|August 22, 1873
|April 7, 1928
Alexander Aleksandrovich Bogdanov Александр Александрович Богданов (born Alexander Malinovsky) (August 22 (Old Style), 1873, Tula, Russia - April 7, 1928, Moscow) was a Russian physician, philosopher, economist, science fiction writer, and revolutionary whose scientific interests ranged from the universal systems theory to the possibility of human rejuvenation through blood transfusion.
He was for a time second in influence to Lenin in the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party. After the revolution, he and Lenin quarreled, but he remained an influential figure, especially in the development of the Communist Party's cultural policies. Bogdanov is representative of the Russian intelligentsia who were attracted to the revolutionary movement. Stifled from advancement under the class system of feudalism in Imperial Russia, these men became revolutionaries, seeking to transform society. They saw Marxism as the vehicle for their efforts. Unlike many of his contemporaries, Bogdanov died not as a victim of Stalin's purges, but an unsuccessful scientific experiment.
Ethnically Belarusian, Alexander Malinovsky was born into a rural teacher's family. While working on his medical degree at the University of Kharkiv, he became involved in revolutionary activities and was repeatedly arrested, the first time at the age of 20. After graduating in 1899, he abandoned his medical career to pursue political philosophy and economics, taking the pseudonym Bogdanov and joining the Bolshevik faction of the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party in 1903.
For the next six 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 philosophical 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 .
After the collapse of the Russian Revolution of 1905, Bogdanov led the radical wing of the Bolsheviks ("ultimatists" and "otzovists" or "recallists"), who demanded a recall of Social Democratic deputies from the State Duma (or legislature), 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 .
In June 1909, Bogdanov was defeated 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. He returned to Russia following the amnesty of 1913.
Bogdanov served in World War I as a physician 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. From 1913 until 1922 he was immersed in the writing of a lengthy philosophical treatise, Tectology: Universal Organization Science which anticipated many basic ideas 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 (proletarian culture). In his lectures and articles, he called for the total destruction of the "old bourgeois culture" in favor 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 .
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 .
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 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 seven, no, 10 years younger after the operation."
In 1925-1926, Bogdanov founded Institute for Haemotology and Blood Transfusions, which was later named after him. After Lenin's death, he was commissioned to study Lenin's brain and, if possible, to resuscitate his body. In his letters to the Soviet leaders Joseph Stalin and Bukharin he dreamed of physically rejuvenating the Bolshevik party leadership.
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 while others attribute it to blood type incompatibility, which was poorly understood at the time .
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 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 series by Kim Stanley Robinson. Bogdanov is the surname of the character Arkady (perhaps the first name is a nod to the Russian science fiction writer Arkady Strugatsky, although this is not confirmed) 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 underly all systems. His work Tektology: 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.
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