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DENNISON, Elizabeth Jane. “Outcasts, Outlaws, And Outsiders: Exiled Russian Anarchists in the Interwar Years”
Article published on 5 June 2004
last modification on 10 October 2005
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Ph. D. 1993. University Of Illinois At Urbana-Champaign, Adviser: D. Koenke.

DAI, VOL. 54-05A, Page 1913

“Following the victory of the Bolsheviks in the Russian civil war, anarchists had three choices: join the Bolsheviks, remain an anarchist in Soviet Russia and face imprisonment, or leave Russia and be a voice of opposition abroad. This dissertation looks at the lives of those anarchists who chose exile.

Between 1921 and 1939, exiled Russian anarchists organized themselves into communities in Berlin and Paris. Russian anarchists used these communities to create an alternative culture based on a shared value system. Based on exiled Russian anarchists periodicals, personal letters, and professional correspondence, this dissertation examines five major aspects of their culture: revolution, mutual aid, justice, literature, and generational concerns.

From 1921 onward, exiled anarchists faced a series of dilemmas concerning the organization and direction of their movement. The most profound crisis centered on the meaning of revolution and revolutionary organization in light of the Bolshevik victory. Anarchists needed to understand why they had been defeated and how they could revitalize their movement. Although all anarchists could agree that internal weaknesses had played a significant role in their defeat, they were unable to overcome the fragmentation of their movement.

Various suggestions to strengthen the movement led to bitter and unresolved disputes. In spite of this constant internal friction within their community, Russian anarchists joined together with anarchists of all nationalities to honor and commemorate revolutionary heroes and events, to organize relief committees to aid comrades in need, and to censure behavior that was deemed unsuitable for an anarchist. Anarchism is an ideology of revolt and activism. To be an anarchist, an individual had to live an exemplar life based on ceaseless opposition to the state, bureaucracy, and hierarchical, authoritarian relationships. Exiled Russian anarchists embraced an stringent ethic of personal responsibility within a community that was self-governing and voluntary. In contrast to the popular portrayal of anarchists as bomb-throwing, wild-eyed destroyers, anarchists created a community that enabled them to put their ideas into practice. By examining their actions and behavior and how they self-consciously attempted to define themselves and their movement, a clearer picture of Russian anarchists emerges."

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