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Author photo. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, George Grantham Bain Collection

Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, George Grantham Bain Collection (REPRODUCTION NUMBER: LC-DIG-ggbain-25077)

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Aleksandra Kollontai, née Domontovich, was born to a Ukrainian Cossack family in St. Petersburg, Russia. She became interested in Marxism as a young woman and joined the Russian revolutionary movement in the 1890s. Around age 21, she married her first husband, Vladimir Kollontai, a young captain of engineers, with whom she had a child. After publishing Finland and Socialism (1908), which called on the Finnish people to rise in armed revolt against the Russian Empire, she was forced into exile in Germany. There she got to know Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht. Although she later split with Lenin and the Bolsheviks, Kollontai served as Commissar for Social Welfare after the October 1917 Revolution. She was later appointed Soviet ambassador to Mexico, Norway, and Sweden. She was an advocate of free love and believed that the family unit would wither away under Communism. Kollontai spent her last years in Moscow, writing memoirs and serving as an adviser to the Foreign Ministry. She was among the few Old Bolsheviks not executed or imprisoned by the Stalinist regime.
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