This is a digital version of the exhibit that was held at the Department of Rare Books and Special Collection, University of Notre Dame Libraries during Fall 2012.
The Russian Revolution of February 1917 was a defining event of the twentieth century. In nine short days, the centuries-old tsarist regime was overthrown, and a chain of events was set in motion that led to the disintegration of the Russian empire and the rise of the Soviet regime that would come to dominate the world stage. Yet even today, as we approach the centennial of the Russian Revolution—and twenty years after the opening of the previously inaccessible Russian archives—historians still lack firsthand contemporary accounts of what happened during those nine fateful days. This exhibit presents selections from the earliest known and heretofore unexamined oral histories (interviews) of the February Revolution as told by its leading participants shortly after the events. The interviews had been conducted and recorded by the Interview Commission under the direction of a noted St. Petersburg historian Mikhail Aleksandrovich Polievktov its work had been part of a larger effort undertaken by the Society for the Study of the Russian Revolution to document the course of the 1917 Revolution. Recorded during 1 May–7 June 1917, months before the Bolsheviks came to power and at a time when the outcome of the revolution was far from obvious, the interviews are free from post-1917 hindsight and represent the most significant firsthand contemporary testimonies on the overthrow of Europe’s last old regime.
The interviews are part of the extensive Polievktov-Nikoladze Family Papers that derive from three generations of a prominent and historically significant Russian-Georgian family, now held in the University Libraries’ Department of Special Collections. Among the family members whose papers are well represented in the collection are: Niko Nikoladze - Polievktov’s father-in-law and leading Georgian revolutionary intellectual and public figure; Irakli Tsereteli - Niko’s nephew and the famed Social Democratic deputy to the Second Duma and future leader of the Petrograd Soviet and the Provisional Government in 1917; and Rusudana Polievktova-Nikoladze - Niko’s older daughter, chemist and political activist as well as distinguished educator whose diaries, memoirs, and correspondence are especially extensive.
The extraordinary significance of this wide-ranging collection is underscored by the fact that it remained with the family, stored in the same apartment for nearly nine decades— having survived the revolution and civil war, the Stalinist purges, the Second World War, hunger and reconstruction, Khrushchev’s Thaw and Brezhnev’s Stagnation, the fall of the Soviet Union, and a devastating civil war and unrest that lasted for almost ten years after Georgia regained its independence in 1991. In 2006 the Polievktov-Nikoladze family papers were discovered by a Notre Dame faculty and subsequently purchased by the University. The materials, predominantly in Russian and Georgian languages, include voluminous personal and professional correspondence, diaries, memoirs, photographs, and other manuscript formats.
The Polievktov-Nikoladze Family Archive is currently being processed. For access, please contact the Department of Special Collections at firstname.lastname@example.org; or the Russian and Eastern European Studies Librarian at email@example.com or (574) 631-3009.