Most of my readers probably didn’t notice that yesterday was the anniversary of the October Revolution. Around every November 7th, the Russian-speaking blogosphere explodes with discussions as to whether this date should be celebrated. My answer to this question is an unequivocal yes.
Regular readers of my blog know that I hate the Soviet Union with abandon. Unlike many of my compatriots, I fail to find a single redeeming feature to this horrible, repressive, monstrous country. The October Revolution, however, was a progressive, profoundly transformative event that initially* destroyed all of the remaining vestiges of the hopelessly outdated and degenerate Empire of the Romanovs.
Whenever I read late XIXth and early XXth century literature by American authors, I always feel stunned by how much freedom women in North America enjoyed compared to the women of the Russian Empire. The October Revolution bridged the gap in women’s rights between the countries of the Russian Empire and North America overnight and allowed women to move very far ahead on this issue, overtaking every other country in the world instantly.
The Revolution also liberated the Jews of the Empire from the pale of settlement and allowed them to become integrated into society easily and in any form they chose.
The decade of the 1920s saw an explosion of artistic production in Russia and Ukraine. The Russian Modernists of this decade created outstanding works of art and started the Silver Age of Russian literature.
Of course, later Soviet Union transformed into a repressive totalitarian state. The Russian Modernists were silenced. Their Ukrainian counterparts were exterminated. Soviet Jews rediscovered antisemitism in the late 1940s. Women were persecuted by puritanical ideologues for any suggestion that they can be sexual beings and not just productive workers and efficient baby machines.
Any good idea and any hopeful event can be perverted to the point where they turn into their exact opposite. This is what happened to the October Revolution. The society it ended up creating was structured very rigidly in terms of economic and social classes. Inequality was shocking. Artistic creation was stifled. Ethnic minorities were oppressed and subjected to genocide.
Still, even knowing what I do now about the results of the Revolution, if I happened to live in 1917, I would have fought for the Revolution. For a woman, a Ukrainian, a Jew, a peasant and a descendant of slaves, there was no other legitimate course of action.
* Stalin reestablished quite a few of the traditions of the Russian Empire in late 1930s.