World on Fire in Flames of Blood: Narratives of the Russian Revolution

January 21, 2017 - May 14, 2017

One hundred years after 1917, the Russian Revolution continues to puzzle, inspire, and horrify. The February Revolution overthrew the monarchy with an ineffectual attempt at democracy in an empire exhausted by World War I. The October Revolution established a one-party dictatorship, sparking a catastrophic civil war and a series of expansionist conflicts that gave birth to a new totalitarian state. The Soviet Union dominated world politics for much of the 20th century and its communist legacy continues to shape the affairs of the region and international relations.

The Revolution held disparate meanings for its defenders, opponents, exploiters, victims and observers. What to some was the means to create paradise on earth, to others was endless, senseless destruction of life, mortality, and culture. Where some saw a chance for freedom and equality, others found an opportunity to conquer and rule. What some called the Revolution, others called a coup, an invasion, or simply shifting the frontlines. For Gedali, a Jewish shopkeeper caught in the Polish-Soviet war in Isaak Babel’s Red Cavalry, wartime brutality discredited the morality of either side of the conflict and blurred the ideological differences between them. The Polish, Ukrainian and Belarusian combatants and civilians are not given a voice in the story.

With a title drawn from Aleksandr Blok’s The Twelve, this exhibition brings together some of the conflicting voices from the chaotic events that changed world history. All items, except where indicated, are drawn from the André Savine Collection of materials related to Russian emigration, part of the Rare Book Collection, and purchased with support from Van Louis Weatherspoon and Kay Massey Weatherspoon.

For more details, visit the digitized exhibition or the UNC Library News and Events blog.