Alexander Bogdanov: Wikis


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Alexander Bogdanov Alexander Bogdanov.jpg
Born August 22, 1873(1873-08-22)
Hrodna, Russian Empire (today Belarus)
Died April 7, 1928
Moscow, Russian SFSR

Alexander Aleksandrovich Bogdanov Russian: Александр Александрович Богданов (born Alyaksandr Malinouski, Belarusian: Аляксандар Маліноўскі) (22 August 1873 [O.S. 11 March], Hrodna, Russian Empire (now Belarus) –7 April 1928, Moscow) was a Russian physician, philosopher, economist, science fiction writer, and revolutionary of Belarusian ethnicity whose scientific interests ranged from the universal systems theory to the possibility of human rejuvenation through blood transfusion.




Bogdanov was born on 22 August [O.S. 11 March] 1873 in Hrodna, a city in the Russian Empire (now Belarus). Bogdanov was a man of many talents and interests. His formal training was in medicine and psychiatry. He invented an original philosophy that he called “tectology” and is now sometimes regarded as a precursor of systems theory (synergetics). He was also a Marxian economist, a theorist of culture, a popular science fiction writer, and of course a political activist. Even today most of his work is not available in English.

Prior to World War I

Ethnically Belarusian, Alyaksandr Malinouski was born into a rural teacher's family. While working on his medical degree at Moscow University, he was arrested for joining the "Narodnaya Volya" group. He was exiled to Tula, then continued his medical studies at the University of Kharkiv. There he became involved in revolutionary activities and published his "Brief course of economic science" in 1897. In 1899, he graduated as a medical doctor, and published his next work: "Basic elements of historic prospective on nature." Then he was arrested by the Tsar's police and spent six months in prison, then was exiled to Vologda. In his pursuit of social justice, he studied political philosophy and economics, took the pseudonym Bogdanov and joined the Bolshevik faction of the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party in 1903.

For the next 6 years Bogdanov was a major figure among the Bolsheviks, second only to Vladimir Lenin in his influence. In 1904-1906, he published three volumes of the philosophic treatise Empiriomonism, in which he tried to merge Marxism with the philosophy of Ernst Mach, Wilhelm Ostwald, and Richard Avenarius. His work later affected a number of Marxist theoreticians, including Nikolai Bukharin [1].

After the collapse of the Russian Revolution of 1905, Bogdanov led a group within the Bolsheviks ("ultimatists" and "otzovists" or "recallists"), who demanded a recall of Social Democratic deputies from the State Duma, and challenged Lenin for the leadership of the Bolshevik faction. With a majority of Bolshevik leaders either supporting Bogdanov or undecided by mid-1908 when the differences became irreconcilable, Lenin concentrated on undermining Bogdanov's reputation as a philosopher. In 1909 he published a scathing book of criticism entitled Materialism and Empiriocriticism, assaulting Bogdanov's position and accusing him of philosophical idealism [2].

In June 1909, Bogdanov was defeated by Lenin at a Bolshevik mini-conference in Paris organized by the editorial board of the Bolshevik magazine Proletary. He was expelled from the Bolshevik faction and joined his brother-in-law Anatoly Lunacharsky, Maxim Gorky and other "otzovists" on the island of Capri, where they started a school for Russian factory workers. In 1910, Bogdanov, Lunacharsky, Mikhail Pokrovsky and their supporters moved the school to Bologna, where they continued teaching classes through 1911, while Lenin and his allies soon started a rival school outside of Paris. Bogdanov broke with the "otzovists" in 1911 and abandoned revolutionary activities. After six years of his political emigration in Europe, Bogdanov returned to Russia in 1914, following the amnesty.

Bogdanov's innovative work on comparative study of economic and military power of European nations, written in 1912-1913, was the first interdisciplinary work ever on systems analysis, which he later merged with tectonics. In his work Bogdanov introduced modern principles of systems theory and systems analysis. However, his works on systems analysis were not translated at the time of his life, and were not known outside Russia for many years.

After World War I

Bogdanov served in World War I as a physician at a hospital and played no role in the Russian Revolution of 1917. After the Bolshevik seizure of power in October 1917, Bogdanov refused multiple offers to rejoin the party and denounced the new regime as similar to Aleksey Arakcheyev's arbitrary and despotic rule in the early 1820s[3]. From 1913 until 1922 he was immersed in the writing of a lengthy philosophical treatise, Tectology: Universal Organization Science which anticipated many basic ideas of systems analysis later explored by cybernetics. In 1918, Bogdanov became a professor of economics at the University of Moscow and director of the newly established Socialist Academy of Social Sciences.

In 1918-1920, Bogdanov was one of the founders and the leading theoretician of the proletarian art movement Proletkult. In his lectures and articles, he called for the total destruction of the "old bourgeois culture" in favour of a "pure proletarian culture" of the future. At first Proletkult, like other radical cultural movements of the era, received financial support from the Bolshevik government, but by 1919-1920 the Bolshevik leadership grew hostile and on December 1, 1920 Pravda published a decree denouncing Proletkult as a "petit bourgeois" organization operating outside of Soviet institutions and a haven for "socially alien elements". Later in the month the president of Proletkult was removed and Bogdanov lost his seat on its Central Committee. He withdrew from the organization completely in 1921-1922 [4].

In the summer of 1923, Bogdanov was arrested by the Soviet secret police on suspicion of having inspired the recently discovered secret oppositionist group Worker's Truth, interrogated and soon released [5].

In 1924, Bogdanov started his blood transfusion experiments, apparently hoping to achieve eternal youth or at least partial rejuvenation. Lenin's sister Maria Ulianova was among many who volunteered to take part in Bogdanov's experiments. After undergoing 11 blood transfusions, he remarked with satisfaction on the improvement of his eyesight, suspension of balding, and other positive symptoms. The fellow revolutionary Leonid Krasin wrote to his wife that "Bogdanov seems to have become 7, no, 10 years younger after the operation". In 1925-1926, Bogdanov founded the Institute for Haemotology and Blood Transfusions, which was later named after him.

In 1928 Bogdanov lost his life as a result of one of the experiments, when the blood of a student suffering from malaria and tuberculosis was given to him in a transfusion. Some scholars (e.g. Loren Graham) have speculated that his death may have been a suicide, because Bogdanov wrote a highly nervous political letter shortly before his last experiment, while others attribute it to blood type incompatibility, which was poorly understood at the time [6].


In 1908 Bogdanov published the novel Red Star, a utopia set on Mars, in which he made some almost prophetic predictions about future scientific and social developments. His utopia also touched on feminist themes that would become more common later in the development of utopian science fiction, e.g. the two sexes becoming virtually identical in the future or women escaping "domestic slavery" (one reason for the physical changes) and being free to pursue relationships with the same freedom as men, without any extra stigma.

Other notable differences between the utopia of Red Star and present-day society include workers having total control over their working hours, as well as more subtle differences in social behavior such as conversations being patiently "set at the level of the person with whom they were speaking and with understanding for his personality although it might very much differ from their own". The novel also gave a detailed description of blood transfusion in the Martian society.

Red Star was one of the inspirations for Red Mars, an award-winning science fiction novel by Kim Stanley Robinson. Bogdanov is the surname of the character Arkady, who is also a fictional descendant of Alexander Bogdanov.


Bogdanov's original proposition - Tectology - consisted of unifying all social, biological and physical sciences, by considering them as systems of relationships, and by seeking the organizational principles that underlie all systems. His work "Tectology: Universal Organization Science", finished by the early 1920s, anticipated many of the ideas that were popularized later by Norbert Wiener in Cybernetics and Ludwig von Bertalanffy in the General Systems Theory. There are suggestions that both Wiener and von Bertalanffy might have read the German translation of "Tectology" which was published in 1928. In Russia, Lenin (and later Stalin) considered Bogdanov's natural philosophy an ideological threat to the dialectic materialism and put tectology to sleep. The rediscovery of Bogdanov's tectology occurred only in the 1970s.


Technocracy or socialism? Both Bogdanov's fiction and his political writings as presented by Zenovia Sochor[1], imply that he expected the coming revolution against capitalism to lead to a technocratic society. This was because the workers lacked the knowledge and initiative to seize control of social affairs for themselves. According to this book source, this was due to the hierarchical and authoritarian nature of the capitalist production process. Another reason presented in that source was the hierarchical and authoritarian mode of organization of the Bolshevik party as well, it was problematic for this 'take over' also, although Bogdanov considered such organization necessary and inevitable... he was a Bolshevik, and in fact Lenin did have political and intellectual rivals inside his own party. The most important of these non-Leninist Bolsheviks may have been Alexander Bogdanov.[2]


  1. ^ Zenovia Sochor: Revolution and Culture:The Bogdanov-Lenin Controversy, Cornell University Press 1988
  2. ^
  • ^  See Stephen F. Cohen. Bukharin and the Bolshevik Revolution: A Political Biography, 1888-1938, Oxford University Press, 1980 (first published by Alfred A. Knopf in 1973), ISBN 0-19-502697-7 p. 15
  • ^  See Alan Woods. Bolshevism: The Road to Revolution, Wellred Publications, 1999, ISBN 1-900007-05-3 Part Three: The Period of Reaction available online
  • ^  See Bernice Glatzer Rosenthal. New Myth, New World: From Nietzsche to Stalinism, Pennsylvania State University, 2002, ISBN 0-271-02533-6 p. 118.
  • ^  See Bernice Glatzer Rosenthal. op. cit., p. 162.
  • ^  See Boris Souvarine. Stalin: A Critical Survey of Bolshevism, New York, Alliance Group Corporation, Longmans, Green, and Co, 1939, ISBN 1-4191-1307-0 pp. 346-347.
  • ^  See Bernice Glatzer Rosenthal, op. cit., pp. 161-162.


  • Poznanie s Istoricheskoi Tochki Zreniya (Knowledge from a Historical Viewpoint), St. Petersburg, 1901.
  • Empiriomonizm: Stat'i po Filosofii (Empiriomonism: Articles on Philosophy) in 3 volumes, Moscow, 1904-1906
  • Filosofiya Zhivogo Opyta: Populiarnye Ocherki (Philosophy of Living Experience: Popular Essays), St. Petersburg, 1912
  • Tektologiya: Vseobschaya Organizatsionnaya Nauka in 3 volumes, Berlin and Petrograd-Moscow, 1922.
    • English translation as Essays in Tektology: The General Science of Organization, trans. George Gorelik, Seaside, CA, Intersystems Publications, 1980.
  • Red star : the first Bolshevik utopia, ed. Loren R. Graham and Richard Stites ; trans. Charles Rougle, Bloomington, IN, Indiana Univ. Press, 1984.

Further reading

  • John Biggart, Georgii Gloveli, Avraham Yassour. Bogdanov and his Work. A guide to the published and unpublished works of Alexander A. Bogdanov (Malinovsky) 1873-1928, Aldershot, Ashgate, 1998, ISBN 1-85972-623-2
  • John Biggart, Peter Dudley, Francis King, Aldershot, Ashgate (eds.), Alexander Bogdanov and the Origins of Systems Thinking in Russia, 1998, ISBN 1-85972-678-X
  • Stuart Brown. Biographical Dictionary of Twentieth-Century Philosophers, London, Routledge, 2002 (first published in 1996), ISBN 0-415-06043-5
  • Peter Dudley, Bogdanov's Tektology (1st Engl transl), Centre for Systems Studies, University of Hull, Hull, UK, 1996
  • Peter Dudley, Simona Pustylnik. Reading The Tektology: provisional findings, postulates and research directions, Centre for Systems Studies, University of Hull, Hull, UK, 1995
  • George Gorelick, Bogdanov's Tektology: Nature, Development and Influences, in: Studies in Soviet Thought (1983), Vol. 26, pp. 37-57.
  • Simona Pustylnik, "Biological Ideas of Bogdanov's Tektology" presented at the Int'l Conf.: Origins of Organization Theory in Russia and the Soviet Union, University of East Anglia (Norwich), Jan. 8-11, 1995
  • M. E. Soboleva. A. Bogdanov und der philosophische Diskurs in Russland zu Beginn des 20. Jahrhunderts. Zur Geschichte des russischen Positivismus. Georg Olms Verlag. Hildesheim. 2007. 278 S.

External links

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