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The Most Famous


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This page contains a list of the greatest Russian Social Activists. The pantheon dataset contains 538 Social Activists, 40 of which were born in Russia. This makes Russia the birth place of the 4th most number of Social Activists behind United Kingdom and India.

Top 10

The following people are considered by Pantheon to be the top 10 most legendary Russian Social Activists of all time. This list of famous Russian Social Activists is sorted by HPI (Historical Popularity Index), a metric that aggregates information on a biography’s online popularity. Visit the rankings page to view the entire list of Russian Social Activists.

Photo of Peter Kropotkin

1. Peter Kropotkin (1842 - 1921)

With an HPI of 73.06, Peter Kropotkin is the most famous Russian Social Activist.  His biography has been translated into 76 different languages on wikipedia.

Pyotr Alexeyevich Kropotkin (1842–1921) was a Russian anarchist and geographer known as a proponent of anarchist communism. Born into an aristocratic land-owning family, Kropotkin attended a military school and later served as an officer in Siberia, where he participated in several geological expeditions. He was imprisoned for his activism in 1874 and managed to escape two years later. He spent the next 41 years in exile in Switzerland, France (where he was imprisoned for almost four years) and England. While in exile, he gave lectures and published widely on anarchism and geography. Kropotkin returned to Russia after the Russian Revolution in 1917, but he was disappointed by the Bolshevik state. Kropotkin was a proponent of a decentralized communist society free from central government and based on voluntary associations of self-governing communities and worker-run enterprises. He wrote many books, pamphlets and articles, the most prominent being The Conquest of Bread and Fields, Factories, and Workshops, with Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution being his principal scientific offering. He contributed the article on anarchism to the Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition and left an unfinished work on anarchist ethical philosophy.

Photo of Yemelyan Pugachev

2. Yemelyan Pugachev (1742 - 1775)

With an HPI of 67.64, Yemelyan Pugachev is the 2nd most famous Russian Social Activist.  His biography has been translated into 54 different languages.

Yemelyan Ivanovich Pugachev (Russian: Емельян Иванович Пугачёв; c. 1742 – 21 January [O.S. 10 January] 1775) was an ataman of the Yaik Cossacks and the leader of the Pugachev's Rebellion, a major popular uprising in the Russian Empire during the reign of Catherine the Great. The son of a Don Cossack landowner, Pugachev served in the Imperial Russian Army during the Seven Years' War and the Russo-Turkish War of 1768–1774. In 1770 he deserted the Russian military and spent years as a fugitive, gaining popularity among the peasants, Cossacks and Old Believers against a backdrop of intensified unrest. In 1773, he initiated open revolt against Catherine. Claiming to be Catherine's late husband Tsar Peter III, Pugachev proclaimed an end to serfdom and amassed a large army. His forces quickly overran much of the region between the Volga and the Urals, and in 1774 they captured Kazan and burned the city to the ground. In August 1774, General Johann von Michelsohnen inflicted a crushing defeat on the rebels at Tsaritsyn. Pugachev was captured soon after by his own Cossacks and turned over to the authorities. He was then sent to Moscow and executed in January 1775. Alexander Pushkin wrote a notable history of the rebellion, The History of Pugachev, and recounted the events of the uprising in his novel The Captain's Daughter (1836).

Photo of Stenka Razin

3. Stenka Razin (1630 - 1671)

With an HPI of 67.59, Stenka Razin is the 3rd most famous Russian Social Activist.  His biography has been translated into 51 different languages.

Stepan Timofeyevich Razin (Russian: Степа́н Тимофе́евич Ра́зин, pronounced [sʲtʲɪˈpan tʲɪmɐˈfʲe(j)ɪvʲɪtɕ ˈrazʲɪn]; 1630 – June 16 [O.S. June 6] 1671), known as Stenka Razin (Сте́нька [ˈsʲtʲenʲkə]), was a Cossack leader who led a major uprising against the nobility and tsarist bureaucracy in southern Russia in 1670–1671.

Photo of Alexey Stakhanov

4. Alexey Stakhanov (1906 - 1977)

With an HPI of 67.02, Alexey Stakhanov is the 4th most famous Russian Social Activist.  His biography has been translated into 36 different languages.

Alexei Grigoryevich Stakhanov (Russian: Алексе́й Григо́рьевич Стаха́нов, IPA: [stɐˈxanəf], Alekséy Grigór'yevich Stachánov; 3 January 1906 – 5 November 1977) was a Soviet and Russian miner, Hero of Socialist Labour (1970), and a member of the CPSU (1936). He became a celebrity in 1935 as part of what became known as the Stakhanovite movement—a campaign intended to increase worker productivity and to demonstrate the superiority of the socialist economic system.

Photo of Witold Pilecki

5. Witold Pilecki (1901 - 1948)

With an HPI of 66.84, Witold Pilecki is the 5th most famous Russian Social Activist.  His biography has been translated into 36 different languages.

Witold Pilecki (13 May 1901 – 25 May 1948; Polish: [ˈvitɔlt piˈlɛt͡skʲi ] (listen); codenames Roman Jezierski, Tomasz Serafiński, Druh, Witold) was a Polish World War II cavalry officer, intelligence agent, and resistance leader. As a youth, Pilecki joined Polish underground scouting; in the aftermath of World War I, he joined the Polish militia and, later, the Polish Army. He participated in the Polish-Soviet War which ended in 1921. In 1939, he participated in the unsuccessful defense of Poland against the German invasion and shortly afterward, joined the Polish resistance, co-founding the Secret Polish Army resistance movement. In 1940, Pilecki volunteered: 66  to allow himself to be captured by the occupying Germans in order to infiltrate the Auschwitz concentration camp. At Auschwitz, he organized a resistance movement that eventually included hundreds of inmates, and he secretly drew up reports detailing German atrocities at the camp, which were smuggled out to Home Army headquarters and shared with the Western Allies. After eventually escaping from Auschwitz in April 1943, Pilecki fought in the Warsaw Uprising of August–October 1944. Following its suppression, he was interned in a German prisoner-of-war camp. After the communist takeover of Poland, he remained loyal to the London-based Polish government-in-exile. In 1945, he returned to Poland to report to the government-in-exile on the situation in Poland. Before returning, Pilecki wrote Witold's Report about his Auschwitz experiences, anticipating that he might be killed by Poland's new communist authorities. In 1947, he was arrested by the secret police on charges of working for "foreign imperialism" and, after being subjected to torture and a show trial, was executed in 1948. His story, inconvenient to the Polish communist authorities, remained mostly unknown for several decades; one of the first accounts of Pilecki's mission to Auschwitz was given by Polish historian Józef Garliński, himself a former Auschwitz inmate who emigrated to Britain after the war, in Fighting Auschwitz: The Resistance Movement in the Concentration Camp (1975). Several monographs appeared in subsequent years, particularly after the fall of communism in Poland facilitated research into his life by Polish historians.

Photo of Aleksandr Ulyanov

6. Aleksandr Ulyanov (1866 - 1887)

With an HPI of 64.39, Aleksandr Ulyanov is the 6th most famous Russian Social Activist.  His biography has been translated into 38 different languages.

Aleksandr Ilyich Ulyanov (Russian: Алекса́ндр Ильи́ч Улья́нов; 12 April [O.S. 31 March] 1866 – 20 May [O.S. 8 May] 1887) was a Russian revolutionary and political activist. He was the elder brother of Vladimir Lenin, the founder of the Soviet Union.

Photo of Zoya Kosmodemyanskaya

7. Zoya Kosmodemyanskaya (1923 - 1941)

With an HPI of 61.56, Zoya Kosmodemyanskaya is the 7th most famous Russian Social Activist.  Her biography has been translated into 43 different languages.

Zoya Anatolyevna Kosmodemyanskaya (Russian: Зо́я Анато́льевна Космодемья́нская, IPA: [ˈzojə kəsmədʲɪˈmʲjanskəjə]; September 13, 1923 – November 29, 1941) was a Soviet partisan. She was executed after acts of sabotage against the invading armies of Nazi Germany; after stories emerged of her defiance towards her captors, she was posthumously declared a Hero of the Soviet Union. She became one of the most revered heroines of the Soviet Union.

Photo of Sergey Nechayev

8. Sergey Nechayev (1847 - 1882)

With an HPI of 60.37, Sergey Nechayev is the 8th most famous Russian Social Activist.  His biography has been translated into 24 different languages.

Sergey Gennadiyevich Nechayev (Russian: Серге́й Генна́диевич Неча́ев) (2 October [O.S. 20 September] 1847 – 3 December [O.S. 21 November] 1882) was a Russian anarchist, part of the Russian nihilist movement, known for his single-minded pursuit of revolution by any means necessary, including revolutionary terror.Nechayev fled Russia in 1869 after having been involved in the murder of a student who doubted the existence of his underground organization. Complicated relationships with fellow revolutionaries caused him to be expelled from the International Workingmen's Association. Arrested in Switzerland in 1872, he was extradited back to Russia where he received a twenty-year sentence and died in prison.

Photo of Ilya Ulyanov

9. Ilya Ulyanov (1831 - 1886)

With an HPI of 59.04, Ilya Ulyanov is the 9th most famous Russian Social Activist.  His biography has been translated into 24 different languages.

Ilya Nikolayevich Ulyanov (Russian: Илья Николаевич Ульянов; 31 July [O.S. 19 July] 1831 – 24 January [O.S. 12 January] 1886) was a Russian public figure in the field of public education. He was the father of revolutionary Vladimir Lenin, who became a Bolshevik leader and founder of the Soviet Union, and Aleksandr Ulyanov, who was executed for his attempt to assassinate Tsar Alexander III in 1886.

Photo of Alexei Navalny

10. Alexei Navalny (1976 - )

With an HPI of 58.86, Alexei Navalny is the 10th most famous Russian Social Activist.  His biography has been translated into 94 different languages.

Alexei Anatolievich Navalny (Russian: Алексей Анатольевич Навальный, IPA: [ɐlʲɪkˈsʲej ɐnɐˈtolʲjɪvʲɪtɕ nɐˈvalʲnɨj]; born 4 June 1976) is a Russian opposition leader, lawyer, and anti-corruption activist. He has organised anti-government demonstrations and run for office to advocate reforms against corruption in Russia, and against president Vladimir Putin and his government, who avoids referring directly to Navalny by name. Navalny was a Russian Opposition Coordination Council member. He is the leader of the Russia of the Future party and founder of the Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK). He is recognised by Amnesty International as a prisoner of conscience, and was awarded the Sakharov Prize for his work on human rights.As of 2021, Navalny had more than six million YouTube subscribers; through his social media channels, he and his team have published material about corruption in Russia, organised political demonstrations and promoted his campaigns. In a 2011 radio interview, he described Russia's ruling party, United Russia, as a "party of crooks and thieves", which became a popular epithet. Navalny and the FBK have published investigations detailing alleged corruption by high-ranking Russian officials and their associates. In July 2013, Navalny had received a suspended sentence for embezzlement, nevertheless, he was allowed to run in the 2013 Moscow mayoral election and came in second, with 27% of the vote, outperforming expectations but losing to incumbent mayor Sergey Sobyanin, a Putin appointee. In December 2014, Navalny received another suspended sentence for embezzlement. Both of his criminal cases were widely considered to be politically motivated and intended to bar him from running in future elections. The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) later ruled that the cases violated Navalny's right to a fair trial, but the sentences were never overturned. In December 2016, Navalny launched his presidential campaign for the 2018 presidential election but was barred by Russia's Central Election Commission (CEC) after registering due to his prior criminal conviction; the Russian Supreme Court subsequently rejected his appeal. In 2017, the documentary He Is Not Dimon to You was released, accusing Dmitry Medvedev, the then prime minister and previous president, of corruption, leading to mass protests. In 2018, Navalny initiated Smart Voting, a tactical voting strategy intended to consolidate the votes of those who oppose United Russia, to the party of seats in elections.In August 2020, Navalny was hospitalised in serious condition after being poisoned with a Novichok nerve agent. He was medically evacuated to Berlin and discharged a month later. Navalny accused Putin of being responsible for his poisoning, and an investigation implicated agents from the Federal Security Service. In January 2021, Navalny returned to Russia and was immediately detained on accusations of violating parole conditions while he was hospitalised in Germany which were imposed as a result of his 2014 conviction. Following his arrest and the release of the documentary Putin's Palace, which accused Putin of corruption, mass protests were held across Russia. In February 2021, his suspended sentence was replaced with a prison sentence of over two and half years' detention, and his organisations were later designated as extremist and liquidated, including the FBK. In March 2022, Navalny was sentenced to an additional nine years in prison after being found guilty of embezzlement and contempt of court in a new trial described as a sham by Amnesty International; his appeal was rejected and in June, he was transferred to a high-security prison.

Pantheon has 40 people classified as social activists born between 1630 and 1984. Of these 40, 6 (15.00%) of them are still alive today. The most famous living social activists include Alexei Navalny, Dmitry Muratov, and Ales Bialiatski. The most famous deceased social activists include Peter Kropotkin, Yemelyan Pugachev, and Stenka Razin. As of April 2022, 5 new social activists have been added to Pantheon including Dmitry Muratov, Yelizaveta Chaikina, and Ales Bialiatski.

Living Social Activists

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Deceased Social Activists

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Newly Added Social Activists (2022)

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Which Social Activists were alive at the same time? This visualization shows the lifespans of the 25 most globally memorable Social Activists since 1700.