19 September 2007

Library adventures

The public library is my new favorite place. I'm helping a fellow Fulbrighter with some research, which I volunteered to do in hopes of finding my own interesting research topic while familiarizing myself with the workings of Russian libraries and archives (a plan which is so far going extremely well). This research requires looking at a lot of newspapers from the '90's, which are very interesting in themselves, since it was a pretty tumultuous time in Russia's history.

Anyway, today I came across this advertisement in a Taganrog newspaper from November 1996:

Dear Citizens of Taganrog!
On 5 November 1996 at 5pm at the city House of Culture (17 Lenin Street) a celebratory meeting dedicated to the 79th anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution will take place.
We invite to the meeting all members of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF), their affiliates, sympathizers, and all interested parties.
- The City Committee of the CPRF.

It's nothing unusual - the Communists still celebrate the October Revolution every year - but it made me stop and wonder what that meeting was like. Who was there? Was it a real celebration? Who was on the Communists' side in 1996? On the one hand, the newly democratized country was still teetering on the brink of disaster, and things were going to get worse before they got better, which made a lot of people long for the good old days. But on the other hand, an article on the same page described the annual Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Political Repression, where, besides laying flowers and speaking solemn words at the local monument to the more than 17 million victims of Stalinist/Soviet political repression, several activists called for destroying all Soviet monuments and renaming Soviet-themed streets in Taganrog. (It sort of happened - Lenin Street is now Petrovskaya once again, but Marx, Engels, and - most disturbingly - creepy Dzerzhinskii, the father of the KGB, still have their streets.)

It's especially interesting to me that this party that committed all these atrocities is now, in Russia's increasingly withered political landscape, one of the most liberal, active and vocally opposed to the country's drift away from democracy. It's only through events like this where they trot out their history that I even remember that today's CPRF is even related to the CPSU.


kostya said...

Well. The American Civil War ended like 150 years ago. The US of A definitely solved all the problems with Confederate symbols, didn't it?

Rosa said...

My grandpa still went to Communist meetings back in... 2005? when I last visited. It was him and a bunch of other octogenarians sitting around with red boutonnières. I think, at least, they only discussed Communist in an idealized, conceptual way, mostly because they were all too old to be planning a revolution (I hope).

Leslie said...

No, and I wasn't criticizing Taganrog for not changing the streets. I just think it's funny, if you consider the post-Soviet response to Communist ideals and figures, that it was Lenin (who still has a shrine on Red Square and a statue in essentially every city in Russia) and not Dzerzhinskii (who has, what? a vandalized statue with a missing nose somewhere in a sculpture garden in Moscow?) who got his street name taken away.

Besides the fact that people still fly confederate flags, there are roads, monuments, etc. all over the American South dedicated to Confederate leaders. I would argue that it's a slightly different phenomenon than that of retaining Communist names in post-Soviet Russia (more akin, maybe, to a defeated Chechnya keeping monuments to its failed revolutionaries, if that were to happen sometime in the future). But I see your point.