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Testata per la stampa

Living the Revolution

by: Andy Willimott
published by: Oxford University Press
pp: 224
ISBN: 9780198725824
price: Hardback £60.00
Published: 17 November 2016

Book's frontpage

Living the Revolution offers a pioneering insight into the world of the early Soviet activist. At the heart of this book are a cast of fiery-eyed, bed-headed youths determined to be the change they wanted to see in the world. First banding together in the wake of the October Revolution, seizing hold of urban apartments, youthful enthusiasts tried to offer practical examples of socialist living. Calling themselves 'urban communes', they embraced total equality and shared everything from money to underwear. They actively sought to overturn the traditional family unit, reinvent domesticity, and promote a new collective vision of human interaction. A trend was set: a revolutionary meme that would, in the coming years, allow thousands of would-be revolutionaries and aspiring party members to experiment with the possibilities of socialism.

The first definitive account of the urban communes, and the activists that formed them, this volume utilizes newly uncovered archival materials to chart the rise and fall of this revolutionary impulse. Laced with personal detail, it illuminates the thoughts and aspirations of individual activists as the idea of the urban commune grew from an experimental form of living, limited to a handful of participants in Petrograd and Moscow, into a cultural phenomenon that saw tens of thousands of youths form their own domestic units of socialist living by the end of the 1920s.

Living the Revolution is a tale of revolutionary aspiration, appropriation, and participation at the ground level. Never officially sanctioned by the party, the urban communes challenge our traditional understanding of the early Soviet state, presenting Soviet ideology as something that could both frame and fire the imagination.


Table of contents

Introduction: Making Their Revolution
1: Revolutionary Beginnings
2: Socialism in One Dormitory: Student Communes
3: Socialism in One Apartment: Byt Communes
4: Socialism in One Factory: Production Communes
5: Early Stalinism and the Urban Communes
Conclusion The Commune is Dead, Vive le communard!

About the Author

Andy Willimott, Lecturer in Modern Russian/Soviet History, University of Reading

Andy Willimott is Lecturer in Modern Russian/Soviet History at the University of Reading. A graduate of the School of History at UEA, and a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow at the UCL School of Slavonic & East European Studies between 2012 and 2015, he currently lives in London and is a frequent visitor to Moscow and St. Petersburg.

Reviews and Awards

"Dr Willimott's book provides a lively insight into the attempts of some young people in early Soviet Russia to live out in practice the proclaimed ideals of the new Communist regime. He describes vividly the hopes inspiring their experiments in collective living, their successes, frustrations and failures, and how ultimately those experiments were integrated into the emerging totalitarian structure of the Stalinist regime."
- Geoffrey Hosking, University College, London

"Living the Revolution is about those youthful citizens of the new Soviet republic — men and women — who sought to remake their lives by throwing in their lot with the Bolsheviks. It is, to be sure, a critical analysis of their many projects. But, unlike previous historians who all too easily dismissed them as "utopian," it revivifies the spirit of those efforts, putting the reader in touch with the emotional energy of the revolution. Here, at last, is a rigorously researched yet unapologetically sympathetic account of the multiple initiatives undertaken in the first decade of Soviet power to bring the revolution into the workplace, the classroom, and the home."
- Lewis Siegelbaum, Michigan State University

"Beautifully written, meticulously researched, and bursting with narrative appeal, Willimott's study of early Soviet communes demonstrates that a hundred years after the Russian Revolution not all has been said about the revolution's layers, complexities, and legacies. From the very first sentence — a question to his readers — Willimott draws us into an energetic world of enthusiasm, idealism, and activism, but also of disappointment, fracture, and conflict. He convincingly shows that neither did spontaneous self-experimentation end with the advent of Soviet power, nor was every aspect of revolutionary utopianism irrevocably lost during the Stalin years. Rather he weaves a fine net of dense description, in which he brings the elusive communes to life, while subtly quoting, probing, and pushing existing scholarship on the period and indeed beyond."
- Juliane Furst, University of Bristol

"This is an excellent book that deserves to be read widely by all those interested in early Soviet history, the origins of Stalinism, revolutions, the nature of 20th-century dictatorships, and the functioning of political ideologies in authoritarian regimes."
- James Ryan, Reviews in History

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