The Komsomol in the national history
The history of the All-Union Leninist Communist Youth League (the Komsomol) organization dates back to the late 19th - early 20th cc., the time of the growing student movement in Russia. Vladimir Lenin’s theoretical studies highlighted the importance of propaganda among the young people and the need to involve them in the revolutionary struggle. The revolution of 1917 led to dramatic increase in the number of working youth circles. At the 6th Congress of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party (Bolsheviks) in July-August 1917 it was decided to set up youth organizations (Unions of Working Youth) associated with the party in the cities and towns of Russia. The working youth played an important role in the armed uprising. In particular, in the autumn of 1917 about 5,000 young workers joined the Red Guard through the efforts of the Petrograd Soviet.
The 1st All-Russian Congress of the Workers' and Peasants' Youth Leagues was held from October 29th through November 4th, 1918. The Russian Communist Youth League was established in order to band together separate unions into the all-Russian organization with one center, working under the guidance of the Communist Party of Bolsheviks. October 29th is considered the day of the foundation of the Komsomol. The League was intended to spread the ideas of communism and involve the working and peasant youth in the active construction of the Soviet Russia. To honour Lenin’s memory the name was changed in July 1924 to the Russian Leninist Communist Youth League. After the USSR was formed, in March 1926 the organization was renamed the All-Union Leninist Communist Youth League.
Komsomol membership was open to young men and women aged 14 to 28. The All-Union Congress was the highest governing body of the Komsomol. Between congresses, it was its Central Committee that directed the work of the Komsomol and elected a bureau and a secretariat. The primary Komsomol organizations were set up at enterprises, at kolkhozes (cooperative agricultural enterprises) and sovkhozes (state-operated agricultural estates), at educational institutions, and units of the army.
The Komsomol members took an active part in the Civil War. From 1918 to 1920 the Komsomol sent over 75,000 of its members to the Red Army. Underground Komsomol groups struggled with the White Army behind the lines of the enemy. By 1920 the Komsomol numbered 482,000 members. In May 1922 the pioneers organization was founded, and supervision over it was entrusted to the Komsomol. During the 1920s - 1930s the Komsomol members participated in restoring the economy destroyed by the war, assisted the authorities in the fight against banditry, mounted propaganda campaigns and carried out educational work in villages. The Komsomol members were engaged in collectivization and industrialization. Among the projects completed with the active participation of the Komsomol were the Dnieper Hydroelectric Station (Dneproges), the Moscow and Gorky Automobile Plants, the Stalingrad Tractor Plant, and the Magnitogorsk Metallurgical Plant. As part of the cultural revolution, Komsomol members launched a cultural campaign to wipe out illiteracy. The Komsomol introduced a new form of mass technical training for workers called tekhminimum courses.
In the first year of the Great Patriotic War about 2 million Komsomol members joined the Red Army. Behind the lines of the enemy there were underground Komsomol organizations: Molodaya gvardiya (Young Guard) (Krasnodon), Partizanskaya Iskra (Partisan Spark) (Nikolaev Region), etc. There were more than 154,000 Komsomol youth brigades working in industry to meet the needs of the front line. In agriculture young people made up 70% of the trained operators of agricultural machinery. During the war 3.5 million Komsomol members were decorated with orders and medals.
After the war the Komsomol expended great effort in implementation of national economic projects. In the 1940s and 1950s the Komsomol helped to construct major hydraulic works such as the Volga-Don Canal and hydropower stations, such as the Lenin station, the Kuybyshev and the Kakhovka stations. In 1954 and 1955 over 350,000 young people set off to Kazakhstan, Altai, and Siberia on Komsomol assignments to cultivate the virgin lands there. Between 1961 and 1966 up to 1,050 industrial facilities were built as part of the all-Union Komsomol shock-work construction projects.
In 1990 after the 28th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU), which announced the party’s non-interference in the activities of youth organizations, the 21st Congress of the All-Union Leninist Communist Youth League declared organizational and political independence from the CPSU. After the August crisis, on September 27, 1991 the 20th Extraordinary Congress of the All-Union Leninist Communist Youth League disbanded the organization.
The collection presents publications of the 1920s - 1940s, which cast light on the history of the Komsomol, its goals and basic activities; Komsomol periodicals, which came out during the Great Patriotic War, visual materials of the 1950s – 1990s, which show Komsomol members during different periods of the national history