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In the years before the 1917 revolution, exiles who had fled the Russian empire created large and boisterous “Russian colonies” across Europe. Centers of radical activity in the heart of bourgeois cities, these émigré settlements eventually evolved into utopian communities. Revolutionaries, feminists, nationalist activists, and Jewish intellectuals created new networks, institutions, and cultural practices that reflected their values, prefiguring the ideal world of liberty and universal fraternity of which they dreamed.

The colonies played a crucial role in defining the Russian revolutionary tradition and inspired quests for freedom and justice in their European host societies. But if the utopian visions forged in exile inspired populations far and wide, they often evolved in unexpected directions. Colony residents’ efforts to transform the world unwittingly produced explosive discontents that proved no less consequential than their revolutionary dreams.

 © 2019 by Faith Hillis

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