2017 Symposium

The Soviet Century: 100 Years of the Russian Revolution

September 21–23, 2017

The 1917 Russian Revolution fundamentally transformed the global landscape, ushering in a new era of human history. Its effects continue to reverberate in the contemporary world. Despite its historical centrality, however, there is no single accepted narrative of the Russian Revolution and its meaning; interpretations have ranged drastically depending on the individual political views, social background, nationality, and temporality of the respondents. From the “Glorious October Revolution” celebrated in Soviet school textbooks to the “Red Menace” that loomed over Cold War–era America; from the kitschy souvenirs purchased by post-Soviet tourists in former East Bloc countries to the recent mixed responses to the death of Cuban Communist leader Fidel Castro, the significance of 1917 continues to elicit intense debate and reinterpretation.

This symposium marks the centenary of the revolution by exploring some of the key questions that surround 1917 and its aftermath. What was the Russian Revolution? What were the causes of this historical rupture? How was the revolution “lived” by participants, bystanders, and victims? How was the revolution translated into art, culture, politics, and economics? How did the “Soviet Experiment” translate into other cultural and historical contexts? Finally, as a moment of crisis, what can 1917 tell us about our own historical present? What are its legacies for us today?