A new exhibition at the University of Leeds reveals the dramatic events of the Russian Revolution from a new, British, perspective.
Caught in the Russian Revolution: the British Community in Petrograd, 1917-1918 is the latest exhibition at the Treasures of the Brotherton Gallery, University of Leeds.
The exhibition, opening on 1 March, marks the centenary of the 1917 Russian Revolution, which changed the course of world history.
Offering a unique perspective on this violent episode, the exhibition focuses on the British community in St Petersburg, renamed Petrograd at the start of the First World War.
The community was well established from the 18th century. Several generations of families helped to develop the city’s infrastructure and commerce. The Revolution in February 1917 disrupted all their lives and the Bolshevik seizure of power in October destroyed any hope for their future in Russia.
This exhibition draws on the Leeds Russian Archive, which includes eyewitness accounts in the form of diaries, letters, and photographs to explore a pivotal moment in world history. The exhibition celebrates 35 years of the Leeds Russian Archive at Special Collections in Leeds University Library. The LRA has been designated as nationally and internationally important by Arts Council England.
Stories and objects on display include:
- Patent of hereditary Russian nobility granted to George Baird by Alexander II, 1872
George Baird belonged to a Scottish civil-engineering and ship-building dynasty. The patent of nobility was granted by Emperor Alexander II in recognition of George, and his family’s, contribution to the development of St Petersburg and Russian shipping from the late 18th century. This unique artefact is an intricate handmade object which comes with the huge seal of Alexander II, and represents the integration of British families, like the Bairds, into Russian life prior to the Revolution.
- Reverend Lombard’s prison mug, letters and drawings, 1918
Reverend Bousfield Swan Lombard was Chaplain of the British Embassy and English Church in Petrograd from 1908 to 1918, and a central figure in the British community in Russia. During the October Revolution, shortly after drinking tea together in the British Embassy, Reverend Lombard witnessed the murder of his friend Captain Francis Cromie, naval attaché and Royal Navy submarine commander. Reverend Lombard, alongside many of the remaining British community, was subsequently imprisoned. Lombard’s prison mug, letters he received and drawings he made whilst incarcerated, act as vivid reminders of the brutal end to the British Community in Russia.
To accompany ‘Caught in the Revolution’ The Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery, University of Leeds, will be displaying a selection of objects, textiles and jewellery from the Leeds Russian Archive curated by Richard Davies. On display 11 February – 10 June 2017.
A varied programme of public events will be held to accompany the exhibition. Highlights include:
- 1 March, 18:00 – 20:00 Opening Reception – Celebrate the opening of the new exhibition. Free and open to all. If you would like to attend please register here: opening-reception-caught-in-the-russian-revolution.eventbrite.co.uk
- 23 March, 13:00 – 14:00 Free Lunchtime Talk: Curator and archivist Richard Davies explores the British expatriate experience during the Russian Revolution.
- 26 April, 13:00 – 14:00 Free Lunchtime Talk: Vera Pavlova, a visiting research fellow at The University of Leeds, examines Russian theatre around the time of the Russian Revolution.
- 25 May, 17:30 -18:30 Chris Sheppard Lecture: Helen Rappaport, alumna of the University of Leeds, will give a lecture on the subject of her latest book: ‘Caught in the Revolution: Petrograd 1917’.
- 21 June, 13:00 – 14:00 Free Lunchtime Talk: David Jackson, Professor of Russian & Scandinavian Art Histories at The University of Leeds explores Russian Art during the Russian Revolution.
Full details of the events programme can be found at library.leeds.ac.uk/treasures-events.
Photography by Ken Kajoranta