LAWRENCE — Joshua Sanborn, professor of history at Lafayette College, will speak on “The Great War and the Russian Revolution: A Reappraisal at the Centennial” at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 24 in the Lied Center Pavilion. The lecture is free and open to the public, and a reception and book signing will follow.
One hundred years ago, a party of radical communists took power in Russia. Their success shaped the century to come and inspired scholars around the world to ask why the long-awaited revolt happened where it did and when it did. For most of the intervening years, debate was focused on binary alternatives. Did the Great War accelerate or retard revolutionary developments? Was the October Revolution a legitimate upsurge of the oppressed or a coup engineered by ruthless conspirators funded by German gold? This talk will take a different approach by describing the years of World War I as a period of overlapping and occasionally conflicting radicalizations that culminated in the revolutionary events of 1917. War and revolution became so intertwined that blaming the war for the rise of the Bolsheviks or blaming the Bolsheviks for ending hostilities with the Central Powers make little sense. Examining the Russian Revolution in this fashion may help reveal the fragility of “normalcy” and appreciate the unexpected consequences that modern wars can bring.
Sanborn's most recent monograph is "Imperial Apocalypse: The Great War and the Destruction of the Russian Empire," (2014) which examines wartime processes of state failure, social collapse, violent transformation and imperial disintegration through the lens of decolonization. Earlier publications include "Drafting the Russian Nation: Military Conscription, Total War, and Mass Politics, 1905-1925" (2003) and (with co-author Annette Timm) "Gender, Sex, and the Shaping of Modern Europe: A History from the French Revolution to the Present Day" (second revised and expanded edition, 2016).
The lecture, co-sponsored by the Hall Center for the Humanities, European Studies and the Center for Russian, East European & Eurasian Studies, is part of a campuswide collaboration to commemorate the centennial of World War I. Look for more events sponsored by the Hall Center, other campus units and community partners as KU and the surrounding community explore the war and its effects.