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Exploring the Bolshevik Revolution with Historic Newspapers

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This is a guest post by Vincent Acuña, an intern with the education team at the Library of Congress as part of the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU) Internship Program.

This year marks the centennial anniversary of both the U.S. entry into World War I and the Bolshevik Revolution, the events that led to the fall of Russia’s tsarist government and the eventual birth of the U.S.S.R. By analyzing reports in historic newspapers, students can explore the Great War’s role as a possible catalyst in starting the revolution and U.S. responses to the rise of communism in Russia.

Evening Star, December 29, 1918

Russia  endured some of the heaviest casualties of World War I, losing more than 1.7 million soldiers. Newspapers in the United States documented these Russian losses. “The War’s Awful Drain” from Goodwin’s Weekly provides a list of casualties including information from the Russian Front. “Talks of Russia’s Losses in the War,” from the December 29, 1918, edition of the Evening Star indicates the number of Russian soldiers lost and discusses problems with Russian soldiers having limited supplies. The article also noted that Russian soldiers fought until the “power of further effort was gone out of them.” Students can explore Chronicling America to see how the Russian war effort and the loss of so many soldiers might have created an environment that was ready for revolution.

Deming Graphic, February 3, 1920

Students may also conduct research in Chronicling America to understand early U.S.  sentiments toward the Bolsheviks and the movement toward communism. For example, articles from the Deming Graphic recount concerns about the “Red Peril.” Students can search Chronicling America to see how various communities united against the perceived threat of communism, but also to see how some U.S. citizens didn’t feel that the communist movement would lead to the overthrow of the American government. Encourage students to read some of the articles about the “red scare.” Do they think that citizens should have been concerned about the rise of communism at that time? What do they think was the main elements of Russo-communism that troubled the U.S. the most?


Comments (2)

  1. Fear is the great motivator. I think Americans were overly zealous with the rise of Communism to the point of, let’s say, ridicule? Russia was experiencing famine and abuse by the Tsarist empire. The American government had no reason to feel threatened as they did. A revolution was rightfully necessary in Russia to right the wrongs. Of course, there were paramount changes for the serves in Russia and they deserved every good thing coming to them. Right or wrong, sometimes a revolution is the only thing.

  2. I love it! Great piece and such a great author! I miss the Library and all the Ed Outreach staff.

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