Anatoly Lunacharsky

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Anatoly Lunacharsky
Анато́лий Лунача́рский
Lunacharsky in 1925
People’s Commissar for Education
In office
26 October 1917 – September 1929
PremierVladimir Lenin
Alexei Rykov
Preceded byNone (position established)
Succeeded byAndrei Bubnov
Personal details
BornAnatoly Aleksandrovich Antonov
23 November [O.S. 11 November] 1875
Poltava, Russian Empire
Died26 December 1933 (aged 58)
MentonAlpes-Maritimes, France
Political partyRSDLP (Bolsheviks) (1903–1918) 
Russian Communist Party(1918–1933)
Alma materUniversity of Zurich

Anatoly Vasilyevich Lunacharsky (Russian: Анато́лий Васи́льевич Лунача́рский) (born Anatoly Aleksandrovich Antonov, 23 November [O.S. 11 November] 1875 – 26 December 1933) was a Russian Marxist revolutionary and the first Bolshevik Soviet People’s Commissar (Narkompros) responsible for Ministry of Education as well as an active playwright, critic, essayist and journalist throughout his career.[1][2][3][4][5][6]



Lunacharsky was born on 23 or 24 November 1875 in PoltavaUkraine (then part of the Russian Empire) as the illegitimate child of Alexander Antonov and Alexandra Lunacharskaya, née Rostovtseva. His mother was then married to statesman Vasily Lunacharsky, a nobleman of Polish origin, whence Anatoly’s surname and patronym. She later divorced Vasily Lunacharsky and married Antonov, but Anatoly kept his former name.[5] In 1890, at the age of 15, Lunacharsky became a Marxist. From 1894, he studied at the University of Zurich under Richard Avenarius for two years without taking a degree. In Zürich, he met European socialists including Rosa Luxemburg and Leo Jogiches and joined the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party. He also lived for a time in France.

Early career[edit]

Lunacharsky in 1899

In 1899, Lunacharsky returned to Russia, where he and Vladimir Lenin‘s sister revived the Moscow Committee of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party (RSDLP), until they were betrayed by an informant and arrested. He was allowed to settle in Kyiv, but was arrested again after resuming his political activities, and after ten months in prison he was sent to  Kaluga, where he joined a Marxist circle that included Alexander Bogdanov and Vladimir Bazarov.[7] In February 1902, he was exiled to Kushinov village in Vologda, where he again shared his exile with Bogdanov, whose sister he married, and with the Legal Marxist Nikolai Berdyaev and the Socialist Revolutionary terrorist Boris Savinkov and others. After the first issue of Lenin’s newspaper Iskra had reached Vologda, Bogdanov and Lunacharsky organised a Marxist circle that distributed illegal literature, while he also legally wrote theatre criticism for a local liberal newspaper.[8] In March 1903, the governor of Vologda ordered Lunacharsky to be transferred further north, to Totma, where they were the only political exiles.

In 1903, the RSDLP split between the Bolsheviks, led by Vladimir Lenin, and Mensheviks. Lunacharsky, who by now had ended his period in exile and was back in Kyiv, originally believed that the split was unnecessary and joined the ‘conciliators’, who hoped to bring the two sides together,[9] but he was converted to Bolshevism by Bogdanov. In 1904, he moved to Geneva and became one of Lenin’s most active collaborators and an editor of the first exclusively Bolshevik newspaper, Vpered. According to Nadezhda Krupskaya:

Lunacharsky turned out to be a brilliant orator and did a great deal to assist in strengthening the Bolshevik positions. From then on Lenin became on very good terms with Lunacharsky, became jolly in his presence, and was rather partial towards him even at the time of the difference with the Vpered-ites. And Anatoly Vasilyevich was always particularly keen and witty in Lenin’s presence.”[10]

Lunacharsky returned to Russia after the outbreak of the 1905 Revolution. In Moscow he co-edited the journal Novaya zhizn and other Bolshevik publications, which could published legally, and gave lectures on 

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