Recent Lecture Addresses Reflections on Empire, Russia and Historical Comparison
On October 11, Professor Dominic Lieven of the University of Cambridge, where he serves as Senior Research Fellow, Trinity College, gave a public lecture at HSE St Petersburg entitled ‘Reflections on empire, Russia and historical comparison’. The event was organized by the Center for Historical Research.
Professor Lieven, who is also a Fellow of the British Academy and whose book Towards the Flame: Empire, War and the End of Tsarist Russia was shortlisted for the 2016 Pushkin House Prize, began his lecture by focusing on the 1970s. This was a time when Western historians could be divided into those who assumed that the revolution in Russia was inevitable (the so-called ‘pessimists’) and those who opposed them (the ‘optimists’) who believed that without World War I the Russian Empire could possibly have evolved into a normal version of political modernity, i.e., Western liberal democracy. In his view, this way of looking at Russian history likely says more about the Cold War context rather than about historical realities.
In his lecture, Professor Lieven also addressed what might have happened had the Russian monarchy collapsed in the winter of 1905-06 and the ‘left’ had come to power. This would have likely led to the genuine full-scale European intervention spearheaded by the German army.
‘It is absolute fantasy to imagine that in peace time the European great powers would allow Russia to secede from the international system and to set itself as a headquarters of international socialist revolution and to expropriate or devalue huge foreign debts’, he said.
Before moving on to a period of discussion, Professor Lieven finished his lecture with a reference to the present day. While admitting that one must be careful with predictions, he spoke about supposedly incoming threats such as the disintegration of the Islamic world and the environmental crisis in Africa and the rest of the world. He also noted that just like it was in 1914, in the future the fate everyone would be in hands of a rather few number of people. In his opinion, those who made decisions in 1914 had a very pessimistic view of where the world was going.
‘History spans the whole, you cannot leave the individual side’, he concluded.
Almost 40 teams took part in the ‘Through the pages of Basmania’ quest, organized by the Higher School of Economics as part of an annual citywide event, Library Night. Event participants also staged passages from Romeo and Juliet and attended lectures about theatre at HSE library.
Today, we have moved from the political concept of panem et circenses (bread and circuses) to keep the masses happy to the dangers of culture driven by spectacle and politics driven by algorithms. Post-war theoreticians of the crowd had personal experience of fascism, and today contemporary artists are attempting to address similar problems. During the XX April International Academic Conference on Economic and Social Development, scheduled this year for April 9-12 at the Higher School of Economics, Sarah Wilson, Professor of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Courtauld Institute of Art, University of London, will explore some of these issues in her presentation 'Culture and Emigration, Crowds and Power.'
Legally, the 1917 revolution solved the gender issue in the Russian academic community. The doors to the profession opened for women, but a ‘glass ceiling’ remained. Ekaterina Streltsova and Evgenia Dolgova studied who it affected and why. This study is the first to present a socio-demographic analysis of the female academic community in Moscow and Leningrad during the early Soviet era.
Dr Anna Whittington is currently a Research Fellow at The International Centre for the History and Sociology of World War II and Its Consequences through the end of August 2019. She recently spoke with the HSE News Service about her work on changes in Soviet-era language policy, her thoughts on life in Moscow and how the city has changed, and much more.
Exploring Political and Cultural Space of St Petersburg through the Summer School 'Topography of Imperial Power'
On a grey autumn day, it is always nice to warm up by reliving memories of summer adventures. This year, the balmy weather did not leave our city till mid-October, and a summer mood also lingered at HSE University – St Petersburg with the IV International Summer School 'The Topography of Imperial Power: Political and Cultural Space of Saint Petersburg' which ran from September 11 till October 2, 2018.
London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) and HSE University – St Petersburg launch the Paulsen Programme, funded by the Dr Frederik Paulsen Foundation, in order to support historians in Russia who have been working on the period from the mid 17th century to 1918.
Alexandra Kolesnik, Junior Research Fellow and Senior Lecturer at HSE’s Poletayev Institute for Theoretical and Historical Studies in the Humanities recently completed her post graduate studies in History and successfully defended her PhD thesis entitled ‘Historical representations in British popular musical culture of the 1960-1980s’. Here, Alexandra talks about her research into modern pop-culture.
Jessica Werneke, who completed her undergraduate studies at the University of Iowa and her PhD at the University of Texas at Austin, joined the International Centre for the History and Sociology of World War II and its Consequences as a Research Fellow in 2016. Originally from Chicago, Illinois, she has spent a considerable amount of time living internationally – in both the UK and Latvia – and following her post-doc plans to start a new position as a Newton International Fellow of the British Academy at Loughborough University, where she will continue her research on Soviet photography clubs and amateur photographers in the RSFSR and the Baltic Republics.
The October Revolution created a new cinema. At first, 'the most important of all arts' struggled to keep up with social transformations and was not yet used as a weapon in the fight for a communist culture. But the mid-1920s, an innovative, cutting-edge film industry had emerged from sources such as theatre, street performance, posters, poetry and circus shows. This industry was able to do what the politicians had failed to achieve, namely trigger a world revolution.
A hundred years has passed since the October Revolution of 1917, but this event still hasn’t reached its logical conclusion. Its consequences are still crucial in defining the political system in Russia today and fostering divisions in society, believes Andrey Medushevsky, Professor at the HSE Faculty of Social Sciences, political scientist, historian and author of the book A Political History of the Russian Revolution: Norms, Institutions and Forms of Social Mobilization in the 20th Century.