Living the Revolution: Urban Communes in 1920s Russia and the Invention of a Socialist Lifestyle
Thursday 15 December 2016, 6.30 pm, Lecture Theatre B33, Birkbeck, University of London, Malet St, London WC1E 7HX.
At the heart of this talk is a cast of fiery-eyed, bed-headed youths determined to be the change they wanted to see in the world. First banding together in the wake of the October Revolution, seizing hold of urban apartments and student dormitories, youthful enthusiasts tried to offer practical examples of socialist living. Calling themselves ‘urban communes’, they embraced total equality and shared everything from money to underwear. They actively sought to overturn the traditional family unit, reinvent domesticity, and promote a new collective vision of human interaction. A trend was set: a revolutionary meme that would, in the coming years, allow thousands of would-be revolutionaries to experiment with the possibilities of socialism. These activists tried to live what they understood as the “socialist lifestyle”, self-consciously putting Marxist and Bolshevik theories into practice. By telling the story of the urban communes, this talk reveals how grand revolutionary ideals were experienced, understood, and appropriated on a human level.
Andy Willimott is Lecturer in Modern Russian/Soviet History at the University of Reading. He first became interested in the world of modern dreamers and revolutionary visions for everyday life while studying History at the University of East Anglia, surrounded by the architecture of Denys Lasdun and Norman Foster. Between 2012 and 2015, he was Leverhulme Early Career Fellow at the UCL School of Slavonic & East European Studies. He is author of Living the Revolution: Urban Communes & Soviet Socialism, 1917-1932 (Oxford University Press, 2016) and co-author of Rethinking the Russian Revolution as Historical Divide (Routledge, 2017). University web page, Profile and Information about book. Twitter @AndyWillimott