The Dispossessions during the Revolution of 1917
Interview with Anne O'Donnell — Maîtresse de conférences — New York University
How does the new Soviet state deal, in the wake of the socialist revolution (1916-1923), with the huge material inheritance that it takes on for itself? That is the question explored by Anne O’Donnell: the procedures of dispossessions, carried on mostly by the Tcheka, the Commission for the battle against sabotage and counter-revolution, during the arrests of the so-called “enemies of the people”, is generally known as “nationalisation”, but at that time, several terms were used, such as “municipalisation”, “socialisation”, etc. This anarchic process of dispossession sheds light on the fluidity and porosity of state/society relationships. Indeed, that was not the state in a neat form that took things, but in fact people who knew each other. Therefore how to determine, in such a context, who was a thief, a corrupt official or an opportunistic neighbour? Anne O’Donnell also explores the Bolsheviks’ attempts to end this process of dispossession, through the publication of decrees, while being careful not to legitimize private property.
Summary
Anne O’Donnell’s research investigates the cultural history of the Soviet state and economy, and the political history of socialist material life. She examines the transformation of state institutions during the revolutionary era (1916-1923) through the prism of dispossessions of important material objects (furniture and movable goods, “valuables”) carried on by the Tcheka, the Commission for the battle against sabotage and counter-revolution, during the arrests of the “enemies of the people”.
Interview published on 06-11-2017
Last modified on 06-28-2017
Original language: English Lire la version French
  • Bibliography of Anne O'Donnell

Anne O’Donnell, “A Noah’s Ark: Material Life and the Foundations of Soviet Authority, 1916-1922”, Thèse de doctorat en Histoire, Princeton University, 2014.