Commemorating the 100th Anniversary of the Russian Revolution:

1917 to 2017

6 – 7 November 2017
9.00 am to 8.00 pm
Geelong Waterfront Campus

The Bolshevik revolutionaries who took power in Russia in October 1917 proclaimed a new dawn for civilization, in which the worldwide proletariat would be liberated from its capitalist oppression.

Event details

By the middle of the 20th century, these ‘liberated’ workers were among the almost 50 million people killed in the Civil Wars, famines, mass repressions and World Wars that followed 1917 in the Soviet Union and its Empire.

In second half of the 20th century, however, Soviet society avoided these catastrophes.

It has become an object of nostalgia for many since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, and a bad memory for others.

Now 100 years after the Bolshevik revolution, we call on some of world’s leading historians of the Soviet project to reflect on the ramifications of the Soviet century for world history, and for the contemporary trajectories of the former Soviet republics.

The speakers will give keynote address and participate in a group discussions where they will answer questions from the public on the anniversary date of the Revolution: Tuesday 7 November. International speakers include:

Prof. Hiroaki Kuromiya - (University of Indiana, Bloomington)

The Russian Revolution and Its Global Significance

WWI and the Russian Revolution brought the long nineteenth century to an end and ushered in the short twentieth century. The century-old rivalry and struggle between capitalism and socialism led to the emergence of a Communist regime in the biggest country in the world, fundamentally upsetting the world order. The collapse of this regime in 1991 marked the close of the twentieth century.

Without the threat of Communism, Fascism and National Socialism would not have become the mass movement that they did, although both shared with Communism their antagonism toward a world order dominated by the most powerful capitalist empires. Likewise, without the spectre of Communism, capitalism might not have reformed itself and co-opted some of the socialist ideas. This is the world historical significance of the Russian Revolution in a nutshell.

Ultimately Fascism and Nazism were defeated. They have not recovered from their defeat and are unlikely to do so. By contrast Communism spread after WWII to Eastern Europe, China, and beyond. Whatever attractions the Soviet Communist system may have offered to economically 'backward' states, however, its miserable economic performance ultimately killed its appeal and the regime itself collapsed in economic misery. Will Communism recover? We don't know yet.

Yet the impact of the Russian Revolution on the world has been profound and continues to affect today's world.

Two points deserve special attention:

  1. It encouraged weaker and economically 'backward' states to embrace Communism as a nationalist movement to strengthen their states against imperial powers. This often meant dictatorship and violence.
  2. The hostility of the outside world and the relatively weak economic power of the new Communist country made the competition between capitalism and Communism decisively unfavourable toward the latter. This prompted Moscow to seek creative forms of political subversion on a global scale: disinformation, 'maskirovka', 'total espionage', 'total counter-espionage', 'hybrid war' and the like. This practice continues today in one form or another.

Prof. Yurii Shapoval - (National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, Kiev)

Prof. Sergei Kudriashov (German Historical Institute – Moscow)

Irina Shatokhina (Director, Ukrainian State Television)

Monday 6 November

Scholar’s Workshop

The conference will be preceded by a scholars’ workshop on Monday 6 November concerned primarily with the Soviet Union's transition from war to peace from 1945-53. It will explore the similarities and differences of Stalinism in the 1930s and 1940s and tackle major questions, such as: did the Second World War change the fundamentals of Stalinism? How did the war shape post-war Soviet society? The working languages of the workshop will be Russian and English.

Tuesday 7 November, 2pm - 5pm

Public discussion

In this event, held on the anniversary date of the Revolution (Tuesday 7 November) speakers will give a keynote address, participate in a group discussion and take your questions.

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