CEERES of Voices: Faith Hillis - "Utopia's Discontents: Russian Emigres and the Quest for Freedom, 1830s-1930s" - Tara Zahara

Wednesday, June 2, 2021 - 6:00pm - 7:00pm
Event Presenter/Author: 
Faith Hillis

Faith Hillis will discuss Utopia's Discontents: Russian Emigres and the Quest for Freedom, 1830s-1930s. She will be joined in conversation by Tara Zahra.

Presented in partnership with the Center for East European and Russian/Eurasian Studies (CEERES)

Virtual event


About the book: In April 1917, Lenin arrived at Petrograd's Finland Station and set foot on Russian soil for the first time in over a decade. For most of the past seventeen years, the Bolshevik leader had lived in exile, moving between Europe's many "Russian colonies"--large and politically active communities of émigrés in London, Paris, and Geneva, among other cities. Thousands of fellow exiles who followed Lenin on his eastward trek in 1917 were in a similar predicament. The returnees plunged themselves into politics, competing to shape the future of a vast country recently liberated from tsarist rule. The 1917 revolution marked the dawn of a new day in Russian politics, but it also represented the continuation of decades-long conversations that had begun in emigration and were exported back to Russia. Faith Hillis examines how émigré communities evolved into revolutionary social experiments in the heart of bourgeois cities. Feminists, nationalist activists, and Jewish intellectuals seeking to liberate and uplift populations oppressed by the tsarist regime treated the colonies as utopian communities, creating new networks, institutions, and cultural practices that reflected their values and realized the ideal world of the future in the present. The colonies also influenced their European host societies, informing international debates about the meaning of freedom on both the left and the right. This groundbreaking transnational work demonstrates the indelible marks the Russian colonies left on European politics, legal cultures, and social practices, while underscoring their role during a pivotal period of Russian history.

About the author: Faith Hillis is an historian of modern Russia at the University of Chicago, with a special interest in the intersection of politics, culture, and ideas. The recipient of grants from the Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library, the National Endowment for the Humanities, she is also the author of Children of Rus’: Right Bank Ukraine and the Invention of a Russian Nation.

About the interlocutor: Tara Zahra is a professor of history at the University of Chicago. Her research focuses on the transnational history of modern Europe, migration, the family, nationalism, and humanitarianism.

About the Series: CEERES, pronounced /ˈsirēz/, is the acronym for the University of Chicago Center for East European and Russian/Eurasian Studies. Together with the Seminary Co-op Bookstore, we are delighted to announce the launch of the CEERES of Voices Event Series, an author-centered series of readings and conversations on books from or about Central and Eastern Europe, Russia, Central Eurasia, and the Caucasus. The books being discussed are identified in a various ways: through publishers’ contacts with the bookstore or through faculty requests to CEERES to host the author.

Event Location: