Legacies and memories of the Russian Revolution

Date: 31 August 2017, 02:30–05:00

Venue: Corvinus University, Fővám tér 8, room 393



The panel’s common theme is how the Russian Revolution was perceived outside of the Soviet Union. The presentations in this panel explore the various reactions to the revolutionary upheaval and consequences in four case studies. On the one hand, the Russian Revolution evoked anti-socialist measures, on the other hand its achievements served as a “source of inspiration”. The first part of the panel discusses the immediate reactions abroad. First, Sergeev showcases the reaction of the British Empire, which dreaded repercussions of the Revolution. The political elite, therefore, adjusted its internal and external policies to cushion revolutionary effects. Second, Lompar analyses how – as an anti-socialist measure – Yugoslav right-wing intellectuals tried to change the image of Russia in the population. The paper discusses the attempts to shape popular opinion towards the arousal of anti-Soviet sentiment.  The second part of the panel deals with the importance of the October Revolution on women’s political and intellectual activism after the Second World War. De Haan explores the ways in which the achievements of the Russian Revolution in terms of women’s rights served as a source of inspiration for the Women’s Democratic Federation and whether the meaning and impact changed during the time period 1945 through the 1970s. Mrozik’s contribution tells through the eyes of Polish communist women how the Russian Revolution’s myth impacted the de-Stalinization era and its aftermath.  Overall, the centennial of the October Revolution serves as an occasion to revisit its impact and to gauge its legacies in the 20th century by looking at the different reactions to it.



Jane Burbank (New York University)


Evgeny Sergeev (Russian Academy of Sciences)

Rastko Lompar (University of Belgrade)

Francisca de Haan (Central European University)

Agnieszka Mrozik (Institute of Literary Research, Polish Academy of Sciences / Imre Kertész Kolleg Jena)



Evgeny Sergeev: British Empire and the Russian Revolution of 1917

The Russian Revolution of 1917 contributed to a total transformation of the image of Russia in the public opinion of not only the United Kingdom but of the British Empire at large. This process greatly affected both the internal and external policy pursued by the political elite in Great Britain and its dominions. In fact, the Russian Revolution had completely changed all the underpinnings, methods and goals of the Whitehall foreign affairs on the regional and global scales. Based upon new or less known sources, primarily from the Russian and British archives, the paper focuses on some controversial problems dealing with reorganization of the world after the chaos of the First World War and revolutionary revolts in Europe and Asia.

Rastko Lompar: From “Mother Russia” to “Godless Sovietia”: the image of the October Revolution and the USSR in the eyes of Yugoslav right-wing intellectuals between the World Wars

This paper analyses the changing perception of Russia in Yugoslavia during and after the October revolution. Despite deep traditional bonds with the Russian people and state, after 1917 Serbian/Yugoslav Kingdom took a clear anti-Soviet path, by supporting the white Russian side in the Civil war and accepting thousands of their emigres. The newly emerging Soviet Union was now perceived as an enemy. However, this perception could not be altered so quickly within the common folk. We suggest that the right-wing intellectuals had an unofficial role of communicating the state policy to the people.

Francisca de Haan: Continuity and change? The Russian Revolution as inspiration for the Women’s International Democratic Federation, 1945 through 1970s

The Women’s International Democratic Federation (WIDF) was the largest and most influential international women’s organization of the post-1945 world. WIDF women regularly expressed admiration for the equal rights and the achievements of women in the Soviet Union, and the WIDF highlighted the October Revolution’s big anniversaries (for example, in 1967). My paper will analyze WIDF discourse regarding the achievements of the October Revolution for women, in the Soviet Union and globally. How, precisely, did the Revolution function as a source of inspiration? And were there noticeable changes in how the WIDF perceived the Russian Revolution’s meaning and impact?

Agnieszka Mrozik: “At the time we were only thinking in terms of a global revolution”: the Russian Revolution in the post-war memoirs of Polish communist women

The Russian Revolution recurs frequently in the memoirs of Polish communist women, published since the 1950s. To them, it was a dream come true: a popular take-over of power, triumph of internationalism, beginning of socioeconomic transformations, but also an opportunity for changing women's position in the society. This paper shows how Polish activists saw the Revolution and it explores why there was a heightened interest in this topic during de-Stalinization. How did the Russian Revolution’s myth contribute to the consolidation of the communist circle, jaded after Khrushchev's famous speech in 1956? What was its place in the Polish post-Thaw project of women's emancipation?

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