Century Film Project

Celebrating the movies our ancestors loved

Tag: Vladimir Lenin

November 1917

It’s practically the end of the month, and I’m only now getting around to an installment of the Century News! Part of the reason I’ve hesitated this month is that so much happened, and it is so momentous, that it’s almost impossible to approach. The second Russian Revolution that started the Russian Civil War and ultimately created the USSR would transform history on nearly all levels. Most relevant for this blog: it would wind up having a huge impact on cinema history, leading to the rise of montage and directors like Sergei Eisenstein and Dziga Vertov. More immediately, however, it meant a sudden collapse of the thriving Russian film industry as the blockade prevented new film stock from entering the country and many of the actors and producers went into exile. One thing that this project has discovered is that pre-revolutionary Russian cinema cannot be dismissed as “backwards” or “bourgeois.” Personally, I regard Evgeni Bauer as a genius equal or perhaps even superior to Eisenstein (though there are many who would disagree). Certainly, Soviet cinema never produced an actor of the stature of Ivan Mosjoukine.

It’s hard to discuss this period also without thinking of present-day politics. The rapture over the “Fall of the Soviet Union” has largely given way to fears over a new Russian superpower and its influence on the West. I’d rather avoid making any definite statements about how this is or will play out (that’s not the topic of this blog), but maybe some insights can be gleaned by thinking about how Russian history has played out on the world stage over the course of the past century. Here are some headlines that might start that process.

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July 1917

This month, the headlines make it clear how intricately connected the First World War is with the Russian Revolution. Deciding which category some things went under was tough. Also, although Finland has long been a sovereign nation, that independence was most recently reasserted during (and due to) the revolution, so I’ve included Finnish news under that heading for now.

British mortar battery taking up position on July 31.

World War One

Russian General Brusilov begins the major Kerensky Offensive on July 1 in Galicia, initially advancing towards Lemberg.

Greece joins the war on the side of the Allies on July 2.

Battle of Aqaba: Arabian troops led by T. E. Lawrence capture Aqaba from the Ottoman Empire on July 6.

First Battle of Ramadi takes place from July 8 to 13. British troops fail to take Ramadi from the Ottoman Empire; a majority of British casualties are due to extreme heat.

Austrian and German forces repulse the Russian advance into Galicia. Fighting rages from July 20 to 28.

Allied offensive operations commence in Flanders on July 31, beginning the Battle of Passchendaele.

Alexander Kerensky

Russian Revolution

Russian troops mutiny, abandon the Austrian front, and retreat to the Ukraine; hundreds are shot by their commanding officers during the retreat, July 16 to 17.

Serious clashes in Petrograd in July Days (16-18); Lenin escapes to Finland; Trotsky is arrested.

On July 20, the Parliament of Finland, with a Social Democratic majority, passes a “Sovereignty Act”, declaring itself, as the representative of the Finnish people, sovereign over the Grand Principality of Finland. The Russian Provisional Government does not recognize the act, as it would have devolved Russian sovereignty over Finland, formerly exercised by the Russian Emperor as Grand Prince of Finland and alter the relationship between Finland and Russia into a real union with Russia solely responsible for the defense and foreign relations of an independent Finland.

Alexander Kerensky becomes premier of the Russian Provisional Government on July 20, replacing Prince Georgy Lvov.

The Russian Provisional Government enacts women’s suffrage on July 20.

The Parliament of Finland is dissolved by the Russian Provisional Government July 30. New elections are held in the autumn, resulting in a bourgeois majority.

The Silent Parade, n New York City, to protest violence against African Americans.

Labor/racial unrest:

East St. Louis riot occurs on July 2. A labor dispute ignites a race riot in East St. Louis, Illinois, which leaves 250 dead.

Bisbee Deportation occurs on July 12. The Phelps Dodge Corporation deports over 1,000 suspected IWW members from Bisbee, Arizona.

On July 28, the Silent Parade is organized by the NAACP in New York City to protest the East St. Louis riot of July 2, as well as lynchings in Tennessee and Texas.

King George V

Monarchy:

King George V of the United Kingdom issues a proclamation on July 17, stating that thenceforth the male line descendants of the British Royal Family will bear the surname Windsor, denying the Germanic bloodline of House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, which is an offshoot of the historic (800+ years) House of Wettin.

Government:

Sir William Thomas White introduces Canada’s first income tax as a “temporary” measure on July 25 (lowest bracket is 4% and highest is 25%).

Diplomacy:

The Corfu Declaration, which enables the establishment of the post-war Kingdom of Yugoslavia, is signed on July 20 by the Yugoslav Committee and the Kingdom of Serbia.

Philanthropy:

The Lions Clubs International is formed in the United States on July 7.

Hoaxes

First Cottingley Fairies photographs taken in Yorkshire, England during July, apparently depicting fairies; a hoax not admitted by the child creators until 1981.

Film:

Big Timber, starring Wallace Reid, released July 5.

The Picture of Dorian Gray (German, Das Bildnis des Dorian Gray) released July (date uncertain).

Births:

Virginia Dale, July 1, actress (in “Holiday Inn” and “Dragnet”)

Faye Emerson, July 8, actress (in “The Mask of Dimitrios” and “A Face in the Crowd”)

Phyllis Diller, July 17, comedian, actress (in “Splendor in the Grass” and “Mad Monster Party”)

Lorna Gray, July 26, actress (in “Flying G-Men” and “So Proudly We Hail”)

April 1917

This is a big month in US history: the month that the United States of America entered the First World War. It had been coming for some time, and the German decision to re-initiate unrestricted submarine warfare in February clinched it, but now Americans were faced with the reality of troops being sent to fight and die in France. A large percent of the population was ready for war, although there would be anti-conscription demonstrations in several large cities. More upsettingly, there was a wave of anti-immigrant paranoia targeting German Americans – including many of Jewish extraction – which resulted in verbal abuse and violence in some areas.

The headlines for this month, a century ago include:

Woodrow Wilson speaks before Congress on the breaking of diplomatic ties with Germany.

World War I

U.S. President Woodrow Wilson asks the United States Congress for a declaration of war on Germany on April 2. War is formally declared April 6.

WWI: Canadian troops win the Battle of Vimy Ridge April 9-12.

The Nivelle Offensive commences April 16.

The Egyptian Expeditionary Force begins the Second Battle of Gaza April 17. This unsuccessful frontal attack on strong Ottoman defences along with the first battle, resulted in 10,000 casualties, the dismissal of the force commander General Archibald Murray and the beginning of the Stalemate in Southern Palestine.

Agreement of Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne between France, Italy and the United Kingdom to settle interests in the Middle Eastern signed April 26. This is one of many arrangements by the allied powers that will be in contradiction to Wilson’s Fourteen Points at the end of the war, and hence a sticking point in negotiations for the Treaty of Versailles.

The locomotive that returned Lenin to Russia in April 1917.

Russian Revolution

In Petrograd on April 8, 40,000 ethnic Estonians demand national autonomy within Russia.

On April 12, The Autonomous Governorate of Estonia is formed within Russia from the Governorate of Estonia and the northern part of the Governorate of Livonia.

Vladimir Lenin arrives at the Finland Station in Petrograd on April 16, having been given clearance to ride in a “sealed boxcar” by the German High Command, who are gambling that escalation of the Revolution will knock Russia out of the war and free troops from the Eastern Front for combat in France.

Vladimir Lenin’s April Theses are published on April 17. They become very influential in the following July Days and Bolshevik Revolution.

Pacifism

In St. Louis on April 7, the Socialist Party of America resolves to resist conscription and the war effort. The IWW will also oppose the war, gaining many members from the AFL, whose leader, Samuel Gompers, chooses to support the war.

American WWI propaganda poster.

Propaganda

The Committee on Public Information is founded on April 14, to promote the war effort in the United States.

Disasters

An ammunition factory explosion on April 10 in Chester, Pennsylvania kills 133.

Diplomacy

WWI: Brazil severs diplomatic relations with Germany on April 11.

Journalism

The Times and the Daily Mail (London newspapers both owned by Lord Northcliffe) print atrocity propaganda of the supposed existence of a German Corpse Factory.

Film

Several film studios, including Universal, Paramount, and the Balboa Amusement Company, responded to war news by setting up recruitment drives or actually training actors for military service.

Thomas Lincoln Tally, in a meeting in New York, co-founds the First National Exhibitors Circuit.

Teddy at the Throttle, starring Gloria Swanson, released April 15.

The Cure, starring and directed by Charlie Chaplin, released April 16

The Butcher Boy, directed by and starring Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle with Buster Keaton in his first screen appearance, released April 23.

Births

Valerie Hobson, actress (in “Bride of Frankenstein” and “Kind Hearts and Coronets”) born April 14.

Celeste Holm, actress (in “Gentleman’s Agreement” and “All About Eve”) born April 29.

Maya Deren, director (made “Meshes of the Afternoon” and “Ritual in Transfigured Time”) born April 29.