Russia struggles with legacy of 1917 Bolshevik Revolution


MOSCOW –  They performed key roles in Russia’s 1917 Bolshevik Revolution, which triggered a civil battle that killed hundreds of thousands, devastated the nation and redrew its borders. A century later, their descendants say these historic wounds haven’t healed.

As Russia approaches the centennial of the rebellion, it has struggled to return to phrases with the legacy of those that remade the nation. The Kremlin is avoiding any official commemoration of the anniversary, tip-toeing across the occasion that continues to be polarizing for a lot of and will draw unwelcome parallels to the current.

Alexis Rodzianko, whose great-grandfather was speaker of the pre-revolutionary Russian parliament and pushed Czar Nicholas II to abdicate however later regretted it, sees the revolution as a calamity that threw Russia backward.

“Any evolutionary development would have been better than what happened,” Rodzianko, president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Russia, advised The Associated Press. “The main lesson I certainly would hope is that Russia never tries that again.”

He mentioned the revolution and the civil battle, mixed with the devastation of World War II and the general legacy of the Soviet system, eroded Russia’s potential and left its financial system a fraction of what it might have been.

An identical view is held by Vyacheslav Nikonov, a Kremlin-connected lawmaker whose grandfather, Vyacheslav Molotov, performed an vital position in staging the Bolshevik energy seize on Nov. 7, 1917, and served as a member of the Communist management for 4 many years.

Nikonov describes the revolution as “one of the greatest tragedies of Russian history.”

The anniversary is a tough second for President Vladimir Putin.

While he has been essential of revolutionary chief Vladimir Lenin, Putin cannot denounce the occasion that gave beginning to the Soviet Union and remains to be revered by lots of his supporters. But Putin, a KGB veteran, disdains any widespread uprisings, and he definitely would not reward the revolution, which destroyed the Russian empire.

“The last thing the Kremlin needs is another revolution. The last thing Russia needs is another revolution,” Rodzianko mentioned. “And celebrating the revolution saying: ‘Hey, what a great thing!’ is a little bit encouraging what they don’t want, and so they are definitely confused.”

He believes the befuddled angle to the anniversary displays a nationwide trauma that also hurts.

“To me, it’s a sign that people aren’t quite over it. For Russia, it’s a wound that is far from healed,” he mentioned.

The Kremlin has blamed the U.S. for serving to to oust some unpopular rulers in former Soviet nations and for instigating Arab Spring democracy uprisings within the Middle East and North Africa. Putin has additionally accused Washington of encouraging mbadive demonstrations in opposition to him in Moscow in 2011-2012.

Nikonov echoes Putin’s claims of outdoor meddling.

“Our Western friends are spending a lot of money on all sort of organizations, which are working to undermine the Russian government,” he mentioned.

The authorities’s low-key therapy of the centennial displays deep divisions in Russia over the revolution, mentioned Nikonov, who chairs a committee on schooling and science within the Kremlin-controlled decrease home of parliament.

A nationwide ballot final month by the badysis firm VTsIOM confirmed opinions over the revolution cut up nearly evenly, with 46 % saying it served pursuits of the bulk and the identical quantity responding that only some benefited; the remainder have been undecided. The ballot of 1,800 individuals had a margin of error of not more than 2.5 proportion factors.

During Soviet instances, Nov. 7 was often known as Revolution Day and featured grand navy parades and demonstrations on Red Square. After the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia stopped celebrating it, though the Communists nonetheless marked it.

“There is no way you can celebrate the revolution so that the majority of the public would support that,” Nikonov mentioned. “There is no common interpretation of history of the revolution, and I don’t think it’s possible in any foreseeable future. So I think the best way for the government in that situation is just keep a low profile.”

Vyacheslav Molotov remained a steadfast believer within the Communist trigger till his 1986 dying in Moscow at age 96. Nikonov, his grandson, believes the revolution denied Russia a victory in World War I.

“At the beginning of the year, Russia was one of the great powers with perfect chances of winning the war in a matter of months,” he mentioned. “Then the government was destroyed. By the end of the year, Russia wasn’t a power, it was incapable of anything.”

Nikonov insists the present political system can meet any challenges, including: “I don’t think that Russia faces any dangers to its stability now.”

Putin has famously described the 1991 Soviet collapse because the “greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century,” however he additionally has deplored the 1917 revolution. This ambivalence is rooted in his want to faucet the achievements of each the czarist and the Soviet empires as a part of restoring Russia’s worldwide clout and status.

“He will not celebrate this event,” mentioned Andrei Kolesnikov, an badyst on the Moscow Carnegie Center. “It couldn’t be used for the legitimization of Putin, because he’s a counterrevolutionary. For him, Lenin disrupted a great empire.”

Putin makes use of the symbols of badorted eras to burnish nationwide glory. He has restored the Soviet-style nationwide anthem and stored the imperial tricolor flag and double-headed eagle coat-of-arms.

He has ignored calls for to take away Lenin’s embalmed physique from its Red Square mausoleum for burial. But he additionally has inspired the regular progress of energy and affect of the Russian Orthodox Church and conservative components in society. Monuments and shrines to Nicholas II, who has been glorified as a saint, have sprouted throughout Russia, though they’re nonetheless far outnumbered by statues and memorials to Lenin.

Rodzianko mentioned his great-grandfather, Mikhail Rodzianko, shortly regretted pushing the czar to abdicate.

“He always tortured himself,” he mentioned. “‘Could I have done anything else to prevent this?’ was the phrase that I heard he apparently used.”

Days after the monarchy fell in February 1917, the Duma speaker discovered himself sidelined as too conservative for the brand new provisional authorities. When that liberal entity was swept away by the Bolsheviks, he joined the White motion within the civil battle in opposition to the Reds, then left Russia after its defeat. Mikhail Rodzianko died in Belgrade in 1924.

While Rodzianko’s great-grandfather fought for the White trigger, Nikonov’s grandfather, Vyacheslav Molotov, was Lenin’s right-hand man all through Russia’s revolution and civil battle.

Molotov later turned No. 2 to Josef Stalin, serving as his prime minister after which overseas minister within the 1930s-1940s. He fell from favor in Stalin’s final years; in 1949, his spouse was arrested and despatched to the Gulag.

“My grandmother was arrested under the accusation of being the head of a Jewish conspiracy in the Soviet Union,” Nikonov mentioned. “They had to divorce, and that was the only chance for them to survive. Because one of the reasons she was arrested was to prepare the next trial against Molotov, and he knew that pretty well.”

After Stalin died in 1953, Molotov received her fast launch from jail.

Molotov’s predecessor as Soviet overseas minister, Maxim Litvinov, additionally performed a key position within the revolution and spearheaded the Bolsheviks’ first contacts with Britain in 1918. Litvinov was overseas minister within the 1930s and ambbadador to Washington throughout World War II earlier than his dying in Moscow in 1951.

His grandson, Pavel, turned a dissident and was considered one of seven individuals who protested the 1968 Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in a Red Square demonstration that earned him 5 years in Siberia. He then left for the United States, the place he has lived since then.

Pavel Litvinov mentioned in an interview in New York that his grandfather “tried to create a better life for the Russian people and probably the whole world,” and believed in Lenin however was disillusioned beneath Stalin.

Pavel’s son, Dima, joined Greenpeace and spent greater than two months in jail in 2013 for a protest at a Russian oil rig within the Arctic.

“I think it’s a family tradition to challenge authorities and to fight for the right thing,” Dima Litvinov mentioned in Stockholm, the place he lives. “There is a sort of a link, a similarity. We’re fighting against injustice, and if that means we have to question and challenge authorities — well, that’s what we do.”

Dima Litvinov mentioned his great-grandfather “would be horrified by the extreme nationalism and religious intolerance that is going up in Russia.”

“I think he would want to challenge and oppose all of these things,” he mentioned.

Dima Litvinov mentioned Russia now faces among the similar issues that led to the 1917 revolution.

“Russia, in a way, hasn’t moved on,” he mentioned. “People feel detached from the ability to affect their fate and the government. The authorities like it that way.”


Associated Press writers David Keyton in Stockholm and Kate de Pury in Moscow contributed.

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