The intelligentsia is a social class
Social class
Social classes are economic or cultural arrangements of groups in society. Class is an essential object of analysis for sociologists, political scientists, economists, anthropologists and social historians. In the social sciences, social class is often discussed in terms of 'social stratification'...

 of people engaged in complex, mental and creative labor directed to the development and dissemination of culture
Culture is a term that has many different inter-related meanings. For example, in 1952, Alfred Kroeber and Clyde Kluckhohn compiled a list of 164 definitions of "culture" in Culture: A Critical Review of Concepts and Definitions...

, encompassing intellectual
An intellectual is a person who uses intelligence and critical or analytical reasoning in either a professional or a personal capacity.- Terminology and endeavours :"Intellectual" can denote four types of persons:...

s and social groups close to them (e.g., artist
An artist is a person engaged in one or more of any of a broad spectrum of activities related to creating art, practicing the arts and/or demonstrating an art. The common usage in both everyday speech and academic discourse is a practitioner in the visual arts only...

s and school teachers). Initially the term was applied mostly in the context of Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

 and later the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

, and had a narrower meaning based on a self-definition of a certain category of intellectual
An intellectual is a person who uses intelligence and critical or analytical reasoning in either a professional or a personal capacity.- Terminology and endeavours :"Intellectual" can denote four types of persons:...


History of the notion

The notion of an intellectual elite as a distinguished social stratum can be traced far back in history. Examples are the philosopher-kings and guardians of Plato
Plato , was a Classical Greek philosopher, mathematician, student of Socrates, writer of philosophical dialogues, and founder of the Academy in Athens, the first institution of higher learning in the Western world. Along with his mentor, Socrates, and his student, Aristotle, Plato helped to lay the...

's Republic and monk
A monk is a person who practices religious asceticism, living either alone or with any number of monks, while always maintaining some degree of physical separation from those not sharing the same purpose...

s in medieval Europe, who are now seen as custodians of history and culture.

Use of the term "intelligentsia" is first reported to have occurred in the Russian Empire
Russian Empire
The Russian Empire was a state that existed from 1721 until the Russian Revolution of 1917. It was the successor to the Tsardom of Russia and the predecessor of the Soviet Union...

 in the first half of the 19th century. For example, the word was casually used in the diaries of Vasily Zhukovsky
Vasily Zhukovsky
Vasily Andreyevich Zhukovsky was the foremost Russian poet of the 1810s and a leading figure in Russian literature in the first half of the 19th century...

, dated to 1836. In Poland
Poland , officially the Republic of Poland , is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north...

, or more precisely in Greater Poland
Greater Poland
Greater Poland or Great Poland, often known by its Polish name Wielkopolska is a historical region of west-central Poland. Its chief city is Poznań.The boundaries of Greater Poland have varied somewhat throughout history...

 (which then was a part of the Kingdom of Prussia
Kingdom of Prussia
The Kingdom of Prussia was a German kingdom from 1701 to 1918. Until the defeat of Germany in World War I, it comprised almost two-thirds of the area of the German Empire...

) the term was popularised in a sense close to the present one by Polish philosopher Karol Libelt
Karol Libelt
Karol Libelt was a Polish philosopher, writer, political and social activist, social worker and liberal, nationalist politician, president of the PTPN.-Life and work:...

, and became widespread in Polish science after the publication of his O miłości ojczyzny (On Love of the Motherland) in 1844, in which he defines "inteligencja" to be those well-educated members of the population who undertake to lead the people as scholars, teachers, clergy, engineers, and who guide for the reason of their higher enlightenment. The term was also popularised by a Russian writer, Pyotr Boborykin
Pyotr Boborykin
-Biography:Boborykin was born into the family of a landowner. He studied at Kazan State University and the Dorpat University, but he never completed his education. He made ​​his debut as a playwright in 1860. In 1863-1864 he published an autobiographical novel, The Pathway...

, in the 1860s, who proclaimed himself the "godfather" of the notion in 1904. From there it came into English
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

 and several other languages. In English
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

 this word is often applied to the "intelligentsia" in Central Europe
Central Europe
Central Europe or alternatively Middle Europe is a region of the European continent lying between the variously defined areas of Eastern and Western Europe...

an and Eastern Europe
Eastern Europe
Eastern Europe is the eastern part of Europe. The term has widely disparate geopolitical, geographical, cultural and socioeconomic readings, which makes it highly context-dependent and even volatile, and there are "almost as many definitions of Eastern Europe as there are scholars of the region"...

an countries in the 19th and 20th centuries. The distinction was based on the economic and cultural situation of intellectuals in these countries and is different from that in Western Europe
Western Europe
Western Europe is a loose term for the collection of countries in the western most region of the European continents, though this definition is context-dependent and carries cultural and political connotations. One definition describes Western Europe as a geographic entity—the region lying in the...

 or North America
North America
North America is a continent wholly within the Northern Hemisphere and almost wholly within the Western Hemisphere. It is also considered a northern subcontinent of the Americas...


The emergence of elite classes of intellectuals or well-educated people had been observed in other European countries (e.g., "intellectuels" in France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 and "Gebildete" in Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

) as well.

From signs of intelligentsia by Dr. Vitaly Tepikin:
  • advanced for its time moral ideals, sensitiveness to fellow creature, tact in manifestations;
  • active brain work and persistent self-education;
  • patriotism, which is based on faith in its own people and whole-hearted, inexhaustible love to little and big Motherland;
  • creative activity as a crucial part of intelligentsia lifestyle (this applies not only to artists, as many can consider, but also to scientists and engineers - ranging from creative approach to their main occupation to recreational culture, various hobbies and self-improvement practices, like sport and hiking);
  • independence, aspiration to freedom of self-expression and finding of themselves in it.


After the Partitions of Poland
Partitions of Poland
The Partitions of Poland or Partitions of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth took place in the second half of the 18th century and ended the existence of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, resulting in the elimination of sovereign Poland for 123 years...

, Polish society remained divided into noble
Nobility is a social class which possesses more acknowledged privileges or eminence than members of most other classes in a society, membership therein typically being hereditary. The privileges associated with nobility may constitute substantial advantages over or relative to non-nobles, or may be...

s—the surprisingly numerous class known as Szlachta
The szlachta was a legally privileged noble class with origins in the Kingdom of Poland. It gained considerable institutional privileges during the 1333-1370 reign of Casimir the Great. In 1413, following a series of tentative personal unions between the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the Kingdom of...

 — and peasant
A peasant is an agricultural worker who generally tend to be poor and homeless-Etymology:The word is derived from 15th century French païsant meaning one from the pays, or countryside, ultimately from the Latin pagus, or outlying administrative district.- Position in society :Peasants typically...

s. The political and cultural influence of the cities was small in relation to Western Europe, though this influence was growing. The need for educated specialists created a new class of educated people: hired professionals, such as clerks, physicians, and lawyers. They were recruited mainly from among former nobles, but increasingly from the urbanized classes.

The Polish intelligentsia specifically was considered the backbone of the modern Polish nation. Members of the intelligentsia were well aware of their social status and of their duties, of which working for the country and patriotism
Patriotism is a devotion to one's country, excluding differences caused by the dependencies of the term's meaning upon context, geography and philosophy...

 were considered the most important. A considerable part of the Polish intelligentsia were killed by the Soviets during World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 (see Katyn massacre
Katyn massacre
The Katyn massacre, also known as the Katyn Forest massacre , was a mass execution of Polish nationals carried out by the People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs , the Soviet secret police, in April and May 1940. The massacre was prompted by Lavrentiy Beria's proposal to execute all members of...


Today, the notion of the Polish intelligentsia has eroded, since, following widespread higher education, the "intelligentsia" has ceased to be an isolated social class. The values associated with intelligentsia, the values of an educated life, are strong in Polish society, though they are far less associated with a nationalistic movement today than in previous centuries.

Imperial Russia

Russian intelligentsia had a similar mixture of messianism
Messianism is the belief in a messiah, a savior or redeemer. Many religions have a messiah concept, including the Jewish Messiah, the Christian Christ, the Muslim Mahdi and Isa , the Buddhist Maitreya, the Hindu Kalki and the Zoroastrian Saoshyant...

 and intellectual elitism.

Nicholas II
Nicholas II of Russia
Nicholas II was the last Emperor of Russia, Grand Prince of Finland, and titular King of Poland. His official short title was Nicholas II, Emperor and Autocrat of All the Russias and he is known as Saint Nicholas the Passion-Bearer by the Russian Orthodox Church.Nicholas II ruled from 1894 until...

 hated the intelligentsia so much he wanted the word removed from the Russian language
"How repulsive I find that word".

Originally, intelligentsia meant well educated public figures, by the 1890s only those who worked against the regime qualified.
The first known Russian 'intelligent' was the early 17th century Prince Khvorostinin, denounced for having Latin books, calling the tsar a despot
Despot may refer to:* Despot , a Byzantine court title* Despotism, a form of government in which power is concentrated in the hands of an individual or a small groupPeople with the surname Despot:...

 and trying to flee to lithuania
Lithuania , officially the Republic of Lithuania is a country in Northern Europe, the biggest of the three Baltic states. It is situated along the southeastern shore of the Baltic Sea, whereby to the west lie Sweden and Denmark...

. He was exiled to a monastery.
By the 18th century, nobles had increasing free time for cultural pursuits like literature, especially after compulsory state service was abolished in 1762. In 1769 the first Russian periodical Vsiakaia Vsiachina (a bit of everything) appeared. Published titles increased 5 times 1762-72. After the French revolution
French Revolution
The French Revolution , sometimes distinguished as the 'Great French Revolution' , was a period of radical social and political upheaval in France and Europe. The absolute monarchy that had ruled France for centuries collapsed in three years...

 Catherine the Great  panicked and exiled the 2 leading intelligents: the conservative Nikolai Novikov and the radical Alexander Radishchev.
After the Decembrist revolt
Decembrist revolt
The Decembrist revolt or the Decembrist uprising took place in Imperial Russia on 14 December , 1825. Russian army officers led about 3,000 soldiers in a protest against Nicholas I's assumption of the throne after his elder brother Constantine removed himself from the line of succession...

, Idealist philosophy came into fashion, especially Hegel and Schelling
Notable people with the last name of Schelling include:* Ernest Schelling, American composer* Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling, German philosopher* Thomas Schelling, American economist and Nobel laureate...

. They liked its emphasis on the mind's creative potential and on how systems are constantly evolving towards an end goal.[7] In 1836 Peter Chaadaev wrote an essay condemning Russia as a country with no history or achievements. This provoked a split between Slavophiles and reformers. Slavophiles wanted Russia to return to its pre Petrine roots. They blamed Peter the Great for introducing German bureaucratic government, they wanted an English style unwritten constitution. They were essentially conservative anarchists. They wanted no parliament, constitution or bureaucracy.

In 1860 there were 20,000 Russian professionals 85,000 by 1900.
Originally composed of nobles, the intelligentsia came to be dominated by classless people (raznochintsy) after 1861. In 1833 78.9% of secondary school pupils were sons of nobles and bureaucrats, by 1885 they were 49.1%. The proportion of commoners rose from 19-43.8% (the rest were priests' sons).
Nicholas I
Nicholas I
Nicholas I may refer to:* Pope Nicholas I , or Nicholas the Great* Nicholas Mysticus, patriarch Nicholas I of Constantinople * Nicholas I, Bishop of Schleswig between 1209 and 1233...

 kept the number of university students at 3,000 per year, fearing a large intellectual proletariat
The proletariat is a term used to identify a lower social class, usually the working class; a member of such a class is proletarian...

. By 1894 there were 25,000 students. Similarly the number of periodicals increased from 15 in 1855 to 140 30 years later.
The 'third element ' were professionals hired by zemstva. By 1900 there were 47,000 of them, most were 'liberal - radicals'. Revolutionaries avoided zemstva on principle.

Russian Marxists' perspective

In the ideology of Bolsheviks, intelligentsia is not a real class; its status is described by the Russian word "prosloyka", which is normally translated as "stratum
In geology and related fields, a stratum is a layer of sedimentary rock or soil with internally consistent characteristics that distinguish it from other layers...

," but in this context has a negative connotation, meaning "liner" or "separating layer". In other words, intelligentsia does not have a "real" place in the structure of the society: it is a midlayer between "toilers" and "exploiters".

Intelligentsia grows by means of "recruiting" from among the people of labor, but its produce, i.e., the produce of its intellectual labor is just a sort of goods
Product (business)
In general, the product is defined as a "thing produced by labor or effort" or the "result of an act or a process", and stems from the verb produce, from the Latin prōdūce ' lead or bring forth'. Since 1575, the word "product" has referred to anything produced...

 ordered and paid by the exploiter class. Hence its independence is a mere ideological illusion, and in fact intelligentsia is by large a class of "lackeys" of bourgeoisie
In sociology and political science, bourgeoisie describes a range of groups across history. In the Western world, between the late 18th century and the present day, the bourgeoisie is a social class "characterized by their ownership of capital and their related culture." A member of the...

 and landowners. While de facto
De facto
De facto is a Latin expression that means "concerning fact." In law, it often means "in practice but not necessarily ordained by law" or "in practice or actuality, but not officially established." It is commonly used in contrast to de jure when referring to matters of law, governance, or...

being an exploited category, en masse it lacks the revolutionary drive. Ironically, this theory was put forth by the representatives of intelligentsia itself, notably Vladimir Lenin
Vladimir Lenin
Vladimir Ilyich Lenin was a Russian Marxist revolutionary and communist politician who led the October Revolution of 1917. As leader of the Bolsheviks, he headed the Soviet state during its initial years , as it fought to establish control of Russia in the Russian Civil War and worked to create a...

 and Leon Trotsky
Leon Trotsky
Leon Trotsky , born Lev Davidovich Bronshtein, was a Russian Marxist revolutionary and theorist, Soviet politician, and the founder and first leader of the Red Army....

 among many others. In particular, Lenin is famous for his caustic remark that "[the] intelligentsia is not the 'brain of the nation', it is the 'feces of the nation'".

Ironically, the fervent drive for professional education gave birth to new Soviet intelligentsia, which gave the current meaning to the term. This new class wasn't clearly defined; instead, the labor of skilled professionals, scientists and artists was likened to proletarian labor in the different field. These professionals were officially unified under institutions similar to workmen unions (for examples, the Writer's Union) and given strict standards for evaluating their work, enforced by the corresponding expert boards.

The approach to intelligentsia was varying: for example, scientists were kept in check by ideological sections of their universities, and, if doing sensitive research, were restricted both territorially and socially to so called "closed institutes" with top secret clearance or even "closed cities" that gathered such scientists in remote research and development campuses. Artists, on the other hand, weren't contained physically, but any release, publication or performance needed to go through Union evaluation; their "means of production" (from printing presses to film labs) were strictly regulated and centralized. Therefore, Soviet Union was able to let the natural creative process crucial for nation's survival continue, but at the same time didn't allow for any official and ideological authority for the intellectual class on its own, as a social class.

Soviet Union

The Russian Revolution
Russian Revolution of 1917
The Russian Revolution is the collective term for a series of revolutions in Russia in 1917, which destroyed the Tsarist autocracy and led to the creation of the Soviet Union. The Tsar was deposed and replaced by a provisional government in the first revolution of February 1917...

 polarized the Russian intelligentsia, together with all other strata of the society. Some of them emigrated, some joined the White movement
White movement
The White movement and its military arm the White Army - known as the White Guard or the Whites - was a loose confederation of Anti-Communist forces.The movement comprised one of the politico-military Russian forces who fought...

, some joined Bolsheviks (and some were Bolsheviks from the very beginning), some tried to oppose Bolsheviks within the political framework of Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

, some remained passive. Eventually Bolsheviks got rid of all opponents by various means ranging from forced deportation to execution. The remaining intelligentsia was supposed to serve "the cause of working class". While the importance of this class was not underestimated, it was treated with reservation.

In the late Soviet Union the term "intelligentsia" acquired a formal definition of mental and cultural workers. More specifically, there were categories of "scientific-technical intelligentsia" (научно-техническая интеллигенция) and "creative intelligentsia" (творческая интеллигенция). Teachers and lawyers were considered "intelligentsia" as well, but the corresponding adjectives to the word "intelligentsia" were used rarely.

In the post-Soviet period, the members of the former Soviet intelligentsia have displayed diverging attitudes towards the communist regime. While the older generation of intelligentsia has attempted to frame themselves as victims, the younger generation, who was in their 30s when the Soviet Union collapsed, has not allocated so much space for the repressive experience in their self-narratives. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the popularity and influence of the intelligentsia has significantly declined, therefore it is typical for the post-Soviet intelligentsia to feel nostalgic
The term nostalgia describes a yearning for the past, often in idealized form.The word is a learned formation of a Greek compound, consisting of , meaning "returning home", a Homeric word, and , meaning "pain, ache"...

 for the last years of the Soviet Union (perestroika
Perestroika was a political movement within the Communist Party of the Soviet Union during 1980s, widely associated with the Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev...

), which they often regard as the golden age of the intelligentsia.

Broader usage

Some authors use the term "intelligentsia" in reference to intellectuals and certain upper middle class professionals, whose main task is to create and distribute knowledge.

The usage of the term is typically reserved for reference to public figures in the arts
aRts, which stands for analog Real time synthesizer, is an audio framework that is no longer under development. It is best known for previously being used in KDE to simulate an analog synthesizer....

, culture
Culture is a term that has many different inter-related meanings. For example, in 1952, Alfred Kroeber and Clyde Kluckhohn compiled a list of 164 definitions of "culture" in Culture: A Critical Review of Concepts and Definitions...

, and social sciences
Social sciences
Social science is the field of study concerned with society. "Social science" is commonly used as an umbrella term to refer to a plurality of fields outside of the natural sciences usually exclusive of the administrative or managerial sciences...

. It is rarely, if ever, applied towards disciplines such as natural science
Natural science
The natural sciences are branches of science that seek to elucidate the rules that govern the natural world by using empirical and scientific methods...

, applied science
Applied science
Applied science is the application of scientific knowledge transferred into a physical environment. Examples include testing a theoretical model through the use of formal science or solving a practical problem through the use of natural science....

, medicine
Medicine is the science and art of healing. It encompasses a variety of health care practices evolved to maintain and restore health by the prevention and treatment of illness....

, mathematics
Mathematics is the study of quantity, space, structure, and change. Mathematicians seek out patterns and formulate new conjectures. Mathematicians resolve the truth or falsity of conjectures by mathematical proofs, which are arguments sufficient to convince other mathematicians of their validity...

, and engineering
Engineering is the discipline, art, skill and profession of acquiring and applying scientific, mathematical, economic, social, and practical knowledge, in order to design and build structures, machines, devices, systems, materials and processes that safely realize improvements to the lives of...


Max Weber
Max Weber
Karl Emil Maximilian "Max" Weber was a German sociologist and political economist who profoundly influenced social theory, social research, and the discipline of sociology itself...

 considered intelligentsia to be a major category essentially distinct from other social categories, both in terms of attributes and interests. In his major work, Economy and Society he used this term in arbitrary chronological and geographical frames, e.g., he wrote that "this Christian preoccupation with the formulation of dogmas was in Antiquity
Classical antiquity
Classical antiquity is a broad term for a long period of cultural history centered on the Mediterranean Sea, comprising the interlocking civilizations of ancient Greece and ancient Rome, collectively known as the Greco-Roman world...

 particularly influenced by the distinctive character of 'intelligentsia', which was the product of Greek
Ancient Greece
Ancient Greece is a civilization belonging to a period of Greek history that lasted from the Archaic period of the 8th to 6th centuries BC to the end of antiquity. Immediately following this period was the beginning of the Early Middle Ages and the Byzantine era. Included in Ancient Greece is the...

 education" When formulating major social class
Social class
Social classes are economic or cultural arrangements of groups in society. Class is an essential object of analysis for sociologists, political scientists, economists, anthropologists and social historians. In the social sciences, social class is often discussed in terms of 'social stratification'...

es of his time, Weber combines intelligentsia with other social categories, e.g., he defines a major class consisting of "the propertyless intelligentsia and specialists (technicians, various kinds of white-collar employees, civil servants – possible with considerable social differences depending on the cost of their training)" and yet other "classes privileged through property and education".
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