An awk­ward cen­te­nary

The Week - - News -

In Rus­sia to­day, the cen­te­nary of the Rev­o­lu­tion has “not rated as much as a com­mem­o­ra­tive stamp”, said the his­to­rian Cather­ine Mer­ri­dale in The Guardian. Al­though Vladimir Putin’s regime has el­e­vated Stalin’s Great Pa­tri­otic War into a na­tional cult, and though Putin him­self has de­scribed the end of the USSR as “the great­est geopo­lit­i­cal catas­tro­phe” of the 20th cen­tury, the Rev­o­lu­tion it­self is a sen­si­tive sub­ject. The Krem­lin has no in­ter­est in con­don­ing a peo­ple’s up­ris­ing against despotic rule, in­jus­tice and the rich, let alone acts of rev­o­lu­tion­ary ter­ror­ism. “What is there to cel­e­brate?” asked Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov. Putin can­celled the 7 Novem­ber hol­i­day in 2004, and a new 4 Novem­ber hol­i­day com­mem­o­rates not the Rev­o­lu­tion, but a 1612 up­ris­ing against Pol­ish rule. There are, though, two forth­com­ing anniversaries for which the Krem­lin may show more re­spect, says Mer­ri­dale. In July 2018, the Or­tho­dox Church will mark the cen­te­nary of the ex­e­cu­tion of Ni­cholas II – canon­ised in 2000 – and his fam­ily by the Bol­she­viks in Eka­ter­in­burg. And on 18 De­cem­ber this year, the FSB, the state se­cu­rity ser­vice, will cel­e­brate the found­ing of its fore­run­ner, the Cheka, Lenin’s feared se­cret po­lice. As its for­mer boss, “Putin could well be a star guest”.

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