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Article

The embarrassing centenary: reinterpretation of the 1917 Revolution in the official historical narrative of post-Soviet Russia (1991–2017)

This article traces the reinterpretation of the Revolution(s) of 1917 in the official
historical narrative of post-Soviet Russia. Its construction is an essentially political
process, as its discursive hegemony depends on how it fits into the symbolic
landscape created by various social actors. The task of reinterpretation of the
revolution is complicated by its centrality for two conflicting patterns of memory
politics – the critical “working through” the memory of a traumatic and criminal past,
and consolidation of the nation/nation-building. There are different coalitions of
mnemonic actors behind each of these patterns. The author reveals different strategies
of dealing with dilemmas involved in employing these patterns in the 1990s and the
2000s, and argues that until now the Russian imcumbent elites have not succeeded in
reframing the Russian Revolution as a great, though tragic, episode of the national
past. In the context of the centenary commemorated in 2017, the incumbent elite
seem to have come back to the idea of “reconciliation and accord” that was coined by
Boris Yeltsin’s team in the mid-1990s. However, its integration into the apologetic
narrative of “the 1000-year Russian state” totally changes its meaning, as it rejects
“working through” the traumatic past.