This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Russian revolution of 1917, and the British Library has taken the opportunity to look at how it affected people far from the palaces and centres of power.

The exhibition tells the story of the October Revolution through posters, letters, photographs, banners, weapons, items of uniform, recordings and film: from a luxury souvenir album of the Tsar’s coronation to propaganda wallpaper hand-painted by women factory workers.

With a timeline that spans from the reign of Russia’s last Tsar to the death of Lenin, the display ranges from a first edition of the Communist Manifesto to anti-Bolshevik propaganda and gives an opportunity to understand the lesser-known personal stories behind the events that changed the world.

Ra Ra Rasputin

The years surrounding the revolution are some of the most dramatic in human history, from the gilded palaces of the naive ruling Romanovs to the plots of the Communists in secretive rooms.

The exhibition takes in the reign of the last Tsar and follows the growth of revolutionary movements with its colossal social and political change, showing the transformation of Russia’s traditional monarchy into the world’s first Communist state.

Items on display for the first time include material from the Library’s extensive collection of Bolshevik and anti-Bolshevik propaganda, as well as a letter written by Lenin in April 1902, applying to become a Reader at the British Museum Library, now part of the British Library. The letter is signed with his pseudonym, Jacob Richter, which he was using in order to evade the Tsarist police of the time.

Exhibition highlights include:

  • 1st edition of Communist Manifesto, published in London in 1848
  • Nicholas II Coronation Album from 1896
  • Russo-Japanese War cartoon posters
  • Photographic images and caricatures of Rasputin
  • Leg irons from a Siberian prison camp
  • Items of Red Army uniforms
  • White Russian counter-revolutionary propaganda posters
  • Lenin’s Memorial Book
  • Banner gifted to the Shipley Young Communist League
  • A letter, dated 1922, from Scotland Yard to the British Museum Library requesting that a selection of Bolshevik literature is not made public due to its incendiary nature

The exhibition at the British Library is open now until 29th August, entry is £13.50


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One comment
  1. GT says:

    I’ve read the promotion for this, & I’m very disappointed.
    It’s all about the SECOND Russian revolution in November, you know, the one that wouldn’t have happened if the Imperial Germans hadn’t meddled.
    As far as I can make out, virtually no mention of the first, in February/March.

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