The Spectre of Revolution. How Putin will be Commemorating 1917
Perhaps nothing strips bare the irony of history quite so scandalously as the anniversary of a revolution. Revolutions are meant to halt and reset the motion of history, to transform the world by making the ideal coincide with the real. The ceremonial logic of the anniversary, by contrast, stresses the forward-facing and linear march of time; underpinning it is the desire to tame history through chronology. The anniversary of a revolution implies the triumph of order over spontaneity, it implies retaliation on the part of the state, which gains a retrospective power over everything that might throw statehood into question. Anniversary celebrations turn the historical event of the revolution into a routine, into a carefully acted-out spectacle, channelling its creatively destructive energy into social, political and cultural rituals that entrench the status quo. On one level, the anniversary of a revolution will always be counter-revolutionary. This is so even when we are talking about a state which is the ideological heir to a revolution. But this irony becomes all the stronger when an anniversary must be marked by a state holding an ambivalent relationship with the past ushered in by that revolution.