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Alexandra Kollontai was the daughter of General Mikhail Alekseevich Domontovich. She was born in Ukraine in 1872, but her family eventually relocated to St. Petersburg. Sadly, Alexandra’s parents did not allow her to go to school. Growing up, Alexandra earned most of her knowledge from her mother, her nanny, and a family friend named Victor Ostrogorsky who encouraged her to become a writer. In 1893, Alexandra married a man named Vladimir Kollontai. Vladimir was an engineer, and their marriage was a protest to the will of Alexandra’s parents. After three years of marriage and the birth of their son, Alexandra decided to leave Vladimir because of her interest in politics and uprisings in Russia.
Alexandra eventually began writing journal articles and organizing strikes against the terrible treatment of Russian industrial workers. In 1896, Alexandra enrolled at the University of Zurich. She became a student of labor history, and met many famous labor historians. She learned about the various forms of the labor movement, and after speaking to Sidney and Beatrice Webb, she decided to become a Marxist. In 1903, Alexandra published a book titled The State of the Working Class in Finland. Alexandra became interested in Finnish workers because her mother was from Finland. Alexandra was a member of the Social Democratic Labor Party. At first, Alexandra would not join either the Bolsheviks or the Mensheviks, but she offered her services to both groups because she liked aspects of each of them. However, in 1906, she officially joined the Mensheviks.
The early 1900s was a very rough period for Russia. From poor working conditions to starvation and the day known as “Bloody Sunday,” many people perished during this time. Alexandra was present at the Bloody Sunday march in which over one-hundred workers were murdered by the Tsar. This event led her to increase her commitment to help obtain worker’s rights. In 1908, Alexandra was forced to leave Russia after the publication of her pamphlet Finland and Socialism. The Russian government was upset by her call-to-arms that she included in the pamphlet. Alexandra went to live in Germany, and during her time there, she published many books including The Class Struggle, The Social Foundations of the Female Question, Society and Motherhood, and The Working Class and the New Morality. In 1923, Alexandra went on to write the essay Make Way for Winged Eros. It was one of her most famous feminist pieces of literature.
Alexandra was arrested and deported to Sweden during the beginning of World War I. Due to her political writings and her hatred of war and violence, she was later forced to move to Norway. In 1915, Alexandra was invited to the United States by the American Socialist Party to give a lecture tour. Following her lecture tour, Alexandra returned to Russia to join the Bolsheviks. She did this because she wanted to overthrow the government at the time. In 1917, Tsarist dictatorship was overthrown in Russia, and certain political rights and freedoms were accepted into the country.
Lenin eventually appointed Alexandra as the Commissar for Social Welfare. Only three other women besides Alexandra played a role in the Bolshevik administration. Alexandra went on to form “The Central Commission for Agitation and Propaganda Among Working Women.” Eventually, Alexandra became friends with a writer from The New York Times, and she was later quoted saying that “erotic friendships” could “forge bonds of comradely solidarity within the Bolsheviks.”
Alexandra went on to form a faction known as the “Workers’ Opposition” After forming this faction, she published a pamphlet known as The Workers’ Opposition in 1921. This pamphlet actually attacked the Bolsheviks, and it resulted in the end of Alexandra’s political career in Russia. Against Alexandra’s will, the Workers’ Opposition was dissolved in 1922.
When Joseph Stalin gained power, he made Alexandra a diplomat. She visited many countries including Mexico, Norway, and Sweden. Apparently, Alexandra was one of the only critics of Soviet government that Stalin did not have killed. Alexandra worked with Stalin until 1945 when she decided to retire. She resided in Moscow until she died on March 9th, 1952.