transfusion was supported by V.I.Lenin28 and peoples’ commissar of public health services of RSFSR N.A.Semashko. From its very opening the Institute undertook not only research and development tasks, but practical ones as well. Bogdanov wrote: “In practice of Western clinics and big hospitals transfusion has become quite usual means. Our country, for long years being cut off the scientific life of the West by the war and blockade, fell far behind in this respect. Meanwhile, we have no less need in this method here. We even don’t mention the fact, that it could have been a criminal negligence to let our enemies have such an advantage, in case of breaking up the war, threatening us – an advantage in this precious method to save bleeding or gas-poisoned soldiers and speed up recovery of the exhausted with wounds and illnesses. But our labour industrial army with its unavoidable and, unfortunately, too frequent traumas… constantly needs this very powerful method as well. As for blood diseases, after the hard years of war and devastation they , undoubtedly, intensified. Various forms of anaemia at all ages spread more then ever – primary forms, and secondary ones, depending on tuberculosis, malaria and so on. Struggle with all those waits its turn. In some cases transfusion can become the basis for it, in other – a secondary, but still very important means"29.

"During the short period of time, Bogdanov was working in the Institute of blood transfusion, - academician A.A.Bogomolets mentioned, - in a number of cases, including experiments on himself, using objective scientific analysis methods, he undoubtedly proved the possibility to return energy and flexibility of biotic developments, rise mental and physical efficiency of an organism, weaken manifestation of senile withering through blood transfusion"30.

Solution of scientific-experimental problems of the Institute was connected with a certain risk. Bogdanov considered possible to make most risky experiments only on himself. The twelfth experiment ended tragically – with his hard disease and death on 7 of April, 1928.

Bogdanov’s heroic death rose a broad response among soviet public. N.K.Krupskaya in her warm letter to Bogdanov’s wife presented her deep condolences31. Articles, devoted to A.A.Bogdanov, were presented by many outstanding figures of Communist party and soviet science and culture – N.I.Bukharin, I.I.Skvortsov-Stepanov, B.V.Legran, P.N.Lepeshinsky, A.V.Lunacharsky, N.A.Semashko, V.M.Friche and others.

Resolution by Sovnarkom RSFSR of 13 of April, 1928, named State scientific institute of blood transfusion by A.A.Bogdanov.

À. À. Bogdanov is buried on Novodevichy burial ground in Moscow.


  1. The encyclopedic dictionary “Granat”. V. 41. P. I (1926). Supplement “Deyateli SSSR i Oktyabrskoy revolyutsii” [Figures of USSR and October Revolution]. Clmn. 30.
  2. Lenin V.I. Complete collection of works. V. 4. p. 35.
  3. Idem. pp. 35, 37.
  4. The encyclopedic dictionary “Granat”. V. 41. P. I (1926). Supplement “Deyateli SSSR i Oktyabrskoy revolyutsii” [Figures of USSR and October Revolution]. Clmn. 31.
  5. Bogdanov A.A. Moye prebyvaniye v Tule [My staying in Tula]//Revolutsionnoye byloye. Òula, 1923. N° 2. p. 16.
  6. One of Bogdanov’s students – a worker S.I.Stepanov, after the Oktober revolution, became the director of Tula cartridge plant.
  7. Istoriya filosofii v SSSR [History of philosophy in USSR]. V. 5. Book 1. Ì., 1985. p. 207; Yermolayev I.E Moi vospominaniya [My memoirs]//Sever. 1923. ¹ 3-4. pp. 8-9.
  8. Lepeshinsky P.N. Na povorote [At the turn]. S.-P., 1928. pp. 202-204.
  9. Lunacharsky A.V. Vospominaniya i vpechatleniya. [Memoirs and impressions] Ì., 1968. p. 35.
  10. The third Party Congress. Minutes. Ì.: Politizdat, 1959. pp. 11 -15, 106- 114, 956-975.
  11. On the V Congress of RSDLP (London, 13 of May – 1 of June, 1907) A.A.Bogdanov appeared as co-reporter from Bolshevics with the Central Committee report (V Party Congress. Minutes. Ì.: Politizdat, 1963. pp. 725 - 738; Tyutyukin S. Vazhnaya pobeda bolshevizma [Important conquer of Bolshevism]//Pravda. 1987. 13 of May).
  12. Lenin V.I. Complete collection of works. V.18. p. 346.
  13. Lenin V.I. Complete collection of works. V. 19. p. 19.
  14. Lunacharsky A.V. Vospominaniya i vpechatleniya. [Memoirs and impressions] p. 236.
  15. Pod znamenem marksizma. 1928. ¹ 4. p. 183. Idem stated, that A.A.Bogdanov “took no part in further political intrigues of the group: block with Trotsky, participation in the August block and so on”, and that “after the February Revolution “Vpered” asked Bogdanov to become a leader of their group, but he advised them not to register separately but enter the Bolshevist party".
  16. The Great October Socialist Revolution. Encyclopaedia. Ì., 1987. p. 63.
  17. Pod znamenem marksizma. 1928. ¹ 4. p. 185.
  18. Bogdanov A. Mezhdu chelovekom i mashinoyu [Between a man and machine]. Ì., 1918. p. 15
  19. Idem
  20. Bogdanov A.A. Essays of Universal organizational science. Samara, 1921. . 297.
  21. Introduction to: Likhtenshtadt V.O. Gete. Ì., 1920. p. V.
  22. Boganov A.A. O proletarskoy kulture [About proletarian culture]. S.-P.- Ì., 1924. p. 316.
  23. À. À. Bogdanov called young proletarian writers for learning not only from their own collective with its revolutionary ideology, but also from those, “who made for it a wide road with their great creative power”,- classics of the world literature, such as Shakespeare, Balzak, Gete, Shiller, Bayron, Pushkin, Lermontov, Gogol, Nekrasov, Tolstoy, Gorky, Rynis, Verharn (À. À. Bogdanov “About proletarian culture”. pp. 168-170).
    When a famous poet of “Proletcult” V.Kirillov threw a poetic slogan: “Vo imya nashego zavtra – sozhem Rafaelya, razrushim muzei, rastopchyem iskusstva tsvety” [In the name of our future – let’s burn Rafael, destroy museums, trample flowers of art], Bogdanov resolutely condemned this fit of nihilism, underlining the idea of “generations cooperation” (Idem p. 179).
  24. Bogdanov “About proletarian culture”. P. 170
  25. Parnov E.I. Zerkalo Uranii [Mirror of Urania]. Ì., 1982. p.54. Novel “Red star” is three times reedited in the USSR during the last decade.
  26. Lenin V.I. Complete collection of works. V.45. p. 369.
  27. Bogdanov A.A. Engineer Menni. Ì., 1912. p. 3.
  28. Lazebnikov A.E. Ikh znal Ilyich [They were known by Ilyich]. Ì., 1967. p. 90
  29. Bogdanov A.A. God raboty Instituta perelivaniya krovi [A year of working in the Institute of blood transfusion]. Ì., 1927. pp. 3-4. Service of blood transfusion in USSR, initiated by A.A.Bogdanov, played a great role during Great Patriotic War, providing help to soldiers of Soviet Army.
  30. Bogomolets A.A. Selected works. Kiev, 1957. V. 2. p. 419.
  31. Belove A.A., A.A.Bogdanov // Outstanding figures of soviet health services. Ì., 1974. pp. 53-54.