The Russian revolution simmered for decades before finally toppling the imperial government in early 1917 and bringing to power the world’s first Communist government later that same year. Like no other political event the Bolshevik revolution reverberated around the world, carried by political networks via print and visual media. The University of Chicago has a privileged vantage point on the revolution’s “red press,” in large part thanks to Samuel Northrup Harper, son of the University’s founding president, William Rainey Harper.
During his extensive sojourns in Russia Samuel Harper collected first-hand documentation of Russian culture and politics from 1904 to the late 1930s, with a particular emphasis on the revolutionary decade between 1905 and 1917. In January 1905 he was on Palace Square in St. Petersburg during the infamous Bloody Sunday encounter. In the summer of 1917 he was back in the imperial capital, now named Petrograd, to witness the tumult between the February and October revolutions. In between he spent half of each year at the University of Chicago teaching courses in Russian, laying the foundations of the University’s programs in Russian studies. Red Press augments Harper’s collection of handbills, pamphlets, and other revolutionary ephemera with material from other holdings in Special Collections that document how Russia’s revolution was described, imagined and disseminated, from the Far East to the streets of Chicago.