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Angelica Balabanoff

BALABANOFF, ANGELICA (1878–1965), European socialist and political activist. Balabanoff was born in Chernigov, near Kiev in the Ukraine, to a wealthy Jewish family. The daughter of a landowner and businessman, she was the youngest of 16 children, several of whom had died before her birth. Like most girls of her class and time, she was educated privately at home. At age 19 she left Chernigov to study at the Université Novelle in Brussels, Belgium, an institution noted for its radicalism. In her autobiography, My Life as a Rebel, Balabanoff asserted that a guilty awareness of her privileged background and a poor relationship with her mother, whom she considered dictatorial, motivated her to pursue goals of social justice. After receiving a doctorate in the philosophy of literature in Brussels, she began a wandering life of commitment to socialism which involved significant contact with prominent personalities and great historical events. In Brussels she came under the influence of George Plekhanov, a founder of the first Communist Party in Russia. Her acquaintances and comrades included Alexander *Berkman, Emma *Goldman, V.I. Lenin, Rosa *Luxemburg, Benito Mussolini, Leon *Trotsky, and Clara Zetkin. As an organizer and agitator, Balabanoff rejected feminism as a bourgeois philosophy. She was fluent in many languages, a firebrand speaker, and a talented journalist and editor. Balabanoff developed a close and lasting relationship with the Italian Socialist movement early in her political career. She also had a leadership role in the Swiss-based Zimmerwald Group, which attacked imperialism and demanded immediate peace. During and after World War I, Balabanoff became more sympathetic to the left wing of Socialism. After the Bolsheviks came to power, she returned to Russia, where she was appointed secretary of the Communist International. A year later, ousted from that position, she left Russia disillusioned, assailing the government and the movement it represented as corrupt and authoritarian. In response, the Bolsheviks attempted to malign her reputation. Balabanoff spent the interwar years in Paris and Vienna. During World War II, she found refuge in New York City where she became a friend of American socialist Norman Thomas and contributed occasionally to the Socialist Review Journal. Balanbanoff also spoke out against Italian Fascism. She settled in Rome after the war and was active in the Italian Socialist movement. Balabanoff was the author of Impressions of Lenin (1934); My Life as a Rebel (1938); and The Traitor: Benito Mussolini and the "Conquest" of Power (1942–3); she also wrote poetry in English, French, German, Italian, and Russian.


R. Florence, Marx's Daughters: Eleanor Marx, Rosa Luxemburg, Angelica Balabanoff (1975; Obituary, New York Times (Nov. 26, 1965); E. Wilson, "The Poetry of Angelica Balabanoff," in: The Nation (Nov. 27, 1943).

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.