“Small deeds” in the Russian communitarian movement

Gordeeva I.A. “Small deeds” in the Russian communitarian movement // The Russian Peasant Studies. 2020. V.5. №2. P. 88-105.

DOI: 10.22394/2500-1809-2020-5-2-88-105


The article considers the ideas and work of Alexander Engelgardt (1832-1893) and Nikolai Nepluev (1851-1908) as the first stage of the communitarian version of the “small deeds” branch in the Russian populist movement of the 1870-1890s. The common features of Engelgardt and Nepluev projects were their communitarian spirit and practical orientation. Moreover, they were landowners who questioned the role of their estates in Russia after the Great Reforms. The social ideals of Engelgardt and Nepluev opposed both the concept of violent revolution and the idea of liberal reforms. They insisted that the methods of social development had to be (1) peaceful and based on the everyday local transformations in the spirit of “small deeds”, thus, following the communal traditions of the Russian peasantry; (2) radical enough to ensure both deep transformations of the Russian society and the very type of its social relations. Engelgardt aimed at making the Russian village cultural by turning educated people into “intelligent peasants”. In the late 1870s—early 1880s, in his estate Batischevo in the Smolensk Province, he tried to “produce” intelligent peasants. On the contrary, Nepluev tried to “produce” intelligent peasants from peasant children by agricultural education and Christian upbringing. He succeeded in establishing the Orthodox Exaltation-of-the-Holy-Cross Labor Brotherhood that combined the ideas of Christian community and labor artel (1890s—late 1920s).


“small deeds” theory, Russian communitarian movement, Alexander Engelgardt, Nikolai Nepluev, Exaltation-of-the-Holy-Cross Labor Brotherhood, Russian populism

About the author

Gordeeva Irina A., PhD (History), Associate Professor, Department of Church-History Disciplines, Faculty of History, St. Philaret’s Christian Orthodox Institute. Pokrovka St., 29, Moscow, 105062.
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 


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