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They did not expect him by Ilya Repin, 1884 – 1888 (Wikiart.org)

“It is generally believed that by depicting various reaction of young man’s household Repin tried to show diverse but mostly positive attitude of society toward revolutionary movements of that time. Actually, under strict censorship of Czarist Russia, it was a political declaration disguised as an everyday genre scene.” (Wikiart.org.)

The Russian Revolution

In the second half of the 19th century and the first quarter of the 20th century, Russia changed dramatically. The Emancipation of serfdom, in 1861, led to a major social upheaval. Ironically, several former serfs had to pay for the piece of land they had been cultivating for centuries, but more importantly, an agrarian society was industrialized. (See Industrialisation of Russia, Wiki2.org.) Many Serfs became factory workers whose working conditions were unacceptable.

Matters culminated in a massacre known as Bloody Sunday, 22 January 1905. From 3,000 to 50,000 factory workers marched towards Saint Petersburg’s Winter Palace to deliver a petition (←text) to Tsar Nicholas II. Some 4,000 demonstrators, an approximate number, were gunned down or injured by the Imperial Guard. Others were arrested.

By the end of Word War I, there would no longer be a Russian Empire. Two revolutions occurred in 1917: the February Revolution and the October Revolution. The Bolsheviks, under Vladimir Lenin, took over during the October Revolution, sometimes called the Bolshevik Coup.

Tsar Nicholas II of Russia (18 May [O.S. 6 May] 1868 – 17 July 1918) had abdicated on 2 March 1917. He and his family were executed during the night of 17 – 18 July 1918.

The painting above is immensely foreboding.

But let us listen to another part of Mussorgsky’s Khovanshchina, its introduction.


Mussorgsky’s Dawn on the Moskva-River
Introduction to Khovanshchina

Barge Haulers on the Volga by Ilya Repin, 1873 (Wikiart.org.)

© Micheline Walker
19 November 2018