A Century of Communism: The Bolshevik Revolution 100 Years Ago

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The Bolshevik, Boris Kustodiev, 1920

It was one hundred years ago today that the Bolshevik Party, led by the formerly ousted and exiled Vladimir Lenin, forcibly seized and took control of the buildings of the provisional government.

Thus starts the formation, implementation, and execution of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the USSR. The Soviet Union, for the next decades until its dissolution in 1991, went to war against Nazi Germany, went to war against the United States, and went to war with its own citizens, oppressing millions of their own people. The Ukrainians, the Latvians, the Poles, the Hungarians, the Russians themselves: all were under the grip of the USSR through tyranny.

The Bolshevik Revolution is sometimes called the October Revolution. Russia at the time was still using the Julian Calendar, which was approximately two weeks behind the Gregorian Calendar, which practically everyone else in the world was using. To the Russians using the Julian Calendar, the Revolution took place on October 25, 1917, and ended two days later on October 27 (November 9). In shorthand, many historians differentiate between the two in text by using “old style” (the Julian Calendar) versus “new style” (Gregorian).

The entirety of 1917 could be described as nothing but long-winded. The First World War was at a stalemate. Everyone was tired, and when the Americans joined, the war had been three years old and had killed millions already. The beginning of the year in Russia marked a turning point, however, during the February Revolution. Soviet historiography called it the February Bourgeois Democratic Revolution, when, on February 22 (March 8 n.s.), protests erupted in the capital Petrograd, clashing with police and royal guards. Several days later, Russian forces joined the revolutionaries, resulting the in abdication of Tsar Nicholas II and the formation of the Provisional Government.

On March 16 (n.s.) , the last day of the Revolution, the New York Times published a frontpage headline in bold type: “REVOLUTION IN RUSSIA; CZAR ABDICATES; MICHAEL MADE REGENT, EMPRESS IN HIDING.” Most of the articles in that daily paper concern the revolution (“Russian Embassy Shocked by Revolt”, on page 3). One article in particular on page 10 was poignant: “The New Birth of Russia.” Months later, the Provisional Government declared Russia a republic, the first time in its history where it was completely cut off from the monarchy that ruled for a millennium.

It was unpredictable that, eight months later from February, there would be a second Revolution to practically undo the first. The provisional government, 100 years ago today, was occupied and dissolved. The Soviet Russian Republic took its place (it was later renamed in July 1918 as Russian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic), with the Russian Communist Party soon taking complete control of the government. If there was any official opposition, it was purely for show. This could clearly be seen decades later. Life magazine reported in 1958 that “a fantastic 99.97% of the total electorate, as against 60.4% turnout in the US election of 1956” voted in the Soviet Union’s election. However, “99.57% approved the handpicked candidate” of Nikita Khrushchev.

Now that’s democracy.

To use an classic line from The Who, “Meet the old boss, same as the new boss.” Though with good intentions, the provisional government failed against the agitation of the people and the socialists. This led to the formation of one of the most powerful empires in the world.

One hundred years ago today changed the very fabric of global politics, in a manner that can still be felt today and will be felt for the foreseeable future. As long as Russia is on the world stage, we can look to this day in 1917 as the start of Russian dominance.

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A Year Ago Today


One year ago today, founder and manager of the Latgale Research Center, Dr. Leonard Latkovski – professor, mentor, and, most of all, a best friend to many – died at the age of 72. 

A day doesn’t go by where I am not grateful for all that Dr. Latkovski taught me. His expertise in Latvian and Russian history inspired me – not just on an educational level, but on a level to become who I am today. It goes without saying that he inspired all of his students. 

And he will continue to inspire for years and lifetimes to come. 

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A Note and Update

Readers,

As you may have noticed, I haven’t posted anything for about a month. Don’t worry, I’m alive!

About a month ago, I have begun another position as a historian and researcher which has taken up my time from here.

As for an update, the article I wrote in conjunction with the International Conference last March is currently in the peer-review process. It’s unknown how long that’ll take. I’ll certainly update as that progresses.

Scott Mauer

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In the News: From “The Czech Republic” to “Czechia”

The Czech Republic is currently undergoing a name change. In a way, at least.

As France is officially known as The French Republic, or Slovakia is officially known as The900px-flag_of_the_czech_republic-svg Slovak Republic, so the Czech Republic wants to officially shorten its name to Czechia.

The name has the support of many politicians in the country, but still needs to be approved and registered to the United Nation. It is primarily for unofficial documents, and would be practically easier to brand (such as putting on sports jerseys) than “The Czech Republic.”

“Czechia,” according to The Washington Post, comes from Latin, and was first recorded in English in 1841. Certainly it is not a brand new word, and has gained a lot of support in the past years. However, some Czech politicians do not agree with the decision: some for the connotations of excluding other regions in the country, others say it just sounds ugly.

Either way, whether the name becomes official and whether it gains global support, this news signifies a trend for the Eastern European country to become more accessible to the world.

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Chernobyl’s Wildlife

If you’re expecting two-headed cows or glowing deer, sorry, that’s not what’s here.

National Geographic’s John Wendle has an article on the resurgence of wildlife in the Chernobyl area, following the evacuation of all people since the 1986 nuclear disaster that left the immediate area uninhabitable. It’ll be 30 years since the disaster this Tuesday, the 26th.

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Essentially, as the article notes, “Radiation … is not holding back Chernobyl wildlife populations.” Among the animals seen in the area are bison, boars, moose, deer, badgers, gray wolves, red foxes, and more.

The exclusion zone in Ukraine, in which permission must be obtained before entering, and has virtually no human resident population (with few exceptions), covers about a 1,000 square mile area, making it the largest wildlife areas in Europe unimpeded by human contact.

Check out the link at National Geographic for more information, including pictures and videos. It offers a unique environmental study – not only with a large area unaffected by humans for three decades, but also in a highly radioactive zone.

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Wanted by Police for Visiting a Library

No, this isn’t Fahrenheit 451. This is modern-day Russia.

Police are looking for visitors – as far as 18 years ago – of a Ukrainian library in Moscow. This comes in a crackdown of supposed anti-Russian sentiment, with Ukrainian sympathy being seen as falling well in that category.

They have demanded the officials of the Moscow Library of Ukrainian Literature release personal information such as home address of several individuals who have visited and checked out books on Ukrainian history and, specifically, the Holodomor, a man-made famine under the Soviet Union that killed up to 8 million people. They specifically ask, as seen below, for information on the following people:

  • Ментальність орди (Horde Mentality), taken out on May 15, 2008
  • Україна або смерть (Ukraine or Death), taken out July 10, 1998
  • Голос в Украіні (The Voice in Ukraine), taken out February 1, 2010
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Document demanding information of visitors

This is not the first time the library has been investigated by the police or the government. The director of the library, Natalia Sharina, was arrested in late October, 2015, on account that some of the material may “incite hatred” and were “extremist” against the Russian people. If convicted, she could face up to five years in prison, a charge and penalty that Human Rights Watch have said are “not only an assault on personal liberty, but on every person who cares about ideas and learning and education.”

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Volodymyr Hroisman – Ukraine’s New Prime Minister

As an update to the news earlier this week here, the Ukrainian Parliament has approved the appointment of Volodymyr Hroisman (also spelled Groysman) as the new Prime Minister of Ukraine. He is the 16th Prime Minister since it’s establishment in 1990.

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He was approved by an overwhelming majority (250 for; 50 against). In his acceptance speech, he said,  “Together we will make Ukraine successful.” As the BBC reports, this is not an easy task, as the war-torn country has a weak economy, a weak government, and overwhelming foreign powers from many sides.

Hopefully he will be more successful than the now-resigned Yatsenyuk. Critics, however, are doubtful, as they see Hroisman as nothing more than a “yes man” to President Poroshenko’s policies – something that they see as a problem for the nation.

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