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To Break Russia's Chains: Boris Savinkov and His Wars against the Tsar and the Bolsheviks
(90-minute webinar)

Although now largely forgotten outside Russia, Boris Savinkov was famous, and notorious, both at home and abroad during his lifetime, which spans the end of the Russian Empire and the establishment of the Soviet Union.  A complex and conflicted individual, he was a paradoxically moral revolutionary terrorist, a scandalous novelist, a friend of epoch-defining artists like Modigliani and Diego Rivera, a government minister, a tireless fighter against Lenin and the Bolsheviks, and an advisor to Churchill.  At the end of his life, Savinkov conspired to be captured by the Soviet secret police, and as the country’s most prized political prisoner made headlines around the world when he claimed that he accepted the Bolshevik state. But as this book argues, this was Savinkov’s final play as a gambler and he had staked his life on a secret plan to strike one last blow against the tyrannical regime.

Neither a "Red" nor a "White," Savinkov lived an epic life that challenges many popular myths about the Russian Revolution, which was arguably the most important catalyst of twentieth-century world history. All of Savinkov’s efforts were directed at transforming his homeland into a uniquely democratic, humane and enlightened state.  There are aspects of his violent legacy that will, and should, remain frozen in the past as part of the historical record.  But the support he received from many of his countrymen suggests that the paths Russia took during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries—the tyranny of communism, the authoritarianism of Putin’s regime—were not the only ones written in her historical destiny. Savinkov's goals remain a poignant reminder of how things in Russia could have been, and how, perhaps, they may still become someday.

For more information about To Break Russia’s Chains, please visit www.valexandrov.com

Oct 7, 2021 04:00 PM in Eastern Time (US and Canada)

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Vladimir Alexandrov
B. E. Bensinger Professor Emeritus, Slavic Languages and Literatures @Yale University
Vladimir Alexandrov grew up in New York City in a Russian émigré family, planning and to be a scientist from an early age. However, after getting a Bachelor's and Master's degrees in Geology, he decided to study literature and the humanities, resulting in a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from Princeton. After teaching in the Slavic Department at Harvard, he moved to Yale's Slavic Department in 1986, where he taught undergraduate and graduate courses on nineteenth- and twentieth-century Russian literature and culture (Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Nabokov, Bely, among other writers and topics) until retiring in 2018 to write full time.  While preparing to teach a graduate seminar on Russian émigré culture, he discovered Frederick Bruce Thomas, and wrote The Black Russian, about an African American who led an extraordinary life in Russia and Turkey in the early twentieth century.  This book is now being developed into a dramatic TV series. He then turned his attention to the controversial...