Originally published 08/06/2013
Alyssa's posting, like Peter Stearns' earlier, implicitly touch on the questions of leadership and revolutionary stages. Perhaps in any discussion of revolutions it may be worth keeping in mind that those who begin revolutions rarely are the ones who finish them. (The American Revolution, perhaps better called by its other common term, the War for Independence, is an anomaly that perhaps misleads Americans about revolutions.) In comparing revolutions and leadership, perhaps several variants are worth keeping in mind:1) Places where the revolution “succeeds,” in the sense of the old regime being swept away, but successive leadership changes and even mini-revolutions and regime changes occur before things are stabilized in a new order, as in France after 1789 and Russia in 1917.2) Those (rare?) instances where the original revolutionaries successfully sweep away the old regime and replace it by something genuinely new that is reasonably stable and permanent, such as Turkey with Ataturk.3) Instances where revolutionaries have temporary success but the old regime soon reconstitutes itself in slightly altered form (“Revolution of 1905” in Russia, 1848 in Central Europe).
Originally published 08/06/2013
As Jack Censer’s post has pointed out, the role of the military in revolutionary situations is critical to understanding them. Yet, it varies so much that finding common threads can be extremely difficult, and even then misleading. Yet, clearly, they play central roles. Perhaps one useful way of exploring that is to examine the extent to which the military is unified in outlook -- ideological, cultural, social, and hierarchically -- or divided, most likely between officers and rank and file men, which in turn can reflect social or ideological differences (although there could be other fault-lines, such as religion or ethnicity). Moreover, this can change as the revolution progresses.In the Russian Revolution of 1917, for example, both officers and men were unhappy with the tsarist government of Nicholas II as the year opened, with discussion of palace revolution emerging among high-ranking officers by the end of 1916 while rank-and-file soldiers (and lower level officers) were alienated by the ongoing war (World War I). Both immediately supported the February Revolution -- indeed a rebellion of rank-and-file soldiers in the capital city garrison played a critical role in toppling the regime-- and the new liberal provisional government.
Originally published 05/14/2013
Anastasia Romanov, the youngest daughter of the last Russian Tsar, was already smoking at the age of 15, encouraged by her proud father Nicholas II.The anecdote about the Grand Duchess, a key figure in the conspiracy theories that followed the gunshot and bayonet murders of the Romanovs, has been revealed by a series of photographs found in a remote museum in the Urals.Taken in 1916 near Mogilyov, where the Russian military was headquartered during World War I, the photo shows the young girl puffing at the cigarette with every encouragement from her father.“At the time there was not the same stigma attached to smoking,” wrote the Siberian Times, which described the pictures found in the local history museum of Zlatoust, a small city about 186 miles from Yekaterinburg. It was there that the tsar and his family were slaughtered in 1918 by the Bolsheviks on the orders of Soviet founder Vladimir Lenin....
Originally published 03/25/2013
NevaNew York Public Theater425 Lafayette StreetNew York, N.Y.If you can sit through the dreadfully dull and dreary first thirty minutes of Neva, Chilean writer Guillermo Calderon’s drama about the January 22, 1905 massacre that later brought about the 1905 revolution in Russia, you will see a pretty good play.The start of the short play, which opened last week, finds two actors in St. Petersburg greeting their new acting company colleague, Olga Knipper, the widow of recently buried Russian writing great Anton Chekhov. She has come to the jewel of Russia to re-start her acting career. The trio talks about the work they are doing and it is casually mentioned that the tsar’s troops have shot down several thousand street protestors, killing about a thousand of them, in another part of town. No one pays much attention and the play rehearsal drones on, endlessly. There does not seem to be any point to it beyond reminding people that Chekhov’s wife had talent, too.
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