Project1917: A Discussion with Mikhail Zygar and his team

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Project1917 Free History is a major Russian social media project that is bringing the events of 100 years ago to life. Drawing on primary sources, some previously unpublished, a team of young historians at Project1917 provide daily postings of selected writings by some 300 historical figures as they witnessed and participated in the making of history. Some of the material is being published for the first time.

This highly-accessible and ambitious project acknowledges the great significance of the Russian revolution for Russian and world history. It launched as a Russian website in November last year, its english language version has just launched this February, with the support of Pushkin House. 

Project1917 Free History was founded and is being driven by journalists and writers Mikhail Zygar and Karen Shainyan. Join us on the eve of the english-language launch for a discussion chaired by Owen Matthews, with Zygar, Shainyan and other members of the team including Andrey Borzenko, Sima Orekhanov, Olga Avstreyh
and Yury Saprykin.

In this major year for Russian history and culture, it has been noted that Russia is choosing not to officially mark the centenary of the 1917 revolution. This will be an opportunity to explore why this might be the case; to hear from the Project1917 organisers on why they wished to make this material accessible to a wide audience, how it is being received within Russia and explore some of the new material that is being published.  

The project organisers write: "Project1917. Free History is a way of bringing the past to life and bringing it closer to the present day. It is a way of understanding what the year 1917 was like for those who lived in Russia and in other countries. We have scoured archives and storerooms for texts, photographs and videos, many of which have never seen the light of day before."

"Our main aim is to make history popular – to bring a multitude of voices from a diverse array of historically significant figures to as wide an audience as possible."

Mikhail Zygar is a Russian journalist, writer and filmmaker, and the founding editor-in-chief of independent Russian news TV-channel, Dozhd (2010 - 2015). Under Zygar's leadership, Dozhd provided an alternative to Kremlin-controlled federal TV channels by focusing on news content and giving a platform to opposition voices. Zygar is also the author of the book 'All the Kremlin's Men', the history of Putin's Russia, based on interviews with Russian politicians from Putin's inner circle. The book has become a best-seller in Russia. Zygar is author, founder and chief editor-in-chief of Project1917.

Owen Matthews is a British writer, historian and journalist. His first book, Stalin's Children, was shortlisted for the 2008 Guardian First Books Award, the Orwell Prize for political writing, and France's Prix Medicis Etranger His books have been translated into 28 languages. He is a former Moscow and Istanbul Bureau Chief for Newsweek Magazine. Matthews has lectured on Russian history and politics at Columbia University's Harriman Centre, St Antony's College Oxford, and the Journalism Faculty of Moscow State University.

Karen Shainyan is co-founder and Executive Director of Project 1917. Previously he worked as an editor and writer for several privately funded publications (Republic.ru, Snob, Kommersant, and others) covering live science, business and technology. He also works as head of content marketing department at Alpina publishing house (Moscow).