Shaun Walker “Tragedy or triumph? Russians agonise over how to mark 1917 revolutions” https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/dec/17/russia-1917-revolutions-legacy-lenin-putin


The year featured two revolutions: the February revolution (actually in March, according to the modern calendar) deposed Tsar Nicholas II after more than 300 years of rule by the Romanov dynasty, ushering in a brief period in which hopes for a democratic future flourished. Lenin’s Bolsheviks, a small, marginal faction of fanatics who were not taken seriously in the aftermath of the February uprising, took control in the October revolution (actually in November).

During the Soviet period, 7 November, the anniversary of the revolution, was the biggest holiday of the year, and Lenin was memorialised in statues, literature and legends imparted to every Soviet schoolchild.


During his long years in power, Putin has used history to help create a sense of national destiny and unity in Russia, most notably elevating victory in the second world war to something close to a national cult. More recently, figures from the distant past have also been co-opted into the narrative, including Vladimir the Great, the prince of Kiev who adopted Orthodox Christianity in 988, whose monument was erected outside the Kremlin last month. A monument has even been unveiled to Ivan the Terrible, a ruthless ruler who killed his own son, on the basis that he doubled Russia’s territory*1.Under Putin, Russians are encouraged to see history as a long list of achievements, with darker elements such as Stalin’s purges and the Gulag brushed to one side.

In this context, 1917 is problematic. On the one hand, the Soviet state that came from the revolution was the one that won the war and whose military and scientific achievements Putin thinks should be venerated. But on the other hand Putin has elevated “stability” to being one of the key tenets of his rule, and as such celebrating a revolution goes against the very grain of his political philosophy.

“There’s no official line from the Kremlin – they can’t identify themselves with Lenin, because he was a revolutionary, and they can’t identify with Nicholas II because he was a weak leader,” said Zygar*2.


Putin’s main public comments on the anniversary so far have suggested he indeed views the year as a tragedy for the Russian nation. In his address to Russia’s elite earlier this month*3, Putin spoke about the current migration crisis in Europe and warned of the dangers of uprising.

“We know well the consequences that these great upheavals can bring. Unfortunately, our country went through many such upheavals and their consequences in the 20th century,” said Putin.

“Next year, 2017, will mark the 100th anniversary of the February and October revolutions. This is a good moment for looking back on the causes and nature of these revolutions in Russia … Let’s remember that we are a single people, a united people, and we have only one Russia.”


The last tsar and his family have been made into saints by the Russian Orthodox Church, and yet a Moscow metro station is still named after Pyotr Voikov, the man responsible for organising their execution.

In 1991 the monument to Felix Dzerzhinsky, founder of the Cheka (the precursor of the KGB) was pulled down from its perch in central Moscow. Leningrad reverted to its imperial name, St Petersburg. But after this initial flurry of activity, the disposal of the iconography of the Soviet past came to a halt. Most cities still have a Lenin standing proudly in their main squares; many streets retain their Soviet names: there are Lenin, Marx, Komsomol (Soviet youth organisation), Red Partisan and Dictatorship of the Proletariat streets across the vast country. Moscow has an October cinema, an October metro station, and a Revolution Square.

But while there has been no great effort to remove the revolutionary iconography, it does not feature much in public discourse, with all the focus instead on victory in the second world war. Even on Revolution Day on 7 November, the main event this year was a recreation of the military parade held on Red Square in November 1941, after which the troops marched straight to the front. With this sleight of hand, even Revolution Day is now actually a celebration of the war effort.


Opinion is divided on the revolution among Russians. A recent survey on Ekho Moskvy radio about whether people would support the February revolution against Nicholas II found that only 47% said they would; 53% wouldn’t.

(...) With the cult of stability in Putin’s Russia, many Russians are opposed to the idea of revolution while supporting the powerful Soviet state that later emerged under Stalin*4. Nevertheless, a recent survey by the independent Levada Centre of pollsters showed that 53% of Russians have a positive view of Lenin’s role in history, compared with just 27% with a negative view (20% said they didn’t know).


*1:See Agence France-Presse “Russia's first monument to Ivan the Terrible inaugurated” https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/oct/14/russias-first-monument-to-ivan-the-terrible-inaugurated

*2:Mikhail Zygar、ジャーナリスト。


*4:プーチンレーニン批判については、Associated Press “Vladimir Putin accuses Lenin of placing a 'time bomb' under Russia” http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jan/25/vladmir-putin-accuses-lenin-of-placing-a-time-bomb-under-russiaを見られたい。Mentioned in http://d.hatena.ne.jp/sumita-m/20160127/1453824753