Mensheviks. The moderate wing of the Russian Social Democratic Workers' party (RSDRP), which first emerged at the party's second congress in London in August 1903. The Mensheviks, who emphasized historical gradualism, legal methods of struggle, and a broadly based party, were closer in outlook than the rest of the RSDRP to the European social democratic parties. Adhering to Marxist theory, they recognized the necessity for a bourgeois revolution in Russia and were willing to co-operate with liberal forces to promote such a revolution as a precondition for the proletarian revolution. Although the Mensheviks played an important role in the Saint Petersburg Soviet during the Revolution of 1905, their position in 1917 was confused. Their alliance with the Constitutional Democratic (kadet) party (until September 1917) in the Russian Provisional Government and their vacillation on the issue of Russia's participation in the First World War undercut their authority.

The Mensheviks had little appreciation of the nationality problem in the Russian Empire. In Ukraine they were urban-oriented, and most of them were Jewish (often from the Jewish Social Democratic Bund) or Russian. They had little or no contact with the Ukrainian peasantry or the Ukrainian intelligentsia. The Ukrainian language was not used in their party activities or their publications. The few Ukrainian Mensheviks included Konstantyn Kononenko and Dmytro Chyzhevsky. Led by M. Balabanov, Mensheviks participated in the Central Rada in 1917 and supported demands for Ukrainian autonomy, but not independence, as expressed in the Rada's Third and Fourth universals (see Universals of the Central Rada). The Mensheviks favored the restoration of a unified Russian state. When the Bolsheviks came to power, the Menshevik position became untenable: in advocating reunification with Russia they were strengthening their opponents' regime. By November 1917 the Mensheviks in Ukraine could obtain only 1.3 percent of the popular vote in the All-Russian Constituent Assembly elections.

Volin, S. Men'sheviki na Ukraine, 1917–1921 (New York 1962)
Haimson, L. The Mensheviks (Chicago 1974)
Ascher, A. (ed). The Mensheviks in the Russian Revolution (London 1976)

John Reshetar

[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 3 (1993).]

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