Russian revolutionary and social philosopher. He was a leader in introducing Marxist theory to Russia and is often called the "Father of Russian Marxism."
As a youth he joined the Populist organisation Land and Freedom, but he broke (1879) with it because of his opposition to political terror.
He left Russia in 1880 as a political refugee and spent most of his exile in Geneva, Switzerland. Turning to Marxist socialism, he became one of the chief founders of the League for the Emancipation of Labour (1883), the nucleus of the Russian Social Democratic Labour party, and in 1900 with Vladimir Lenin began to publish the Socialist newspaper Iskra [spark].
In his writings Plekhanov took the view that conditions in Russia would not be ripe for socialism until capitalism and industrialisation had progressed sufficiently. This opinion was the basis of Menshevik thought after the split (1903) of the Social Democratic Labour party into Bolsheviks and Mensheviks.
Although Plekhanov still supported Lenin at the fateful party congress of 1903, he thereafter generally opposed Bolshevism. From this time until the outbreak of World War I, he occupied a largely independent position and attempted to reunite the two factions.
Plekhanov supported Russia's participation in the war. After the outbreak of the February Revolution of 1917, he returned from exile and concentrated on rousing support for continuing the war and fighting the growing influence of the Bolsheviks. Following the October Revolution of 1917 and the triumph of Lenin, he retired from public life.
Among his translated works are Socialism and Anarchism (tr. 1895) and Fundamental Problems of Marxism (tr. 1929).