The Communist Union of Youth , usually known as Komsomol , was the youth division of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union
Communist Party of the Soviet Union
The Communist Party of the Soviet Union was the only legal, ruling political party in the Soviet Union and one of the largest communist organizations in the world...

. The Komsomol in its earliest form was established in urban centers in 1918. During the early years, it was a Russian organization, known as the Russian Communist Union of Youth, or RKSM. During 1922 it was reformed as an all-union agency, the youth division of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU), named Vsesoyuznii Leninskii Kommunisticheskii Soyuz Molodyozhi (VLKSM) ( ; All-Union Leninist Young Communist League).


During the revolution, the Bolshevik
The Bolsheviks, originally also Bolshevists , derived from bol'shinstvo, "majority") were a faction of the Marxist Russian Social Democratic Labour Party which split apart from the Menshevik faction at the Second Party Congress in 1903....

s did not display any interest in establishing or maintaining a youth division. However, by 1918 the first Komsomol Congress met with the patronage of the Bolshevik Party, despite the two organizations having not entirely coincident membership or beliefs. By the time of the second Congress, a year later, however, the Bolsheviks had, in effect, acquired control of the organisation, and it was soon formally established as the youth division of the Communist party.

The youngest people eligible for Komsomol were fourteen years old. The older limit of age for ordinary personnel was twenty-eight, but Komsomol functionaries could be older. Younger children joined the allied Young Pioneer organization of the Soviet Union
Young Pioneer organization of the Soviet Union
The Young Pioneer Organization of the Soviet Union, also Vladimir Lenin All-Union Pioneer Organization The Young Pioneer Organization of the Soviet Union, also Vladimir Lenin All-Union Pioneer Organization The Young Pioneer Organization of the Soviet Union, also Vladimir Lenin All-Union Pioneer...


Komsomol had little direct influence on the Communist Party or the government of the Soviet Union, but it played an important role as a mechanism for teaching the values of the CPSU to youngsters. The Komsomol also served as a mobile pool of labor and political activism, with the ability to relocate to areas of high-priority at short notice. Active members received privileges and preferences in promotion. For example, Yuri Andropov
Yuri Andropov
Yuri Vladimirovich Andropov was a Soviet politician and the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 12 November 1982 until his death fifteen months later.-Early life:...

, CPSU General Secretary for a brief time following Leonid Brezhnev
Leonid Brezhnev
Leonid Ilyich Brezhnev  – 10 November 1982) was the General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union , presiding over the country from 1964 until his death in 1982. His eighteen-year term as General Secretary was second only to that of Joseph Stalin in...

, achieved political importance by means of the Komsomol organization of Karelia
Karelia , the land of the Karelian peoples, is an area in Northern Europe of historical significance for Finland, Russia, and Sweden...

. At its largest, during the 1970s, Komsomol had tens of millions of members; about two-thirds of the present adult population of Russia is believed to have once been a member.

During the early phases of perestroika, when private enterprise was introduced cautiously, Komsomol was given privileges with respect to initiating businesses, with the motivation of giving youth a better chance. The Centers for Scientific and Technical Creativity for Youth were also established. At the same time, many Komsomol managers joined and directed the Russian Regional and State Anti-Monopoly Committees. Folklore was quick to develop a motto: "Komsomol is a school of Capitalism", hinting at Lenin's "Trade unions are a school of Communism".

The reforms of Mikhail Gorbachev
Mikhail Gorbachev
Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev is a former Soviet statesman, having served as General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1985 until 1991, and as the last head of state of the USSR, having served from 1988 until its dissolution in 1991...

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

 and glasnost
Glasnost was the policy of maximal publicity, openness, and transparency in the activities of all government institutions in the Soviet Union, together with freedom of information, introduced by Mikhail Gorbachev in the second half of the 1980s...

, finally revealed that the quality of Komsomol management was bad. Komsomol had long been characterized by conservatism and bureaucracy, and had always been largely powerless politically. At the radical Twentieth Congress of the Komsomol, the rules of the organization were altered to represent a market orientation. However, the reforms of the Twentieth Congress eventually destroyed the Komsomol, with lack of purpose and the waning of interest, membership and quality of membership.

The organ of the Komsomol, the Komsomolskaya Pravda
Komsomolskaya Pravda
Komsomolskaya Pravda is a daily Russian tabloid newspaper, founded on March 13th, 1925. It is published by "Izdatelsky Dom Komsomolskaya Pravda" .- History :...

, survived the organization.


After the Russian Civil War
Russian Civil War
The Russian Civil War was a multi-party war that occurred within the former Russian Empire after the Russian provisional government collapsed to the Soviets, under the domination of the Bolshevik party. Soviet forces first assumed power in Petrograd The Russian Civil War (1917–1923) was a...

 ended, the Soviet government under Lenin introduced a semi-capitalist economic policy to stabilize Russia’s floundering economy. This reform, the New Economic Policy
New Economic Policy
The New Economic Policy was an economic policy proposed by Vladimir Lenin, who called it state capitalism. Allowing some private ventures, the NEP allowed small animal businesses or smoke shops, for instance, to reopen for private profit while the state continued to control banks, foreign trade,...

 (NEP), was accompanied by a new social policy of moderation and discipline, especially regarding Soviet youth. Lenin himself stressed the importance of political education of young Soviet citizens in building a new society.

This created conflict and disillusionment among Soviet youths who romanticized the spontaneity and destruction characteristic of War Communism
War communism
War communism or military communism was the economic and political system that existed in Soviet Russia during the Russian Civil War, from 1918 to 1921...

 and the Civil War period. They saw it as their duty, and the duty of the Communist Party itself, to eliminate all elements of bourgeois culture from society. However, the NEP had the opposite effect: after it started, many aspects of bourgeois social behavior began to reemerge. Many youths were confused by the contrast between the “Good Communist” extolled by the Party and the bourgeois capitalism allowed to exist by the NEP. They rebelled against the Party’s ideals in two opposite ways: Radicals gave up everything that had any bourgeois connotations, while the majority of Russian youths were drawn to the Western-style popular culture of entertainment and fashion. As a result, there was a major slump in interest and membership in the Party-oriented Komsomol.

Party intervention in 1922-1923 proved marginally successful in recruiting members by presenting the ideal Komsomolets (Komsomol youth) as a foil to the bourgeois NEPman. However, the Bolshevik party was not very successful overall in recruiting Russian youth during the NEP period. At its highest, in March 1926, Komsomol membership during NEP was 1,750,000 members, only 6 percent of the eligible youth population. Only when Stalin came to power and the NEP was abandoned for the first Five Year Plan (1928-1933) did membership drastically increase.

The Youth

The Bolsheviks saw Russian youth as ideologically promising because it was more removed, if not free, from pre-revolutionary influence. If the Party could create a mass of indoctrinated, obedient young people, the regime would be stable for years to come. Therefore, the Bolsheviks attempted to influence and politicize every aspect of youth culture, both public and private.

The Ideal Komsomolets

Not only was the ideal Communist youth an asset to his (or her) organization, but he also “lived correctly”. This meant that every aspect of a Komsomolets’s life was in accordance with Party doctrine. Smoking, drinking, religion, and any other activity the Bolsheviks saw as threatening were discouraged as “hooliganism
Hooliganism refers to unruly, destructive, aggressive and bullying behaviour. Such behaviour is commonly associated with sports fans. The term can also apply to general rowdy behaviour and vandalism, often under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs....

”. The Komsomol sought to provide them with alternative leisure activities that promoted the improvement of society, such as volunteer work, sports, and political and drama clubs. These efforts proved largely unsuccessful, since the Bolshevik Party and the Komsomol were not in touch with Russian youths’ desires and thus were not able to manipulate them. Russian youth remained relatively politically unaware or uninterested during the NEP period.

Youth reactions

Many youths were drawn to “hooliganism” and the Western bourgeois culture of entertainment, which included cinema and fashion magazines. It is no coincidence that these youths were primarily from the peasantry or working class. They saw Western culture as a way to elevate or distinguish themselves from their humble beginnings. The Soviet authorities eventually made their own films with ideologically “pure” messages, but it was not the same. Soviet pictures, which were often informational or political, lacked the draw of Westerns or romances from Hollywood. Both the authorities and the youths themselves blamed the NEP for corrupting Soviet youth culture. Because the Komsomol was simply not as attractive to these young men and women, the government began to limit their cultural and entertainment options. This signaled the end of the NEP, and the end of the brief influx of Western culture in Soviet Union before Stalin’s ascendancy.

There was also a small but significant minority of youths who held on to the values of War Communism and developed their own ideal Soviet youth. These militants were extremely upset by the NEP, seeing it as a betrayal of true Communism by the older revolutionaries. They also opposed the Komsomol, deeming it too theoretical and bureaucratic. In order to distinguish themselves from other young Russians, these militant Communists developed their own style of dress, speech, and style. They wore coarse clothing, deliberately cultivated bad manners, and had little concern for hygiene.

Militant young Communists were a threat to the older Bolsheviks because they had the potential to undermine the new, NEP-based society. The shift from destruction of an old state to creation of a new one, mirrored by the shift from War Communism to the NEP, was necessary to maintain and stabilize the Bolshevik regime. The Party’s disapproval of young militants was necessary in order not only to define what was considered proper behavior, but also to maintain social and political control over the masses. However, after Stalin came to power and the NEP was abandoned in favor of the revolutionary, anti-bourgeois Five- Year Plans, many of the young radicals’ ideas were absorbed back into the mainstream and they no longer presented a problem.


Soldiers returning from the Civil War, students in provincial towns, and workers fleeing the poverty of the cities established the first rural Komsomol cells in 1918. Most administrators, who wanted to retain the “proletarian character” of the organization, did not initially welcome peasants into the Komsomol. However, it soon became obvious that peasants were too large a part of the population (80%) to ignore. Also, peasants, who were benefiting from the NEP’s compromise with small producers, were in a better position to join than workers, who struggled with unemployment and other economic problems and thus had less interest in joining.

Older peasants reacted negatively to the growth of the Komsomol in rural areas. They saw the administrators as intruders who prevented their children from fulfilling their family obligations. The Komsomol needed full-time commitment, and peasant youths, who saw it as a chance for social mobility, education, and economic success, were willing to abandon their traditional duties to join. At the end of NEP, the majority of Komsomol members were peasants, while the administration remained largely urban.


The Komsomol received three Orders of Lenin
Order of Lenin
The Order of Lenin , named after the leader of the Russian October Revolution, was the highest decoration bestowed by the Soviet Union...

, one Order of the Red Banner
Order of the Red Banner
The Soviet government of Russia established the Order of the Red Banner , a military decoration, on September 16, 1918 during the Russian Civil War...

, one Order of the Red Banner of Labour
Order of the Red Banner of Labour
The Order of the Red Banner of Labour was an order of the Soviet Union for accomplishments in labour and civil service. It is the labour counterpart of the military Order of the Red Banner. A few institutions and factories, being the pride of Soviet Union, also received the order.-History:The Red...

, and one Order of the October Revolution
Order of the October Revolution
The Order of the October Revolution was instituted on October 31, 1967, in time for the 50th anniversary of the October Revolution. It was awarded to individuals or groups for services furthering communism or the state, or in enhancing the defenses of the Soviet Union, military and civil...

. The asteroid 1283 Komsomolia
1283 Komsomolia
1283 Komsomolia is a main-belt asteroid discovered on September 25, 1925 by V. Albitzkij at Simeis.It is named after Komsomol, the youth wing of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union .- External links :*...

 is named after the Komsomol.

External references

Branches of the organization

  • Armenian SSR
    Armenian SSR
    The Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic The Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic The Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic The Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic The Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic The Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic The Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic The Armenian Soviet...

    : ՀԼԿԵՄ (abbreviation)
  • Belorussian SSR: Ленинский Коммунистический Союз Молодежи Белоруссии, ЛКСМБ
  • Estonian SSR: Eestimaa Leninlik Kommunistlik Noorsooühing, ELKNÜ
  • Karelo-Finnish SSR
    Karelo-Finnish SSR
    The Karelo-Finnish Soviet Socialist Republic was a short-lived republic that was a part of the former Soviet Union. The republic existed from 1940 until it was merged back into the Russian SFSR in 1956 ....

    : Ленинский коммунистический союз молодежи Карело-Финской ССР, ЛКСМ КФССР
  • Latvian SSR
    Latvian SSR
    The Latvian Soviet Socialist Republic , also known as the Latvian SSR for short, was one of the republics that made up the Soviet Union. Established on 21 July 1940 as a puppet state during World War II in the territory of the previously independent Republic of Latvia after it had been occupied by...

    : Latvijas Ļeņina Komunistiskā Jaunatnes Savienība, LĻKJS
  • Lithuanian SSR
    Lithuanian SSR
    The Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic , also known as the Lithuanian SSR, was one of the republics that made up the former Soviet Union...

    : Lietuvos Lenino komunistinė jaunimo sąjunga, LLKJS
  • Moldavian SSR
    Moldavian SSR
    The Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic , commonly abbreviated to Moldavian SSR or MSSR, was one of the 15 republics of the Soviet Union...

    : UTCLM (abbreviation)
  • Russian SFSR: Ленинский коммунистический союз молодёжи РСФСР, ЛКСМ РСФСР
  • Ukrainian SSR
    Ukrainian SSR
    The Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic or in short, the Ukrainian SSR was a sovereign Soviet Socialist state and one of the fifteen constituent republics of the Soviet Union lasting from its inception in 1922 to the breakup in 1991...

    : Ленинский Коммунистический Союз Молодёжи Украины, ЛКСМУ
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