February 2023 Meeting

Talk by Jenny Antill February 8th 2023

“Recreating Russia in 1825 – bringing the first Russian Revolution to Life”

Jenny set the scene of a Russian winter around 1825 where the weather was so harsh that people buried in snowdrifts were only discovered in the Springtime – they were called “Snowdrops”. She outlined how events led to the first Russian revolution. She has written a new book “Small Acts of Kindness” set at this time and explained her research methods to try to stick to the truth. She found a rich source of information in magazines from the end of the 19th Century in Russia, when there was an interest in history and these magazines were full of memoirs of important figures in the first Russian revolution.

The 1825 revolutionaries were seen as forerunners of later revolution and revered by many – but not by Putin. To create a sense of place, Jenny studied many pictures of scenes at the time. The hero of her book is Vasily, a count from minor aristocracy, who has just returned from his European tour and is going into government service. At the time, 50% of the population were serfs. Alexander 1st was in power and he wanted to bring in changes and reforms. However, he was distracted by Napoleonic Wars and these changes did not materialise.

The hero Vasily becomes interested in politics. In 1825, Alexander 1st died which led to a constitutional crisis. Nicolas became Tsar but in the meantime, discontent had grown and plotting to depose the Tsar led the guardsmen to refuse to recognise Nicolas as Tsar. Their revolt failed, some of the revolutionaries were imprisoned, some hung and some sent to exile in Siberia.

We will need to read the book to find out what happened to the hero Vasily…..

A very interesting and enlightening talk.

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