‘Did you volunteer?’ Red Army recruitment poster, 1920 © British Library

White Army recruitment poster aimed at ‘muslims and mountain men’ c. 1919 © British Library

Red Army Budenovka cap © Polish Army Museum

‘Retreating, the Whites are burning the crops’, Soviet propaganda poster, c. 1918–20 © British Library

‘A Worker Sweeping Criminals out of the Soviet Land’ collage artwork from Russian Placards 1917–22 © British Library

1902 letter from Vladimir Lenin requesting the use of the Reading Room at the British Museum, signed ‘Jacob Richter’ © British Library

1st Edition of The Communist Manifesto, London, 1848 © British Library

Novyi Satirikon (New Satiricon) April 1917 cover featuring a caricature of Grigorii Rasputin © British Library

Lenin’s Memorial Book, Moscow, 1924 (detail) © British Library

Front cover of 1st Russian edition of Doctor Zhivago, 1959. Private Collection

Marking the 100th anniversary of the world-changing events of 1917, Russian Revolution: Hope, Tragedy, Myths, shines new light on the experiences of ordinary Russians living through extraordinary times, as well as the life and times of key figures from Lenin to the Romanovs. It tells the story of the 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. Beginning in the reign of the last Tsar, it explores the growth of revolutionary movements and colossal social and political change that transformed Russia’s traditional monarchy into the world’s first Communist state.

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The exhibition is accompanied by a varied season of events exploring how the Revolution changed the world forever, and the impact on Russian literature, architecture, music and artistic expression.

Highlights include:

Friday 5 May, 7 to 8:30 pm
Shadows of Days: An Evening of Russian Émigré Fiction
Readings by actors Geraldine James and Brian Cox are interspersed with discussion with literary experts Maria Rubins and Peter Pomerantsev, together with Bryan Karetnyk, editor of the new collection Russian Émigré Short Stories from Bunin to Yanovsky (Penguin Classics 2017).

Friday 5 May, 7:30 to 11 pm
Late at the Library: Sounds of the Revolution
A night of radical sound and silent film directed by Gabriel Prokofiev with the musicians of the Renegade Orchestra. Echoes of Russian classical music greats are cut with sonic experimentation and electronica, reflecting the remarkable avant-garde experimentation of a century ago, alongside a screening of the 1927 film The End of St Petersburg and DJs from Nonclassical.

Thursday 25 May, 7 to 8:30 pm
Tariq Ali on the Dilemmas of Lenin
The commentator and critic examines the innumerable dilemmas faced by Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, leader of the October 1917 uprising and today a widely misunderstood figure. A political and intellectual colossus, Lenin emerged from the turbulent history of Tsarist Russia and the birth of the international labour movement with great certainty in his aims.

Friday 23 June, 7:30 to 11 pm
Late at the Library: The Storming of the Library
An evening of performance, music, film and spectacle accompanied by the turbo-punk energy of The Destroyers and DJ Penny Metal, inspired by the extraordinary agit-prop Revolutionary Festivals staged in Petrograd in 1918–20. With designs by avant-garde artists and huge casts, the original re-stagings attempted to celebrate and even outdo the original events, and were a great inspiration to film makers such as Eisenstein.

Tuesday 27 June, 7:15 to 8:30 pm
Design and the Russian Revolution: Alice Rawsthorn
The design critic and columnist discusses the initial impact and enduring influence of the Russian Revolution on design, architecture and fashion: from the role of the Constructivist artist and designer László Moholy-Nagy in revitalising the Bauhaus in the mid-1920s to the recent emergence of a new wave of social and humanitarian designers.


Katya Rogatchevskaia is Lead Curator, East European Collections at the British Library, lead curator of Russian Revolution, and editor of the accompanying book. She is also Chair of the Council for Slavonic and East European Library and Information Services.

Susan Reed is Lead Curator, Germanic Studies at the British Library, where she has worked since 1993, co-curator of Russian Revolution, and a regular contributor to the library’s European Studies blog.


Russian Revolution: Hope, Tragedy, Myths
28 April to 29 August 2017
British Library, 96 Euston Road, London NW1 2DB
£13.50/various concessions
Members and Friends FREE

Open daily
Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday 9:30 to 6 pm
Tuesday 9:30 to 8 pm
Saturday 9:30 am to 5 pm
Sunday 11 am to 5 pm
More info

Read more and buy the accompanying book