An awkward centenary
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”.