Heralds of Revolution: Russian Students and the Mythologies of Radicalism

Heralds of Revolution: Russian Students and the Mythologies of Radicalism

Heralds of Revolution: Russian Students and the Mythologies of Radicalism

Heralds of Revolution: Russian Students and the Mythologies of Radicalism

Synopsis

Reading Russian revolutionary culture through its stories, author Susan Morrissey examines how the quest for consciousness evolved into a master-plot of student radicalism. Based on interdisciplinary sources and extensive research in Russian archives, this study throws new light on the dynamics of political and cultural change in late Imperial Russia and poses provocative questions about both the pre-revolutionary antecedents and the founding myths of the Soviet Union. This work will appeal to historians of Russia and the Soviet Union, as well as specialists in Slavic culture and literature.

Excerpt

One crocodile affirmed to us, not long ago That the country is ruled by "law." Little Whip, Little Whip, of February Eighth, Little Whip, Little Whip, we will bring you fame. --The Little Whip (Nagaechka), Student Song, 1899

In response to an incident of police brutality in February 1899, Petersburg students called a strike that quickly spread across the country. At its height, 25,000 students boycotted the classroom under the banner of human dignity, personal inviolability, and rule of law. This strike inaugurated a period of mass protest in higher education that marked the entrance of educated society into the political struggles, which would culminate in the 1905 Revolution. For students, the explosion of a nationwide movement confirmed the existence of studen chestvo as one body, united by an ethos of honor and solidarity. They had some reason to believe this: appeals to studenchestvo galvanized mass protest through 1905. the causes of the student movement were largely structural, arising from the conflict between an authoritarian government and a proud studenchestvo, both with definite ideas about education, science, and individual rights. Its dynamics were influenced at times by government policy, police repression, and the agitation of revolutionary parties. of central importance, however, was the character of students' new political community. Between 1899 and 1905, students repeatedly tried to understand their collective experiences by historicizing them, and student leaders even began to see the evolution of the student movement as a reflection of the political maturation of studenchestvo. in this process of self- exploration, two interpretive strategies coexisted and occasionally competed with one another. I call them "epic" and "history" (although both were equally mythical), because the first represented student protest as episodes within a heroic tradition and reflective of eternal values, while the second assumed a historical dynamic.

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