The centenary in Russia – too close or too distant a past?
Maîtresse de conférence

(University of Strasbourg - Groupe d'études orientales, slaves et néo-helléniques)

On November 7, 2017, like so many times before, Red Square in Moscow was the stage for an impressive military parade1 . But it was not a matter of revisiting the Soviet tradition, which had turned October anniversaries into crucial occasions for glorifying the revolutionary project together with the state working to accomplish it. As shown by the name given to the parade, the form it took, and the accompanying speeches, there was no question of celebrating the “ten days that shook the world”. Officially dedicated to the seventy-sixth anniversary of the military parade which had taken place on the same square on November 7, 1941, when German troops were at the gates of Moscow, the November 7, 2017 parade was a dramatized procession, conducted to a backdrop of popular songs and patriotic speeches2 . Soldiers and cadets from the Moscow garrison, accompanied by members of military historical clubs, disguised as valiant mediaeval figures, heroes of Borodino, or Red Guards, performed key moments from Russia’s national history, in a staging devised as a “chronicle of great victories”. The revolution and civil war, integrated into this patriotic saga, were treated as just another episode when the people had been called upon to defend Moscow, and especially as the moment that gave birth to the Red Army, destined a few years later to stand up against Nazi Germany. The victory over the latter was the key episode, endowing past and present with meaning, and ensuring continuity between periods, as emphasized by the final call to consolidate ties between generations in defense of the mother country.

Arkado Chaïkhet, Défilé militaire sur la place Rouge, 7 novembre 1941.

Arkady Chaïkhet, military parade on Red Square, November 7, 1941.

There is nothing surprising about the centrality granted to the “Great Patriotic War”, the instrumentalization of history, and the downplaying of political matters in favor of historical continuity and national cohesion. Such processes have become habitual ever since Vladimir Putin’s government has sought, as best it can, to conduct a remembrance policy based on declarations, public commemorations, inaugurating monuments, and the standardization of school textbooks3 .

Yet this time the wish to depoliticize and iron out any jarring notes seemed to go even further, resulting notably in the omission of seemingly well assimilated references. Although in Russia, unlike in Ukraine, there are no laws forbidding communist symbols, and though the Soviet legacy seems to be fully assumed, the November 7, 2017 parade made only limited use of the color red and other revolutionary symbols. All reference to the Bolsheviks and the USSR was shunned, replaced by references to Moscow and the “people”. In adopting a local scale, while summoning the sweep of Russian history the better to dilute the revolutionary episode, this theatricalized parade – the only official ceremony held in the capital on November 7 – may be seen as the ultimate expression of the “commemorative malaise” that affected Russia’s political elites throughout the year4 .

Commémoration du défilé militaire du 7 novembre 1941 à Moscou le 7 novembre 2017.
Commémoration du défilé militaire du 7 novembre 1941 à Moscou le 7 novembre 2017.

Commemoration of the November 7, 1941 military parade in Moscow on November 7, 2017.

Was Vladimir Putin’s Russia going to commemorate the 1917 revolution? And if so, how? Well before the beginning of the centenary year, observers, historians, sociologists, journalists, and bloggers were gripped by these questions. In 2017, they reached the irrevocable conclusion that it was an “embarrassing”, “troublesome”, and “awkward” memory, even an “unbearable” and “impossible” one5 , and that the centenary of the revolution represented a “dilemma”, a “gamble”, and a “challenge” for the government6 . Several reasons explain this difficulty, linked especially to the way national history is conceived and instrumentalized in post-Soviet Russia.

Since the 1990s, a dual movement – criticism (albeit partial and contradictory) of the Soviet project, accompanied by rehabilitation of the tsarist past – has led to the dismantling of the cult of the revolution, and its being accorded less place in the public sphere7 . A tangible illustration of this progressive marginalization is the transformation of the “Great Socialist October Revolution” anniversary, celebrated on November 7 each year, which became the “Day of Concord and Reconciliation” in 1996, before losing its status as a public holiday in 2004, when it was replaced by the November 4 “Day of National Unity”. Admittedly, when Vladimir Putin’s became head of state in 2000 there was a partial recuperation of the Soviet legacy – but no rehabilitation of the revolution. On the contrary, as the new government sought to expand its use of remembrance policy, 1917 seemed to be one of the most embarrassing episodes. In Putin’s Russia, the instrumentalization of history has become systematic. History is used as an educational tool yielding models and counter-models. It helps inculcate patriotic values, and is mobilized to legitimize and rally support, making up in part for the lack of any real political project. During the 2010s especially, there has been a ceaseless to-and-fro between past and present. The past is invoked and reinterpreted in the light of current needs, while the present is vested with meaning thanks to history. Priority goes to a vision of history as long, uninterrupted, and glorious, with a powerful state and united people, the heroic defenders of just causes such as the fight against Nazism, placed at the heart of the national story. The revolution – be it that of February or October8 – receives scant mention. With its ruptures and upheavals, overthrow of the established order, extreme weakening of the state, disloyalty by elites, popular uprisings, and dominant role played by political movements irrigated by international currents of thoughts, 1917 embodies everything Putin’s regime condemns in the past, everything it fears and combats in the present, especially since the eruption of “color revolutions” in the post-Soviet sphere and the emergence of street protests at home9 .

Commémoration du défilé militaire du 7 novembre 1941 à Moscou le 7 novembre 2017.
Commémoration du défilé militaire du 7 novembre 1941 à Moscou le 7 novembre 2017.

Commemoration of the November 7, 1941 military parade in Moscow on November 7, 2017.

Minimal commemorative service

Though it was difficult to commemorate so disruptive an event, the place accorded to history in symbolic policies meant the government could not simply ignore the jubilee, not without seeing the emergence of rival actors proposing alternative versions of the nation’s past. It finally decided to reduce the scope of the centenary and cloak its involvement in the preparations by entrusting them to supposedly non-state associations. While promoting certain themes, it sent out mixed signals, and avoided any unambiguous stance towards 1917 and its legacy.

After initial preparations involving leading figures and promises to stage an ambitious commemoration (with a roundtable in May 2015 chaired by Minister of Culture Vladimir Medinsky, followed by the announcement in February 2016 by Chairman of the Duma Sergey Naryshkin that a committee in charge of organizing the anniversary would be set up very shortly), the government then proceeded to do nothing until late 201610 . It was at the very last moment, on December 19, that Vladimir Putin asked the Russian Historical Society (officially a non-state institution, but with the same Sergey Naryshkin as its chairman) to form an organizing committee and draw up a program of commemorations. The committee was hastily set up, composed of historians, archivists, museum directors, journalists, and representatives of the Orthodox church and “White” emigrants11 . On January 23, 2017, the committee presented a program, which merely listed a hundred or so events, most of which had long been planned – exhibitions, conferences, documentaries, and publishing projects. The committee was clearly destined to act as a showcase for ongoing initiatives and as a platform for setting the tone, as shown for example by Sergey Naryshkin’s declarations during these meetings.

In tandem with the Russian Historical Society, another “non-governmental” association also set out its commemorative ambitions – the Russian Military History Society chaired by Vladimir Medinsky. In Fall 2016, it presented a highly political project to build a Monument to Reconciliation in Crimea. Due to the name and site of the monument, its planned inauguration on November 4, 2017 promised to become the key event in the centenary calendar. The monument to commemorate the end of the fratricidal conflict which broke out during the revolution and civil war was vested with a highly ambitious symbolic program. As stated in the call for projects, it was to reconcile the “Reds” and the “Whites”, their descendants, and their respective historical memories. Additionally, it was to reconcile Russia with its history and open up new horizons for its future, by asserting the continuity between the Tsarist and Soviet epochs which, in the words of Vladimir Putin (quoted in this call), “each left a unique legacy, made up of errors and victories, which we must appropriate in order to move forward in independent and conscious fashion”12 . The decision to build a monument in Crimea, justified by the peninsula’s importance during civil war, was also a way of celebrating its “reunification” with Russia, and hence the re-establishment of a great Russian state after the dislocation of the Soviet Union13 . This symbolic program was too bold and too portentous for so particular a territory. After procrastinating over where to build the future monument14 (first Kerch, then Sebastopol), and protests by inhabitants opposed to its construction (on the grounds that they rejected all historical revisions to the civil war and any “reconciliation” with the “Whites”15 ), the project was rebranded “Unity of Russia”, before being quietly suspended, theoretically in favor of a memorial dedicated to the heroes of the defense of Sebastopol during the Second World War16 .

Two other monuments of a very different though equally political nature were finally inaugurated in October 2017 by President Putin. The first, in Crimea, by sculptor Andrey Kovalchuk (who was also behind the unsuccessful project for a Monument to Reconciliation) fits into in a well-established trend to rehabilitate figures from the tsarist epoch. It features Emperor Alexander III (1881-1894), known for his policies of counter-reforms, Russification, and repression of opponents. Breaking with Soviet tradition, which had reserved particularly negative treatment for this tsar, Vladimir Putin painted a surprisingly modern and very laudatory portrait of him at the inaugural ceremony, presenting him as a shrewd and firm leader who had managed to defend Russia’s interests on the international stage “directly and openly”, and had delivered stability, while ensuring the economic and military development of the country and respecting its traditions and values17 . Thus another step was taken to bolster a historical account privileging state power, to integrate a hitherto largely neglected page of history, and to continue the trend to physically mark the recently annexed territory with monuments.

The solemn inauguration of the “Wall of Sorrow” (in Moscow, by sculptor Georgy Frangulyan) a few days before November 7, 2017, in the presence of the senior Russian leadership, may seem far more surprising, for this monument is dedicated to the memory of victims of political repression18 . The link to the October centenary was explicit, raising the question of whether this was a matter of taking an unambiguous stance towards a regime born amidst the flames of revolution, and which had built its power on the use of violence. Both Vladimir Putin and Patriarch Kirill avoided mentioning those responsible for repression, pronouncing no word or name (such as “Soviet”, “Bolshevik”, or “Stalin”) which might identify or describe the regime behind these  policies. Shorn of its historical and political context, the repression seems to have come from nowhere, swooping down on the people like a scourge, “a cruel blow” in Vladimir Putin’s words, caused by the upheavals and fratricidal conflict. This was far removed from the purpose of associations such as Memorial, set up thirty years previously to promote the idea of building a monument to the victims of the Soviet regime, and to conduct studies of the origins and mechanisms of repressions and those responsible for them. Instead, the Russian leadership used the new monument to issue a call to “draw a line beneath the dramatic events which divided the country and people” and to avoid reiterating the “mistakes of the past”, while “accepting the nation’s history as it is, with all its great victories and tragic pages”19 .

“Antirevolutionary consensus” and Soviet legacies

Reconciliation with and around a great shared history transcending political divides and commitments, in the name of national cohesion and the stability and power of present-day Russia – this was the leitmotiv the authorities sought to promote via the few commemorative gestures and pronouncements relating to the 1917 centenary for which they assumed (at times tacit) responsibility.

There was nothing revolutionary about this choice. It is in line with how elites in new post-Soviet Russia since Yeltsin have sought to defuse the symbolic and memorial legacy of October by promoting the idea of reconciliation. It also fits in well with the raft of commemorative policies under Putin that emphasize national story writing as a pick-and-mix in which any element serving to glorify Russia’s past and present may find its place.

It also seems to be a compromise to avoid upsetting any lingering attachment to the Soviet legacy and its symbols. For though, as scholars have argued, “antirevolutionary consensus” has predominated in Russia since the late 1990s, meaning much of the population and most political forces including the opposition reject revolution as a mode of socio-political action20 , polling indicates that people’s vision of October 1917 remains complex, hazy, and often contradictory. This shows their partial appropriation of the rewriting of national history that has been under way since perestroika, together with the persistence of many representations issuing from the Soviet version of the past. In spring 2017, irrespective of the question asked by the pollsters at the Levada Center, only a minority of respondents condemned October outright21 . Asked to imagine it was 1917 and they had to choose sides, far more accepted to collaborate actively or intermittently with the Bolsheviks (respectively 12% and 16%), rather than join their adversaries (8%), even though many would have preferred to stay out of the events (33%), or emigrate (14%)22 . Especially, Russians continued to view the abolition of the monarchy as no “great loss” (52%), to consider the Bolshevik revolution as inevitable (48%), and the consequences of October to be positive (between 48% and 61%), while finding that 1917 had not led the country to deviate from its historic path or abandon its traditions (50%). About 60% reckoned it unlikely there be a repeat of the 1917 events in present-day Russia, and preferred, if given the choice, to live under Putin (33%) than Brezhnev (28%), two periods associated with the idea of great stability.

Commémoration du défilé militaire du 7 novembre 1941, place Lénine à Oulianovsk, le 7 novembre 2017, avec la participation de la garnison, de forces spéciales et de l’association militaire et patriotique pour les jeunes Younarmia
Commémoration du défilé militaire du 7 novembre 1941, place Lénine à Oulianovsk, le 7 novembre 2017, avec la participation de la garnison, de forces spéciales et de l’association militaire et patriotique pour les jeunes Younarmia

Commemoration of the military parade of November 7, 1941 on November 7, 2017 on Lenin Square in Ulyanovsk, with the participation of the garrison, special forces, and Yunarmiya, a patriotic youth military association.

These opinions fit in perfectly with official discourse which presents political stability as the supreme value, placed far above any activism, and integrating the Soviet experience as a full and positive part of the nation’s history – the originality of which is forever emphasized. At the same time, Russians remain reticent about the more radical variants of post-Soviet rewritings of history, particularly those which switch the roles of hero and antihero in the civil war, or which tend towards hagiography of the last Emperor before the revolution in Russia. Vladimir Putin’s room for maneuver within the memorial domain is thus fairly limited, obliging him to err on the side of caution and emphasize “tried and tested values”, first among which is the Great Patriotic War, as shown by the history of the Monument to Reconciliation in Crimea or the theatricalized parade on Red Square. Ultimately, although history attracts attention and is coveted as a limited, hence precious resource23 , a larger number of versions prevail in present-day Russia than the leadership’s declarations might suggest. Evidence of this is provided by the numerous projects carried out during the centenary year at the initiative of various cultural institutions and private actors, which we shall now briefly examine.

Numerous actors and various initiatives

The absence of any large-scale official commemoration throws light on the wealth of centenary-related initiatives by very varied actors, with differing orders of magnitude of means and scale (ranging from the Russian Orthodox Church to private multimedia projects), and taking various forms, going from the traditional (university publications and conferences) to the more innovative (sound and light shows, “Red fashion” shows, and communication via Twitter accounts opened in the names of those involved in the revolution). The diversity of these initiatives and the many different scales they function on make it hard, impossible even, to sum them up. Rather, I shall point to a few trends that seem to emerge from the way the year unfolded, primarily at the national level, as well as in Moscow and St Petersburg, paying particular attention to initiatives for the general public. To this end, I will draw particularly on the results of a vast project to track the commemoration, “Revolution-100, a reconstruction of the commemoration”, conducted in Russia and around the world between autumn 2016 and November 7, 2017 by the “AIRO-XXI” team headed by Guennadi Bordiugov, which resulted in the publication of book24 .

The ruling elites were not the only political actors to have misgivings, which were shared by opposition movements, who did not seek or manage to appropriate the political potential of the centenary25 . Rather, commemorations took place mainly in the cultural field. Of course, this does not necessarily indicate a depoliticized vision, far from it. Two tendencies coexist. The first stands out for its very “up-to-date” negative political interpretation of 1917, with the revolution often viewed through the prism of the threats reportedly weighing on contemporary Russia. This approach is characterized in particular by a nostalgic vision of tsarist Russia, an openly assumed conservatism setting “traditional values” (including Orthodoxy) above all else, and extensive recourse to conspiracy theories to explain why the 1917 revolution broke out – with hostile foreigners and liberal elites (or, on occasions, non-Russian populations and freemasons) being held responsible for the collapse of the monarchy, the greatest catastrophe ever to befall the nation. References to 1917 are thus used primarily to draw lessons and warn against protests against the authorities or present-day Western influence.

This tendency transpired on many occasions and in all spheres, including academia. Among the most illustrative examples that resonated most widely, mention may be made of the main TV projects about the centenary, particularly two TV series, Demon of the revolution and Trotsky, broadcast by the main public channels “Rossiâ” and “Pervyj kanal”, starting on November 5 and 6, 201726 . The two programs claim to be historical, but treat the past most freely, not to say dishonestly (inventing the genre of “non-science-fiction” in the words of one expert27 ), setting out a concentrate of caricatures and conspiracy myths entirely excluding any social dimension to 1917. Their sole explanation for the revolutionary events is subversive action by foreign powers and the thirst for power of a few “demons” such as Leon Trotsky and Alexander Parvus, a Russian social democrat (or rather a Jewish social democrat, a point the makers of the series did not fail to labor), acting on behalf of Germany. For viewers who had not already cottoned on to these evil spirits’ shenanigans, several documentaries about 1917, broadcast on public channels in October and November 201728 , developed these visions – with occasionally more though mainly less finesse – which are in fact far more representative of contemporary Russian views of politics, the world, and Russia itself than they are of the history of 191729 . It is also worth noting that in most of these films, Lenin and his revolution more generally are treated more indulgently than the protagonists of February, held guilty of having fomented the conspiracy, betrayed the motherland, sold their country to foreign powers, destroyed Great Tsarist Russia, and so on and so forth. Although October is viewed as one element in this catastrophe, the Bolsheviks partly atoned by rebuilding a powerful state.

This approach – supported by the authorities (notably through public funding) and fed by a more diffuse “antirevolutionary consensus” which explicitly reinterprets history in the light of the present by inserting it into grand ideological schemes – was accompanied by another which, without necessarily breaking with or disputing the first, privileged a neutral tone. This second trend sought to retrace the complex, polyphonic revolutionary landscape by drawing on a host of documents, eyewitness accounts, images, and objects. Such “source-driven” initiatives sometimes came with an explicit desire to distance themselves from Soviet or any subsequent grand interpretive schemes, so as to better approach the past “as it happened”, with a frequent tendency to privilege human-scale history as experienced and narrated by ordinary eyewitnesses on a daily basis. This approach transpired in various types of cultural production, including publications of diaries and correspondences30 , and historical and art exhibitions – such as that at the Tretyakov Gallery, which displayed the works of several dozen painters who witnessed 1917, with the purpose of “showing reality as it appeared to the eyes of artists, not yet subjected to analysis and study, as contradictory and unclear”31 . The artists, currents, and subjects chosen by museums for their centenary exhibitions shows the pendulum swinging visibly back32 . Much place was devoted to Soviet art, including that already defined as “propagandist” when it was made, such as in the “Art into life” exhibition at the Russian Museum in St Petersburg, while the avant-gardes (re)discovered in the 1990s attracted less interest.

The resolutely “documentary” approach, steering clear of any overt historical interpretation, lies behind one of the more interesting and most discussed initiatives of the jubilee year, “1917. Svobodnaâ istoriâ” [1917. Free history]. This project used two formats, a dedicated website and the Russian social media platform VKontakte, to present, day after day, for a little over a year, events in the revolution as it unfolded from November 1916 through to the dissolution of the Constituent Assembly on January 18 (5), 191833 . The history of the revolution was approached in polyphonic form, with authentic accounts from several hundreds of people who had played a part in or witnessed these events, talking as if on social media in short “posts” published on their “profiles”. This was all accompanied by photos, film extracts, and excerpts from newspapers of the period, but without any form of posterior commentary or discussion by historians. According to the person behind this project, journalist Mikhaïl Zygar, the objective was to “reassemble, like a jigsaw, a full picture based on original material without adding anything, but assembling it in such a way as to make it as interesting as possible”34 . This most interesting project certainly had the merit of sparking young people’s curiosity for the history of the revolution, and of making it possible to grasp its complexity. Nevertheless, as a historian it is hard to ignore the illusory nature of the project’s claimed “neutrality”, which overlooks the interpretative operations at work in choosing documents and in selecting what is included to construct a picture which, furthermore, is presented as “full”.

In many other cases the limits of the “documentary” approach were also soon reached, showing how the use of primary sources shorn of any historical commentary in no way guarantees an account’s impartiality. Consider the light and sound show held in front of Winter Palace in St Petersburg on November 4 and 5, 201735 . This show, in a clear yet implicit dialogue with Nicolas Evreinoff’s mass spectacle “The Storming of the Winter Palace” and Sergey Eisenstein’s film “October” – two artistic productions which, in 1920 and 1927 respectively, laid the groundwork for the Soviet myth of the October Revolution – narrated the year of the revolution through a series of images, musical passages, excerpts from eyewitness accounts, and literary works read out by actors. Though its illustrious predecessors had explicitly taken sides and not shrunk from didacticism (putting forward key formulas to describe the heroic action of the masses guided by the Bolsheviks), the centenary spectacle sheltered behind the witnesses’ words. But the result was not all that different, if one discounts the aesthetic dimension. The account taking place before the eyes of the public amassed on Palace Square complied fully with present-day official pronouncements. Tsarist Russia was prosperous, the tsar and his family were dignified and moving, and revolution brought nothing but loss and ruin. The figure of Lenin, though dominating proceedings, was presented in ambiguous fashion. And as the epilogue clearly showed, what mattered was that the country ultimately emerged from these ordeals “incomparably greater” and more powerful.

In the year when the French government procrastinated at such length over how to officially commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of 1968, it is hardly surprising that the Russian government felt a sense of “commemorative malaise” regarding the 1917 centenary. This was perceptible both in the absences – of any large official ceremonies and strong symbolic gestures – as well as in what was in fact said or done about the centenary, such as the many cultural projects. Of course, it expresses the difficulty in commemorating revolt and rupture for a government that is forever hunting out protest, and swears solely by stability. At the same time, it reveals the difficulty in breaking with the Soviet tradition, given the still keen sense of nostalgia among the population, meaning that the current political elites are quick to lay claim to the legacy of their communist predecessors. In both cases, the (dreamt of or asserted) continuities are traced back to the final Soviet decades – when little remained of the initial disruptive impetus, but when references to the revolution were omnipresent in the public sphere and Soviet daily life – in order to embody permanence, celebrate the motherland, and trigger feelings of identification. As heir to this omnipresence – of which urban place names and monuments are just the two most visible examples – and to the interweaving of the commemorative culture of 1917 with “patriotic” imaginary, Vladimir Putin’s Russia seems condemned to tinkering with its pasts and accommodating memories of October. But without entirely either assuming or rejecting them.

Unfold notes and references
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On the tradition of Soviet commemorations, see: J.-F. Fayet, V. Gorin, G. Haver, & E. Koustova (eds.), Le Spectacle de la Révolution. La culture visuelle des commémorations d’Octobre, Lausanne, Antipodes, 2017.

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There is a vast body of literature about history policy in post-Soviet Russia, and there is only room here to mention a few recent publications in French:


K. Amacher & W. Berelowitch (eds.), Histoire et mémoire dans l'espace post-soviétique. Le passé qui encombre, Louvain-la-Neuve, Academia, 2014;


J.-F. Fayet, “Le 9 mai contre le 7 novembre: concurrence commémorative et nouvelle légitimité internationale de l’URSS”, Relations internationales, vol. 147, no. 3, 2011, p. 7-18;


O. Konkka, “Les révolutions de 1917 vues dans les manuels d’histoire, de l’époque soviétique à aujourd’hui”, La Revue Russe, vol. 49, 2017, p. 139-150;


N. Koposov, “Une loi pour faire la guerre: la Russie et sa mémoire”, Le Débat, no. 181, 2014, p. 103-115;


E. Koustova, “La Russie en quête d’une histoire nationale”, Revue internationale et stratégique, vol. 92, 2013, p. 65-73.


See too the recent special issue of Mouvement social, about “Mémoires, nostalgie et usages sociaux du passé dans la Russie contemporaine” (no. 3, 2017).

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The reader is referred to E. Koustova, “Un malaise commémoratif: la Russie face au centenaire de sa révolution”, in Russie 2017. Regards de l’Observatoire franco-russe, Paris, L’Inventaire, 2017, p. 497-505.


The metaphor of commemorative “malaise” is borrowed from M. Ferretti, “Le stalinisme entre histoire et mémoire: le malaise de la mémoire russe”, Matériaux pour l’histoire de notre temps, vol. 68, 2002, p. 65-81.

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Respectively: K. Amacher, “Fêter une révolution sans donner des idées. Encombrante commémoration pour le pouvoir russe”, Le Monde diplomatique, no. 3, 2017, p. 18, and “L’embarrassante mémoire de la Révolution russe”, La Vie des idées, April 2017;


O. Malinova, “Neudobnyj ûbilej: Itogi pereosmysleniâ “mifa osnovaniâ” SSSR v oficial’nom istoričeskom narrative RF”, Političeskaâ nauka, no. 3, 2017;


O. Kašin, “1917: nevynosimyj den’ roždeniâ. Počemu Rossii nečego skazat’ o godovŝine revolûcii?”, Republic, 07/11/2016;


M. Ferretti, “La mémoire impossible”, Cahiers du monde russe, vol. 58, no. 1-2, 2017, p. 203-240.


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See: M. Edele, “Putin, memory wars and the 100th anniversary of the Russian revolution”, The Conversation, 09/02/2017;


K. Amacher, “L’embarrassante mémoire de la Révolution russe”, La Vie des idées, April 2017, p. 6;


I. Kalinin, “Prizrak ûbileâ”, Neprikosnovennyj zapas, no. 1, 2017;


A. Lâlikova, ““Magiâ 1917 goda”: vlasti iŝut balans meždu nerešitel’nost’û i žestokost’û”, Forbes, 28/03/2017.

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K. Amacher, “Révolutions et révolutionnaires en Russie. Entre rejet et obsession”, Revue d’études comparatives Est-Ouest, no. 45, 2014, p. 129-173; M. Ferretti, “La mémoire impossible”, Cahiers du monde russe, vol. 58, no. 1-2, 2017, p. 205-221.

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The way these two key moments, together with 1917 as a whole, are seen and defined (a single "grand" revolution, two distinct revolutions, etc.) merits separate analysis, but is beyond the scope of this article. See discussion of this topic in: O. Konkka, “Les révolutions de 1917 vues dans les manuels d’histoire, de l’époque soviétique à aujourd’hui”, La Revue Russe, vol. 49, 2017, p. 139‑150; E. Koustova, “Un malaise commémoratif: la Russie face au centenaire de sa révolution”, in Russie 2017. Regards de l’Observatoire franco-russe, Paris, Éditions l’Inventaire, 2017, p. 497-505.

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On the influence of events in Ukraine, see in particular: I. Kalinin, “Antirevolûcionnyj èkzorcizm”, Neprikosnovennyj zapas, vol. 91, no. 5, 2013.

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On the first stages of preparations for the future commemoration, see: D. Andreev, “1917-j v teni vyborov 2018-go: slabye i sil’nye storony kremlevskogo scenariâ ûbileâ”, in G. Bordûgov (ed.), Revolûciâ-100: rekonstrukciâ ûbileâ, Moscow, AIRO-XXI, 2017, p. 112-122.

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The main documents about setting up the organizing committee, its composition, and its program are available on the website of the Russian Historical Society.

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Сf. the vision of the civil and Crimean war in Russian history in the August 2014 speech by Putin in Yalta, often quoted when discussing the future monument.

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 See the presentation on the Sebastopol city hall website.

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N. Radulova, “Na storone neprimirimosti”, Kommersant, 06/11/2017. There are numerous cases in Russia of opposition to monuments being built to honor to the heroes of the White cause, including instances of destruction: P. Gonneau, “Honneur aux vaincus. Commémorations des généraux blancs dans la Russie actuelle”, Revue des études slaves, vol. XC, no. 1-2, 2019.

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I have been unable to find any clear official information about what became of the project for the Monument to Reconciliation. Its page has now disappeared from the website of the Russian Military History Society (only the page announcing the competition is still online). Certain sources mention its being postponed and/or rolled into the project for the memorial to the defenders of Sebastopol: N. Isaeva, “‘Primirenie’ s belymi v Sevastopole otložili do vyborov”, Primečaniâ, 15/11/2017; A. Âlovec, “Memorial geroev vmesto pamâtnika primireniâ”, Nakanune, 23/08/2017; “Koncepciâ pamâtnika “Edinstvo Rossii” v Sevastopole ne utverždena – ministr kul’tury RF”, Novyj Sevastopol, 06/11/2018; E. Čepurnaâ, “Čto obsuždali? Činovniki Sevastopolâ ne obradovalis’ obŝestvennikam”, Regnum, 14/04/2018.

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E. Koustova, “Mémorial et le “Mur du chagrin”: les paradoxes de la Russie de Poutine face à la Grande Terreur”, in Russie 2018. Regards de l’Observatoire franco-russe, Paris, L’Inventaire, 2018, p. 142-144.

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Speech for the inauguration of the "Wall of Sorrow" on October 30, 2017 See too: “Russie: Poutine inaugure un mémorial aux victimes des répressions”, RFI, 30/10/2017, quoting the speech that Putin gave that same day to the meeting of the Council for the Development of Civil Society and Human Rights.

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L. Gudkov, “1917 god v strukture legitimnosti rossijskoj vlasti”, Neprikosnovennyj zapas, no. 6, 2017, p. 154-172;


I. Kalinin, “Prizrak ûbileâ”, Neprikosnovennyj zapas, no. 1, 2017;


B. Kolonickij, М. Mackevič, “Desakralizaciâ revolûcii i antirevolûcionnyj konsensus v sovremennoj Rossii: ûbilej 2017 goda i ego političeskoe ispol’zovanie/neispol’zovanie”, Mir Rossii, vol. 27, no. 4, 2018, p. 78-101.

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An analogous survey carried out by the "Public Opinion" Fund (FOM) in November 2017 showed even greater support for the Bolsheviks, with 32% of respondents indicating they would have taken part in the civil war alongside the "Reds", and 4% who would have supported them without becoming directly involved, whereas only 7% and 3% respectively would have chosen the "Whites" (and 21% would have taken neither side).

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The metaphor is taken from Ilya Kalinin: “Boi za istoriû: prošloe kak ograničennyj resurs”, Neprikosnovennyj zapas, vol. 78, no. 4, 2011.

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G. Bordûgov (ed.), Revolûciâ-100: rekonstrukciâ ûbileâ, Moscow, AIRO-XXI, 2017.

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B. Kolonickij, М. Mackevič, “Desakralizaciâ revolûcii i antirevolûcionnyj konsensus v sovremennoj Rossii: ûbilej 2017 goda i ego političeskoe ispol’zovanie/neispol’zovanie”, Mir Rossii, vol. 27, no. 4, 2018, p. 81.

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For an overview of films produced about the centenary: B. Sokolov, “Ûbilej revolûcii 1917 goda v hudožestvennoj literature, hudožestvennom kino, televizionnyh serialah, dokumental’nyh fil’mah i v teatral’nyh postanovkah”, in G. Bordûgov (ed.), Revolûciâ-100: rekonstrukciâ ûbileâ, Moscow, AIRO-XXI, 2017, p. 359-422.

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Particularly Russia's great revolution by Dmitri Kiselev, broadcast on November 7 on Rossiâ; and several films by Elena Tchavtchavadzé on Rossija 1 (in late October-early November 2017); Dno by Sergueï Mirochnitchenko, November 8, Kultura.

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For a brief overview, see: D. Krasovec, “1917 dans les livres et les habits de la Russie de 2017”, Actographe, no. 1 (2), 2018.

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Presentation of the Nekto 1917 [A certain 1917] exhibition on the museum website.

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For an overview of the exhibitions, see: I. Davidân, “Nečto 1917. Stoletie russkoj revolûcii v istoriko-dokumental’nyh i hudožestvennyh vystavkah”, in G. Bordûgov (ed.), Revolûciâ-100: rekonstrukciâ ûbileâ, Moscow, AIRO-XXI, 2017, p. 423-454.

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An English-language version of the project is available here. For discussion of other multimedia projects and debates about the centenary on social media, see: P. Opalin, “Set’ dlâ revolûcii: 1917 god v cifrovom prostranstve”, in G. Bordûgov (ed.), Revolûciâ-100: rekonstrukciâ ûbileâ, Moscow, AIRO-XXI, 2017, p. 152-177.

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“‘Producirovanie novyh umnyh myslej ne po našej časti’. Interv’û Mihaila Zygarâ o ‘Proekte 1917’ i razočarovanii v media”, Meduza, 11/22/2016.

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