The 2020 A B Emden Lecture “The Bolsheviks in Isolation: Loneliness and Autonomy in a Collectivist Society”
19 May 2020
On 12 May 2020, 100 Aularians and historians from Oxford and around the world watched the annual Emden Lecture online, given by Yuri Slezkine of the University of California, Berkeley and currently a Visiting Fellow at the Hall.
His theme was a topical one – The Bolsheviks in Isolation: Loneliness and Autonomy in a Collectivist Society – and in his lecture he explored the lives of a group of Bolshevik leaders as they experienced both solitude and community throughout their extraordinarily eventful and ultimately tragic lives. He showed how they coped with tsarist prisons in their youth, debated how to create a collectivist society and whether to dissolve the ‘bourgeois family’ after the 1917 revolution, settled into a rather conventional family life in the 1920s and 1930s, and then often ended up in solitary confinement in Stalin’s Gulags before their execution. He illustrated his talk with pictures of the buildings they lived in and the revolutionary songs they listened to.
Professor Yuri Slezkine was born and raised in Moscow, USSR, and worked as a Portuguese interpreter in Mozambique and English instructor in Portugal before moving to Austin, Texas to study Russian history. Since then he has taught at Berkeley, and held visiting chairs at a number of institutions across the world. His most recent book, The House of Government: A Saga of the Russian Revolution (Princeton UP, 2017), was named among the best books of 2017 by the New York Times, Guardian, Le Monde, London Review of Books, Economist and Spectator, among others, and has been translated into six languages, with several more in press.
If you would like to watch the lecture, it is available on the Hall’s YouTube Channel.