Russian revolution to be remembered 100 years on at public lecture series

Posted on: 31 October 2017

The centenary of the Russian Revolution will be remembered in a new public lecture series at Trinity College Dublin, which will explore its impact and legacy and the complex relationship between utopia and dystopia which ultimately sealed the fate of the Soviet state.  

As we journey through Ireland’s decade of commemorations and move ever closer to considering the complex war of independence and civil war that preceded the formation of the Irish State, this lecture series will reflect on the aftermath of the Russian Revolution right up to today and how it changed the course of world history at many levels.

‘Utopia Dystopia: The Russian Revolution 100 years on’ is organised by Trinity’s Department of Russian and Slavonic Studies and the Department of History in association with the Trinity Long Room Hub Arts and Humanities Research Institute. The series will feature leading academics including from Oxford University, Ulster University and Trinity, who will examine the unprecedented impact this momentous series of events have had on world history.

The revolution took place on two key occasions in February and October 1917. The February revolution led to the collapse of the imperial rule by the last Tsar of Russia, Nicholas II, and the establishment of a democratic provisional government. The October revolution (which in the Julian calendar began on October 24th and 25th) was led by Vladimir Lenin, leader of the Bolshevik party, and overthrew the provisional government to establish the first Marxist state in the world and generated the dominant model of revolution for the remainder of the 20th century.

It paved the way as a model for communist parties in many countries, including much of Eastern Europe. However, the spirit of freedom and democracy which prompted the revolution, was a far cry from what ultimately became a dystopia – and a violent and repressive Soviet state.

Former Professor of Modern European History and Emeritus Fellow at Trinity College Dublin, John Horne is a key organiser of the new lecture series: “The Russian Revolution is one of recent history's black holes. The Soviet Union may have gone, but the pull of its revolutionary experiment still affects us all – as this innovative public lecture history series will show.”

Taking place at the Trinity Long Room Hub, the lecture series opened last Wednesday, with the Department of Russian and Slavonic Studies hosting an evening of readings to mark the centenary. The audience heard texts by poets, historians and other artistic figures who witnessed the events of the revolution first hand. Readers, including staff and students from the Department, will explain how such resources have shaped their understanding of the history of Russia up until the present day.

On November 2nd, Dr James Ryan, a lecturer in Modern European (Russian) History at Cardiff University will give a centenary perspective on Lenin the man and Leninism the ideology. ‘Lenin and Leninism’, will ask a simple but crucial and much overlooked question: What was the October Revolution actually for and whether or not Leninism should be considered to have any relevance in our world today.

On December 2nd, Professor Stephen Smith, a widely published historian of modern Russia and modern China from Oxford University will look at ‘The Russian Revolution in Global Perspective: 1917-28’, arguing that it was in Asia that the impact of the October Revolution was most enduring. He will also talk about the significance of the revolution’s challenge to colonialism and imperialism.

The lecture series continues in 2018 with the following talks:

  • January 22nd: Professor Emmet O’Connor of Ulster University will look at the Irish ramifications of the Russian revolution, exploring ‘The Irish Left and Soviet Russia, 1917-43’. Professor O’Connor will consider how Moscow would shape the politics of Irish socialism and left republicanism in the 1920s and 1930s.
  • February 14th: Dr Justin Doherty of Trinity College Dublin will explore the relationship between art, politics and propaganda, looking at the impact of the October Revolution in art and cinema.
  • March 5th: Panel discussion chaired by Professor John Horne with Dr Judith Devlin, Dr Balazs Apor, Dr Orysia Kulick and Dr Molly Pucci. They will also give concluding thoughts on the legacy of the Russian Revolution 100 years on.

Dr. Balázs Apor, Assistant Professor in European Studies at the Department of Russian and Slavonic Studies at Trinity College Dublin said: "The lecture series will reflect on the Russian revolutions of 1917 and their global legacy addressing the historical, cultural and aesthetic aspects of the events. Drawing on expertise from Ireland's only Russian department and from the Department of History, the series will provide a unique, cross-disciplinary assessment of the impact and consequences of one of the most significant revolutions in modern European history."

All events are free and take place in the Trinity Long Room Hub. Details available here.

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