From a “Partisan Festival” to a “State Festival”: The Transformation of Revolutionary Celebration in Russia, January–November 1918.

By Emilia Koustova

This paper deals with the birth of the Soviet festival, and, more generally, with the construction of the new public authority and its representation through an analysis of the first Bolshevik's experiences in the field of public festivals (like the commemoration of the Revolution of 1905 in January 1918, the 1st of May and the 7th of November 1918). The author proposes these understood as the process of transformation of the partisan model of festivals, inherited from the traditions of the pre-Revolutionary labor movement, into a public festival, serving to express loyalty and to construct the legitimacy of the new regime. For the Bolsheviks and for their partisans, the challenge was huge, since it meant not only supplanting the competing rituals and affirming their own supremacy as the only source of symbolic power, but also, and especially, to transform a ritual of struggle, subversion, and exclusion into an act of institution, legitimating, and inclusion. This paper thus tries to understand the logic and the inherent tensions of this process so as to uncover the signs of novelty in the apparent continuities and to reveal the uses of the past in the fields usually “marked” as tabula rasa zone.


    Go to the article on