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Member of the non-Leninist wing of the Russian Social-Democratic Workers' Party. The group evolved in 1903 when L. Martov called for a mass party modeled after western European groups, as opposed to Vladimir Ilich Lenin's plan to restrict the party to professional revolutionaries. When Lenin's followers obtained a majority on the party central committee, they called themselves Bolsheviks (those of the majority), and Martov and his group became the Mensheviks (those of the minority). The Mensheviks played active roles in the Russian Revolution of 1905 and in the St. Petersburg soviet, but they became divided over World War I and later by the Russian Revolution of 1917. They attempted to form a legal opposition party but in 1922 were permanently suppressed.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on Menshevik, visit Britannica.com.