Call for Papers: Man in the age of cataclysms: the experience of 1917 [DHI Moskau]

Deadline: July 15, 2017

Demonstration of Putilov workers on the first day of the February Revolution of 1917, State museum of political history of Russia

Russia’s 1917 has gone down in world history as a year of drastic tectonic shifts, of a change in the vector of development of all humanity. Addressing this period in Russian history provides unique material for sociological, politological and philosophical synthesis.

The theme of the conference is focused on research into the “human experience” of revolution, whose irruption into the sphere of “private life” has always been fraught with profound upheavals. Participant’s contributions should be based on diaries, correspondence, artworks, sketches and other “human documents”, to use the definition of L.Ya. Ginzburg, produced in the years 1917-1918.

The organisers of the conference have deliberately avoided getting involved in the heated discussions of recent years on the chronological framework of the revolution: are the February and October Revolutions to be regarded as separate milestones in Russian history, or should they be seen as part of a single social phenomenon with its own internal chronology? The aim of this conference is the comprehensive investigation into the reactions of contemporaries to the events of 1917, for which there were no distinctions of time and in which the meaning and outcome of what was happening was often unclear.



  • “You need distance to see what is great.”: the scale of an event and the reaction to it – the first days of the revolution.
  • Historical consciousness in times of crisis – utopianism, a new vision of historical progress and the political planning immediately correlated with it, messianic consciousness and secularisation of social consciousness
  • Ideological indoctrination of the private individual. Phases of politicisation of the social consciousness and subjective experiences of the events of a “political era”.


  • Human emotions: fear, panic, joy, spiritual uplift, hope, the thrill of destruction/creation – and the real life forms in which they were displayed.
  • Deviant behaviour and the first attempts at its scientific analysis, the psychology of a revolutionary epoch.
  • Growth of aggression: city against countryside, civil and military opposition to the Bolsheviks.
  • “Us / them” concepts: society on the eve of total internal enmity.
  • Mass society in the epoch of revolution: preconditions, emergence and development.
  • Crowd psychology and reflection of the phenomenon in various sources.


  • The aesthetics of revolution and contemporaries’ reactions to them: new sounds, songs, symbols, details of clothing and models of behaviour.
  • Strategies of “private life” in a time of catastrophes: between survival and organisation of one’s life.
  • Famine and shortages – the ethics of survival in the transition from world war to civil war.


  • Shaping the image of leaders, charismatic legitimisation in politics and in culture.
  • Gender problems as a part of the “revolutionary experience”, the women’s movement and gender utopia.
  • Criminalisation of the social situation and the problem of juvenile crime.
  • “City folk” and “peasants” in revolutionary tumults, migration and social mobility.
  • “The commissar as a political gambler”: the problem of local self-rule in the era of the “soviets”.
  • A culture of “specialists” versus a culture of “enforcers”: deprofessionalisation in the era of revolution.
  • “Aggressors” and “victims”: the problem of oppression. The ethics of social interactions in conditions of extraordinary resolutions.
  • The “soldier” in the ear of catastrophes: “Order Number One” and the repressions of military personnel from March to October 1917 – and onwards.


  • The artist and revolution: sublimation and therapy of emotional upheavals in works of art.
  • The intelligentsia and revolution: class transformations, mobilisations and the ideology of a new interaction with power.
  • The writer and revolution: the diary of Gippius and Merezhkovsky, Bunin’s Cursed Days, the poetry of Mayakovsky, Blok’s Twelve, etc.
  • Professoriate and revolution: Milyukov and Kropotkin.


  • Religious consciousness and the fate of the Church.
  • A new religious consciousness: God-building and God-seeking.
  • Old Believers, dissenters, Muslims, Buddhists and Jews in the first year of revolution.
  • The idea of world revolution and messianism.
  • The sense of apocalypse. We invite the participation of historians, philologists, philosophers and culturologists.

The conference will take place on the 20th-21st October 2017 at the HSE School of Philology. Moscow. Please send the theme of your contribution, a brief abstract (200-300 words) and your CV to, no later than the 15th July 2017. The papers selected by the conference committee will be announced no later than the 1 st of August 2017. For those colleagues who live out of town or abroad, matters concerning travel and accommodation expenses will be determined based on the results of the call for proposals.

Partners: German Historical Institute in Moscow, Centre for Franco-Russian Research in Moscow, Russian State Archive for Literature and Art, Swansea University, Department of Political and Cultural Studies (UK), University of Warmia and Mazury in Olsztyn, Center of Eastern European Studies (Poland), Web portal

Max Weber Stiftung

The Max Weber Foundation promotes global research, concentrated around the areas of social sciences, cultural studies and the humanities. Research is conducted at ten institutes in various countries across the globe with distinctive and independent focal points. Through its globally operating institutes, the Foundation is able to contribute to the communication and networking between Germany and the host countries or regions of its establishments. By promoting scientific dialogue and merging academic as well as non-academic employees from several countries with different cultural backgrounds, the Max Weber Foundation is able to strengthen the Internationalization of research in its three fields of dedication.

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