Athena

Country Life Every Week - - Contents -

REV­O­LU­TION­ARY fever has gripped Lon­don. In­deed, Athena has no­ticed that Lon­don is mark­ing the cen­te­nary of the Rus­sian Revo­lu­tion with much more zeal than Moscow. It’s not hard to see why. The revo­lu­tion may have cre­ated the Soviet Union— a great em­pire that Vladimir Putin’s Rus­sia now ap­par­ently wants to re­assem­ble—but it saw the death of mil­lions in prison camps. It also wit­nessed the de­struc­tion of the Rus­sian Ortho­dox Church, an in­sti­tu­tion once again close to the state. As a re­sult, the of­fi­cial po­si­tion on mark­ing the cen­te­nary this year, is, well, not to.

Pres­i­dent Putin has made some mum­bled ref­er­ences to hold­ing ‘aca­demic con­fer­ences’, but there is noth­ing at state level equiv­a­lent to the grand show at the Royal Academy, ‘Revo­lu­tion’ ( page 114). Rather more sur­pris­ingly, there is in­stead a pro­posal to raise a mon­u­ment to the vic­tims of Stalin’s ter­ror—specif­i­cally to those who died in the labour camps or gu­lags.

This hu­mil­ity is un­usual for the pres­i­dent who re­cently erected a 56ft-high statue of Prince Vladimir of Kiev, the founder of the Rus­sian Ortho­dox Church, out­side the Krem­lin walls, thus iden­ti­fy­ing him­self with the Prince (his name­sake) and wed­ding Rus­sia and Ukraine in a way that many Ukraini­ans would find of­fen­sive.

Yet where the Krem­lin has fal­tered, pri­vate ini­tia­tive has stepped in. Pro­ject1917 is a Rus­sian so­cial-me­dia project founded by in­de­pen­dent jour­nal­ist and writer Mikhail Zy­gar. This shows how the events of the revo­lu­tion un­rav­eled by re­leas­ing dayby-day ex­cerpts from the let­ters and di­aries of hun­dreds of fig­ures in­volved a cen­tury ago. Through this project, we have re­cently heard Lenin mis­tak­enly ex­claim in frus­tra­tion ‘We old­sters won’t live to see the de­ci­sive bat­tles of the im­pend­ing revo­lu­tion’ and the writer An­drei Bely writ­ing of leav­ing Moscow, but be­ing con­cerned that he has a slight cold. We also ex­pe­ri­enced the con­cerns of those close to the Em­peror and Em­press as they felt the po­lit­i­cal tremors com­ing and the struc­tures around them loos­en­ing.

Pushkin House in Lon­don, founded by Rus­sian émi­grés some 60 years ago, is the English-lan­guage part­ner for this am­bi­tious project. From the mid­dle of Fe­bru­ary, and 100 years to the day, it’s pos­si­ble on https://pro­ject1917.com to fol­low these nerve-wrack­ing changes and re­live Rus­sia’s 1917 in English on your smart­phone as you make your daily com­mute.

It could be ar­gued that, in some ways, the UK gained cul­tur­ally from the revo­lu­tion: it be­came home to some ex­traor­di­nary émi­grés. Not as many as Paris, but a good num­ber, who went on to en­rich our own cul­ture and help us bet­ter un­der­stand Rus­sia. To­day, Lon­don is home again to po­lit­i­cal ex­iles from Rus­sia and proudly so. Through them and thanks to them, and in spite of the threats of lead­ers on the global stage, we can deepen our un­der­stand­ing of the coun­try. Athena con­sid­ers that this has never been more nec­es­sary.

‘To­day, Lon­don is home again to po­lit­i­cal ex­iles from Rus­sia and proudly so

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