Lunacharsky, Anatoly Vasilievich

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(18751933), Bolshevik intellectual and early Soviet leader.

Born the son of a state councilor, Anatoly Lunacharsky joined the Social Democratic movement in 1898 and was soon arrested. As an exile in Vologda, he met Alexander Bogdanov. In Paris in 1904 both men joined the Bolshevik faction, but they left it again in 1911 after clashes with Lenin over philosophy. Bogdanov advocated empiriocriticism, claiming that only direct experience could be relied on as a basis for knowledge. Lunacharsky promoted Godbuilding, an anthropocentric religion striving toward the moral unity of mankind. Lunacharsky rejoined the Bolshevik Party in August 1917 and became the first People's Commissar of Enlightenment (Narkom prosveshcheniya, or Narkompros ), serving from October 1917 to 1929. A prolific writer on literature and the arts and an important patron of the intelligentsia, Lunacharsky was often regarded within the party as too "soft" for a Bolshevik. From the mid1920s he was increasingly marginalized, and his last years at Narkompros were marked by fierce battles over education and culture as his soft line in policy was discredited with the onset of the Cultural Revolution. After his resignation from Narkompros, he held various secondrank positions in cultural administration and spent much time abroad, partly for health reasons. In 1933 he was appointed ambassador to Spain, but died before assuming the position. His reputation plummeted after his death, but from the 1960s to the 1980s, thanks partly to the untiring work of his daughter, Irina Lunacharskaya, he became a symbol of a (preStalinist) humanistic Bolshevism protective of the intelligentsia and committed to the advancement of high culture.

See also: bolshevism; cultural revolution; education; proletkult


Fitzpatrick, Sheila. (1970). The Commissariat of Enlightenment: Soviet Organization of Education and the Arts under Lunacharsky, October 1917-1921. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

O'Connor, Timothy Edward. (1983). The Politics of Soviet Culture: Anatolii Lunacharskii. Ann Arbor, MI: UMI Research Press.

Sheila Fitzpatrick