Simon Pirani

Nov 23 2017

The social history of the Russian revolution, a century on

Register for tickets here.

This talk will draw together some threads from the series as a whole. It will consider some general questions: what does social history tell us about how society changed in the Russian empire – and it what respects it stayed the same – as a result of the 1917 revolutions? Can we draw any general conclusions about “mass consciousness” of workers, peasants and women during the revolutions?

The issue of mass mobilisation and democratic participation will be discussed. Many of us see these as positive phenomena in the revolution’s history. But how effective were they? How far did they really go? How did they fail? It will be argued that, in government, the Bolsheviks undermined democratic participation, and sought to control and direct mass mobilisation, e.g. in the 1922 campaigns around the expropriation of church valuables and the trial of the Socialist Revolutionary party leaders.

The session will be open to discussion from everyone present. You will be asked: what do you see as the broader significance of the revolution for today? Have your views changed as a result of what you have heard at these talks? Have they changed more generally over the years?


Simon Pirani is a researcher and historian whose book The Russian Revolution in Retreat 1920-1924: Soviet workers and the new communist elite made a lasting contribution to debates on the outcome of the 1917 revolution. He is also the author of Change in Putin’s Russia, and He is also author of Change in Putin’s Russia, and other books and articles on energy, economics and politics in post-Soviet states. Simon is currently completing a book on the global history of fossil fuel consumption since 1950. He is a Senior Visiting Research Fellow at the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies.

Communists in the Rogozhsko-Simonovsky district of Moscow, 1920
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