Songs were important during the revolution and civil war for conveying political messages.
Demean Bedny was one of the most popular poets during the revolution and would later become a favorite of Stalin's (though Stalin gave him a tongue lashing in 1930 for one of his poems). The poem "Send Off: A Red Army Song" was written in 1918 and depicts a young soldier deciding to go off to war and fight for the Bolsheviks.
The poem was put to music in 1922. You can hear a version here:
The song--as you can perhaps tell from the music--was perky and decidedly PG, whereas the original poem was more like PG-13. The young soldier gets frustrated with his squeamish family who is trying to get him to stay and get married and finally tells them:
I am marching off now with
The Red Army,
Our deadly battle will be with
We will give a talking to
Priests and kulaks:
Our bayonets'll pierce the guts of
(See the von Geldern and Stites collection below for the whole poem.)
Check out this collection of some anti-bolshevik songs of the era.
This month Classical Theater Company is staging two one-act plays - The Bear and The Proposal - by the Russian master, Anton Chekhov. Tickets are cheap. Click here to find out details and Chekhov it out.
Posters played an important role during World War I, even before the outbreak of revolution in Russia in 1917. Along with newspapers and pamphlets, posters were an efficient means for governments to communicate--and persuade--their populations. This was true in Imperial Russia no less than elsewhere. The tsarist government used propaganda art to foster patriotism, dehumanize the enemy, and encourage support for the war effort.
There are a number of fantastic online sources of propaganda art during the First World War. The Harry Ransom Center at UT Austin has digitized hundreds of pieces of art, including many from World War I. Sort them by language and you will find a number of Russian posters at the end of the list. Depending on your topic, you might even find something that would be useful as an additional source for your research this semester.
Don't miss the 10th Annual Russian Documentary Showcase this year, part of which will be held at UH.
October 20, 2016
“Save My Speech Forever”
followed by Q/A with Roman Sivozhelezov
University of Houston, AA AUD 2
October 21, 2016
“Save My Speech Forever”
followed by Q/A with Roman Sivozhelezov
RCC Our Texas (2337 Bissonnet Houston, TX 77005)
Join us this Thursday (9/29) for a visit to Houston's very own Russian Cultural Center. The RCC is a great institution, with all kinds of cultural and historical programs, classes, and other events throughout the year. Right now they are hosting an exhibition of Soviet Propaganda Posters! Sophia Grinblat, who is the director of the center, will meet us there and tell us about the exhibit.
When: THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 29 @ 2:30 - 3:30
Where: Russian Cultural Center, 2337 Bissonnet
How: Drive or carpool with your classmates
Fill out the form below to confirm which piece of Revolutionary artwork you would like to order from the Hoover Institution Archive. Your choice can be any one of the three posters you included in your archive assignment.
During the UH trip to Russia next May, we will see a lot of great sites. In fact, four of the places we’ll visit in and around Moscow and St. Petersburg are included in UNESCO’s World Heritage List.
Another must-see for any visitor to St. Petersburg is the Hermitage Museum. We’ll visit the Hermitage, too. The Museum houses a massive collection (over three million pieces, though not all are on display all the time) of some of the best art and artifacts from around the world dating from antiquity to the modern period. If you spent one minute looking at each of the Hermitage’s treasures for six hours a day, it would take you nearly 23 years to see them all. Clearly you’ll have to do some picking and choosing when you visit it for a day, but you’ll nevertheless get to see some of the world’s most amazing artistic treasures. You can do a virtual tour of the Hermitage here, on Google Arts & Culture.
On top of housing so much great art, the Hermitage Museum building itself is a sight to see. The Empress Catherine the Great, who ruled in the late eighteenth century, worked to make the imperial capital, St. Petersburg, a thoroughly European city, distinguishing it from the older Slavic cities of Moscow and Novgorod. In this respect, she followed in the footsteps of Tsar Peter the Great, the founder of the city of St. Petersburg (1703). When Catherine commissioned the construction of the Hermitage as a palace residence on the banks of the Neva River, she hired one of the great Italian architects of the day, Francesco Bartolomeo Rastrelli. The building served as the tsars’ Winter Palace until February 1917 when the last tsar, Nicholas II, was overthrown. Then, in October 1917, the storming of the Winter Palace became for the Bolsheviks the important (and highly romanticized) founding moment for the Soviet Union. The Hermitage encompasses many layers of Russian history. And because it looks today like it did in 1917, you can peruse the masterpieces of da Vinci and Rembrandt and Picasso all the while reminded of the fact that you’re walking in the house of the tsar.
For all of these reasons and more, the Hermitage was recently named the best museum in Europe (and the third best in the world). And you’ll get to see it on our trip!
For more info, see the Russia Trip 2017 blog.
On September 22, the University of St. Thomas here in Houston is hosting an event with Dr. Sergei Khrushchev, a scholar of international relations and son of the former leader of the Soviet Union, Nikita Khrushchev. I'll be there in attendance. Register if you can, and then let me know if you're coming.
Houston's Main Street Theater will be putting on a play called The Revolutionists by Lauren Gunderson next month. The play is about the French Revolution, but would be particularly interesting to think about in the context of our study of revolution in Russia. Here's the description from the MST website:
"Marie Antoinette and Charlotte Corday walk into a bar… Okay, not exactly, but The Revolutionists is a whirling fantasia of a tale about four fiery, renegade women whose lives collide during the French Revolution. At the height of the Reign of Terror, playwright Olympe de Gouges, assassin Charlotte Corday, activist Marianne Angelle, and former queen Marie Antoinette plot murder, try to beat back extremist insanity in Paris, and explore how we actually go about changing the world in this irreverent, brutal comedy."
If you're interested in going as a group, fill out the form below and let me know what date you'd prefer. I'll tally up how many of us there are and be in touch about the plan. There are performances later in September (until October 3), too.
The storming of the Winter Palace on October 25, 1917 marked, in some ways, the event of the Bolshevik Revolution. There's no doubt it was important. In this class, however, we encounter various interpretations of the Revolution that have something in common: they will challenge you to think of "the Revolution" as a process that began much earlier than 1917, and lasted long after. Many of our sources--both the ones produced by actors involved in the process, and the ones that have been produced by historians since--will challenge you to question why it is we often look to turning points, to big events, in order to explain historical change, rather than long-term processes of transformation. Is it because they are more significant? Or because they are more photogenic? And how, in retrospect, does one event come to be seen as more important than another?
The above photograph of the storming of the palace, which we discussed on the first day of class, holds some of the answers. Several of you said you had seen the photo before. Indeed, it's well known. It captures the founding event in October 1917 that gave birth to the Bolshevik state...or does it?
There's a bonus for anyone who can tell us, on Monday in class, the story of the photograph and why, in fact, it means a lot more than first meets the eye.