Crowd theories in Russian psychology at the end of 19th — beginning of the 20th century

Vol. 31 Iss. 1 pp. 1523 | St. Petersburg State Institute of Psychology and Social Work | ISSN: 1993-8101


The article considers the contents of crowd theories, proposed by Russian scientists and public figures from the 1880s to the 1930s. In particular, the contribution made by N.K. Mihaylovskiy, V.K. Sluchevskiy, D.D. Bezsonov, V.M. Bekhterev, L.N. Voytolovskiy, V.A. Vagner to studying this phenomenon is analyzed. The specifics of the crowd as a social association, conditions of its formation, possible tendency to criminal behaviour, changes of a personality in the crowd, leaders’ impact on followers – these are the questions, which researchers were interested in at that time. It is noted that the three key paradigms (“psychological contagion”, “individual in the crowd” and “herd instinct”), which determined the study of elemental groups in Western Europe right up to the middle of the 20th century, originated in Russian publications on this subject.


crowd, study of the crowd, Russian crowd theories, properties of the crowd, influence on the individual in the crowd, crimes of the crowd


Citation — Harvard Notation


  1. Bezsonov D.D. Massovyye prestupleniya v obshchem i voyenno-ugolovnom prave [Mass crimes in common and military criminal law]. St. Petersburg: Tipo-litografiya K.L. Pentkovskogo Publ., 1907. 480 p. (In Russian).
  2. Bezsonov D.D. K voprosu o psikhologicheskoy storone massovykh prestupleniy [On the psychological side of mass crimes]. Zhurnal ministerstva yustitsiy - Journal of the Ministry of Justice, 1907, (3), pp. 106-150; (4), pp. 115-173 (in Russian).
  3. Bekhterev V.M. Rol vnusheniya v obshchestvennoy zhizni [The role of suggestion in social life]. St. Petersburg: t-vo K.L. Rikkera Publ., 1898. 55 p. (In Russian).
  4. Bekhterev V.M. Suggestion and its role in social life. New Jersey: Transaction Publishers, 1998. 228 p.
  5. Bekhterev V.M. Collective reflexology: The complete edition. New Jersey: Transaction Publishers, 2001. 534 p.
  6. Vagner V.A. Biologiya i psikhologiya tolpy [Biology and psychology of the crowd]. Obrazovaniye – Education, 1905, (9), pp. 143-184 (in Russian).
  7. Vagner V.A. Psikhologicheskiye tipy i kollektivnaya psikhologiya (Psychological types and collective psychology). Leningrad: Nachatki znaniy Publ., 1929. 224 p. (In Russian).
  8. Voytolovskiy L.N. Rol chustva v kollektivnoy psikhologii (opyt psikho-fiziologicheskogo issledovaniya tolpy) [The role of feeling in collective psychology (the experience of a psychophysiological study of the crowd)]. Kiev: Lito-tipografiya I.N. Kushnerev i K Publ., 1904. 47 p. (In Russian).
  9. Voytolovskiy L.N. Ocherki kollektivnoy psikhologii: v 2 chastyakh. Chast 1. Psikhologiya mass (Collective psychology essays: In 2 parts. Part 1. Psychology of the masses). Moscow-Petrograd: The State Publishing House Publ., 1925. 88 p. (In Russian).
  10. Voytolovskiy L.N. Ocherki kollektivnoy psikhologii: v 2 chastyakh. Chast 2. Psikhologiya obshchestvennykh dvizheniy [Collective psychology essays: In 2 parts. Part 2. Psychology of social movements]. Moscow-Leningrad: The State Publishing House Publ., 1925. 119 p. (In Russian).
  11. Gorbatov D.S., Bolshakov S.N. Teoriya tolpy v sovetskoy psikhologii 20-kh gg [Crowd theories in Soviet psychology of the 1920-s]. Voprosy psikhologii – Issues of Psychology, 2015, (2), pp. 130-139 (in Russian).
  12. Gorbatov D.S., Bolshakov S.N. Fenomen tolpy v otechestvennoy psikhologii: dve dissertatsii 1907 g [Crowd phenomenon in Russian psychology: Two dissertations in 1907]. Voprosy psikhologii – Issues of Psychology, 2015, (5), pp. 116-124 (in Russian).
  13. Kandinskiy V.Kh. Nervno-psikhicheskiy kontagiy i dushevnyye epidemii (Neuropsychiatric contagious and mental epidemics). Priroda – The Nature, 1876, 2 (4), pp. 138-191 (in Russian).
  14. Karleyl T. Geroi i geroicheskoye v istorii (Heroes and the heroic in history). St. Petersburg: F. Pavlenkov Publ., 1891. 352 p. (In Russian).
  15. Le Bon G. Psychologie des foules (1895). Paris: Félix Alcan, 1905. 130 p. (In French). (Rus. ed.: Le Bon G. Psikhologiya narodov i mass [Psychology of peoples and masses]. St. Petersburg: F. Pavlenkov Publ., 1896. 329 p.).
  16. Mikhaylovskiy N.K. Sochineniya v 6-ti tomakh: tom 2 [Essays in 6 volumes: Volume 2]. St. Petersburg: Russkoye bogatstvo Publ., 1896. 886 p. (In Russian).
  17. Obninskiy P. Contagion morale i kholernyye besporyadki [Contagion morale and cholera disorders]. Zhurnal grazhdanskogo i ugolovnogo prava – Journal of Civil and Criminal Law, 1893, (1), pp. 1-14 (in Russian).
  18. Rezanov A.S. Armiya i tolpa. Opyt voyennoy psikhologii [The army and the crowd. Experience of military psychology]. Warsaw: Varshavskaya esteticheskaya tipologiya Publ., 1910. 103 p. (In Russian).
  19. Sighele S. La coppia criminale. Studio di psicologia morbosa. Turin: Bocca, 1893. 163 p. (In Italian). (Rus. ed.: Sighele S. Prestupnaya tolpa. Opyt kollektivnoy psikhologii [The criminal crowd. Experience of collective psychology]. St. Petersburg: tip. Yu.N. Erlikh Publ., 1893. 116 p.).
  20. Sidis B. The psychology of suggestion. New York: D. Appleton and Co., 1898. 386 p. (Rus. ed.: Sidis B. Psikhologiya vnusheniya. St. Petersburg: tip. B.N. Zvonareva Publ., 1902. 376 p.).
  21. Sluchevskiy V.K. Tolpa i eye psikhologiya [The crowd and its psychology]. Knizhki nedeli – Books of the Week, 1893, (4), pp. 5-38; (5), pp. 5-23 (in Russian).
  22. Tarde G. Les lois de l’imitation. Paris: Éditions Kimé, 1890. 428 p. (In French). (Rus. ed.: Tarde G. Zakony podrazhaniya [Laws of imitation]. St. Petersburg: F. Pavlenkov Publ., 1892. 370 p.).
  23. Tarde G. Les crimes des foules (extrait du Troisième Congrès International d'Anthropologie criminelle, 1892) (in French). Available at: (accessed 21.03.2019). (Rus. ed.: Tarde G. Prestupleniya tolpy [Crimes of the crowd]. Kazan: tipo-litografiya Imperatorskogo universiteta Publ., 1893. 44 p.).
  24. Tarde G. L’opinion et la foule. Paris: Les Presses universitaires de France, 1989. 184 p. (In French). (Rus. ed.: Tarde G. Obshchestvennoye mneniye i tolpa [Public opinion and the crowd]. Moscow: tov-vo A.I. Mamontova Publ., 1902. 202 p.).
  25. Shklovskiy V.B. Povesti o proze. Razmyshleniya i razbory [The tale of prose. Reflections and analyzes]. Moscow: Khudozhestvennaya literatura Publ., 1983. 639 p. (In Russian).
  26. Allport F.H. Social psychology. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1924. 453 p.
  27. Berkowitz L. The frustration-aggression hypothesis revisited. In: Roots of aggression: A re-examination of the frustration-aggression hypothesis. New York: Atherton Press, 1969, pp. 1-28.
  28. Fournial H. Essai sur la psychologie des foules: Considérations médico-judiciaires sur les responsabilités collectives [Essay on the psychology of the crowd: Medico-judicial considerations of collective responsibilities]. Lyon: A. Storck; Paris: G. Masson, 1892. 113 p. (In French).
  29. McDougall W. An introduction to social psychology. London: Methuen and Co., 1908. 355 p.
  30. Sighele S. L’intelligenza della folla [Intelligence of the crowd]. Torino: Fratelli Bocca, 1903. 168 p. (In Italian).