The intelligentsia (/ɪnˌtɛlɪˈɛntsiə, -ˈɡɛnt-/)[1][2] (Latin: intelligentia, Polish: inteligencja, Russian: интеллигенция, tr. intyelligyentsiya, IPA: [ɪntʲɪlʲɪˈɡʲentsɨjə]) is a status class of educated people engaged in the complex mental labours that critique, guide, and lead in shaping the culture and politics of their society.[3] As a status class, the intelligentsia includes artists, teachers and academics, writers, and the literary hommes de lettres.[4][5] Individual members of the intelligentsia are known as intellectuals.

The concept of the intelligentsia status class arose in the late 18th century, in Russian-controlled Poland, during the age of Partitions (1772–95). In the 19th century, the Polish intellectual Bronisław Trentowski coined the term inteligencja (intellectuals) to identify and describe the educated and professionally active social stratum of the patriotic bourgeoisie who could be the cultural leaders of Poland, then under the control of the Russian Empire from the late 18th century to the early 20th century.[6]

In Russia, before the Bolshevik Revolution (1917), the term intelligentsiya described the status class of educated people whose cultural capital (schooling, education, enlightenment) allowed them to assume practical political leadership.[7] In practice, the status and social function of the intelligentsia varied by society. In Eastern Europe, intellectuals were deprived of political influence and access to the effective levers of economic development; the intelligentsia were at the functional periphery of their societies. In contrast, in Western Europe, especially in Germany and Great Britain, the Bildungsbürgertum (cultured bourgeoisie) and the British professions had defined roles as public intellectuals in their societies.[5]