1933 Komsomol poster. Caption says "Prepare worthy successors to the Lenin Komsomol"
Komsomol poster from 1938
Monument to Courage, Firmness and Faithfulness of Members of the Komsomol in Sevastopol
Before the February Revolution of 1917 the Bolsheviks did not display any interest in establishing or maintaining a youth division, but the policy emphasis shifted in the following months.
After the Russian Civil War of 1917-1922 ended, the Soviet government under Lenin introduced a semi-capitalist economic policy to stabilize Russia’s floundering economy. This reform, the New Economic Policy (NEP), introduced 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.
The first Komsomol Congress met in 1918 under the patronage of the Bolshevik Party, despite the two organizations' not entirely coincident membership or beliefs. 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". By the time of the second Congress, a year later, however, the Bolsheviks had, in effect, acquired control of the organization, and it was soon formally established as the youth division of the Communist party. However, the party was not very successful overall in recruiting Russian youth during the NEP period (1921-1928).
This came about because of conflict and disillusionment among Soviet youth who romanticised the spontaneity and destruction characteristic of War Communism (1918-1921) and the Civil War period. They saw it as their duty, and the duty of the Communist Party itself, to eliminate all elements of Western culture from society. However, the NEP had the opposite effect: after it started, many aspects of Western social behavior began to reemerge. The contrast between the "Good Communist" extolled by the Party and the capitalism fostered by NEP confused many young people. They rebelled against the Party's ideals in two opposite ways: radicals gave up everything that had any Western or capitalist connotations, while the majority of Russian youths felt 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.
By 1925 Komsomol had 1 million members, and many others were in theater groups for younger children. In March 1926, Komsomol membership reached a NEP-period peak of 1,750,000 members: only 6 percent of the eligible youth population. Only when Stalin came to power and abandoned the NEP in the first Five Year Plan (1928–1933) did membership increase drastically. The youngest youth eligible for Komsomol membership were fourteen years old. The upper age-limit for ordinary personnel was twenty-eight, but Komsomol functionaries could be older. Younger children joined the allied Vladimir Lenin All-Union Pioneer Organization. While membership was nominally voluntary, those who failed to join had no access to officially sponsored holidays and found it very difficult (if not impossible) to pursue higher education.
The Komsomol had little direct influence on the Communist Party or on the government of the Soviet Union, but it played an important role as a mechanism for teaching the values of the CPSU to the younger generation. 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. In the 1920s the Kremlin assigned Komsomol major responsibilities for promoting industrialization at the factory level. In 1929 7000 Komsomol cadets were building the tractor factory in Stalingrad, 56,000 others built factories in the Urals, and 36,000 were assigned work underground in the coal mines. The goal was to provide an energetic hard-core of Bolshevik activists to influence their coworkers the factories and mines that were at the center of communist ideology.
Active members received privileges and preferences in promotion. For example, Yuri Andropov, CPSU General Secretary (1982-1984), achieved notice through work with the Komsomol organization of Karelia in 1940-1944. At its largest, during the 1970s, the Komsomol had tens of millions of members.
During the early phases of perestroika in the mid-1980s, when the Soviet authorities began cautiously introducing private enterprise, the Komsomol received privileges with respect to initiating businesses, with the motivation of giving youth a better chance. The government, unions and the Komsomol jointly introduced Centers for Scientific and Technical Creativity for Youth (1987). At the same time, many Komsomol managers joined and directed the Russian Regional and State
Anti-Monopoly Committees. Folklore quickly coined a motto: "The Komsomol is a school of Capitalism", hinting at Vladimir Lenin's "Trade unions are a school of Communism".
The reforms of Mikhail Gorbachev, perestroika and glasnost, finally revealed that the quality of Komsomol management was bad. The Komsomol, long associated with conservatism and bureaucracy, had always largely lacked political power. The radical Twentieth Congress of the Komsomol (April 1987) altered the rules of the organization 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. At the Twenty-second Congress of the Komsomol in September 1991, the organization was disbanded. The Komsomol's newspaper, Komsomolskaya Pravda, outlived the organization and is still published (as of 2019 ).
A numberKomsomol, as does the youth organization of Ukrainian communists: Komsomol of Ukraine.
of youth organizations of successor parties to the CPSU continue to use the name
Komsomol membership card, (1983)
Komsomol direction. Document in the USSR youth guarantee compulsory employment (1980)
20 Congress Komsomol, (1987)
21 Congress Komsomol, (1990)