Creating a ‘Usable’ Past: The Legacy of the 1917 Revolution in modern Russia
by Dr Matthew Rendle

Date: Tuesday 11 October 2022

This talk explores how Putin’s Russia has attempted a delicate balancing act whilst commemorating the centenary of the 1917 Revolution

Creating a ‘Usable’ Past: The Legacy of the 1917 Revolution in modern Russia

The Russian Revolution was one of the most significant events in world history in the twentieth century. Yet it remains a deeply problematic historical moment in modern Russia. On the one hand, Putin’s Russia tries to harness the past to strengthen patriotism and project state authority, and there was little of either evident between 1917 and 1922 in Russia as revolution descended into a brutal civil war. On the other hand, Putin is suspicious of revolution more generally, fearing that overly positive commemorations might encourage opposition to his rule. This talk explores how the Russian Revolution has been remembered in Russia since 1917 and, in particular, examines how Putin’s Russia has tried to navigate the centenary commemorations of an event too significant to ignore (to quote Putin himself), but very difficult to fit into a ‘usable past’ for the current Russian state.

Dr Matt Rendle is Senior Lecturer in History at the University of Exeter. He is the author of Defenders of the Motherland: The Tsarist Elite in Revolutionary Russia (Oxford University Press, 2010) and numerous other articles and chapters on the revolutionary period. His next book, The State versus the People: Revolutionary Justice in Russia’s Civil War, 1917-1922, was published with Oxford University Press in 2020.

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