Revolutionary Works: Words that stir the populous’ blood

Wherever there is revolution, there are artists and intellectuals working behind the scenes to rouse the people into action. In colonial America, it was “Common Sense” by Thomas Paine and “Concord Hymn” by Emerson. In revolutionary Russia, Dmitry Furmanov was responsible for creating the call to action in his novel “Chapaev.” Typical of the World War I era, it glorifies battle and celebrates the power of youth. Furmanov depicts “courageous” young men “indissolubly linked together,” motivating Russia’s youth to respond to a higher calling1. Chapaev is unique in Russia’s class-based society as it calls to everyone; the misfits, the poor, the hungry, the handsome, and the well-to-do are all welcome under Chapeau’s watchful eye. Furmanov creates a romanticized story where even the peasants can find food and happiness – appealing to the many who had nothing under the current regime and inspiring even more to rise up and fight.
Similarly, the poem “We Grow Out of Iron,” by Aleksei Gastev, also uses powerful language and wording to create images of the weak becoming powerful and overthrowing their oppressors. Gastev, himself a factory worker, manipulates the vision of the poem by choosing a relatively low level of syntax, while still planting the idea of revolution in a manner that relates to the audience. His word choice, particularly in the fourteenth line, when he says “I too am growing shoulders of steel and arms immeasurably strong,” empowers the people2. “I too” has a twofold meaning – not only is he participating in the revolution, just like the commoners, the sailors, and the peasants, but he is struggling, yet overcoming, setting the expectation that others will too. Authors like Furmanov and Gastev were the driving force behind the revolution – not the revolution of the intellectuals, who tended to plan without action, but the revolution of the people, who stirred at the calling of freedom and the end of tyranny.

  1. Dmitry Furmanov, Chapev, (1923 []
  2. Aleksel Gastev, We Grow Out or Iron, (1914 []

One thought on “Revolutionary Works: Words that stir the populous’ blood

  1. I am glad that you brought up the different poems here. It certainly brings to light the different perspectives in which these poems were written. I am glad that you mentioned the word “youth” when you talked about Furmanov. The youth takes on an important role in the state as the state moved forward. The State realized during the early 1920s that the youth had several purposes in the role of the state. First, they were seen to be the next great minds that would hold the ideology of the Communist party in the Soviet Union. Second, the youth were particularly important because they were to replenish the massive amounts of people that the Soviet state lost during World War I, the revolution, and the civil war. Moving forward, the state made attempts to help its youth, and not just the common worker, see its potential in becoming great Soviet workers.

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