‘Free love, gender equality, social equality’: Notable Russians of #1917CROWD, who were they?
Femme fatale, witty girl – in 1917, socialite Lilya Brik was only 25. She is best known as poet Mayakovsky’s muse and lover, but there was much more to her than that.
Smart and well-educated, she herself wrote, edited, acted, and most importantly – inspired. There are numerous paintings of her by famous artists of the time. A photo made by Alexander Rodchenko that was later turned into a collage is still widely used in pop culture.
During the time of the revolution and in the early 20s, Lilya, her husband Osip Brik, and Mayakovsky were in a sort of love triangle.
Her private diaries are still undisclosed, but some information is out there, suggesting that she led a free-spirited life, didn’t keep her lovers a secret, and believed that true art required freedom.
While Lilya Brik had no interest whatsoever in politics, another prominent woman of the time, Alexandra Kollontai, was Vladimir Lenin’s close aid and made history for becoming the first woman to become a minister and one of the first women to become an ambassador (to Sweden).
By 1917, Kollontai was 45 years old, madly in love with revolutionary Pavel Dybenko, 17 years her junior, and at the very core of the Bolshevik movement.
A brilliant orator, she spoke French, English, German, and Finnish, and used her skills travelling the world with socialist speeches appealing to the working class.
Kollontai herself was from no humble upbringing, however. Born in a general’s family in St. Petersburg, she would later do her best to downplay her wealthy past, calling family estates “country houses,” etc.
Part of her political career was always devoted to women’s rights and gender equality, based on the notion that socialism brings equality across classes; it should also provide equal rights for women.
While Kollontai was head over heels in endless love affairs and big international politics, and Lilya Brik was center stage of the avant-garde movement, Naval Commander (later, Admiral) Alexander Kolchak, spent 1917 traveling.
He would say Minister of War Alexander Kerensky practically forced him out of the country against his own will: to England, the United States, Singapore, and China – that was his 1917.
There was an article about me today, and the person who wrote it claimed that I could, in the future, become the leader of Russia #1917LIVE— Alexander V. Kolchak (@Kolchak_1917) July 5, 2017
In 1918, Kolchak will lead the White Army against the Bolshevik Red Army in Russia’s crippling Civil War, becoming the Supreme Ruler and Commander-in-Chief of All Russian Land and Sea Forces until 1920.
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