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World on Fire in Flames of Blood: Narratives of the Russian Revolution

Update March 6, 2017: A selection of digitized items from the exhibition is now available for viewing online.


A century after the Russian Revolution, an exhibition at UNC’s Wilson Special Collections Library will examine the events of 1917 and their immediate aftermath.

World on Fire in Flames of Blood: Narratives of the Russian Revolution will feature eyewitness accounts, propaganda publications, handwritten refugee journals, photographs, and literary representations of one of the most influential world events of the last century.

The free public exhibition will be on view in the Melba Remig Saltarelli Exhibit Room from January 21 through May 14, 2017. For hours, contact Wilson Library at (919) 962-3765 or see

On February 8 at 6 p.m., Donald J. Raleigh will deliver the talk “Russia, 1917: Why Did the Romanov Dynasty Collapse and the Bolsheviks Come to Power?” in the Pleasants Family Assembly Room of Wilson Library.

Raleigh is the Jay Richard Judson Distinguished Professor, department of history, and director of the Center for Slavic, Eurasian, and East European Studies at UNC. A reception and viewing of the exhibition will begin at 5:30 p.m. For program information, contact Liza Terll, Friends of the Library,, (919) 548-1203.

The Wilson Library exhibition will focus largely on the catastrophic civil war that erupted in Russia following the Bolshevik Revolution.

Kirill Tolpygo, UNC’s Slavic and East European studies librarian curated the exhibition. He said that he hopes it will prompt people to think about “how established narratives of historical conflicts are created, controlled, and challenged” and about “how great violence can be perpetrated in the name of lofty ideas.”

The exhibition offers glimpses into that violence through what Tolpygo called “quietly shocking items.” These include a two-year progress report from the Soviet secret police, with charts representing the number of people executed for “counterrevolutionary activities.” Another book bears a fawning inscription to Joseph Stalin from one of the Red Army commanders, whom Stalin later had executed.

Most of the items on view come from the André Savine Collection of rare editions and archival materials relating to Russian exile and émigré culture. It is part of Wilson Library’s Rare Book Collection. The Library acquired the Savine Collection in 2002 with support from Van Louis Weatherspoon and Kay Massey Weatherspoon.

Consequently, an important theme of the exhibition is the experience of approximately two million refugees who fled the conflict. The exhibition materials come from nineteen countries across the world, representing the diverse destinations of Russian refugees, from China to Tunisia and from Serbia to Argentina.

“Desperate memoirs, urgent warnings, literary visions, or biased histories–each of these publications offers its own truth through its own narrative of the chaotic events that changed world history,” said Tolpygo. “Every item opens up an entire universe.”

World on Fire in Flames of Blood: Narratives of the Russian Revolution
Melba Remig Saltarelli Exhibit Room
Wilson Special Collections Library
January 21 – May 14, 2017
Free and open to the public
(919) 962-3765 or


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