‘War, refugeedom, revolution: understanding Russia’s refugee crisis, 1914-1917’

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This article examines the refugee crisis in Russia in the era of war and revolution. It considers the historiography and the reasons for historiographical neglect; and asks questions about its political, social and cultural significance. The refugee crisis posed fundamental questions about the scope, purpose and outcomes of attempts to manage people who were on the move on an unprecedented scale and in an unforeseen manner. The article also asks to what extent refugees were able to express themselves, whether to lament the circumstances leading to their displacement, to criticise the arrangements made on their behalf, or to articulate a sense of their future. The first part of the article discusses some of the extant source material, including Anglophone accounts. It goes on to consider the politics and practice of relief work, including by semi-official bodies such as the Tatiana Committee, by public organisations (notably Zemgor), and by new national committees that claimed the refugee on behalf of the ‘nation’. Attention is also devoted to the ramifications of population displacement in 1917 and beyond, including the repatriation of refugees. The final section addresses directly the issue of personal testimony, and who claimed the right to speak on behalf of the refugee.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)123-146
JournalCahiers du Monde Russe
Issue number1-2
Early online date30 Jul 2017
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Refugees Refugee history
  • First World War; World War 1; Russian history


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