“Welcome to the land of Lenin”. History of the 10th anniversary of the October Revolution.

Welcome to the Land of Lenin (V Strane Lenine) is the subtitle of a documentary commissioned by the Soviet trade unions to mark the first jubilee of October1. For over an hour, black and white images alternate with 261 dryly descriptive title cards reporting on the visit of foreign delegations invited to travel to the USSR on the occasion of the 10th anniversary, recounting their trip from their arrival on Soviet territory till they crossed the border on their way back2. Twenty-eight copies of the film were sent abroad in spring 1928, but only viewed by small circles in rare private screenings because of the censorship boards that were still firmly in place in most countries, including the most democratic3. Despite its failed distribution, this visual source symbolizes better than any other document the organizers’ ambition to transform the October festivities into a media event of international repercussion. And indeed, its way of narrating the commemorations is modelled on that of an advertisement, vaunting the merits of the Voyage in the USSR, privileging the perspective of foreign viewers.

While this staging issues from the encounter between the Soviet culture of festivities (Sovetskaya prazdnicnaya kul’tura) and Willi Münzenberg’s propaganda methods, the jubilee should not be considered as having a purely secular function. Rather, it was the apex in a process to channel the “international wave of sympathy in favor of the USSR”4. Given the international context, the Soviet leadership wished to “turn the commemorations into a demonstration of solidarity with the USSR”5. But this exercise in soft power, in the most modern meaning of the term6, should not conceal the domestic political stakes. The commemorations were an act of political activism, one of the instruments or cogs in the changes under way. 1927 was a pivotal year in the history of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) and the USSR, spanning the New Economic Policy (NEP) and Stalin’s Great Turn of 1928-29, in an international environment considered as globally hostile. From this perspective, the commemorations of the 10th anniversary laid the groundwork for the third revolution which was going to radically transform Soviet society and, beyond the USSR, the entire international communist movement.

After going over the two days of festivities and emphasizing their international dimension, this article will present the behind-the-scenes organization, before closing on consideration of the many factors at work in this October jubilee, presented as a series of Russian dolls.

“Hurrah, hurrah, hurrah, glory be to October, long live the Soviet Union”

The program of festivities

Sunday November 6, 1927 was not a day of rest for the laboring masses of the Soviet Union7. By eight in the morning, and with great fervor in working-class districts, the streets were filling up with hordes of joyous multicolored troubadours, criers, and circus performers, setting off to meet their still sleeping comrades. The ritual presiding over this commemorative awakening was everywhere the same. First a vanguard with drums and trumpets drew people’s attention, then public criers and sloganeers: “Down with the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, Long live the dictatorship of the proletariat!”8. They were followed by the main body with flags, choirs, and bands. At their head, a Pioneer read out the messages of congratulations with which the pages of the Soviet press were filled: the Transcaucasian Weavers Union, the Greek Communist Party, a political prisoner in Revel prison – “send their brotherly greetings to the Russian proletariat”. A young female worker read out an extract from Things are good, a collection of texts penned by Vladimir Mayakovsky for the October jubilee. And last, a rearguard closed the march, distributing flowers and the program of festivities.

By two in the afternoon, the population had taken en masse to the streets to join the omnipresent festivities, occupying the avenues and squares where rostrums had been erected. The walls of factories and public buildings were festooned in red9. It was impossible to ignore the artistic dimension to the festivities, which had brought artists out from their workshops to encounter the masses in the streets. “All Moscow is draped in red, lit up in red, the red that workers around the world have taken up as the symbol of their revolt and liberation,” a French visitor wrote that evening to his daughter10. Sound was equally important. The cumulative volume of the festivities was deafening, with revolutionary songs and speeches playing non-stop over loudspeakers and mobile radios set up on vehicles, not to mention the factory sirens, firing of cannons, and blaring horns all invading the sonic environment. A few wind instruments (tubas) in the crowd resounded each time the marchers halted, or to punctuate the speeches and other solemnities to the tune of the Internationale, the Marseillaise, or the Dubinushka.

The afternoon program included gatherings (miting) – meetings of no more than five minutes during which speakers addressed the masses from rostrums set up throughout the town – together with theatrical performances of the latest news, sports competitions to include the young, and a multitude of entertainments – group dances, clown shows, puppet shows, declamations of satirical verse, sketch competitions – which, without being wholly untainted by ideological instruction, lent this political carnival an air of collective gaiety. In the evening of this first day, inaugurations of commemorative plaques were held in clubs and theatres, which also organized memory evenings in which those who had taken part in the revolution and civil war told of their involvement11. The Moscow Experimental Theater laid on screenings of Sergei Eisenstein’s latest film, October12, especially for workers.

The high point of the festivities was the demonstration on Monday, November 7. On Red Square in Moscow, the main site for great workers’ events and military parades under the new regime, loudspeakers were set up to broadcast speeches, with a space reserved for cameramen and photographers to one side, and another for foreign correspondents. The walls surrounding the Kremlin were bedecked with festive decorations (“1917-1927”) and political banners, with red five-pointed stars and the hammer and sickle, symbolizing the union between the proletariat and the peasantry. With fog billowing around the still illuminated square, Joseph Stalin, Avel Yenukidze, Yemelyan Yaroslavsky, Nikolai Bukharin, and the German revolutionary Clara Zetkin took their place on the side terrace of Lenin’s Mausoleum, a wooden construction built against the Kremlin walls, between the Senate Tower and the Brotherly Tomb of Comrades who died for the revolution. At nine in the morning, with the bells on Savior Tower ringing out, the People’s Commissar for Defense Kliment Voroshilov, on horseback, saluted the troops who responded “hurrah, hurrah, hurrah”.

Moscou, 7 novembre 1927 (RGAKFD : 3-5582).

Moscow, November 7, 1927 (RGAKFD : 3-5582).

Then it was the turn of Mikhail Kalinin, head of the Soviet state, to cross the square to thunderous applause from 30,000 men.

Moscou, 7 novembre 1927 (RGAKFD : 2-5551)

Moscow, November 7, 1927 (RGAKFD : 2-5551).

This was followed by speeches by Bukharin and the Scottish communist William Gallacher. Whereas in previous years the military had been part of the crowd, for the first time they opened the event, though without tanks or heavy weapons. The spectacle was impressive and reactions enthusiastic: “First, to the rhythm of the Internationale ringing out from a thousand brass instruments, the Red Army regiments advanced, the determined cavalcade of the Cossacks of the revolution, then the sailors from the Cronstadt fleet closing the powerful demonstration of Soviet might13”.

Moscou, 7 novembre 1927 (RGAKFD : 2-56722).

Moscow, November 7, 1927 (RGAKFD : 2-56722).

“For the first time I saw a military parade with no militarism,” Paul Vaillant-Couturier observed (despite being in his own words “a born antimilitarist”), “an immense family of men in arms where it was hard to distinguish officers from soldiers14”.

The low cloud cover prevented planes from taking part in the event. But Moscow and its proletariat were there. By midday, the marchers, who at dawn had started gathering at various points around the town to form columns and march through the workers districts, were converging on the final destination of the event – the leaders’ rostrum. “Those who had taken the Kremlin ten years earlier paraded slowly around the square. Workers and peasants, together with girls and children, the infirm and the elderly, were all there in their thousands”15. The military parade became a political carnival, with throngs of marchers, many with masks of the White generals – Kolchak, Denikin, Wrangel – and enormous papier mâché marionettes, made in artists’ workshops and workers’ clubs, representing “the-odious-Chamberlain-of-the-oil companies, Briand-the-cynic, our Poincaré-war, Mussolini and MacDonald [with] the body of a dog”16. Masks of priests and policeman kissed beneath showers of holy water, to peals of spontaneous laughter. The solemn burning of allegorical figures of the old world and current capitalist world was greeted by cheers of joy and rhythmic clapping. A tramway arrived on the square, decorated to resemble a giant coffin with an inscription surrounded by four candles: “Here lies Russian capitalism, to be joined by world capitalism”17. Each factory delegation, identifiable thanks to the insignia on their flags, presented their activities with enormous artistic replicas of what they produced – tractors, engines, or railway carriages. Many constructions with moving parts and diagrams using the materials produced (ribbons for weaving mills, wood shavings for sawmills, and so on) illustrated the progress of the Soviet economy. The columns from the Dynamo factory, from the Red Giant rubber factory, and an allegory of mechanization paraded Soviet accomplishments.

Moscou, 7 novembre 1927 (RGAKFD : 2-54343)

Moscow, November 7, 1927 (RGAKFD : 2-54343).

The float of the Izvestia column was driven by a troika representing the corrupt press.

Moscou, 7 novembre 1927 (RGAKFD : 2-84499)

Moscou, November 7, 1927 (RGAKFD : 2-84499).

When the paths of these flower-bedecked columns crossed, heightening the impression of a teeming mass, the participants called out greetings, slogans, and responses. The procession went on for hours. The workers of Azerbaijan paraded to the sound of drums and flutes, while the workers of Bukhara wore their green dresses. When night fell, the parade continued with cyclists, gymnasts, and children. The Pioneers organization marched behind the portrait of Lenin, followed by literacy groups, health associations, and school canteens.

Moscou, 7 novembre 1927 (RGAKFD : 2-72907)

Moscow, November 7, 1927(RGAKFD : 2-72907).

In the evening, these crowds spread out from Red Square across the city to continue the festivities elsewhere18.

Outside Moscow, similar events were held in the main cities. In Leningrad, ‘the historic theater of the revolution”, the festivities took up the tradition of famous mass spectacles, against the backdrop of such highly symbolic places as the Winter Palace and the Field of Mars, where the tombs to the victims of the revolution stood. On the floating stage on the river Neva, model ships bore great mannequins of the enemies – the Tsar, bankers, priests. The illuminations, white on Peter and Paul Fortress, red on the factories in the background, symbolized the struggle between them. The February revolution was evoked by the toppling of monarchic symbols (the Crown and Eagle), and that of October by the fortress changing color from white to red19.

Éclairage de la Maison des syndicats, Leningrad, 11 novembre 1927 (RGAKFD : 2-54191).

Illuminations on the House of the Trade Unions in Leningrad, November 11, 1927 (RGAKFD: 2-54191).

Nor were the other components of the USSR left out20. In towns without places of sufficient symbolism, the events followed the opposite scenario, with participants starting from the center – generally a building representing Soviet power – then spreading out through the neighborhoods21. In the countryside, touring exhibitions, sometimes on boats, had been travelling for a week (named the week of harvest and abundance), reaching peasants in far-flung places. Tracts and decorations were distributed, while reading isbas and peasant clubs staged lectures and meetings on the theme of the salutary alliance between the proletariat and the peasantry22. In places where it was not possible to stage events, speeches were broadcast in their entirety over radios and loudspeakers set up in the remotest village, in the smallest Soviet market town.

The international dimension to the commemorations

The celebrations were not confined to the USSR. They were relayed abroad by the media, radio broadcasts, and especially the communist and associated press, which since early 1927 had been working the theme: “Why the 10th anniversary of the revolution is also our celebration”. On a nearly daily basis, publications close to the communist movement contained references, notices, regular articles, accounts, and special features about ten years of building socialism in the USSR. Soviet artists were also sent abroad. Since October, agitprop and proletarian theater troupes – such as the famous Blue Blouse collective – had been touring Europe to mime scenes from Soviet life23. In November, three examples of an exhibition called “Ten years of building socialism” went on display in major capitals24. The fifteen panels told the history of the formation and triumphant ascent of the first proletarian state, with lots of graphics and tables of statistics. In New York, this 10th-anniversary exhibition was attended by over 100,000 visitors within the space of three weeks. In Brussels, in the Mondaneum annex, it was wrecked by a group of students25. Other less weighty and especially less directly political exhibitions also traveled around to coincide with commemorations, such as an exhibition of engravings presented in Florence, an exhibition of Soviet books and posters that went on tour in several Belgian towns, an exhibition of figurative art in Japan, an exhibition of contemporary architecture in the United States, and so on. In all, over twenty exhibitions were visited by 791,000 people26.

On November 6, gigantic gatherings took place in Berlin27, Paris, London, and New York, with workers’ fetes, lectures, concerts, slideshows, and Soviet films (The End of St Petersburg by Vsevolod Pudovkin and Moscow in October by Boris Barnet28). In a few countries, workers staged a strike on the 7th, to mark their solidarity with the Soviet proletariat. Things turned badly at times. On the 6th, the Lithuanian government conducted numerous preventative arrests in several towns across the country. But the workers got around the ban, leading to confrontation, fighting, and stiff prison sentences29. In most countries, such as Switzerland or Greece30, events were limited to listening to clandestine radio broadcasts of the festivities. But on the 10th anniversary of the October Revolution, the same cry seemed to go up in all places and languages: “Touche pas à l’URSS”, “Hands off the USSR”, “Hände weg von Sovjetrussland”.

The key aspect of this international dimension was the presence of nearly 1000 delegates (927 to be precise) in Moscow and Leningrad. In mid-October, they arrived from forty-three countries to survey the accomplishments of ten years of the dictatorship of the proletariat31. Nearly 80% of them were workers. In addition to trade union delegates and representatives from the main factories, there were guests from the Workers International Relief (hereafter WIR), the International Red Aid, the cooperative movement, the peasant movement, representatives of proletarian defense organizations, proletarian sports clubs, proletarian cyclists, proletarian Esperantists, proletarian freethinkers, proletarian philatelists, proletarian theater friends, proletarian tenant unions, and so on and so forth. The largest national delegations were those from Germany (167 people), France (143), the UK (109), and Czechoslovakia (77). But it was important to the Soviets that there be representatives from “revolutionary nationalist movements in colonized or oppressed countries”, intended to symbolize the community of interest between the USSR and populations subjected to Western imperial pressure, such as India (represented by the Nehrus who travelled as a family, with the father, Motilal, head of the Congress Party, and his son Jawaharlal, future prime minister, accompanied by his sister and his wife32), China, with an immense delegation presided by Soong Ching-ling (the widow of Sun Yat-sen), Syria, represented by the Arab-Islamist nationalist writer and journalist Amir Shakib Arslan, Turkey, which sent its foreign affairs minister, Afghanistan, Algeria (the communist lawyer Ali Mira), Argentina, Brazil, Mexico (the painter Diego de Rivera), Mongolia, Nepal, Persia, Sierra Leone, Tunisia, Uruguay, two Indonesian students, and so on and so forth.

Special consideration went to scientific and artistic circles, and to representatives of the progressive Western intelligentsia, such as the writers Henri Barbusse and Theodore Dreiser (who had been traveling for nearly two months in the USSR33), Panait Istrati and Nikos Kazanzakis, the Japanese poet Ujaku Akita, the Surrealists Pierre Naville and Gérard Rosenthal, the German artist Käthe Kollwitz, Alfred Barr who went on to found and run MOMA in New York, the economist and former head of the International Labor Office in Basel, Stephan Bauer, Gabrielle Duchêne, from the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, and the architect Francis Jourdain. Romain Rolland and Ernst Toller were unable to attend but sent letters of support, which were immediately published in the Soviet press34.

After two weeks travelling in the USSR, most of these delegates came back to Moscow or Leningrad, to attend the celebrations. On November 5 and 6, they were received by Kalinin and Mikhail Tomsky, then by Bukharin, who declared to them: “the USSR is the only country in the world in which the government considers it necessary to account for its activity not only before the electorate, but also before the representatives of workers and the oppressed from around the world”35. On the 7th, they attended the parade on Red Square, sitting on a purpose-built platform. Victor Serge noted, “‘How happy they are to finally watch reviews from the official platform,’ Jacques Mesnil said to me”36. For most of the foreign visitors, the celebrations were a high point, the finale to a “survey” that had already been most convincing. On the initiative of the British delegation and Henri Barbusse37, they decided to take an explicit stance and “tell the truth about what they saw”, for they had seen it “freely” and “without constraint”, they all insisted, with nothing left in the shadows, visiting schools, factories, prisons38, the capital, the main cities of Russia, the countryside, Central Asia, Caucasia, Georgia – especially Georgia, which since being annexed to the Soviet Republic of Transcaucasia had been one of the main targets of anti-Soviet propaganda – talking with prisoners, staying in military garrisons, presenting their interlocutors with lists of questions drawn up before departing, and conducting impromptu visits. This congress of witnesses, known to history as the Congress of Friends of the Soviet Union, opened on November 10 in the great hall at the Moscow House of Trade Unions39. “The speeches followed one upon the other, and in a Babelian tumult the translations echoed around the four corners of the room”40.

Clara Zetkin-Henri Barbusse, 7 novembre 1927 (RGAKFD : 2-61175)

Clara Zetkin-Henri Barbusse, November 7, 1927 (RGAKFD: 2-61175).

After two days of debates, and despite their diversity of tongues and political leanings, these representatives of the people managed to draw up a resolution against war, which was unanimously adopted: “Hurrah, hurrah, hurrah. Long live the Soviet Union. Long live the Friends of the Soviet Union”41.

Soviet prazdnik culture à la Münzenberg

A not wholly disinterested proposal

The person who dreamt up this degree of internationalization for the 10th anniversary commemorations was the German communist Willi Münzenberg, dubbed by François Furet the “Comintern’s clandestine minister for propaganda around the world”42. In 1925 Münzenberg put forward his idea to the Agitation and Propaganda Department (Agitpropotdel) of the Executive Committee of the Communist International (ECCI)43. The goals, set down in writing the following year, were to “strengthen and expand the new layers of sympathy among the masses in favor of the USSR, to step up the combat against public or concealed warmongering propaganda by imperialist powers, to explain the work accomplished in ten years in comparison to ten years of decadence in the capitalist economy, and to use the enthusiasm thus generated to set up an Association of Friends of the Soviet Union”44. The objectives, the methods – it is all there in black and white. Working to a media plan and precise timetable (point 3), the campaign started on January 22, the anniversary of the 1905 revolution, and then worked through successive stages: on March 12, the commemoration of the 1917 Bourgeois Revolution, then March 18, the celebration of the Paris commune, followed by May 1, the other major date in the “proletarian commemorative calendar”45, leading to the apotheosis of November 7. Over the summer of 1926, Münzenberg repeated his proposal to the CI secretary, Bukharin, and then to the CPSU secretary, Stalin, in a letter sent in November 192646. He promised to convince waves of foreign journalists and travelers to come to the USSR, while famous Russian authors, for their part, together with artists and athletes would be invited to give speeches in the West47. The foreign delegations, with their convictions corroborated by their stay in the Soviet Union, would return home to vaunt the accomplishments of the revolution in Münzenberg’s media outlets.

As head of the WIR, Münzenberg was experienced in this type of cultural propaganda event. Set up by the ECCI in Berlin in September 1921, in the wake of an international call by the Russian author Gorki to save starving Russia, the WIR was one of the first organizations to use culture for propaganda purposes. It distributed material, organized tours by Soviet artists and scholars, conducted lecture cycles by foreign personalities returning from Russia, named prestigious artists and intellectuals to national support committees (such as Albert Einstein and Fridtjof Nansen), and set up its own publishing houses, such as Neuer deutscher Verlag, and then its own cinema studios with Mejrabpom-Film. But Münzenberg’s proposal was not wholly disinterested. The Comintern secretariat was envisaging disbanding the WIR48, which had acquired considerable influence and independence, both from the German Communist Party and from the IC executive. Though initially very useful for getting around censorship, the WIR’s apparatus for distributing Soviet films abroad (Prometheus Film-Verlag) were running up against the commercial ambitions of Sovkino49. Münzenberg, who lived in Berlin, thus traveled frequently to Moscow to attend meetings of the Communist International (CI) executive as well as those of the Agitpropotdel. His commemoration plan was backed up by a request for subsidies, for a total of 10,000 gold rubles, to be transferred by the end of 192650. He hoped to use the 10th anniversary to finance various WIR activities, along with his project for a League against Imperialism and Colonial Oppression, whose founding congress was to be held in Brussels in February 1927. The choice of jubilee slogans clearly shows this desire to associate the October celebrations to the struggle against imperialism. Given the need to reflect Chinese current affairs – the sacking of the Soviet delegation in Peking, the nationalist armies of Chiang Kai-Shek turning against the communist workers of Shanghai – to chime with the interests of the masses51, Münzenberg progressively dropped the slogan “10th anniversary of the Soviet union – Against the prospect of war” in favor of “Against another imperialist war – Hands off China! – Hands off the USSR!”52. Thus to his mind, the Congress of Friends of the USSR, which was to close the trip by foreign delegations, was only “a kind of Brussels conference for Russia”53.

Münzenberg’s plan echoed the preoccupations of various Soviet and communist bodies, for whom commemorations of the 10th anniversary needed to differ visibly from the habitual October festivities “in terms both of their scale and of the depth of propaganda work”54. The CI Agitpropotdel drew up a plan itself55. For several months there were two rival plans, and no single decision-making body, resulting in delays and a whole series of counterorders. In late February 1927, the ECCI’s political secretariat finally adopted Münzenberg’s plan, though without mentioning him by name.

A lesson in political marketing

Inviting foreign dignitaries to official festivities is as old as the tradition of diplomacy itself. But on the occasion of the jubilee, the Soviets, with the help of their many political, trade union, and especially associative relays (the mass movements in the Münzenberg galaxy), took this phenomenon to unprecedented levels, both in terms of quantity (the number of people invited) and quality (the techniques for selecting candidates and managing their visit). Officially, organizing the invitations – viewed as of primordial importance – was the prerogative of a select committee (the international subcommittee chaired by Dmitry Manuilsky)56, composed of representatives of the External Relations Committee of the Central Council of Soviet Trade Unions (KVS-VTsSPS), the Pan-Soviet Society for Cultural Exchanges Abroad (VOKS), the People’s Commissariat for Foreign Affairs (hereafter NKID), the Comintern, and the Young Communist International (KIM). But as Alfred Kurella from the ECCI Agitpropotdel pointed out, “much of the campaign must be left to the initiative of Münzenberg and organizations influenced by him”57. For it was in fact the head of the WIR who established the selection methods for candidates and shared his contacts with the Soviet organizations. Most of the representatives of colonized people, such as the Indonesian student Ahmad Soebardjo58, had already attended the Congress of the League against Colonial Oppression that Münzenberg had organized in Brussels. And many of the intellectuals came from his personal circle.

According to the festivities committee, which set a target of 1000 guests, a foreign delegation should ideally be composed of 20% communists, 40% social democrats, and 40% without party affiliation. Invitations would be issued following the theory of distancing that Münzenberg set out in a circular to the CPs:

To give this campaign to send delegations to the USSR as broad a dimension as possible, it is desirable that the first calls, the first events issue from organizations, groups, peoples, and newspapers lying as far as possible from the communist movement. […] It is only once the first public steps have been taken that communist organizations will be able to join the action, for the organization of a wave of solidarity in favor of the USSR must always have the public appearance of being not associated with any party59.

Münzenberg placed great emphasis on the delegates’ degree of representativity: “how many people have they been elected by? In a factory with how many workers?” This question was particularly acute for the peasant movement. The festivity committees received many spontaneous proposals from the peasantry, but these would-be delegates were poor, remote peasants without influence who wished to come and settle in the USSR, hence worthless in propaganda terms60. On the other hand, the leadership of peasant organizations turned down their invitations, such as the secretary of the German Union of Agricultural Workers, who reminded the Soviet Peasant Union that in Germany the comrades of the German Communist Party (KPD) behaved in “unfriendly” fashion61. Intellectuals, for their part, were invited directly by a Soviet personality or institution depending on their presumed prestige. For several months, staff at the VOKS and the WIR, assisted by translators, waged personalized epistolary seduction campaigns62.

But the carefully calculated percentages fixed in advance for the composition of delegations were hard to achieve due to the very large number of refusals, particularly from academics, “detained by examination sessions”. Certain celebrities (such as Albert Einstein, John Maynard Keynes, Upton Sinclair, and John Dewey) went to the trouble of presenting their excuses – at times with some verve, such as George Bernard Shaw: “My only consolation is that as celebrations are bourgeois institutions at which nobody tells the truth it is perhaps just as well I shall be at a safe distance. Luckily I cannot be suspected of ill will towards the USSR. In the darkest hours of its history I do not fail to proclaim my support for its principles and its right to exist”63. Many more abstained from all contact, including by letter. The Soviets suffered especially from their lack of relations in certain spheres such as the cooperative movement (thirteen out of fifteen organizations declined the invitation64), and in certain regions such as Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa. There were also those who were physically unable to come, such as the revolutionary lawyer and future Mayor of Calcutta Jatindra Mohan Sengupta, who had his papers confiscated by the British authorities, or several members of the Tunisian delegation (including the secretary-general of the Destour party, Ahmed Essafi) who were intercepted by the French65. The organizers were also confronted with the opposite problem of provocateurs, anarchists, Trotskyite militants, and even a few fascists, seeking to infiltrate delegations.

Most delegations ended up with too many communists and too few social democrats due to threats of exclusion issued by the parties of the Second International and their associated organizations, especially the Workers Gymnastics and Sport International (known as the Lucerne Sport International66). Those who did leave for the USSR, such as the Frenchman Pierre-André Canonne, were already prepared to join the Communist Party. Other socialist parties selected very experienced activists, to ensure that the pertinence of their questions would hamper the communists’ work to influence people. “The main problem of the third German delegation is that the delegation’s social democrat component is of far better caliber than that of the communists,” wrote the ECCI rapporteur, “which prevented the work of the delegation despite their stay being meticulously prepared”67. Among those who were not members of any party, the problem was that many of them finally decided not to come for fear of losing their job on their return.

Many tensions resulted from the sheer number of people involved in this worldwide invitation campaign. Most of these set Münzenberg, or his subsidiaries, against Soviet bodies, over matters of financing and the composition of delegations. The Soviet trade unions, for instance, accused the WIR of advertising its cause at their expense, since it did the inviting but they were the ones who paid68. Olga Kameneva, the head of the VOKS, accused Münzenberg of “stealing” her intellectuals69. For his part, Münzenberg criticized the lack of effort by most communist organizations to mobilize people outside their ranks70, and complained to the CI secretary that Moscow sent out too few instructions to the Communist Parties71. At one stage, on the grounds of the key role played by the WIR, he tried to move the organization of the festivities to Berlin so as not to have to travel to Moscow, but in vain72. These tensions in fact reveal the gulf separating the explicit ambitions of the organizers and the rigorous economy of means imposed by the party-state73. For most institutions, organizations, and associations, this meant they had no specific budget and had to come up with their own funding. Thus the sister parties and foreign committees in charge of the jubilee campaign received “lots of instructions from Moscow, but little material and no financial means (to buy projectors, hire premises, or pay for the delegates to travel to the border)”74.

As during the 1921 campaign to help starving Russians75, it was in fact Münzenberg, in Berlin, who organized the mobilization (setting up support committees), and set the tone of international mediatization for the October commemorations. Without waiting for his plan to be approved, he signed a contract in the name of the publishing house he headed, Neuer Deutscher Verlag, for the German publication of an illustrated history of the Russian Revolution (Illustrierte Geschichte der russischen Revolution, edited by Astrow and Slepkow). On obtaining subsidies from Moscow, Münzenberg use them to bolster his media empire, first by increasing the frequency and print-run of existing titles. Since January 1927, each issue of the weekly Arbeiter Illustrierte Zeitung (220,000 copies) had contained a two-page spread about the founding of the Soviet Republic76. The special twenty-page issue to mark the 10th anniversary published on October 18 had a print run of 350,000 copies from the outset. It was the same for Die Welt am Abend, which took advantage of supplements about the USSR’s history and current affairs to increase its print run and go biweekly. Münzenberg also benefited from the campaign circumstances to set up Der Arbeiter-Fotograf.

A meticulously planned welcome

Most of the delegations stopped over in Berlin where Münzenberg’s services and the Soviet consulate checked their biographical data, issued visas, and sorted out the last remaining problems. As soon as they crossed the Soviet border, all the delegates’ expenses were paid for, though not equally, with workers travelling third class while the South American intellectuals invited by the VOKS sailed across the Atlantic in first-class cabins. The Presidium Commission for preparations for the 10th anniversary celebrations worked for months to ensure that the festivities ran smoothly77, paying meticulous attention to the slightest detail, from the decoration of the borders, stations, towns, and factories, to preparations for “spontaneous” welcome committees of enthusiastic crowds. It checked the itineraries (four in all78), choice of transport (trains, boats, cars, and coaches), choice of food, supply of tickets for the spectacles, and, especially, renovated hotel facilities79.

Arrivée de délégués étrangers en autobus (RGAKFD : 2-35736)
Arrivée de délégations norvégiennes et suédoises à la gare de Moscou (RGAKFD : 2-41097).

Left : Arrival of the foreign delegates by bus (RGAKFD: 2-35736).

Right : Arrival of the Norwegian and Swedish delegations at Moscow station (RGAKFD: 2-41097).

Special care went into preparing two key figures, illustrating the professionalism with which the festivities were managed. First of these was the propagandist, an experienced Russian or foreign communist with ideological instruction80, and technical training for setting up an exhibition stand or organizing a collective spectacle81. Each foreign delegation was assigned one. Their role was to work the delegation from the inside during their trips, and to back up the guides during visits and discussions. The other key figure was the (normally female) guide-translator. Unlike their foreign colleagues, who had the same title, Soviet guides “cannot merely be purveyors of technical information, living Baedekers”82, in the words of one of the guide managers. Above and beyond their linguistic skills, they acted as ideological filters, which explains why the Soviets were not keen on delegations coming with their own translators, and why, for the same reason, they were wary of the Esperantists.

The delegates’ visit was not leisure. The Soviets drew up a very intense program designed to turn their voyage into one of revelation. In addition to this, certain delegations were intent on taking their role very seriously, and the Soviets were concerned about the presence of anarcho-syndicalists in the French delegation, who had been handed a list of ninety-three questions by Nicolas Lazarevitch, a trade union activist of Russian origin who had been imprisoned in Souzdal and then expelled from the USSR. Pierre Pascal and Victor Serge, who both lived in Russia at that time, sought to sharpen the delegates’ critical faculties by drawing their attention to arrests of abandoned children, and to the situation of the opposition – but to no avail83. Despite a few mishaps and numerous failed events84, the visits and discussions went off without any hitches, following a well-oiled mechanism. The questions were provided in advance to the Soviets, who gave general answers enabling them to avoid any awkward discussions about strikes, soaring unemployment, wage inequalities, and the already very visible presence of the police apparatus. And when a problem was raised based on a precise example, the Soviets retorted that “it was an isolated case” which “in no way revealed the general rule” and that “the unions had looked after it”85. It was not the detail that mattered, but the grand principles.

It was during the congress of witnesses that the instrumentalization was at its most apparent. Contrary to official declarations and accounts published in the press, this did not result from a “spontaneous initiative” by Barbusse and the British delegation, but instead from a “secret” plan put forward by Münzenberg (even though he did not attend in person86). And it was the Russians who drew up the agenda in advance, selected the speakers, and prepared the draft of the final resolution calling the delegates to concrete action in favor of the Soviet Union87. The Friends organization was only an empty shell, and it was not until the Cologne conference in May 1928 that the movement was truly institutionalized as the International Association of Friends of the Soviet Union88.

On returning home, the delegates took part in lecture tours, and their testimony was published in the communist and affiliated press, particularly that of the “Konzern Münzenberg”89. Not all the witnesses were deceived, but there were few cases of public apostasy – in the immediate aftermath at least. Panait Istrati, who sent his enthusiastic impressions to L'Humanité in November, came back from his trip with Nikos Kazantzaki “off the beaten path” mentally perturbed: “it was only during the final three months of my stay [...] that the charm was broken, the veil suddenly fell, and the real situation – absolutely obvious for any man of good faith – stamped itself on my mind in all its cruelty”90. His doubts worsened still further when, on confiding his dismay to Romain Rolland, the latter enjoined him not to publish any criticism. For “that would in no way serve the Russian Revolution, but European reaction, whose game the oppositionists are unwittingly helping”91. The account of Istrati’s voyage, called Après seize mois dans l’URSS, the first critical account by a famous fellow traveler, came out in 1929 as part of a collection, which also included texts by Boris Souvarine (La Russie nue) and Victor Serge (Soviet 1929)92.

A Stalinian matryoshka

Hands off the USSR!

My first jubilee doll, and the largest, has the necessarily hideous and aggressive features of Western imperialism, whence its title: “Hands off the USSR!”93. It is the official reason for this gigantic mobilization, and the most explicit, since it figures in the call to attend the festivities and in the final resolution of the Congress of witnesses. Paradoxically, it is also the hardest to identify precisely, despite memories of foreign intervention in 1918. In 1926-1927, a series of events occurred – in no particular order, Germany’s joining the League of Nations, the breaking off of diplomatic relations with the United Kingdom in May 1927, the deterioration of relations with France, and lastly of those with China – which, though apparently unrelated, were grouped together by the Soviets under a single perspective. This convinced the leadership that the USSR was being encircled, laying the groundwork for imperialist intervention. This siege mentality and theme of an international plot, partly motivated by domestic political considerations, triggered a rearrangement of foreign policy priorities around the Stalinian watchword, “building socialism in a single country”. While Bukharin continued to assimilate the struggle for peace with the “struggle to overthrow the ruling classes in capitalist countries”, as of August 1927 Stalin identified it with the unconditional defense of the USSR. To his mind, the principal contradiction at the international level was no longer within the capitalist camp, but between the capitalist and the socialist camp identified with the USSR.

Day after day in 1927, the Soviet press ran the headline “War threatens”. “Hands off the USSR” responded in unison the communist and affiliated press around the world94. A host of commemorative publications worked the theme: Why British imperialism is attacking Russia, Another world war is starting, and especially The dangers of war, the Chinese revolution, and the CI. This last title is particularly interesting, for the solidarity the Soviets hoped for was not just with Western workers, but with the oppressed worldwide. As of spring 1927, all communist events were organized under the slogans: Against another war, for China, for the USSR. And each meeting had its Chinese speaker, who ended up realizing they had been used to some extent.

 The USSR as the progeny of the international proletariat

My second matryoshka has more reassuring features – the long white beard and little glasses of Kalinin, the chairman of the Presidium Commission for preparations for the 10th anniversary celebrations. Its subtitle is: “the USSR as the progeny of the international proletariat”95. In opposition to the demonized image of the enemy, the festivities represented in real and symbolic terms the coming together of a united “us” – the international working class. But to win the international proletariat’s sympathy and support for the USSR – including financial backing (in the form of an international workers’ loan) and technical know-how (by calling in foreign specialists) – the workers had first to be informed of the real situation in the USSR, and of what had been built up in one decade. But as the Agitpropotdel secretariat had noted over the preceding years, “the social democrat press, particularly in Germany, being no longer able to talk of the Soviet defeat, now endeavors to prove that the working class is worse off in the USSR than in capitalist countries, and that the Soviet government’s social policies are no different from those of capitalist governments”96. This press was also able to draw on “the calumnies of the far left to speak about the degeneration of the workers’ state, and of Russia being handed over to wealthy peasants”97.

That is why the October Jubilee was not celebrated under the banner of the worldwide revolution (as had been the case in 1923), of the Party, or of communism, but instead as signifying the accomplishments of “our class brethren” working within the proletarian state. The regime’s economic achievements remained very modest, but the propaganda emphasized some areas of legislative progress (the eight-hour working day, or six-hour day for those working in a dangerous environment such as the chemical industry98), and especially the Soviet novyi byt’, the workers’ new daily life (with workers clubs, canteens, crèches, etc.), gender equality, literacy campaigns in the countryside, and the emancipation of national minorities.

Similarly, with the exception of Bukharin, the head of the International, the visible heroes of the festivities were not the legendary party figures – Leon Trotsky, Grigory Zinoviev, Lev Kamenev, or even Stalin, who, deliberately on his part, remained in the background99. Instead, the heroes of the festivities were the red directors, the worker trade unionists, the state officials from the working and peasant classes, such as Kalinin, who had been head of the Soviet executive since 1919, Alexei Rykov, chairman of the Council of People’s Commissars, and Mikhail Tomsky chairman of the Central Trade Union Council. These models for identification, from the right-wing of the Party, were the reassuring face of the state in 1927, and of the International in the case of Bukharin. Apart from Kalinin, who went on to have a long and insignificant career, all were removed from their posts in 1929 and then eliminated during the great trials.


Sidelining and eliminating the opposition

My third doll has Trotsky’s features, and bears the label: “Sidelining and eliminating the opposition”. It was not by chance that the massive popularization of Stalin’s dogma, “Marxism-Leninism”, was concomitant with the commemorative mobilization. The festivities enabled the authorities to speak to the masses, transmitting their interpretation of history and current affairs. Commemorating did not mean debating the revolution, as Trotsky had sought to do in 1924 with his Lessons of October, sparking a unilateral defamation campaign in the guise of “literary discussion”. The criticisms, particularly those put forward by Stalin (On the Road to October, 1925100), did not for that matter pertain to the leading role of the Party in unfolding events, to the scale of military preparations, or to Zinoviev’s or Kamenev’s hesitations, but rather to Trotsky’s glossing over his pre-1917 divergences with Lenin and the Bolshevik party.

Unable to disagree over the nature of the account – “the October Revolution” was, in Lenin’s words, “a Bolshevik revolution” – the attention of the jubilee organizers focused instead on presenting a narrative accessible to all, allowing the coherence, inexorability, and drama of October to shine through101. All the jubilee films (Vsevolod Pudovkin’s The End of St Petersburg, Sergei Eisenstein’s October, and Boris Barnet’s Moscow in October) thus emphasize the importance of the Party. And irrespective of the artistic medium – the sound and light show in Leningrad, the film October, the paintings – the commemorative account of October focused on the taking of the Winter Palace by the proletarian masses, aroused to political consciousness by the Bolshevik party, with the support of bombardments by the cruiser Aurora.

In addition to presenting the train of events and bringing local chronologies into line with the account of the central authorities, the Commission for the History of the October Revolution and the Russian Communist Party (Ispart) was tasked with providing scientific generalizations about contemporary revolutionary endeavors102. The festivities’ legitimizing function was thus accompanied by an objectivizing function. Using the commemoration as a pretext, Ispart distributed standardized questionnaires to activists which, by linking the development of the revolutionary movement to the right decisions made by the Party, provided a way of checking the activists’ past – “Where were you in 1917?”, “What party did you belong to?” – and of getting the population to interiorize Stalin’s dogma. According to an internal report, the 10th anniversary celebrations were to contribute to the dissemination of Marxism-Leninism to the working masses. As a senior propaganda official in the German party had already noted, it was not a matter of reading Lenin but of knowing “how to read him”103. As part of its preparations for the festivities, the Party thus conducted meetings for reading Problems of Leninism. These were closely controlled, since they systematically ended with a questionnaire to check whether the activists had taken the message on board correctly. In answer to the question “What does the opposition want?”, activists henceforth replied in unison: “to discredit the USSR and so serve reaction!”. This theme was taken up in all possible forms, on all possible occasions, and at all possible levels of the sister parties. Correspondingly, many of the messages of congratulations sent for the 10th anniversary requested firm condemnation of the opposition104.

Initially Trotsky let things take their course105. But the bright lights and noises of the festivities also provided cover for maneuvering by the apparatus, which started rounding up oppositionists in September. Trotsky and Zinoviev were expelled from the party’s Central Committee on October 23. On November 7, the oppositionists decided to come out into the open and attend the events, brandishing their own watchwords106. Even though Trotsky was under house arrest, several sought to infiltrate the event on Red Square. They were intercepted by the heavies of the security apparatus, who wrenched their banners from their hands before shredding them, sparking fights and arrests. Then it was the turn of the Chinese oppositionists, mainly students of Karl Radek at Sun Yat-sen University107, who unfurled a banner in front of the Mausoleum bearing the inscription: “Long live the leaders of world revolution: Trotsky Zinoviev, Radek, Preobrazhencsky!”108. The incident was promptly brought to a close when Stalin’s security squad intervened. The same scenes were played out in Leningrad, where oppositionists, headed by Zinoviev and Radek, were encircled and cut off from the main body of the official event. In Kharkov, however, Christian Rakovsky took advantage of the foreign delegations’ presence to mention the opposition in his speech109. These were the first and last counter-events organized by the opposition during the October commemorations.

Münzenberg attended one of these public opposition events, held on the first-floor balcony of the Paris Hotel on Tverskaya, though without taking part. Like most of the foreign delegates, he undoubtedly did not pick up on the discordant notes in the unfolding spectacle he had helped create. The unity of the Russian party was rebuilt in the unanimous condemnation of the opposition’s anti-party activities. On November 14, Trotsky and Zinoviev were expelled from the Russian Communist Party, and those who refused to conduct their own self-criticism were deported in early 1928, when the commemorations were still resonating. Behind its reassuring image as a vector to bring people together around the regime, the festivities cloaked the struggle against the enemy within. More broadly, 1927 was a pivotal year in the history of the international revolutionary movement, marked by the elimination of the left-wing or Trotskyite opposition, and preparations for the “class against class” line approved at the 6th CI Congress in 1928110. It was the “unusual turn” referred to by Victor Serge, oddly taking place beneath the eyes of nearly 1000 foreign observers. The Land of Lenin, to return to the title of the documentary mentioned in the introduction, was in fact becoming that of Stalin.

Mobilizing to prepare the third revolution

My final Russian doll has the face of Stalin, and “Mobilizing to prepare the third revolution” as its watchword. On first sight, these October commemorations seemed to mark the end of the revolutionary enthusiasm of the early years, the “degeneration of a now conservative regime,” as Boris Souvarine wrote in Paris. “We are in a period where, among active people, some make merry, while others scheme for power and fortune [...]. It matters little whether you call that a Directory or not, the facts are the same”111. Non-communist foreigners even seemed reassured by the sidelining of those who, like Trotsky, embodied worldwide revolution in its most internationalist dimension. But this apparent normalization of the regime was in fact a trompe l’œil, for over the course of summer and autumn 1927, the decision was put in place for a planned economy and the enforced collectivization of agriculture. The most important thing, as the 10th Anniversary Commission Bulletin noted, was to be able to draw on the mobilization of the masses in prospect of the work to be done112. This initially targeted the countryside, a sphere which during the NEP had progressively slipped free of party control. Over the course of one week, propagandists travelled thousands of kilometers to disseminate themes relating to the collectivization of the agricultural economy. Exchanges between delegations from the town and the countryside symbolically re-established the link between workers and peasants113, while preparing the population for the displacements of the 1930s. The prevalence and violence of anti-kulak slogans – "strike them without pity” – inflamed class hatred and laid the grounds for the violence surrounding the demise of the NEP.

The mobilization thus took place as part of the forthcoming project to industrialize the country and “build socialism here”, fixing the objectives for the coming decade. But the celebrations had less to say about what had been accomplished than about what was to be accomplished. During the preparations, the representative from the Ukrainian festivities committee reminded his colleagues in Moscow that Ukraine could not celebrate ten years of science policy for it had no academy of science. In response, the central authorities suggested that the first stone of the future building of the Ukrainian Academy of Science be ceremoniously laid in Kiev on November 7114. There was a rash of foundation stones across the entire USSR: the first stone of the future People’s Palace, of the future factory, of the future electricity plant, of the future dam, of the future railroad, of the future orphanage, and so on and so forth. Rapidly, under the pretext of commemoration, and in a precursor to Stakhanovism, a culture of one-upmanship took hold. “We pledge to double our steel production in honor of the 10th anniversary,” asserted a Donetz miners’ petition.

Lastly, the mobilization methods used during these festivities, such as the loudspeakers permanently blaring, became typical control elements during the Stalinian period. After broadcasting the sounds of the festivities, the 100,000 radio receivers installed in North-West province went on to broadcast the watchwords of collectivization, before denouncing the successive traitors115.

Merchandising the festivities and reifying October

By the 10th anniversary, the October commemorations, previously chaotic creations, testified to the consolidation of the regime and the centralization of Soviet power. The interference of the party state in organizing this vast production transpired in the creation of an extremely hierarchical organizational structure, with layer upon layer of administration, contributing to the unification of the Soviet peoples and territories as part of the October celebrations. Despite an attempt to return to more participative forms breaking down barriers between actors and spectators, professionals took over from amateurs in organizing the events, and participants were increasingly restricted to the role of extras, or “consumers” of the festivities.

This sort of “universal exhibition” or “international fair of socialism”116 did much to encourage the emergence of an industry in commemorative objects and other memorabilia fulfilling propagandist and commercial imperatives, such as stationery, ceramics (agitfarfor), coins, medals and badges (znatchki), ribbons, flags, and other trinkets117. In the USSR, as in Germany, these were produced by the business conglomerate founded by the WIR, Aufbau Industries & Handels Aktion Gesellschaft, which supplied this commemorative material to the numerous mass associations gravitating around the communist parties. As totems of power, they came to signify the reification of the revolution and merchandization of its festivities. It marked the birth of the commemorative business which flourished under Brezhnev – or to be more accurate, its rebirth, for this type of political merchandising had already existed during the Romanov tercentenary celebrations under the ancien régime.

The 10th anniversary celebrations of the Revolution, in their form and content, were, in Emilia Koustova’s words, a pivotal moment, acting “both as epilogue to the history of the festivities born with the revolution, and prologue to the turn that would give birth to Stalinian festivities”118.

Unfold notes and references
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Hronika prebyvaniâ inostrannyh rabočih delegacij v SSSR v dni desâtiletiâ Oktâbrʹskoj revolûcii, Régisseur N. Lebedev, Métrage : 2050,7 ; 7 bobines déposées aux Archives d’État du film documentaire et de la photographie, (désormais RGAKFD), F.2692.

Retour vers la note de texte 6012


Légendes du film : Au pays de Lénine, F.5451/13a/177, doc. 475, Archives d’État de la Fédération de Russie, Moscou (désormais GARF).

Retour vers la note de texte 6013


Rapport sur la diffusion de Au pays de Lénine, F.5451/13a/177, doc. 487, GARF.

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« Proposition pour l’organisation d’une vague de sympathie en faveur de l’URSS », F.495/60/117, doc. 43, Archives d’État de Russie de l’histoire sociale et politique, Moscou (désormais RGASPI) et Sophie Coeuré, « Les “fêtes d’Octobre” 1927 à Moscou. La dynamique des structures d’influence soviétiques et kominterniennes autour d’un anniversaire », Communisme, n° 42-43-44, 1995, p. 57-74.

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[Sans nom] à Dmitri Manouilski, et aux autre membres de la délégation russe, 30.4.1927, F.495/30/371, doc. 83, RGASPI.

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L’expression est de Joseph S. Jr. Nye, Soft Power. The Means to Success in World Politics, New York, Public Affairs, 2005.

Retour vers la note de texte 6017


Bulletin de la Commission pour le 10e anniversaire, F.495/30/371, doc. 131 et suivants, RGASPI.

Retour vers la note de texte 6018


Lettres de félicitations, F.495/30/369, doc. 45-48, RGASPI.

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Bulletin de la Commission pour le 10e anniversaire, F.495/30/371, doc. 150, RGASPI.

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André Calomer, délégué français, à sa fille Viviane, 7.11.1927, F.495/30/392, doc. 173, RGASPI.

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Organisation des commémorations dans les club ouvriers : F.5283/8/47, doc. 55, GARF.

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Alexandre Sumpf, « Le public soviétique et Octobre d’Eisenstein : enquête sur une enquête », 1895. Mille huit cent quatre-vingt-quinze [En ligne], 42 | 5, note 6. DOI : 10.4000/1895.275

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André Calomer à sa fille Viviane, 7.11.1927 : F.495/30/392, doc. 173, RGASPI.

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Description de Paul Vaillant-Couturier, F.495/30/392, doc. 183, RGASPI. 

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Description de Paul Vaillant-Couturier, F.495/30/450, doc. 47, RGASPI.

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André Calomer à sa fille Viviane, 7.11.1927, F.495/30/392, doc. 175, RGASPI.

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Description de Paul Vaillant-Couturier, F.495/30/450, doc. 47, RGASPI.

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Le nombre estimé des manifestants est de 750 000 à Moscou, 800 000 à Leningrad (Susan M. Corbesero, The Anniversaries of the October Revolution, 1918-1927. Politics and Imagery, PhD, University of Pittsburgh, 2005, p. 185).

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O prazdnovanii 10-letnei godovshchiny Oktiabr’skoi Revoliutsii v gorode Leningrade i Leningradskoi Oblasti, 1927 ; Agitatsionno-massovoe iskusstvo. Oformlenie prazdnestv, 1917-1932, vol. II, Moskva, Iskusstvo, 1984, p. 169.

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Sur l’Ukraine, voir : Eric Aunoble, « Commemorating an Event that Never Occurred: Russia’s October in Soviet Ukraine in the 1920s », in J-F. Fayet, S. Prezioso, V. Gorin (dir.), Echoes of October. International Commemorations of the Bolshevik Revolution 1918-1991, London, Lawrence & Wishart, 2017, p. 28-55.

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Pour la description des itinéraires dans quelques villes de province voir : Emilia Koustova, Les Fêtes révolutionnaires dans la Russie soviétique, mémoire de DEA sous la direction de Wladimir Berelovitch, EHESS, Paris, 1999, p. 90-104 ;


Malte Rolf, Sovetskij massovyj prazdnik v Voroneže i Central’no-Černozemnoj Oblasti Rossii (1927-1932), Voronež, Izdatel’stvo voronežskogo gosudarstvennogo Universiteta, 2000 ; 


Svetlana Malyševa, Sovetskaja prazdničnaja kul’tura v provincii (1917-1927), Kazan, Kazanskij Gosudarstvennyj Universitet. 2005.

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Bulletin de la Commission pour le 10e anniversaire, F.495/30/371, doc. 131 et suivantes, RGASPI.

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Rapport sur la tournée des Blouses bleues en Allemagne, 1927, F.5451/13a/233, doc. 26, et F.5283/11/28, doc. 77, GARF.


Voir aussi Kasper Braskén, The International Workers’ Relief, Communism, and Transnational solidarity, Willi Münzenberg in Weimar Germany, Basingstoke, Palgrave, 2015, p. 178-180.

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Explication des tableaux de l’Exposition du 10e anniversaire : « Dix années d’édification du socialisme », F.495/30/373, doc. 91-176, RGASPI.

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Rapport, F.495/30/732, doc. 194, RGASPI et Rapport de J. Poulet à VOKS, F.5283/11/49, doc. 139, GARF.

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Rapport du bureau des expositions de la VOKS, 1927, F.5283/7/5, doc.  3-5, GARF.

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« Manifestation à Berlin à l’occasion du 10e anniversaire », Sovkino-zhurnal, n° 48/106, 1927, RGAKFD et Kasper Braskén, « Celebrating October: a Transnational Commemorations of the Tenth Anniversary of the Soviet Union in Weimar Germany », in J-F. Fayet, S. Prezioso, V. Gorin (eds.), Echoes of October: International Commemorations of the Bolshevik Revolution 1918-1991, Lawrence & Wishart, 2017, p. 76-105. 

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Elizabeth Henderson, « Majakovskij and Eisenstein Celebrate the Tenth Anniversary », The Slavic and East European Journal, Vol. 22, n° 2, 1978, p. 153-162 ;


Alexandre Sumpf, Révolutions russes au cinéma. Naissance d’une nation : URSS, 1917-1985, Paris, Armand Colin, 2015.

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Rapport sur la Lituanie, 29.11.1927, F.495/30/371, doc. 264, RGASPI.

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Anastasia Koukouna, « Commemorating the October Revolution in Greece, 1918-1949 », in J-F. Fayet, S. Prezioso, V. Gorin (eds.), Echoes of October : International Commemorations of the Bolshevik Revolution 1918-1991, Lawrence & Wishart, 2017, p. 141.

Retour vers la note de texte 6041


Liste des délégations du 10e anniversaire, F.495/30/392, doc. 162 a-c, RGASPI.

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F.5283/1a/99, doc. 23, GARF.

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Plan pour l’arrivée de Barbusse en Octobre 1927, F.495/30/357, doc. 2, RGASPI.


Sur le voyage de Theodor Dreiser, voir : Ludmila Stern, Western Intellectuals and the Soviet Union, 1920-1940, New York, Taylor and Francis Routledge, 2007, p. 105-106 et Michael David-Fox, Showcasing the Great Experiment: Cultural Diplomacy and Western Visitors to the Soviet Union, 1921-1941, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2012, p. 127-141.

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F.495/30/392, doc. 85, RGASPI.

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Discours de N. I. Boukharine, novembre 1927, F.495/99/12, doc. 10, RGASPI.

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Victor Serge, Mémoires d’un Révolutionnaire, Paris, Le Seuil, 1951, p. 155.

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Discours de Henri Barbusse « Sur les menaces de guerre impérialiste contre l’URSS », 10.11.1927, F.5451/13a/188, doc. 15, GARF.

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Description de visites de prisons : F.495/30/392, doc. 235, F.495/30/450, doc. 23, RGASPI, et « Mes impressions sur la ville de Moscou, ses prisons et ses casernes » par Max Tobler, Moskauer Eindrücke, Zürich, Internationale Rote Hilfe, 1927.

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Premier congrès des Amis de l’Union soviétique, F.495/99/14, doc. 58-75, RGASPI.

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Paul Vaillant-Couturier, esquisse d’article pour L’Humanité, F.495/30/450, doc. 70, RGASPI.

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Im Zeichen von Hammer und Sichel. Protokoll des Kongresses der Freunde der Sowjetunion (10.-12. November 1927 in Moskau), Berlin, Verlag Die Einheit, 1928, 127 p. et F.495/99/12, doc. 33-75, RGASPI.

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François Furet, Le passé d’une illusion. Essai sur l’idée communiste au XXe siècle, p. 254 et Rolf Surmann, Die Münzenberg-Legende, Köln, Prometh Verlag, 1983.

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Cité par Béla Kun, secrétaire du CEIC, 30.11.1925, F.495/30/141, doc. 159 et F.495/60/117, doc. 43-49, RGASPI.

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Proposition de Willi Münzenberg pour le 10e anniversaire, 14.11.1926, F.495/30/264, doc. 132-135, RGASPI. 

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Christopher Binns, « The Changing Face of Power: Revolution and Accomodation in the Development of the Soviet Ceremonial System », Part I-II, Man-Journal of Royal Anthropological Institut, Vol. 14, n° 4, Dec. 1979, p. 555-606 & Vol. 15, n° 1, Mars 1980, p. 170-187;


Malte Rolf, Soviet Mass Festivals, 1917-1991, (First Edition Hamburg 2006), Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh University Press, 2013, p. 72.

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Willi Münzenberg à Staline, novembre 1926, F.538/2/37, doc. 170-171, RGASPI.

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Cité par Sean McMeekin, The Red Millionaire. A Political Biography of Willi Münzenberg, Moscow’s Secret Propaganda Tsar in the West, New Haven & London 2003, p. 195.

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Kasper Braskén, The International Workers’ Relief, Communism, and Transnational solidarity. Willi Münzenberg in Weimar Germany, Houndmills, Palgrave Macmillan, 2015, p. 117-123.

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Unfried, Prometheus Film-Verlag à Agitpropotdel, CEIC, 23.6.1927, F.495/30/53, doc. 86 et Agitpropotdel du CEIC à Sovkino, 27.6.1927, F.495/30/371, doc. 68, RGASPI.

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Proposition de Willi Münzenberg pour le 10e anniversaire, 14.11.1926, F.495/30/264, doc. 135, et F.495/60/117, doc. 49, RGASPI.

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Willi Münzenberg à secrétariat de l’IC, Bennett, 26.3.1927, F.495/30/290, doc. 10, RGASPI.

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Rapport de Willi Münzenberg F.495/60/117, doc. 36, RGASPI et Sean McMeekin, The Red Millionaire. A Political Biography of Willi Münzenberg, Moscow’s Secret Propaganda Tsar in the West, New Haven/London, Yale University Press 2003, p. 198.

Retour vers la note de texte 6063


Rapport de Willi Münzenberg à la commission préparatoire des fêtes du 10e anniversaire, 25.5.1927, F.495/99/22, doc. 46-60, RGASPI.

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Béla Kun, secrétaire du CEIC 3.11.1925, F.495/30/141, doc. 159, RGASPI.

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Plan provisoire de réalisation des fêtes du 10e anniversaire élaboré par le CEIC, Alfred Kurella, 12.1.1927, F.495/30/371, doc. 8-14, RGASPI.

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Sous-commission internationale auprès du présidium du Tsik SSSR, F.495/60/17, doc. 1, et F.367/1/20, doc 1-2, RGASPI.

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Alfred Kurella à l’Agitpropotdel du CEIC, aux CC des PC, 4.2.1927, F.496/30/376, doc. 8, RGASPI.

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Ahmad Subardjo Djoyoadisuryo, Kesadaran Nasional. Sebuan Otobiografi, Jakarta, Gunung Agung, 1978, p. 139. Merci à Klaas Stutje pour la traduction.

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Proposition de Willi Münzenberg pour le 10e anniversaire, 14.11.1926, F.495/30/264, RGASPI.

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Gaetano Rosati, Berrotaran-Argentine, à l’URSS, 1.10.1927, F.496/30/369, doc. 11, RGASPI.

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Union allemande des ouvriers agricoles, G. Schmidt, à l’Union des paysans soviétiques, F.495/30/392, doc. 60 RGASPI.

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Jean-François Fayet, VOKS. Le laboratoire helvétique. Histoire de la diplomatie culturelle soviétique durant l’entre-deux-guerres, Genève, Georg, 2014, p. 212

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“My only consolation is that as celebrations are bourgeois institutions at which nobody tells the truth it perhaps just as well that I shall be at a safe distance”, Lettre de G. B. Shaw à Varvara Polovtseva, VOKS, 18.10.1927, F.5283/8/47, doc. 186, GARF.

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Information, Agitpropotdel du CEIC, 11.10.1927, F.495/30/392, doc. 78, RGASPI.

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Information, Agitpropotdel du CEIC, 11.10.1927, F.495/30/392, doc. 115-116, RGASPI.

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Sportintern : sur l’interdiction faite par l’ISL à ses sections de participer au 10e anniversaire : F.537/2/202, doc. 6, RGASPI.

Retour vers la note de texte 6077


Agitpropotdel du CEIC, à Wilhelm Pieckm 29.12.1927, F.495/30/353, doc. 38, RGASPI.

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KVS-VTsSPS, 28.10.1925, F.5451/13a/10, doc. 162, GARF.

Retour vers la note de texte 6079


Olga Kameneva à CC PCUS, 1928, F.495/99/26, doc. 208-210, RGASPI. 

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Rapport de Willi Münzenberg sur la préparation des fêtes, 25.5.1927, F.495/90/22, doc. 46, RGASPI.

Retour vers la note de texte 6081


Willi Münzenberg à sec. Comintern, Paul Bennett, 26.3.1927, F.495/30/371, doc. 63, RGASPI.

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Willi Münzenberg à Nicolas Boukharine, 4.4.1927, F.495/30/371, doc. 79, RGASPI.

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Commission du présidium pour la préparation des célébrations du 10e anniversaire, point 3 c, F.495/30/371, doc. 55-66, RGASPI.

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Agitpropotdel du KPD au CEIC, 2.9.1927, F.495/30/371, doc. 129, RGASPI.

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Jean-François Fayet, VOKS. Le laboratoire helvétique. Histoire de la diplomatie culturelle soviétique durant l’entre-deux-guerres, Genève, Georg, 2014, p. 101-126.

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Heinz Willmann, Geschichte der Arbeiter-Illustrierten Zeitung 1921-1938, Berlin, Dietz Verlag, 1974, p. 50.

Retour vers la note de texte 6087


La Commission M. F. Vladimirovski (F.357/1/ : RGASPI) – formée de représentants du Parti et de l’État, auxquels s’ajoutent les délégués des syndicats, des jeunesses communistes et de nombreux autres – chapeaute une multitude de sous-commissions techniques et artistiques : Publications (F.3914/1, F.5283/1a/), Expositions (F.3914/1, F.5283/1a/), ... Cette structure est reproduite à l’identique à chaque niveau administratif (Union, République, …).

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Rachel Mazuy, Croire plutôt que voir ? Voyages en Russie soviétique (1919-1939), Paris, Odile Jacob, 2002, p. 99-102.

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F.495/30/392, doc. 51, RGASPI.

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Dès 1926, l’Agitpropotdel du CEIC suggère aux Agitpropotdel de tous les PC d’organiser des cours de deux jours pour propagandistes : F.495/30/243, doc. 52, RGASPI.

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Il existe une immense production de manuels et revues spécialisée consacrée à l’organisation des fêtes : Le club ouvrier, Le compagnon du propagandiste, Création, le Messager du Théâtre, Comment organiser un spectacle de masse.

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  Programme des cours pour la formation des guides-traducteurs, VOKS, 1927, F.5283/1/76, doc. 304, GARF.

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F.495/30/392, doc. 113, et Sophie Coeuré, La Grande Lueur à l’Est. Les Français et l’Union soviétique 1917-1939, Paris, Le Seuil, 1999, p. 130-131.

Retour vers la note de texte 6094


« Sur les seize camarades allemands invités, seul un figurait sur nos listes, […] nous ne savons où sont les autres », Société des vieux-bolcheviks à Agitpropotdel du CEIC, 27.10.1927, F.495/30/392, doc. 38, RGASPI.

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Rapport sur la délégation française, F.5451/13a/187, doc. 905, GARF.

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« Il ne faut pas mentionner la convocation de ce congrès », la convocation est « absolument secrète », Résolution du secrétariat politique du CEIC : F.495/30/392, doc. 55, 58, RGASPI.

Retour vers la note de texte 6097


Agitpropotdel du CEIC, protocole n° 10, 28.101927, F.495/30/371, doc. 232, 238, et F.495/30/392, doc. 171, RGASPI.

Retour vers la note de texte 6098


Amis de l’Union soviétique (AUS), Conférence de Cologne, F.495/99/16, doc. 1, RGASPI.

Retour vers la note de texte 6099


Rolf Surmann, Die Münzenberg-Legende, Zur Publizistik der revolutionären deutschen Arbeiterbewegung 1921−1933, Köln, Prometh Verlag, 1983.


Pour les témoignages allemands : Matthias Heeke, Reisen zu den Sowjets. Der ausländische Tourismus in Rußland 1921-1941. Mit einem bio-bibliographischen Anhang zu 96 deutschen Reiseautoren, Münster, LIT Verlag, 2003.

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Cité par Boris Souvarine, Souvenirs sur Panaït Istrati, Isaac Babel et Pierre Pascal, Paris, Lebovici, 1985, p. 73.

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« Correspondance P. Istrati/R. Rolland », Cahiers Panaït Istrati, n° 2-3-4, 1987, p. 320.

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Panaït Istrati, Vers l’autre flamme, Paris, Rieder, 1929.

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Cette formulation proposée par Willi Münzenberg était utilisée depuis 1925 à propos de la Chine, comme mot d’ordre et comme appellation d’associations « Touche pas à la Chine ».  

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F.495/99/12, doc. 35-38, RGASPI.

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Déclaration de Staline aux délégués étrangers, F.5451/13a/187, doc. 758, GARF.

Retour vers la note de texte 6106


Rapport de l’Agitpropotdel du CEIC, 2.5.1925, F.495/30/139, doc. 2, RGASPI.

Retour vers la note de texte 6107


Thèses pour les agitateurs, 1926, F.495/30/264, doc. 80, RGASPI.

Retour vers la note de texte 6108


Slogans de l’Agitpropotdel du CEIC, 29.10.1927, F.495/30/371, doc. 246, RGASPI.

Retour vers la note de texte 6109


A titre d’exemple, Staline, lors de la parade, se tient sur la terrasse du Mausolée derrière Kalinine, au deuxième rang, et n’apparaît qu’à la page 71 du rapport des délégués suisses.

Retour vers la note de texte 6110


La préface de l’ouvrage intitulée « La Révolution d’octobre et la tactique des communistes russes » est incluse dans toutes les éditions de Questions du léninisme.

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Frederick C. Corney, Telling October. Memory and the making of the Bolshevik Revolution, Ithaca, Cornell University Press, 2004, p. 184.

Retour vers la note de texte 6112


Frederick C. Corney, Telling October: memory and the making of the Bolshevik Revolution, Ithaca, Cornell University Press, 2004, p. 131.

Retour vers la note de texte 6113


« Comment lit-on Lénine ? », séance du KPD, 1926, F.495/30/243, doc. 120.

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Lettre de félicitations du 16edistrict de la province de Stalingrad à l’IC, F.495/30/369, doc. 47, RGASPI.

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Léon Trotsky, Ma Vie, Paris, Gallimard, 1953, p. 620.

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Voir les récits de Victor Serge (Mémoires d’un Révolutionnaire, Paris, Le Seuil, 1951, p. 246-247) et Pierre Pascal (Russie 1927, t.IV, Lausanne, L’Âge d'Homme, 1982, p. 249-251).

Retour vers la note de texte 6117


Jean-François Fayet, Karl Radek : biographie politique, Berne, Lang, 2004, p. 587.

Retour vers la note de texte 6118


Alexander Pantsov, « La naissance de l'opposition de gauche dans le PC chinois », Cahiers Léon Trotsky, n° 57, 1996, p. 42.

Retour vers la note de texte 6119


Rapport sur le discours de Rakovski à Kharkov, F.495/99/12, doc. 138, RGASPI.

Retour vers la note de texte 6120


Bruno Groppo, Michel Prat, « Les commémorations comme instrument dans la lutte contre l’opposition (1926-1927) », Communisme, 1984, n° 5.

Retour vers la note de texte 6121


Pierre Pascal, Russie 1927, t. IV, Lausanne, L’Âge d’Homme, 1982, p. 24.

Retour vers la note de texte 6122


Bulletin de la Commission pour le 10e anniversaire, F.495/30/371, doc. 135, RGASPI.

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Bulletin de la Commission pour le 10e anniversaire, F.495/30/371, doc. 156, RGASPI.

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Bulletin de la Commission pour le 10e anniversaire, F.495/30/371, doc. 147, RGASPI.

Retour vers la note de texte 6125


Bulletin de la Commission pour le 10e anniversaire, F.495/30/371, doc. 154, RGASPI.

Retour vers la note de texte 6126


« A kind of Word’s fair of socialism », Frederick C. Corney, Telling October. Memory and the making of the Bolshevik Revolution, Ithaca, Cornell University Press, 2004, p. 175.

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Voir Et 1917 devient Révolutions, catalogue de l’exposition édité par Carole Ajam, Alain Blum, Sophie Coeuré, Sabine Dullin, Paris (Le Seuil, 2017) et Le Spectacle de la révolution. Histoire de la culture visuelle des commémorations d’Octobre, en URSS et ailleurs, édité par Jean-François Fayet, Gianni Haver, Emilia Koustova et Valérie Gorin (Lausanne, Antipodes, 2017).

Retour vers la note de texte 6128


Emilia Koustova, « Manifestation, carnaval, défilé stalinien, naissance d’une chorégraphie festive », in J-F. Fayet, G. Haver, E. Koustova, V. Gorin (dir.), Le Spectacle de la révolution. Histoire de la culture visuelle des commémorations d’Octobre, Lausanne, Antipodes, 2017, p. 44.

Agitacionno-massovoe iskusstvo. Oformlenie prazdnestv, 1917-1932, vol. I-II, Moskva, Iskusstvo, 1984.

Christopher Binns, “The Changing Face of Power: Revolution and Accomodation in the Development of the Soviet Ceremonial System”, part I-II, Man-Journal of Royal Anthropological Institut, vol. 14, n° 4, 1979, p. 555-606 & vol. 15, n° 1, 1980, p. 170-187.

Kasper Braskén, The International Workers’ Relief, Communism, and Transnational solidarity. Willi Münzenberg in Weimar Germany, Houndmills, Palgrave Macmillan, 2015.  

Sophie Cœuré, « Les “fêtes d’Octobre” 1927 à Moscou. La dynamique des structures d’influence soviétiques et kominterniennes autour d’un anniversaire », Communisme, n° 42-43-44, 1995, p. 57-74.

Sophie Cœuré, La Grande Lueur à l’Est. Les Français et l’Union soviétique 1917-1939, Paris, Le Seuil, 1999.

Sophie Cœuré, Rachel Mazuy, avec la collaboration d’Elena Aniskina, Galina Kuznestova, Cousu de fil rouge. Voyages des intellectuels français en Union soviétique, Paris, CNRS Éditions, 2012.

Susan M. Corbesero, The Anniversaries of the October Revolution, 1918-1927. Politics and Imagery, PhD, University of Pittsburgh, 2005.

Frederick C. Corney, Telling October. Memory and the making of the Bolshevik Revolution, Ithaca, Cornell University Press, 2004.

Frederick C Corney, « Zehn Jahre Rote Oktober. Das öffentlische Gedenken an die Oktoberrevolution im Jahr 1927», in J. C. Behrends, N. Katzer, T. Lindenberger (dir.), 100 Jahre Rote Oktober. Zur Weltgeschichte der Russischen Revolution, Berlin, Ch. Links Verlag, 2017, p. 59-84.

Michael David-Fox, Showcasing the Great Experiment. Cultural Diplomacy and Western Visitors to the Soviet Union, 1921-1941, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2012.

Jean-François Fayet, Karl Radek : biographie politique, Berne, Lang, 2004.

Jean-François Fayet, Gianni Haver, Emilia Koustova, Valérie Gorin (dir.), Le Spectacle de la révolution. Histoire de la culture visuelle des commémorations d’Octobre, Lausanne, Antipodes, 2017.

Jean-François Fayet, Stéfanie Prezioso, Valérie Gorin (dir.), Echoes of October. International Commemorations of the Bolshevik Revolution 1918-1991, Londres, Lawrence & Wishart, 2017.

Matthias Heeke, Reisen zu den Sowjets. Der ausländische Tourismus in Rußland 1921‑1941. Mit einem bio-bibliographischen Anhang zu 96 deutschen Reiseautoren,Münster, LIT Verlag, 2003.

Emilia Koustova, Les fêtes révolutionnaire dans la Russie soviétique, mémoire de DEA sous la direction de Wladimir Berelovitch, EHESS, Paris, 1999.

Emilia Koustova, « Les fêtes révolutionnaires russes entre 1917 et 1920. Des pratiques multiples et une matrice commune », Cahiers du monde russe, 47/4, 2006, p. 683-714.

Emilia Koustova, « Célébrer, mobiliser et mettre en scène : le spectaculaire dans les manifestations festives soviétiques des années 1920 », Sociétés et Représentations, n° 31, 2011, p. 157-176.

Svetlana Malysheva, Sovetskaya prazdnicnaya kul’tura v provincii (1917-1927), Kazan, Kazanskij Gosudarstvennyj Universitet, 2005.

Rachel Mazuy, La Section française des Amis de l’Union soviétique (1927-1939) : une organisation de masse sympathisante du PCF, mémoire de maîtrise, Université Paris-X Nanterre, 1988, p. 136.

Rachel Mazuy, « Les “Amis de l’URSS” et le voyage en union soviétique : la mise en scène d’une conversion (1933-1939) », Politix, n° 18, 1992, p. 108-128.

Rachel Mazuy, Croire plutôt que voir ? Voyages en Russie soviétique (1919-1939), Paris, Odile Jacob, 2002.

Sean McMeekin, The Red Millionaire. A Political Biography of Willi Münzenberg, Moscow’s Secret Propaganda Tsar in the WestNew Haven/London, Yale University Press, 2003.

Karen Petron, Life Has Become More Joyous, Comrades. Celebrations in the Time of Stalin, Bloomington-Indianapolis, Indiana University Press, 2000.

Malte Rolf, Sovetskij massovyj prazdnik v Voroneže i Central’no-Černozemnoj Oblasti Rossii (1927-1932), Voronež, Izdatel’stvo voronežskogo gosudarstvennogo Universiteta, 2000.

Malte Rolf, Soviet Mass Festivals, 1917-1991, Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh University Press, 2013 (éd. orig. 2006).

Ludmila Stern, Western Intellectuals and the Soviet Union, 1920-1940, New York, Taylor and Francis Routledge, 2007.

Alexandre Sumpf, Révolutions russes au cinéma. Naissance d’une nation : URSS, 1917-1985, Paris, Armand Colin, 2015.

Rolf Surmann, Die Münzenberg-Legende, Zur Publizistik der revolutionären deutschen Arbeiterbewegung 1921-1933, Köln, Prometh Verlag, 1983.

Heinz Willmann, Geschichte der Arbeiter-Illustrierten Zeitung 1921-1938, Berlin, Dietz Verlag, 1974.