Social media in Russia 100 years ago

December 4, 2016

Do you wonder how it would have been if Facebook and Twitter existed in the time of Mikhail Bulgakov? A new Russian media project allows users to track, in real-time, how social media could have looked like in Russia 100 years ago, on the eve of the Russian Revolution. The project is entitled 1917: Свободная история [1917: Svobodnaya Istoriya]or 1917: A free history, and is the brainchild of Mikhail Zygar, the author of Вся кремлёвская рать [Vsya Kremlyovskaya rat] or  All the Kremlin's Men, a bestselling book on Vladimir Putin’s presidency. Zygar is also the former editor-in-chief of the independent Russian television news channel Dozhd.

The website is a Facebook-like social network using historical records, letters and newspapers to show events as they unravel from the perspective of nearly one thousand historical figures like Mikhail Bulgakov, Vladimir Mayakovsky, Boris Pasternak, Arthur Conan Doyle, Isadora Duncan and Tsar Nicolas II. Their updates are published in the form of a social media feed, including hashtags, likes and the possibility to share.

When you access the website, you see the pagefeed of exactly 100 years before. So today, you would see the page of December 4, 1916. You might see Maurice Ravel posting a song on the wall of Igor Stravinsky, or Charlie Chaplin announcing the premiere of his film The Rink - which was, indeed, on December 4, 1916 - and Anna Akimova liking it. Visitors to the site who are particularly interested in one of those historical or cultural figures can «friend» them to follow their updates more closely. At the time we are writing this text, we see on Bulgakov’s profile that he is 25 years old and that he is working as a doctor in the Smolensk region. His interests are music, literature and theater, and he is married to Tatiana Lappa. He has got no friends yet, while Vladimir Mayakovsky has got eight friends, among which Anatoly Lunacharsky, the man who, as the head of the Narkompros, would have a major impact on the banning of the plays of Bulgakov.

«We are not being ironic, we are not making a comic website. The social network format is simply an excellent way of translating that epoch into contemporary language», said Zygar.  «We do not invent texts, We cut them, to make them more readable. But we will never change the meaning of the words. Each entry has got a link that will help the user to find the source.»

«1917» is currently planning some offline events to compliment the site, including a performance at Gogol Center in November next year to be directed by Kirill Serebrennikov, artistic director of the Center.

Check out the link below to see what could have been seen on the social networks in Russia this day 100 years ago.

Click here to visit 1917 - A Free History



Charlie Chaplin announces the premiere of The Rink, and Anna Akimova likes it.


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