Aleksandr Chayanov was a many-sided personality: an agricultural economist, an educator, a writer, a historian, an art critic, a collector.

He was born in Moscow, graduated from Petrovskaya Agricultural and Forest Academy in 1910. He passed his holidays of 1908–1909 abroad, learning how the agronomy is organized in Italy and in Belgium. After graduating from the Academy, he went to the doctorate. In 1918, Chayanov was a Doctor of Philosophy and a professor of the Agricultural Academy. After the Revolution, he proposed to create the Committee of Defense of Cultural and Artistic Treasures of Russia. He himself did a lot to save the cultural treasures. In 1919 he became director of the Institute of Agricultural Economy; in 1921–1923 was a member of Gosplan (suggested personally by Vladimir Lenin), of Narkomzem, of some other committees. His works were published in Germany, Japan, India and China.

Chayanov was a theoretician of agricultural cooperation during the years of NEP. He supported the development of small and middle-sized farms, creating the so-called ‘Chayanov school’. When Stalin started the collectivization, he was accused of defending the interests of rich farmers, the kulaks. He was arrested in 1930 and shot in the autumn of 1937.

Chayanov was also a writer, an author of a book of poetry in his youth and six novels written in 1920s, including a fantastic one, The Journey of my Brother Aleksey to the Country of Peasant Utopia, published under alias I. Kremnev.

He was also interested in archeology: he participated in expeditions and studied the ancient monuments. In the beginning of 1920s, he lectured on history of Moscow, participated in the Commission on Old Moscow and in the Society of Lovers of Old Times. Not only he collected himself but also popularized collecting. His lectures on history of private collecting were popular among the researchers. In 1920s he published an article: Antiquarians and Collectors of the Things Past. Moscow Collections of Paintings in the 1820s.

Aleksandr Chayanov was a passionate bibliophile who put together a unique library. He collected icons, bronzes, prints and even plates used to make Russian gingerbreads. His special hobby was collecting old master prints (he even tried to engrave himself). It started in Germany in 1909: he liked to visit antiquity shops. Chayanov always stayed a researcher. When collecting prints, he studied the history of printing. Finally, he created a book, Old Western Master Prints. A Short Manual for Museums (Moscow, 1926), where he not only told the history of prints but gave many important tips to inexperienced collectors and museum employees. He created tables of monograms of European artists, and gave advices how to store old master prints and how to exhibit them.