President Vladimir Putin decided there shouldn’t be a centenary commemoration this year for either the February or October Revolutions of 1917. Instead, he recommended confining the interpretation of the events to “experts”. Before that, Putin confided publicly his opinion that the Bolsheviks had caused Russia to lose World War I by collaborating with Germany.
Never mind the view of the experts that the strongest source of public support the Bolsheviks had in 1917 was that they – unlike Tsar Nicholas II, the Provisional Government which replaced him, Prime Minister Alexander Kerensky, or the socialists – wanted to stop the war, and also the home front violence on which the tsarist order depended to rule. Thinking about that, however, has political implications for the present; that’s to say, for the presidential re-election campaign which concludes in seven months’ time, on March 18, 2018.
Violence, inequality, foreign intervention, national elections, civil war – that’s a highly inflammable combination in Russia, still. The president hasn’t wanted to add fuel to the flames, and that’s why there is no public commemoration of the Revolution this year. No debate among Russian experts either.
Stephen Smith is a British expert, with an earlier book on Red Petrograd, the role of the city’s factory workers in the events of 1917 and 1918, followed by a comparative history of the revolutions in Russia and China. His fresh book, Russia in Revolution, An Empire in Crisis, 1890-1928, is being reviewed by the experts, most of them non-Russians. Smith leads the recommended historians in the list compiled by the London newspaper owned (for sale) by National Reserve Bank proprietor and occasional Kremlin critic, Alexander Lebedev.