1917 Through the Rose-Colored Looking Glass
Between the October Revolution of 1917 and the declaration of the Soviet Union in 1922, approximately 15 million people lost their lives through war and famine.
Recently, London’s British Library concluded its five-month exhibition: Russian Revolution: Hope, Tragedy and Myths. I was handed a free ticket and went along, and quickly found myself dismayed at the myths peddled yet again, the real tragedy still ignored.
One wonders, given the history of Communism in the 20th century, why there is still so much residual romanticism attached to it—at least in some quarters in the West. Speaking to some Polish friends recently, I mentioned the exhibition. They had, of course, experienced the full crushing weight of the Soviet imperialism; as you can imagine, they were less than enamored of an institutional fanfare for an ideology that had attempted to strangle their nation’s soul.
On arriving at the Library that Sunday afternoon, I was surprised to find that the event was crowded, indeed sold out. I joined the queue. Visitors slowly and solemnly passed by the exhibits, giving the exhibition the air of a quasi-religious gathering. Looking at the maps at the start of the exhibition demonstrating Soviet expansion, I too felt a religious sense, but one for the Christian peoples enslaved by an army just as imperious as that of any czar.
To sum up the exhibition: it was a disappointing affair. Most of the articles on display were moth-eaten Soviet propaganda pieces. Leaflets, political pamphlets, left-wing newspapers, books extolling the Workers’ Paradise now at hand for citizens of the new republic: all of these were in evidence. So, too, were some examples of White Russian propaganda calling for a liberation of Russia and its dominions from Bolshevism. These were less abundant and less prominent, however.
In the end, what interested me most were the English notes attached to each of the exhibits. All the White Russian pieces were described as ‘crude’ and ‘anti-Bolshevik.’ These pieces, they asserted, were calling for the restoration of an old and discredited system. Perhaps so. But then one would expect that the labels elucidating the propaganda of the Bolsheviks and their fellow travellers might be equally or even more dismissive. Not a bit of it. Instead there was a constant whiff of nostalgia, even a sense of something essentially noble about what had taken place a century ago. At this point, knowing which way the ideological wind was blowing, I gave up on the whole thing and the hope of finding a credible, even-handed and objective presentation of the events of 1917 in Russia and their aftermath.
I made for the exit. As I did so, one exhibit caught my eye though. It spoke of the years after the 1917 Revolution, and, in particular, of the invasion of Poland. Most historians would speak of the ‘invasion’ by the Soviet Union of its western neighbor. The Bolsheviks had a plan to tear through Poland to get to Germany and thereafter to set the continent of Europe ablaze in a Marxist revolution that would be the end of the old order forever. In the rush to this new world order, Poland was to be the first victim.
What few in the West remember is not just the heroism that Poland displayed in withstanding this brutal and unprovoked onslaught, but that there is, to this day, the sense that the decisive turning point came through the intervention of spiritual forces. I shall leave it to others more qualified than me to tell of the Miracle of Vistula, when a vastly outnumbered group of Polish soldiers defeated the whole of Soviet might that, with Trotsky at its head, was closing in for the kill. What I will share, however, is the date of the decisive victory: Aug. 15.
The exhibition notes talked of ‘war breaking out with Poland’ and then speeded on to speak of a ‘peace treaty’ between Poland and the Soviets. There was nothing more. What this exhibition in the heart of London demonstrated more than anything else was the fact that there are two histories: the official version, and a secret hidden one. The latter tells of the real history that started at Eden and shall end upon the plains of Armageddon.
This was never more evident to me than when I stood for the last time and looked around the exhibition. At this point my growing irritation was lessening. Instead, I found myself reflecting upon the fact that, whatever the exhibitors had set out to do, nothing could alter the fact that the revolution they extolled failed, and failed miserably. Just one fact alone should suffice to indicate how much the ordinary people suffered on account of revolutionary fervor. Between the October Revolution of 1917 and the declaration of the Soviet Union in 1922, approximately 15 million people lost their lives through war and famine.
By contrast, in 1924, the people’s leader, Lenin died comfortably in his bed.
Standing there at the exit to the exhibition, an alternative history came to mind, one rarely spoken of in official institutions. How I wished there had been one final exhibit that day, one I would have gladly constructed for the organizers. It would have stated the following:
In 1990, on the day after the feast of the Immaculate Conception, Lech Walesa was duly elected President of a newly liberated Poland. Upon his lapel was pinned the image of the Madonna of Częstochowa.
On Aug. 22, 1991, the Feast of the Queenship of Mary, a military coup against the reforms inside the Soviet Union was crushed. Thereafter, with all attempts at a Communist restoration foiled, the fate of the Soviet Communist Party was sealed.
On Dec. 8, 1991, Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, it was announced that the Community of Independent States would replace the political entity once known as the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR).
On Dec. 12, the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Supreme Soviet of Russia formally ratified the Belavezha Accords and renounced the Union Treaty that had brought the USSR into existence in 1922.
On Dec. 25, 1991, Solemnity of the Birth of the King of kings, the Supreme Soviet of Russia adopted a statute to change Russia’s legal name from Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic to Russian Federation, ending any link with Communism.
At 7:32 p.m., the Hammer and Sickle flag was lowered at the Kremlin for the last time.
On Jan. 1, 1992, Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, Russia emerged as an independent state, once more open to religious freedom.
The bitter trial ended, the atheistic Soviet Union was no more; the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution of Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin, with its millions of innocent dead, was now, finally, over.
The worldwide revolution pertaining to the Immaculate Heart, announced at Fatima, also in 1917, was, however, just beginning, and continues to this day.
I walked out of the British Library into the warm summer sun. The sense of irritation was gone now. Looking at the poster for the exhibition I had just attended—with its talk of ‘hope, tragedy and myths’—I knew all too well where the myths and tragedies had been, but I also understood who was our Hope, our Seat of Wisdom, and a mighty Queen indeed.