Subbotnik (1919)

Days of volunteer work following the October Revolution

V. I. Lenin at the All-Russia Subbotnik in the Kremlin grounds. Moscow. May 1, 1920
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The tradition is continued in modern Russia and some other former Soviet Republics. Subbotniks are mostly organized for cleaning the streets of garbage, fixing public amenities, collecting recyclable material, and other community services.

The first subbotnik was held on April 12, 1919, at the Moscow-Sortirovochnaya railway depot of the Moscow-Kazan Railway upon the initiative of local bolsheviks. The subbotnik was organised by Bolshevik party members, and it was stated in the Resolution of the General Council of Communists of the Subraion of the Moscow-Kazan Railway and Their Adherents that:

V. I. Lenin at the All-Russia Subbotnik in the Kremlin grounds. Moscow. May 1, 1920
pinterest button V. I. Lenin at the All-Russia Subbotnik in the Kremlin grounds. Moscow. May 1, 1920 Александр Савельев (1883-1923), Public Domain

The first all-Russian subbotnik was held on May 1, 1920, the one participated by Vladimir Lenin who took part in removing building rubble in the Moscow Kremlin, an episode portrayed in a famous painting by Vladimir Krikhatsky, Lenin at the First Subbotnik, of Lenin carrying a log. Lenin was excited by the idea of subbotniks, regarding them as seeds of free labour of communism.

Subsequently «communist subbotniks» and «voskresniks» became obligatory political events in the Soviet Union, with annual «Lenin's Subbotnik» being held in the vicinity of Lenin's birthday.

Subbotnik was also promoted in the 1950s in the Eastern Bloc countries and in particular in the German Democratic Republic (GDR), as the USSR sought to build up the GDR as the westernmost outpost of socialism in Europe.

In Czechoslovakia, a similar kind of work was known as Akce Z («Action Z»), from Czech word zvelebování, «improvement», referring to the typical activities from garbage removal to housing construction. 

From: April 12, 1919

To: 1991

Period 20th century

Useful Information

Subbotnik and voskresnik
from Russian: суббо́та
IPA: [sʊˈbotə] for Saturda
and воскресе́нье
IPA: [vəskrʲɪˈsʲenʲjɪ] for Sunday