Gastev was the chief Soviet proponent of Taylorism, aka scientific management:

In the Soviet Union, Taylorism was advocated by Aleksei Gastev and nauchnaia organizatsia truda (the movement for the scientific organisation of labor). It found support in both Vladimir Lenin and Leon Trotsky. Gastev continued to promote this system of labor management until his arrest and execution in 1939.

The institute he founded and directed till 1937 also did not overlive its creator by long - it was closed down in 1940 (though a rump of it was transferred to the aviation ministry).

Was Gastev's execution part of a general clampdown on scientific management in the Soviet Union during the period (the way Stalin proscribed and presecuted scientists who worked in other fields he disliked, such as genetics and cybernetics) or was it because of other reasons? (He was an "old Bolshevik", that is member of a group which was also singled out by Stalin for elimination).

To be sure, there seems to have been some persecution of the scientific management field:

Во второй половине 1930-х деятельность ЦИТ подвергается критике, прикладные науки о труде обвиняют в идеализме и методологической нейтральности, им навешивается ярлык «буржуазных» наук. Закрываются все лаборатории по промышленной психотехнике и психофизиологии труда, в значительной степени свертывается работа ЦИТа и местных институтов труда (в 1920-х годах их было свыше 10). В 1939 основателя и бессменного руководителя ЦИТ Гастева расстреляли за антисоветскую деятельность.


In the second half of 1930 has been criticized CIT activity, applied science Labour accused of idealism and methodological neutrality, they are labeled as "bourgeois" science. Closes all laboratory and industrial psychotechnics psychophysiology of labor, largely curtailed work ITCA and local institutions work (in 1920 there were over 10). In 1939, the founder and head of CIT Gasteva shot for anti-Soviet activities.

(the quote is from the Russian wikipedia article on CIT).

However, it is not clear whether other people who worked on scientific management were also executed or merely fired.


I think this question presumes far to much determinism on the part of the "Great Purge" process.

An anonymous report from a subordinate, or from someone who coveted something which belonged to the victim (wife, daughter, apartment) was enough (unless there was a high-level protector willing to risk everything to save the victim).

| improve this answer | |
  • Indeed, that's an option I've considered. But, for example, Vavilov was certainly purged because of his scientific work. The whole senior staff of the Soviet Census Bureau was executed, for another example, for truthfully reporting the demographic hole into which Stalin was plunging the country. So basically, I'm less interested in the exact mechanics of Gastev's personal fate and more in finding out whether Taylorism was another proscribed science or not. – Felix Goldberg Jul 30 '13 at 18:32
  • If you're interested in discussions of Taylorism in Russia/Soviet Union, try "Scientific Management, Socialist Discipline, and Soviet Power" by Mark R. Beissinger. – Kunikov Jul 31 '13 at 1:52
  • 1
    One would think anyone who spends time thinking about good ways to order workers around would be particularly vulerable in that environment. – T.E.D. Jul 31 '13 at 14:00
  • @T.E.D. That's excatly what I thought. Still puzzled. Otoh, Stalin was a violent mediocrity and heartily resented brilliant people, especially those who worked for him. – Felix Goldberg Jul 31 '13 at 15:07

Apart from advocating scientific management, Gastev was a proletariat smithy(kuznitsa) poet.

The Smithy (Kuznitsa) was founded in late 1919 by a group of proletarian poets who believed that the practical work of the Proletkult was holding back the development of their creative possibilities. In essence, the Smithy poets merely wanted to work and create among themselves, without having to get involved in the Proletkult's mass activity and mass education projects. The Smithy promised to offer writers "complete freedom in the choice of literary method and style."

Those who demanded such freedom were considered as "undesirable" by communist party.

Alex Inkeles and Raymond A. Bauer in The Soviet Citizen. Daily Life in a Totalitarian Society. (New-York, 1968) defines purge as:

purge was one of the key rituals during which a periodic review of party members was conducted to get rid of the "undesirables".

Along with many other writers, scientists and other "undesirables", A. K. Gastev was victim of Stalin's Great Purge from 1938-1939. He was arrested in 1938 on the charges of counter-revolutionary terrorist activity (even though the smithy was dissolved in 1932). And was shot in 1939

| improve this answer | |
  • But this explanation does not account for his position of influence up till the 1930s. I mean, you are right to point out that independent-minded artists (like Mandelshtam and Meyerhold) were purged as such; however, Gastev stopped writing poetry in the very early 1920s and concentrated on scientific management. So I don't think his execution could have much to do with his early poetic experiments. – Felix Goldberg Jul 30 '13 at 20:52
  • +1 anyway for highlighting an aspect of the purges. – Felix Goldberg Jul 30 '13 at 20:53
  • 1
    What one did in the 1920s could easily come back into focus during the purges of the 1930s. They could establish motive, method, and a precedence. – Kunikov Jul 31 '13 at 1:41
  • @Kunikov Perhaps we are talking about different things. There were many people, in high positions and in middle-level ones, who were fired and dismissed from the party in the early 1930s and then arrested and killed in 1937-9. In such a case, your description applies. But the downfall of Gastev seems to me to have been relatively sudden so I doubt he was killed for whatever it was he was doing in the 1920s. Perhaps I am wrong (he apparently stopped being director of CIT in already 1937, in circumstances I know nothing about) - perhaps he got the two-stage treatment later than others. – Felix Goldberg Jul 31 '13 at 9:45
  • The reasoning he was 'compromised' could have been anything, including someone confessing to 'crimes' that were made over a decade previously. The point being that unless you can specifically find what he was accused of, the reason(s) anyone was imprisoned in the 1930s could readily lead back to something they did or were accused of doing in the 1920s. – Kunikov Jul 31 '13 at 14:49

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.