Festival of Ideas May 2017
The Road to Revolution
From the beginning of the nineteenth century to the Russian Revolution, the tsarist regime exiled more than one million prisoners and their families beyond the Ural Mountains to Siberia, which came to be known as ‘the vast prison without a roof’. Generations of rebels – republicans, nationalists and socialists – were condemned to oblivion thousands of kilometres from European Russia. Over the nineteenth century, however, these political exiles transformed Siberia's mines, prisons and remote settlements into an enormous laboratory of revolution.
Further east, Petrograd was characterised at this time as a ‘red madhouse’ and it was in the vicinity of this long, central two-mile thoroughfare that many of the most vivid and dramatic disturbances took place. In 1917 foreign diplomats, military attaches and their wives, governesses, journalists, businessmen, bankers, volunteer nurses and ex-pat socialites experienced the revolution as it happened on their doorsteps, witnessing history being made on the streets and from their windows.
Helen Rappaport (Caught in the Revolution) and Daniel Beer (The House of the Dead) bring to life both the brutal realities of an inhuman system and the tragic and inspiring fates of those who endured it, and uncover stories and voices who had been largely forgotten, revealing insight into the human experience of revolution.
Daniel Beer is Senior Lecturer in the Department of History at Royal Holloway, University of London. He is the author of Renovating Russia: The Human Sciences and the Fate of Liberal Modernity, 1880-1930 and The House of the Dead: Siberian Exile Under the Tsars. Follow him on Twitter @BeerDaniel
Helen Rappaport is an historian and Russianist with a specialism in the Victorians and revolutionary Russia. Her books include No Place for Ladies: The Untold Story of Women in the Crimean War, Ekaterinburg: The Last Days of the Romanovs, Conspirator: Lenin in Exile, Magnificent Obsession: Victoria, Albert and the Death that Changed the Monarchy and Four Sisters: The Lost Lives of the Romanov Grand Duchesses. Caught in the Revolution: Petrograd 1917 is her latest book. Follow her on Twitter @helenrappaport