Alexander Shlyapnikov in 1914

Alexander Shlyapnikov was born in Murom, Russia, in 1885. Born into a peasant family he only received three years of schooling before finding work as a labourer.

Shlyapnikov moved to St. Petersburg where he became a mechanic. He joined the Bolsheviks and in 1905 organized a protest meeting about Bloody Sunday. This resulted in him being arrested and he was sent to Vladimir Central Hard Labour Prison. Released in October, Shlyapnikov took part in the 1905 Revolution. He was once again arrested and sentenced to two years' imprisonment.

On his release in 1908 Shlyapnikov left Russia and over the next six years worked in factories in Germany, France, England and Sweden. While in exile Shlyapnikov met Vladimir Lenin and Alexandra Kollantai as well as a large number of European socialists.

Alexander Shlyapnikov

1. Was highly critical of Nicholas II and the autocracy.

2. Wanted Russia to have universal suffrage.

3. Wanted the Russian government to allow freedom of expression and an end to political censorship of newspapers and books.

4. Believed that democracy could only be achieved in Russia by the violent overthrow of Nicholas II and the autocracy.

5. Was strongly opposed to Russia going to war with Austria-Hungary and Germany.

6. Believed that if Russia did go to war with Austria-Hungary and Germany the Mensheviks, Bolsheviks and the Socialist Revolutionaries should try to persuade the Russian soldiers to use their weapons to overthrow Nicholas II.

Primary Sources

(1) The Granat Encyclopaedia of the Russian Revolution was published by the Soviet government in 1924. The encyclopaedia included a collection of autobiographies and biographies of over two hundred people involved in the Russian Revolution. Alexander Shlyapnikov was one of those invited to write her autobiography.

My father was drowned when I was two, leaving my mother with four small children, the youngest of whom was only a few months old. It was a hard life to be a widow without income or means of support. All the members of the family learnt to do some kind of work from their earliest years so as to be useful and help mother in her struggle to scrape a living.

At the age of eight I entered primary school. I left three years later, having learnt to read and write. School was no mother to me, and it was not the teachers who educated me. The teachers often meted out justice to their young charges with their fists. Even during these years, life taught me there is no justice in this world.

(2) Alexander Shlyapnikov was only sixteen years old when he took part in a strike at the Semyannikov plant in 1901.

I was very active for my age in the strike, inciting apprentices from all the workshops, shipbuilding as well as joinery, to drive out workers who did not want to join us. We stuffed our pockets with screws and all sorts of scraps of iron, and made for the docks and workshops. Those who went against the general strike decision was pelted with iron fragments, nuts and bolts, and were forced into line. Policemen on foot and horseback threatened us with their whips, but this only strengthened our youthful readiness to fight. For such active participation in the strike, I was dismissed from Semyannikov's and blacklisted.

All my attempts to find work at another factory ended in failure. With the help of some workers, I was given a job at the Obukhov works, but was dismissed as a striker after a couple of weeks. Other attempts had the same result. The impossibility of finding a job in a large factory turned me to work in small workshops. The pay was so paltry that it did not even cover the rent.