Birthday: March 31, 1872
Died At Age: 79
Sun Sign: Aries
Also Known As: Alexandra Mikhaylovna Kollontay
Born Country: Russia
Born in: Saint Petersburg, Russia
Famous as: Revolutionary
Spouse/Ex-: Pavel Dybenko (m. 1917–1938)
father: Mikhail Alekseevich Domontovich
mother: Alexandra Androvna Masalina-Mravinskaya
siblings: Yevgeniya Mravina
children: Mikhail Kollontai
Died on: March 9, 1952
place of death: Moscow
Cause of Death: Cardiac Arrest
City: Saint Petersburg, Russia
awards: Order of Lenin
Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St. Olav
Order of the Red Banner of Labour
Who was Alexandra Kollontai?
Alexandra Kollontai was a Russian revolutionary who gained prominence in politics for her strong views against the privileges of the bureaucracy. She was also a champion for women and labor empowerment. She was the first woman to represent the Soviet Union in a foreign country. Her feminist views bothered the male-dominated 'Central Committee,' which eventually tried to expel her from the party. Despite not supporting Vladimir Lenin, Kollontai joined him only to oppose World War I. She was a prolific writer, too, and some of her writings were published in 1978. However, she was forgotten after her death, and some Soviet biographers and editors reissued her memoirs without any mention of her past ‘Menshevik’ association or her support for sexual liberation.
Childhood & Early Life
Alexandra Mikhailovna Domontovich was born on March 31 (March 19 in Old Style) 1872, in St. Petersburg, Russian Empire, to Mikhail Alekseevich Domontovich and Alexandra Alexandrovna Masalina (Massalina).
Her father had been a tsarist general in the 'Imperial Russian Army.' Both her parents held strong and progressive political views. Hence, Kollontai, too, developed the same at a young age. However, her parents were quite orthodox and did not allow her to attend school, to keep her safe from "undesirable elements."
Kollontai was home-tutored under the strict surveillance of her mother and her English nanny. She received private lessons from a family friend, Victor Ostrogorsky, who was also a literary historian. He was the one who recognized Kollontai's exceptional literary talent and advised her to become a writer. One of her other tutors was Maria Strakhova.
Kollontai was a rebel. Hence, when her parents arranged her marriage at 16, she vehemently opposed it. She desired to study abroad but chose to stay at home and start writing instead.
Kollontai eventually fell in love with one of her distant cousins, Vladimir Ludvigovich Kollontai. Vladimir was an engineering student at a military institute. Her parents disapproved of him. Hence, they eloped and got married in 1893. The following year, she gave birth to their son, Mikhail.
The marriage that Kollontai thought of as an escape from her mother's fate soon began to feel like a cage. The intellectual and philosophical fire in her did not let her be a stay-at-home mother. Similarly, her growing interest in politics, too, hit her marriage hard.
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While studying in St. Petersburg, she gravitated toward the rising wave of Marxism. She joined politics in 1894.
Simultaneously, she would provide evening tuitions to workers in St. Petersburg. She worked for the 'Political Red Cross,' both publicly and secretly. The group was set up to help political prisoners. In 1895, she drew inspiration from August Bebel's 'Woman and Socialism.' It shaped her future political ideas, too.
In 1896, Kollontai witnessed capitalist exploitation when she visited a textile factory and was horrified by the poor living and working conditions of the workers, especially of the females.
Subsequently, the 1896 strike of textile workers pushed her to contribute to make their lives better. She actively worked to raise funds for the workers. This marked the beginning of her life-long connection with the women textile workers of St. Petersburg. Kollontai, who soon became the face of women empowerment, began writing articles for political journals, bringing the conditions of the industrial workers in Russia to people’s attention.
Meanwhile, her marriage almost ended, and she gravitated more toward Marxism for guidance and support.
In 1898, Kollontai left Russia, leaving behind her husband and son, to study labor history at the 'University of Zurich,' under the tutelage of Marxist economist Heinrich Herkner.
Her father secretly financed her Marxist studies and helped her by hiding her illegal revolutionary brochures from the police.
Soon, she turned into a committed Marxist. However, she rejected their Fabian reformist views. She was still motivated to uplift the living and labor conditions of the female workers and hence stepped into socialism.
Kollontai also worked for several educational charities, aiding impoverished people. She worked toward destroying the privileges of the bureaucrats.
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Final Days & Death
Kollontai retired and returned to Russia in 1945. She lived in Moscow until her death.
Finland's prime minister J. K. Paasikivi nominated her for the 'Nobel Peace Prize' in 1946, but she lost to American religious leader J.R. Mott and Emily Greene Balch.
In her final years, she was bound to a wheelchair but served as an advisor to the U.S.S.R. ‘Foreign Ministry.’ Till the end of her life, Kollontai remained loyal to Marxism-Leninism and Stalin.
She died of a cardiac arrest on March 9, 1952.