Since late 2016, the Kremlin has been trying to make up its mind concerning the centennial of the 1917 Bolshevik coup d’etat in St. Petersburg [known as the “Great October Revolution” under the Soviets. – Ed.]. The impression is that they hadn’t figured out the situation until the “red-letter day,” November 7. President Vladimir Putin first proposed to mark the occasion in an atmosphere of reconciliation, mutual forgiveness, and accord amongst the former enemies in the civil war and their posterity. This didn’t work because it quickly transpired that various political forces had polarized views on what had happened in the Russian empire in 1917-22.
The communists and other leftist parties and groups (including Zyuganov’s party that can hardly be described as leftist) insist that the October revolution was one of the greatest events in world history, that it opened up horizons for the building of the world’s first society where every communal member would be really equal. A society that would make every resident of the Soviet Union – and everyone in the world, in the long run – prosperous. At the same time, the left wing regards the February Revolution as a bourgeois-democratic revolt that destroyed Russia’s autocracy and paved the way for the “Great October Revolution.” But then came the year 1991 and its “counterrevolution” led by Gorbachev and Yeltsin who were doubtlessly on CIA payroll, and who cut short Soviet Russia’s progress toward the happy communist morrow.
The Monarchists and Eastern Orthodox Fundamentalists are showing a different view on the matter. They refuse to accept the notion of revolution. For them, what happened in 1917-22 is the Time of Troubles, Big Troubles. They insist that Russian autocracy can’t be blamed, that it was all the doing of foreign agents acting on orders from other countries, for whom Russia’s geopolitical progress was a pain in the neck. They are divided on who was behind the October coup in 1917. Some are pointing a finger at Germany as Russia’s main enemy at the time, prepared to pay for the coming to power of the Bolsheviks, in order to destroy Russia. Others are pointing a finger at the UK and US, considering the current political situation, saying both were scared to be Russia’s allies and wanted to pull off a dirty trick to damage it – except that overdid by helping the Bolsheviks come to power.
Given these political differences, the “red-letter day of reconciliation and mutual forgiveness” proved a failure, except for the Reconciliation Monument to be unveiled in [Russia-]occupied Sevastopol. It will portray a Red Army soldier embracing a White Guard counterpart. The communists are strongly opposed to the project. They are pressing the local authorities and the latter are prepared to rename it something like “Russia’s Reunion.” In fact, this project disgusts the White Guard’s posterity. The whole project looks stupid. At one time, I sarcastically suggested that a monument entitled “Stalin and Wrangel Discussing a Joint Attack on Poland” be erected in Volgograd (previously known as Tsaritsyn, then Stalingrad). Guess what? The Russian Military Historical Society took it seriously.
In the end, the Kremlin tried to do its best to distance itself from the October Revolution’s centennial, at least in the media. First, they wanted to mark the dates of the February and October revolutions. Russia’s channels were putting together documentaries to celebrate the February centennial. Literally minutes before the premieres came Kremlin orders: Cancel, postpone until the fall or year’s end. Why? Because the Kremlin hates any mention of the February Revolution that [allegedly] destroyed the previous solid political system that seems so very like the Putin regime. Also, the Provisional Government that replaced autocracy marked a brief period of democracy in Russia. The Kremlin hates real democracy that can’t be “sovereign” or “controllable.”
Any tangible creative project is unthinkable in Russia unless it is funded by the state, either directly or assisted by a state-supported corporation acting as ordered by the Kremlin. Russia’s political leadership, in fact, has not distanced itself from the revolution’s centennial. It’s just that those “upstairs” prefer not advertise their involvement. All of Russia’s channels, save for the low budget and ratings Dozhd [The Rain], are under the Kremlin’s control. The Kremlin decided that Russia should mark the October Revolution’s centennial, considering that its power is rooted in the Soviet Union rather than tsarist Russia.
For the Chekists [i.e., members of the Cheka, then NKVD, then KGB, currently FSB. – Ed.], among them the President of the Russian Federation, a number in his inner circle, and some governors, November 7 fades compared to December 20 marking the foundation of the Cheka. Under the Soviets, the latter date was marked as the Chekist Day. In today’s Russia, it is marked as the “Day of State Security Workers of the Russian Federation.” I believe that this occasion will be far more pompous than the revolution’s centennial. November 7 remained a red-letter day, considering that Russians have used to celebrating it since day one, Bolshevik era. The authorities got ready, producing a number of propaganda documentaries, along with what they believed would be blockbuster serials, Trotsky and The Demon, on Russia’s two main channels. The second serial is about Alexander Parvus, although Leon Trotsky was the real demon of the revolution. The plot of both serials is simple enough. There was Vladimir Lenin with his pluses and minuses (more pluses) who was haunted by two devils, Trotsky and Parvus who hated Russia, and both were to blame for the success of the October Bolshevik coup. Also, that coup d’etat was paid for with German money. Lenin is blamed less, being traditionally regarded as a national leader; also because he got the better of Parvus. In the Demon serial, Lenin says that he wants a thriving Russia. Parvus is confronted by noble Russian counterintelligence officers… who fail to prevent the revolution from breaking out.
The biggest problem those in power face – and who believe in the mysticism of figures – is to prevent a repetition of the events of 1917. Therefore, all documentaries, serials, and TV programs are designed to convince the general public that a revolution is a terrible occurrence, something done with money provided by countries that are Russia’s worst enemies; that this occurrence does not reflect the mood of the masses but the doing of evil forces. These past several days Russian police have been ruthlessly suppressing all opposition rallies, in the absence of any threat of another revolution in today’s Russia.
Boris Sokolov is a Moscow-based professor