1917 Ten days that shook the world/ 2017 Ten days that shake the campus

by Harriet Murav (Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures)


In 2017, Russia has been in the news every day; Russian interference in elections in the US and Europe—remains a pressing issue, not yet fully explained or resolved.

Russia was also in the news one hundred years ago. The Russian Revolution of 1917 profoundly altered the course of history in Russia and around the globe. Scholars have documented the radical economic, social, and political changes and the accompanying upheavals in the organization of knowledge, the structuring of the professions, and individual daily life and self-consciousness. The revolution in society went hand-in-hand with the revolution in art.

As we consider the global landscape today, major questions of labor and capital, economic inequality, and democratic transition have yet to be resolved. Radical visions and radical action are still very much with us. We still have much to learn from 1917 and its global ramifications.

For the past two years, a working group, consisting of faculty from departments and units across LAS and Fine Arts, has been meeting to discuss the meaning of 1917 for today.  Our project, “1917 Ten days that shook the world/ 2017 Ten days that shake the campus” brings together scholars from around the world, the nation, and the campus to analyze the Russian revolution of 1917 in a global context, by examining its immediate impact, elaborating its legacies, and tracing its ripples to the present day –across national boundaries and realms of human endeavor.

We have invited scholars from Russia, as well as scholars who work on India, Italy, and Brazil. Radicalism in the US and its connection to socialist Russia is another important dimension of the anniversary of 1917; we have invited key scholar-activists whose own histories played a central role.

We have created an interdisciplinary undergraduate course, a film festival, a musical performance, a “poetry slam,” a theatrical production, a library exhibit, a Krannert Art Museum exhibit, and a closing faculty and community roundtable.  This series of events constitutes the “the ten days” of our project, which we plan to spread over the Fall 2017 semester, thus facilitating greater intersection between lectures, courses, films, and art and performance.

The first campus event in our series will be a lecture from the George and Martha Kellner Chair of South Asian History and Professor of International Studies at Trinity College, Vijay Prashad, a specialist on global development, labor, and India. He is the author of fifteen books, most recently The Death of the Nation and the Future of the Arab Revolution (California, 2016), and the editor of eighteen books, most recently Will The Flower Slip Through the Asphalt: Writers Respond to Capitalist Climate Change (LeftWord, 2017), which has contributions from Naomi Klein, Amitav Ghosh, Rafia Zakaria, Susan Abulhawa and others. Two of his books – Karma of Brown Folk and Everybody Was Kung Fu Fighting – were chosen by the Village Voice as books of the year. He writes regularly for Frontline (India), The Hindu (India), BirGün (Turkey) and Alternet (USA). In addition, he is the Chief Editor of LeftWord Books (New Delhi).

The questions that Professor Prashad will address in his September 6 lecture, “The Russian Revolution as the Mirror of Third World Aspirations” refocus attention to parts of the world we typically do not associate with Russia. What did the Russian Revolution look like from India or Egypt or Southern Africa? What aspirations did it carry, what sentiment did it hold for people held in thrall of European colonialism? Why was it that these anti-colonial movements celebrated when Japan defeated the Tsarist forces in 1904 and then when the ordinary Russian people rose up in 1905? Why did Gandhi, sitting in South Africa, praise the rebels of 1905 and see in them something to emulate? What then did ‘1917’ mean to the emergent Third World Project?

The Fall symposium, November 2-3, 2017 will focus on 1917 in its immediate context and also, reflect on the broadest implications of 1917 and a century of protest and revolution. The morning session offers historical perspectives on the revolution in Russia; scholars will address the immediate and global reverberations of the revolution during the first decades after 1917. The afternoon examines the state of radical political action, labor, and protest 100 years later, focusing on questions of work, precarity, and inequality.

Boris Kolonitski, the keynote speaker, is the resident senior research scholar at the St. Petersburg Institute of History at the Russian Academy of Sciences, and Professor at the European University in St. Petersburg. Professor Kolonitski has authored numerous scholarly works on 1917, including Interpreting the Russian Revolution: The Language and Symbols of 1917 (with O. Figes,Yale University Press, 1999).

For more, see 19172017.weebly.com.

About iprh

The Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign was established in 1997 to promote interdisciplinary study in the humanities, arts, and social sciences.
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