Reassessments of the 1917-21 Revolution
The article explains how the Bolsheviks succeeded in gaining rapid control over a vast swath of Ukraine’s territory at the beginning of 1919, inasmuch as what was established under the name of "Soviet power" cannot be described as mere military occupation. It highlights the state-building processes at the lowest possible level, the volost (community) in the interaction between the guidelines prepared by the central bodies and their local interpretation and implementation. The article aims to show the legal and normative tools that were designed for local supporters of the Bolsheviks and how the latter used them. The establishment of a civilian Soviet administration in a village in Kharkiv gubernia in early 1919 will be studied through the “policy materials” that were sent from the Soviet capital to the remote village of Oleksandrivka. These documents reveal the kinds of administrative and legal information that the central power deemed useful locally. The author examines the form of the documents that were aimed at rural areas, focusing on the issue of the language that the Bolsheviks used to address the locals; discusses how the study of new Soviet laws reveals the Bolsheviks’ priority policies in early 1919; pinpoints the different forms of the newly established communist institutions; and describes the people who embodied the new power locally. Thanks to the Bolsheviks’ radical, class-oriented lawmaking, small cohorts of plebeians who had drifted more to the left since 1917 were formed. Thus, the establishment of a new state apparatus from scratch allowed for the involvement of people, especially working-class individuals, in Bolshevism. This was enough to gain power locally in early 1919 but proved to be insufficient to retain it a few months later.
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This paper presents a collective biography of Polish activists in the Russian Revolution in Ukraine. Their personal files, kept in the Kiev and Kharkov archives, make it possible to understand their individual involvement in the 1917 Revolution and the Civil War. Finally, for those who survived Stalinism, their fate until the 1960s underlines the upward social mobility induced by their participation in the revolution. The trace of these Polish activists was, however, long indistinguishable. Indeed, in the 1920s one would put forward political belonging rather than national. Then, Polishness became a dangerous character during the Great terror of the 1930s, imposing silence on their memory. Even though, the constitution of a “socialist” Poland allowed to rediscover the existence of a Polish component within the communist movement, it was not until the de-Stalinization that the contribution of foreigners in the revolution was revealed in the USSR.
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Quaestio Rossica · Vol. 9 · 2021 · № 1, p. 91–108
During the Civil War, the Communist Party and its activists had to constantly adapt to ever–changing situations. This paper aims to study their reaction in Ukraine in 1919 after Denikin took control of the country. It will focus on the 800 activists sent behind enemy lines from July to November 1919. Using the paperwork of special bodies created by the Central Committee (CC) of the Communist Party (Bolshevik) of Ukraine (CP(b)U) to tackle this task (Zafrontbyuro – rearguard bureau; Voenotdel – military department; Otdel Svjazi – communications department), the article will first question the way underground activists were selected. Second, it will highlight how missions behind enemy lines were designed and organized. Third, it will consider the missions themselves and the hardships endured once activists reached Denikin–controlled territory. Fourth, one has to wonder what activists tried to do, questioning what they thought about their dangerous job and what their missions effectively brought to the Bolsheviks. This will help us understand how the Civil War was indeed a “formative experience” (in Sheila Fitzpatrick’s words) for the communists, shaping their worldview and behavior.
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Post-Revolutionary Syndromes: review in English of the three following books: Read HERE
Gianni Haver, Jean-François Fayet, Valérie Gorin, and Emilia Koustova, eds., Le spectacle de la Révolution: La culture visuelle des commémorations d’Octobre (The Spectacle of the Revolution: The Visual Culture of the Commemorations of October). 301 pp. Lausanne: Antipodes, 2017. ISBN-13 978-2889011353. CHF 36.
Aleksandr Reznik, Trotskii i tovarischi: Levaia oppozitsiia i politicheskaia kul´tura RKP(b), 1923–1924 (Trotskii and Comrades: The Left Opposition and the Political Culture of the RCP[b]). 382 pp. St. Petersburg: Evropeiskii universitet v Sankt-Peterburge, 2017. ISBN-13 978-5943802249.
Andy Willimott, Living the Revolution: Urban Communes and Soviet Socialism, 1917–1932. 203 pp. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016. ISBN-13 978-0198725824. £60.00.
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Behind and Beyond Lenin and Dzerzhinskiy: Soviet-Polish Cooperation in Historical-Revolutionary Cinema (1960s–1980s)
Connexe #5 2019
Lenin and Dzerzhinskiy were the most promoted “divinities” in Soviet popular culture. The two leaders also had valuable characteristics for propagandising the “friendship of peoples” between the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of Poland: Lenin had lived two years in the Krakow region whereas Polish revolutionary Dzerzhinskiy became a statesman in Soviet Russia. Between the 1960s and 1980s, Soviets and Poles coproduced three movies featuring Lenin and Dzerzhinskiy as transnational heroes: Lenin in Poland, by Sergey Yutkevich and Evgeniy Gabrilovich (1966), No Identification Marks (1979–1980) and Fiasco of Operation “Terror” (1981–1983) by Anatoliy Bobrovskiy and Yulian Semënov. The paper considers the interactions between Soviet and Polish professionals during the preparation, the shooting and the release of these movies as examples of the “State socialist Mode of Production” and of its “micro-politics” (Szczepanik 2013). In the 1960s, Soviets and Poles officially got along well at the ideological level. Yet a muffled antagonism continued about the representation of their nation. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, revolutionary history about Dzezhinsiy was a mere setting for mainstream movies. Once political issues had been driven to the background, the professional advantage of joint movie productions became more obvious. Co-production offered professionals multiple opportunities: to enjoy tourism abroad, go shopping, improve skills by working with foreign colleagues and cutting-edge technologies. Although the involvement of some might have been motivated by personal interests, both countries ended up benefiting from the joint projects..
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Constructing a Revolutionary State. The Example of Soviet Ukraine in Early 1919
The Ukrainian Experiment: State-Building in Practices (1917–1922),
Workshop at the German Historical Institute in Paris, 12.12.17
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Questioning the Use of Marxism: Yuli Martov’s Analysis of 1917
Socialist History, No 52, Autumn 2017,
« Legacies of October » (Ed. by Francis King & Matthew Worley)
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Polish Leftists in the Russian Revolution in Ukraine. From Militancy to Memory
Russia 1917 and the Dissolution of the Old Order in Europe.
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1917 in Russia and Ukraine: A matter of noun and adjective
31/08-3/09/2017, Budapest, Ruptures, Empires and Revolutions
Fifth congress of the European Network in Universal and Global History (ENIUGH),
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Commemorating an event that never occurred: Russian October in Soviet Ukraine in the 1920’s
International conference The InternationalEchoes of the Commemorations of the October Revolution(1918-1990)
Switzerland, University of Lausanne, Géopolis (Room: 2227) 14-16 September 2016
As a matter of fact, оctober/november 1917 in Ukraine was not a time for revolution nor for upheaval: as the old state apparatus was continually challenged by various self-proclaimed local institutions since february, one could only witness on november 20th the creation of the Ukrainian National Republic by the Central Rada in response to the bolsheviks’ coup. Even though a Ukrainian soviet republic was firstly proclaimed on december the 25th 1917, the communists didn’t take over Ukraine until the beginning of 1919 and their power was only secured in 1920 in the course of a cruel civil war.
Nevertheless October was a crucial part of the identity and mythology for the ukrainian bolsheviks as it was for their russian counterparts. From the very beginning, October was celebrated and commemorated in red Ukraine, regardless to its fairly remote nature.
We would like to emphasize this paradox by studying commemorating practices in the early 1920’s. We will analyze how the Central committee of the Communist Party of Ukraine monitored the anniversaries of October from 1921 to 1927.