St. Petersburg Workers and Implementation of the Social Insurance Law of 1912

  • Alice K. Pate


On June 23, 1912, the Russian Duma passed a “Law on Sickness Insurance.” The law provided for kassy or benefit funds from worker and employer contributions managed by a board including worker representatives. Councils set up by the government, which included workers, would administer the law. Implemented first in St. Petersburg, the law provided for the election of representatives from eight metalworking factories, who would work with employers to draw up model rules. Afterwards, the law would be extended, industry-by-industry, to other factories covered by the law. The adoption and implementation of this law in Russia, a country described by modern historians and contemporary revolutionaries as politically and economically “backward,” indicates that the tsarist bureaucracy, business elites, and worker activists had begun to develop a dialogue that had the potential to produce progressive change in late Imperial Russia. The tsarist government acted to protect child and female workers and provided factory inspectors and even worker representation in a series of reforms that addressed the problems specific to labor in a modernizing industrial state.


Trade Union Legal Activist Mixed List Social Democrat Party Affiliation 
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  1. 1.
    See Clive Trebilcock, The Industrialization of the Continental Powers, 1780–1914 (London and New York: Longman, 1981), 81–82.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    For discussions of this approach from varying viewpoints, see Alice Pate, “Liquidationist Controversy: Russian Social Democracy and the Quest for Unity” in Michael Melancon and Alice Pate, eds., New Labor History: Worker Identity and Experience in Russia, 1840–1918 (Bloomington, IN: Slavica, 2002), 95–122,Google Scholar
  3. and Michael Melancon, “‘Marching Together!’: Left Bloc Activities in the Russian Revolutionary Movement, 1900 to February 1917,” Slavic Review 49 no.2 (Summer 1990): 239–252.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Susan P. McCaffray and Michael Melancon 2005

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  • Alice K. Pate

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