Kremlin Still Wrestling With How To Mark Centenaries Of Two Russian Revolutions Of 1917 – OpEd


The Russian Presidential Administration is struggling with how Moscow should mark the 100th anniversary of the two Russian revolutions of 1917 in ways that will promote the ideas of reconciliation and state continuity from the Russian Empire through the USSR to the Russian Federation, according to this week’s “Kommersant-Vlast.”

Ilya Barabanov, Natalya Korchenkova and Sofya Samokhina, three of the weekly’s journalists, say that their sources in the Kremlin say that No precise plan or program of financing has been confirmed” but that the Russian Historical Society is likely to be given the lead for most activities next year (

Moscow has not celebrated a “round” anniversary of 1917 since 1987 when the Soviet Union still existed; and now, the issues surrounding both the February Revolution (which took place in March) and the October Revolution (which took place in November) are very different. As a result, there is less clarity about exactly how each should be marked.

Only two principles have emerged, the “Kommersant-Vlast” journalists say. The Kremlin wants to make sure that all the events next year will promote national unity rather than division, something that could happen easily because there are so many different attitudes within Russia to this day about the overthrow of the tsar and the Bolshevik coup.

And the Kremlin also wants to promote the idea of state continuity from the Russian Empire of Nicholas II through the Soviet Union of Lenin and Stalin to the Russian Federation of Vladimir Putin, if anything an even more challenging task the breaks in the historical record 1917 represents are deep and feelings about them even deeper.

The Presidential Administration has agreed on one measure: It plans to open a monument to national reconciliation in Russian-occupied Crimea next November. Plans for that, pushed by Nikita Lobanov-Rostovsky of the Union of Russian Compatriots and approved by both Putin and Patriarch Kirill, are well advanced.

That monument, the authors say, is intended to promote reconciliation between the descendants of the White Russian soldiers and officers who made their last stand in the European portion of the country in Crimea and those of Red Army personnel who drove the Whites into the sea and exile.

But if the monument has that effect for some – and it is certain that both many White Russian partisans and many present-day communists will never accept this kind of Kremlin-sponsored “reconciliation” – it is going to prove divisive in another and more immediate way, highlighting the differences between Russia in 1917 and Russia now and between Russia in both periods and Ukraine today.

And plans for new television programming, books, and articles about the events of 1917 may do as much to exacerbate the earlier tensions as to relieve them and to bring the controversies of a hundred years ago back into the center of attention of society. No wonder the Russian leadership isn’t certain how it should act to limit the dangers ahead.

The most obvious problem is that the two revolutions of 1917 have very different meanings: the first was done in the name of democracy and the alliance with Western governments against the Central powers; the second overthrew democracy and broke with the West (

Reconciling those two fundamentally different events in the name of Russian unity and state continuity will not be easy, and there is always the additional risk as with all anniversaries that some of those marking them will not be prepared to keep the meaning of these events confined to the past.

Paul Goble

Paul Goble is a longtime specialist on ethnic and religious questions in Eurasia. Most recently, he was director of research and publications at the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy. Earlier, he served as vice dean for the social sciences and humanities at Audentes University in Tallinn and a senior research associate at the EuroCollege of the University of Tartu in Estonia. He has served in various capacities in the U.S. State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency and the International Broadcasting Bureau as well as at the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Mr. Goble maintains the Window on Eurasia blog and can be contacted directly at [email protected] .

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