Premier’s Westfield Modern History Scholarship In Search of Alexandra Kollontai

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Premier’s Westfield Modern History Scholarship

In Search of Alexandra Kollontai

Kate Cameron

Chifley College, Mount Druitt Campus

Sponsored by

What was achieved

The 2004 Premier’s Westfield Scholarship for Modern History undertaken in October 2004 enabled me to fulfil the following goals that were outlined in my application:

  • read works written by Alexandra Kollontai;

  • read accessible secondary sources about Kollontai;

  • survey online material by and about Kollontai;

  • read transcripts of interviews conducted with people who knew Kollontai;

  • visit sites associated with Kollontai’s activities in Russia, Finland and Sweden;

  • interview Russian academics interested in Kollontai and the role of women in Russian revolutionary history;

  • interview Russian history teachers about Kollontai’s place in their curriculum;

  • interview diplomats in Finland and Sweden about Kollontai’s role as diplomat;

  • conduct research in libraries and museums in Russia and Finland;

  • locate and obtain Russian made video programs about Kollontai; and

  • locate and have translated recent Russian journal articles about Kollontai.

These activities have contributed enormously to my understanding of Alexandra Kollontai and her role in Russian history and have made me confident to address the new areas required in the Modern History Syllabus. I have also become fascinated by the historiography of Kollontai, how much of her role was ‘written out’ of history by Soviet critics, then revived by feminist historians of the 1970s, and is now being sensationalised in some of the recent popular reconstructions of Soviet history.

Dissemination of research

My research has been synthesised into a series of 3000-word articles, each addressing an aspect of the study of Kollontai required by the revised NSW Stage 6 Modern History Syllabus. The first was published in Teaching History, the journal of the History Teachers’ Association of NSW, in March 2005; the second will be published in the June edition.

I have also developed a bibliography of works on Kollontai. This has been included on the NSW Board of Studies web site in the Support Material for Stage 6 Modern History.

I conducted a workshop for teachers teaching Kollontai and provided an overview of my research at the Stage 6 HTA Professional Development Conference at the University of Sydney on 28 May 2005. At that workshop copies of the latest Russian language documentary on Kollontai (Between Duty and Feelings) were made available for free, together with an English language synopsis of the documentary. (It proved too difficult to obtain copyright clearance for dubbing.)

On 16 June I delivered a lecture on Kollontai to HSC students at the HTA Modern History Study Days at the University of Sydney. At this lecture I distributed to students primary source material on Kollontai which I located during my research.

Finally, the knowledge and understanding that I have gained will inform and inspire my teaching and the professional development I provide for my colleagues. Hopefully all students undertaking the study of Alexandra Kollontai will benefit from the results of my scholarship.

Attached is the second of my published articles on Kollontai, which I trust will suffice as my scholarship report.

Alexandra Kollontai’s relationship with Lenin

In the Museum of the Revolution in St Petersburg there is a group photograph of an early meeting of the Council of Commissars showing Kollontai seated next to Lenin. Dybenko, her partner at the time, stands behind her. At least three other photographs of this meeting have been published, each taken from a slightly different angle. In this particular photograph, Lenin and Kollontai are sitting very close together but have leant away from each other to pose for the camera. If they resumed their position after the shot was taken, they would have been literally shoulder to shoulder, reflecting one of the closest points in their relationship.

This article traces the complex and shifting relationship between Kollontai and Lenin by offering eight virtual ‘snapshots’ of their interaction between 1914 and 1921.

Kollontai’s early contact with Lenin

The first snapshot of the relationship between Kollontai and Lenin would be a split-screen shot, showing each sitting at a desk, writing to the other about the revolution and how it was to be achieved.

Alexandra Mikhailovna Kollontai was put into contact with Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, then in Switzerland, late in 1914 through his close comrade Alexander Grigory Shliapnikov. Lenin, the leader in exile of the Bolshevik faction of the Russian Social Democratic Workers’ Party, was two years older than Kollontai, a fellow Marxist and Party member with her own reputation as a revolutionary particularly interested in the emancipation of women and in attracting working class women to socialism.

Like others in the revolutionary movement, Kollontai had shifted her support from the Menshiviks to the Bolsheviks, largely because of the Bolsheviks’ opposition to the war. The correspondence between them reveals a relationship of mutual respect which could accommodate differences of opinion.1 In his letters, Lenin frequently asks Kollontai for her views on important issues and asks her to critique articles and strategies he has authored. His letters also show how much he trusted Kollontai to disseminate his revolutionary ideas in Russia and in other countries. In A Giant Mind, a Giant Will, Kollontai records the nature of their early relationship:

In October 1914 I wrote my first letter to Vladimir Ilyich. In the reply which I received through a Russian comrade I was ordered to start work immediately and to get in touch with those socialists in Scandinavia who would assist in carrying out Lenin’s policy on the continuing struggle of the working class. From that moment onwards I worked under the direct guidance of Vladimir Ilyich.

The correspondence also reveals that, while both Lenin and Kollontai opposed the war and shared the vision of an international socialist revolution, they differed on how this would be achieved. After the German Socialists voted to approve war credits to support the war against Russia, Lenin had less faith than Kollontai in the likelihood of an international revolution. He advocated that the imperialist war should be turned into civil war against the capitalists in Russia and that the proletariat should be armed to conduct this war. As an anti-militarist, Kollontai believed the priority was to end the war, rather than turn it into a civil war. Later, however, she came to accept Lenin’s view on the need for civil war.

Despite their disagreements, Lenin trusted Kollontai and she became an important part of the northern communication network which kept Lenin and the Central Committee in Switzerland in touch with Russia. Her talents as a polemicist were put to work in her first pamphlet written for the Bolsheviks, Who needs war? In this publication Kollontai described the suffering of the victims of war, explained how the war benefited capitalists and urged soldiers not to fire on their brothers in the enemy armies but to turn instead against the capitalists, to seize the land, factories and banks and turn the imperialist war into a civil war. The pamphlet, edited by Lenin, was praised by the Central Committee and widely distributed throughout Europe.

Kollontai as Lenin’s emissary in the United States

The second snapshot could be of Kollontai at a rostrum somewhere in the United States late in 1915, speaking against the war and for revolutionary solidarity and the re-establishment of the Workers’ International.

In September 1915 the German Socialist Federation of America invited Kollontai to the United States to speak against the war. Lenin obviously trusted Kollontai to represent his position and tried to keep contact with her wherever she was speaking. He instructed her to arrange the publication of the Bolshevik pamphlet Socialism and War, to raise funds for the Bolsheviks and to make contact with left-wing internationalists with a view to planning the Third International. Lenin expected Kollontai to accomplish all this—on top of the 123 lectures which she gave in her gruelling 18-week tour. In a letter to Grigory Zinoviev, Lenin acknowledged that ‘Kollontaisha is a very capable woman’, and to Inessa Armand he wrote ‘Kollontai writes good stuff from America’.

By 1916 Kollontai had established herself as someone on whom Lenin could rely as a translator of his work and as a propagandist for the Left; however, they disagreed over the appeal to nationalism in the cause of the revolution. Lenin, out of expediency dictated by the circumstances of the war, departed from his original view of international socialism, believing that nationalism in the form of national self-determination would help attract people to the revolution. Kollontai stayed true to her internationalist views and considered nationalism an irrelevant concept in relation to the wider socialist revolution. A debate over nationalism was carried on by the main protagonists in the journal Kommunist—until Lenin halted its publication.

Kollontai, lone supporter of Lenin’s April Theses

The third snapshot might be taken at the stormy meeting in Petrograd in April 1917 when Kollontai alone spoke in support of Lenin’s April Theses.

When Lenin heard of the revolution in Russia in March 1917, he entrusted Kollontai with the task of getting his messages, including Letters from Afar, to Petrograd and to disseminate his ideas more widely in Russia through the pages of Pravda. On 17 March he wrote:

Our immediate task is to … prepare the seizure of power by the Soviets of Workers’ Deputies. Only this power can give bread, peace and freedom.

Lenin planned to compress the traditional Marxist pattern of revolution by cutting short the phase of middle class democracy and going immediately to the proletarian phase. As Lenin had requested, Kollontai took to Pravda his letters outlining his new policy of non-cooperation with the Provisional Government and plans to arm the proletariat to seize power. The editors, one of whom was Stalin, refused to publish some of the letters and published edited versions of others, so it came as a shock when Lenin addressed his first meeting of socialists after returning to Russia and put forward his April Theses. At the meeting Lenin demanded an end to cooperation with the Provisional Government and called for the Soviets to seize power. Kollontai was the only one to speak in favour of his proposition. The others thought his call for immediate socialist revolution was crazy and an indication of how out of touch Lenin had become during his exile. Kollontai, who had great faith in the power of the Soviets, was jeered for supporting him and was mocked in the press as the ‘Valkyrie of the revolution’.

By this time Kollontai had accepted the logic of Lenin’s view on civil war, although she still believed that revolutionary internationalism would ultimately deliver socialism. Despite his stated policy of ‘all power to the Soviets’, Lenin ultimately saw the Bolshevik Party as the core of the revolution, while for Kollontai the Soviets were the critical force. This disagreement was to assume greater significance in the future.

During April, May and June of 1917 Kollontai worked tirelessly as a Bolshevik agitator for the establishment of a Soviet government. She wrote articles for Pravda and addressed dozens of meetings, including several to sailors of the Baltic Sea Fleet. She became one of the party’s most prominent and effective speakers. Early in July Kollontai was arrested by the Provisional Government for being a German spy. While in prison she was elected to the Bolshevik Central Committee. Her value as a revolutionary theorist at this time is indicated by her inclusion in the Party Committee along with Lenin, Trotsky, Bukharin and others who were nominated to develop a Draft Party Program. Events overtook the plan, however, and the group had not met by the time the Bolsheviks took power. Historian Beatrice Farnsworth lists Kollontai’s revolutionary credentials at this time:

… she had been an underground worker, one of Lenin’s closest agents, an internationalist, a pamphleteer, an outstanding orator and a committed revolutionary.2

Being arrested for her activities in Germany, Sweden and Russia only enhanced her revolutionary credentials.

Kollontai as Commissar of Social Welfare

The fourth snapshot is the one described in the introduction, with Kollontai seated next to Lenin among the Council of Commissars, early in 1918.

On 10 October 1917 Kollontai was among the majority at the all-night Central Committee meeting which supported Lenin’s proposal to seize power. On 26 October she sat in the Presidium of 14 at the Second Congress of Soviets which ratified the new Bolshevik government and she was appointed Commissar of Social Welfare, the only woman in the government. The task was enormous, but Lenin and Kollontai were determined that the new government would shape a new society.

As Commissar for Social Welfare, Kollontai was responsible for everyone dependent on government support, including elderly and invalid pensioners, inmates in mental institutions, orphans, lepers, the destitute, those in TB sanitoria and an ever-increasing number of war veterans. She had great difficulty establishing control over such a diverse department and the situation was made worse by the displaced staff of the Provisional Government who would neither cooperate nor hand over departmental funds.

Despite the overwhelming difficulties and the shortage of finance, Kollontai made progress toward reforming her department and the way it was run by trying to replace hierarchy with collective decision-making. She was also able to introduce social reforms which reflected her goal of making the state take greater responsibility for maternity services and child welfare; for example, in her Decree on Child Welfare in which she addressed women as the ‘bold builders of a new social life’ she said:

From the date of the publication of this decree, all large and small institutions under the commissariat of social welfare that serve the child, from the children’s home in the capital to the modest village crèche, shall be merged into one government organization and placed under the department for the protection of maternity and childhood. As an integral part of the total number of institutions connected with pregnancy and maternity, they shall continue to fulfil the single common task of creating citizens who are strong both mentally and physically.3

In her autobiography Kollontai lists some of the other achievements of her time as commissar, among them the establishment of new homes for war orphans, the creation of committees of doctors to reorganise the various sanitoria, protection of female and child labour and the abolition of the classification of children as legitimate or illegitimate. At the same time, government reforms reduced the power of the church: religious instruction in schools was made voluntary, government funding for church maintenance was stopped, priests were reduced to the status of civil servants on the state payroll, church marriage was replaced with civil marriage and divorce by mutual consent was introduced.

Dispute over Alexander Nevsky Monastery

The fifth snapshot would show Lenin reprimanding Kollontai over her ‘autonomous action’ in requisitioning the Alexander Nevsky Monastery as a home for wounded war veterans.

As Commissar of Social Welfare, Kollontai was faced with enormous demands, especially from war veterans, and insufficient funds to provide solutions. In these desperate circumstances Kollontai decided to requisition the spacious Alexander Nevsky Monastery, one of the holiest shrines of the Russian Orthodox Church, as a home for wounded veterans. The priests did not agree with Kollontai’s plan, refused to admit the members of the Soviet who came to collect the keys and rang the bells to summon believers to their aid. Kollontai called on Dybenko for help and a confrontation developed between the priests and their supporters and the armed sailors. Shots were fired and a priest was killed, but the monastery was not occupied.

Kollontai was called to explain her actions to Lenin who reprimanded her for breaching Party discipline in acting without consulting the Council of People’s Commissars and for forcing a confrontation with the Church earlier than he had planned. In Petrograd a large demonstration against the Bolshevik government’s policies toward the Church showed that the time had not been right for such a radical move. When Kollontai was excommunicated, Lenin quipped to her that she would be in good company, including that of the Russian novelist Lev Tolstoy.

Although their relationship remained cordial, Lenin did not forget Kollontai’s wayward action and reminded her of it months later when he addressed the First All Russia Congress of Working Women which she co-chaired. While he condemned the evil of the influence of priests he nevertheless warned:

We must be careful in fighting religious prejudices; some people cause a lot of harm in this struggle by offending religious feelings. We must use propaganda and education. By lending too sharp an edge to the struggle we may only arouse popular resentment …’ 4

Disagreement over the Treaty of Brest Litovsk

The sixth snapshot shows Kollontai condemning Lenin for his support of the Treaty of Brest Litovsk—marking the end of their friendship.

Lenin and Kollontai took opposite positions on the Treaty of Brest Litovsk, the treaty offered by Germany which took almost half of Russia’s European territory, containing around 75 per cent of its heavy industry, in return for peace on the Eastern Front. Lenin, who wanted ‘peace at any price’, saw the treaty as necessary in order to consolidate the gains made by the revolution. Kollontai, who had always been appalled by war, nevertheless saw the treaty as a betrayal of the proletariat, a compromise with imperialism, and argued that instead of surrendering, the Bolsheviks should turn the war into a revolutionary war. She spoke against the treaty at the meeting of the Petrograd Soviet Executive Committee and again at the Seventh Party Congress, where she aligned herself with the Left Opposition. When the vote on the treaty was put to the Congress of Soviets for final ratification, the Left Oppositionists who opposed the treaty abstained from voting to prevent a Party split.

Immediately after her dispute with Lenin over Brest Litovsk, he introduced another policy she opposed. In an effort to reconstruct industry, Lenin proposed hiring managers and other bourgeois specialists who had been expelled from the factories during the revolution. Anticipating opposition, Lenin argued that this was a temporary arrangement until the workers had learnt how to manage industry themselves. He advised that the Bolsheviks needed to temper their revolutionary idealism with practicality. Kollontai, who was strongly opposed to such ideas, was preoccupied with events surrounding her husband, Pavel Dybenko.

Dybenko, also an opponent of the Treaty of Brest Litovsk, was arrested and charged with insubordination for his actions on the battlefield at Narva. Kollontai strongly protested against Dybenko’s imprisonment, which she saw as retribution for their opposition. She resigned as Commissar. Dybenko was tried by a military court but acquitted. He was sacked as Commissar of the Navy and expelled from the Party. Kollontai was dropped from the Central Committee and relieved of other Party responsibilities. She wrote, ‘Little by little I was freed also of all other work.’ Her spirited defence of her husband generated sexist ridicule from some conservative Party members who did not approve the relationship between Kollontai and the much younger Dybenko.

Kollontai challenges the Soviets on women’s issues

The next snapshot would show Kollontai and Lenin at the Eighth All Russian Congress of Soviets in December 1920. She is reprimanding the delegates for not having done enough for women and insisting that they increase their efforts.

Kollontai temporarily withdrew from political activity after resigning as Commissar, but returned to the cause once the civil war began. Faced with threats from White Russian and foreign forces, members of the Left Opposition closed ranks with the Party, Dybenko’s expulsion was revoked and Kollontai was welcomed back as a revolutionary agitator. Lenin wrote to her, ‘I welcome your return to more active party work.’ The civil war and the introduction of war communism provided Kollontai with the impetus to push for long-awaited reforms for women’s role in the family and society. She saw in compulsory war work the potential to free women from their traditional roles through government provision of social facilities such as nurseries, laundries and canteens which would enable women to contribute to the war effort and the new society.

The two years before the Eighth Congress of Soviets had seen Kollontai and her colleagues working tirelessly to raise the political consciousness of worker and peasant women to engage them in the revolutionary activity of transforming their own lives through the varied activities of the Zhenotdel. Under Kollontai’s directorship the Zhenotdel continued the work begun by Inessa Armand, writing and circulating pamphlets and other literature, holding meetings and conferences for women, providing literacy classes and training workshops in politics, and assisting women to set up crèches and canteens in their local communities to free them for work and political activity. By 1921 there were 6000 Zhenotdel delegates representing around 3 million women. The increased political activity of women was reflected in the increased numbers of women joining the Party and becoming delegates to the Soviets.

Lenin expressed his views on the importance of the emancipation of women in his writing and in speeches to women’s conferences. In his address to the First All-Russia Congress of Working Women in November 1918, he spoke of the importance of engaging women in the revolution:

There can be no socialist revolution unless very many working women take a big part in
it ... One of the primary tasks of the Soviet Republic is to abolish all restrictions on women’s rights …

In 1919 he wrote:

We cannot exercise the dictatorship of the proletariat without having millions of women on our side. Nor can we engage in communist construction without them.

In a sense, Lenin represented the most liberal view within the ranks of the Bolsheviks on the emancipation of women, but he was in the minority—the attitude of others ranged from apathy to open hostility. Few men in government or the Party hierarchy were willing to encourage or accommodate women in their political activities.

At the Eighth Party Congress Kollontai was determined to push for measures which would do more than just free women to work; she wanted them to have access to all levels of political and economic power. She reminded her predominantly male audience that without the full participation of women they would not be able to build the national economy. She deplored the petty-bourgeois attitudes evident in the Party and insisted that ‘the whole conscious, revolutionary section of the congress, all conscious comrades, support our demands and translate them into reality’. The resolution was passed but Kollontai would never see her demands put into practice.

On public platforms Lenin agreed with the emancipation of women. In practice, however, he did very little to advance their participation in the Party or in government. On matters of sexual emancipation he was very conservative. He did not agree with Kollontai’s views on sexual liberation and in an interview with Clara Zetkin he described them as destructive. He was to use Kollontai’s views on sexual freedom against her in an unworthy attack over her role in the Workers’ Opposition.

Kollontai and the Workers’ Opposition

The last snapshot of the relationship would show Lenin and Kollontai engaged in a bitter debate at the Tenth Party Congress in March 1921.

Throughout their relationship Kollontai had debated issues with Lenin, sometimes coming around to his way of thinking but often disagreeing with him. She disagreed with him over when and how women should gain true emancipation; she spoke out against the Treaty of Brest Litovsk; she objected to the employment of ‘bourgeois specialists’ in industry and government and she protested about the Party’s treatment of her husband. She used her eulogy at John Reed’s funeral to criticise ‘dangerous tendencies’ [toward bureaucracy and against criticism] within the Party, and at the Ninth Party Congress she condemned the Party for refusing to allow criticism to be aired. She argued that Party members should be able to criticise abuses they saw within the bureaucracy without the risk of being ‘sent off to a nice sunny place to eat peaches …’ 5

As the Tenth Party Congress approached, Kollontai aligned herself with the Workers Opposition, a trade union-based faction led by Shliapnikov, head of the Metalworkers’ Union and her lover before the revolution. Kollontai agreed with the Workers’ Opposition’s criticism of the increasing bureaucracy within the Party and the failure of the Party and the government to honour the promise of ‘worker control’ made by Lenin in 1917 and embodied in the Party program which stated that ‘trade unions should concentrate under their control the administration of the entire national economy’. The Workers Opposition was not alone in its criticism; other minority factions such as the Democratic Centralists had opposed Party policies which they believed went against Bolshevik ideals.

The Central Committee gave permission for a full debate at the Tenth Party Congress.

Kollontai had published an article in Pravda prior to the Congress accusing the Party leadership of betraying the proletariat through its policy of using capitalist-trained managers and by taking so long to implement worker control of industry. She had also written a clear and persuasive document, The Workers’ Opposition, which outlined the reasons for discontent within the Party, and contrasted the democratic proletarian Workers’ Opposition with its solid trade union origins with what the Bolsheviks had become: authoritarian, bureaucratic, corrupted by power and alienated from the proletariat. She warned:

bureaucracy is our enemy, our scourge and the greatest danger to the future existence of the communist party itself.

She called for greater democracy in unions and the Party, for the participation of workers in all levels of the Party hierarchy and for genuine worker control of industry.6

Lenin was incensed by the criticism of the Workers’ Opposition, but instead of debating the issues raised and analysing the impractical measures proposed, he resorted to misrepresentation, sarcasm and personal insult. He wrongly and deliberately hinted at links between the Workers’ Opposition and the recent Kronstadt uprising, and he accused the members of Workers Opposition of being syndicalists, petty-bourgeois and influenced by Mensheviks and anarchists. He sneered at the relationship between Kollontai and Schliapnikov. He played on delegates’ fears that factionalism would weaken Party control. Lenin pointed to the very real social and economic crisis confronting the country and used his usual ploy when faced with opposition within the Party and called for unity. Kollontai responded by suggesting that, more than unity, the Bolsheviks needed a democratic party based on proletariat support and this would only come through proper proletariat participation.

Lenin saw the way forward through rapid industrial reconstruction controlled by a disciplined and unified Party. Democracy would follow, he claimed, once a sound economic base had been established. By contrast, Kollontai distrusted authority and coercion and held to her belief that the workers themselves should be involved in the economic and political decision-making which would create the new society.

By the end of the Congress Lenin’s position had been accepted, the Workers’ Opposition had been condemned and a ‘Resolution on Party Unity’ had established the legal right to expel members for ‘factionalism’. This marked the end of organised dissent within the Party, but it did not silence Kollontai. The Workers’ Opposition did not disperse as it was ordered and Kollontai joined with Shliapnikov to repeat the criticism of Party policy at the Third Comintern Congress in the summer of 1921. A copy of her manifesto, The Workers’ Opposition, was circulated from Berlin, taking her criticism of the Bolshevik Party to an international audience. The publicity this generated, her continued contact with Shliapnikov and her outspoken demands for reforms for women led to Kollontai being sacked from the Zhenotdel early in 1922. She made one last plea for democratisation of the Party at the Eleventh Party Congress. It was unsuccessful and it was her last appearance as an opponent of Lenin’s policies.

Those who had attacked Kollontai at the Tenth and Eleventh Party Congresses and after the Third Comintern led a campaign to slander her personally and politically. Alexandra Kollontai, one of the leaders of the international communist women’s movement, the militant revolutionary Lenin had once addressed as ‘Dear esteemed comrade’, was now cast as an ‘un-Marxist petty bourgeois philistine’. She was not expelled and she did not resign from the Party, but she was ostracised by the Party and she could not bear it. When Kollontai eventually asked for some kind of Party work she was offered a diplomatic post in Norway and she took it. Around the same time Lenin suffered a stroke and he too was removed from the centre of political life. The remnants of the Workers’ Opposition later joined the Left Opposition led by Trotsky, who took up the struggle against the lack of democracy in the Party and growing Soviet bureaucracy.


1. More than 50 letters were written between them. Lenin’s letters to Kollontai may be found in volumes 35 & 36 of VI Lenin, Collected Works, Progress Publishers, Moscow 1974. Kollontai’s letters to Lenin are held in the Central Party Archives of the Institute of Marxism–Leninism in Moscow.

2. B Farnsworth, Aleksandra Kollonta: Socialism, Feminism and the Bolshevik Revolution, Stanford University Press, Stanford, California,1980, p.82

3. Document no. 1247, 31 January 1918, in Alix Holt (ed), Selected Writings of Alexandra Kollontai, Allison & Busby, London, 1977, pp 140–141.

4. Lenin’s speech to the First All-Russian Congress of Working Women, November, 1918,

VI Lenin, Collected Works, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1974, vol. 28, pp. 180–182.

5. Quoted in Clements, Barbara Evans, Bolshevik Feminist: The Life of Aleksandra Kollontai, Indiana University Press, Bloomington, 1979 p. 183.

6. Alexandra Kollontai, ‘The Workers’ Opposition’, in Alix Holt (ed), Selected Writings of Alexandra Kollontai, Allison & Busby, London, 1977, pp. 159–200.

Accessible references on Kollontai


Clements, Barbara Evans, Bolshevik feminist: The life of Aleksandra Kollontai, Indiana University Press, 1979.

Clements, Barbara Evans, Bolshevik women, Cambridge University Press, 1997

Farnsworth, Beatrice. Aleksandra Kollontai: Socialism, feminism and the Bolshevik Revolution, Stanford University Press, 1980.

Porter, Cathy. Alexandra Kollontai, The Dial Press, 1980.

Pipes, Richard. Russia under the Bolshevik regime 1919–1924, Harvill, 1994.

Stites, Richard. The women’s liberation movement in Russia: feminism, nihilism and bolshevism 1860–1930, Princeton University Press, 1978.

Works by Kollontai

Selected writings of Alexandra Kollontai, translated with commentary by Alix Holt, Allison & Busby, London, 1977.

Articles and chapters—print

Buckley, Mary. ‘Soviet interpretations of the woman question’, in Barbara Holland, ed, Soviet sisterhood, Fourth Estate, 1985.

Cameron, Kate, ‘Alexandra Kollontai and the Zhenotdel’, Teaching History, vol. 39, no. 1, March 2005.

Clements, Barbara Evans, ‘Kollontai, Aleksandra Mikhailovna’, Dictionary of the Russian Revolution, G Jackson, ed., Greenwood Press, 1989.

Stites, Richard, ‘Women and the revolutionary process in Russia’, in Renate Bridenthal, Claudia Koonz and Susan M Stuard, eds, Becoming visible: women in European history, 2nd edn, Houghton Mifflin, 1997.

Marchetto, Albert. ‘Alexandra Kollontai: Exam question outline’, Teaching History. vol. 35, no. 4, December 2001.

Mullaney, Marie. ‘Alexandra Kollontai: the Female Revolutionary as Visionary’, Revolutionary women: Gender and the socialist revolutionary role, Praeger Publishers, 1983.

Scrine, Clare. ‘Alexandra Kollontai’, Teaching History, vol. 34, no 3, September 2000.

Williams, Beryl. ‘Kollontai and after: Women in the Russian Revolution’, in Sian Reynolds, ed, Women, state and revolution, University of Massachusetts Press, 1987.

Selected online material

Ritter, Leonora. Alexandra Kollontai, part of HSC Online Modern History: Individuals in Russia and the Soviet Union 1917–1945, available at:

Condit, Tom. Alexandra Kollontai, Part of The Alexandra Kollontai Archive, available at:

Andersson, Lars. Alexandra Kollontai: Selected essays and speeches (1926), Part 3 of The Feminist Reader. Available at:

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