Opera North Blog

Marking the centenary of the Russian Revolution


We'll be commemorating the centenary of the Russian Revolution this year with a series of events in the Howard Assembly Room, beginning with Liberty Lectures in association with the University of Leeds, by broadcaster and author Tariq Ali and fantasy writer and political activist China Miéville.

Having fomented unrest in Russia as an exile in Europe throughout the first decade of the century, Lenin returned to Russian after the February Revolution in 1917. He played a key role in the October Revolution which brought the Bolsheviks to power, and became the first head of government of the Soviet Union. In his forthcoming book The Dilemmas of Lenin, Tariq Ali asks if Lenin’s ideas still have any significance for us today. 

In his talk on Friday 21 April, Ali will explore the crises that Lenin overcame, the decisions he made, and actions that he took, revealing an insightful political portrait of this hugely influential figure. In doing so he will raise important questions related to political representation and the popular institutions necessary to challenge capitalism today.

Caught in the Russian Revolution, the current exhibition at the University of Leeds' Treasures of the Brotherton gallery, offers a unique perspective on the February Revolution. Through diaries, letters, photographs and artefacts drawn from the Leeds Russian Archive, it focuses on the plight of the British community in Petrograd (now St Petersburg).

China Miéville's new book, October: the Story of the Russian Revolution, weaves such personal stories into a grand narrative, ranging 'from the byzantine squabbles of urban activists to the remotest villages of a sprawling empire; from the revolutionary railroad sublime to the ciphers and static of coup by telegram'. The renowned fantasy and science fiction writer has long been inspired by the ideals of the Russian Revolution — his PhD thesis explored A Marxist Theory of International Law — and here, on Wednesday 10 May, he provides his own distinctive take on events.

Part of the innovative DARE partnership between Opera North and the University of Leeds, the Liberty Lectures explore the most significant topics at the heart of contemporary society. Previous speakers have included broadcaster Paul Mason, human rights lawyer Gareth Peirce, and the late Zygmunt Bauman. This year's lectures are part of a programme celebrating the 10th anniversary of DARE.

Tariq Ali: The Dilemmas of Lenin, Friday 21 April, 7,45pm

China Miéville: October: The Story of the Russian Revolution, Wednesday 10 May, 7.45pm

Revolutionaries with guns (detail), © University of Leeds
Rasputin with admirers in Petrograd, 1910s (annotated postcard, detail) © University of Leeds

These artefacts and more can be seen at Treasures of the Brotherton's special exhibition, Caught in the Russian Revolution: The British Community in Petrograd, 1917 - 1918, running until Monday 31 July 2017.

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