This article investigates the attempt by Russian theatre people to 'professionalize' their vocation during the late tsarist period. It, argues that theatrical professionalization differed from standard paradigms because fundamentally it was designed to address material impoverishment, rather than to protect existing occupational privileges. Theatre people believed that 'professional' status would defend them flora the effects of the burgeoning commercial entertainment market. Tins they represented the gradual democratization' of the professional ideal, its diffusion amongst occupational groups not traditionally classified as 'professions'. From 1894, a national regulatory, association, the Russian Theatre Society, represented theatre people's interests and persuaded the government to subsidize its activities. Yet the boundaries between state involvement and se T-regulation were never clearly, defined, creating an underlying tension within the Society about the extent of its relations with the state, a problem that was exposed during the 1905 revolution.