The Charisma of World Revolution

Revolutionary Internationalism in Early Soviet Society, 1917–1927


That the idea of world revolution was crucial for the Bolshevik leaders in the years following the 1917 revolution is a well-known fact. But what did the party’s rank and file make of it? How did it resonate with the general population? And what can a social history of international solidarity tell us about the transformation of Soviet society from NEP to Stalinism? This book undertakes the first in-depth analysis of the discourses and practices of internationalism in early Soviet society during the years of revolution, civil war and NEP, using forgotten archival materials and contemporary sources.

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Gleb J. Albert, Dr. phil. (2014, Bielefeld University), is researcher and lecturer at the Department of History, University of Zurich. He is co-editor of The International Newsletter of Communist Studies and has published on early Soviet history, the Comintern and the international communist movement, and the history of software piracy and home computing.
“Gleb Albert’s book is a splendid accomplishment. For the first time we are taken deep inside the early Bolshevik internationalist imaginary, with results fully comparable to the best of the social and cultural histories of local communisms produced since the 1970s, country by country, for the rest of Europe.”
– Geoff Eley, University of Michigan

“Albert uses his methodological tools to great effect to provide original insights into early Soviet society. This is a theoretically sound, empirically remarkable, and intellectually outstanding piece of scholarship.”
– Matthias Neumann, University of East Anglia

“Gleb J. Albert has produced an admirable work of scholarship on the first decade of Soviet society. The lens of “world revolution” not only gives us insight into Soviet foreign policy but even more, it helps us to understand the nature of communist enthusiasm during these years. Drawing on a number of archives in Russia and abroad, informed by a great deal of reading in contemporary periodicals and propaganda works, this study does much to help us understand just how early Soviet activists saw their world and their place in it. Das Charisma der Revolution is a worthy addition to the literature on the Russian Revolution in this centenary year.”
– Theodore R. Weeks, Southern Illinois University

„Albert’s study constitutes a breakthrough in the scholarship of the [early Soviet] period.”
– Heiko Haumann, University of Basel

“Albert’s study provides great insights into the early years of Soviet rule. It is a must-read for those interested in the birth of the propaganda state and the difficulties of agitprop during the early years of Soviet power. Few other studies are of equal merit when explaining the relationship between ideology, party-state and population from the Russian Revolution to the beginnings of Stalinism.”
– Jan C. Behrends, European University Viadrina Frankfurt (Oder)
Editorial Note

1 Introduction

2 ‘World Revolution’, the Bolsheviks and Soviet Society
 1 Bolshevik Internationalism through the World War and Revolution
 2 1918/19, 1923, 1926: Three World-Revolutionary ‘Windows of Opportunity’ in Their Soviet Reflection

3 Activists and the Charisma of World Revolution
 1 Activists, Opportunists and Functionaries: Types of Early Soviet Political Actors
 2 The World Revolution as a ‘Delightful Thing’
 3 Communist World Society or Russian Domination? Activists Imagine the Future

4 Internationalist Practices I: Charisma and Activism between the Revolution and NEP
 1 Informing, Performing and Intervening: Public Speech about the World Revolution
 2 Internationalist Greeting Messages and Their Authors
 3 The Bolshevik Provincial Press: From Activist Mouthpiece to ‘Mass’ Newspaper

5 Internationalism and the Soviet ‘Masses’
 1 Ways and Means of Transmitting Internationalist Knowledge
 2 Reactions of the ‘Masses’: Disinterest, Resistance, Appropriation

6 MOPR: The Institutionalisation of International Solidarity in the obshchestvennost’

7 International Practices II: Activism and obshchestvennost’ from NEP to Stalinism
 1 Donations and Fundraising: Class Solidarity, Philanthropy and Entertainment
 2 Objects and Subjects of ‘Shefstvo’: Comparing Two Types of International Sponsorship
 3 Internationalist Pen Pal Correspondence – Collective and Individual
 4 Banners Wanted: The Twists and Turns of International Flag Exchange
 5 Dealing with Comrades from Abroad: Foreign Representatives of the Labour Movement in the Soviet Union

8 A Practice Forestalled: Going Abroad for the World Revolution

9 Concluding Remarks

Readers interested in the social and cultural history of revolutionary Russia and the early Soviet state, the international impact of revolutionary movements, the grass-roots history of international solidarity, and the entanglements of Soviet and European history.
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