This essay looks at the Russian Revolution as both a historical event and a productive symbol in the work of anarchists in the United States and Russia in the early twentieth century. The February and October Revolutions were formative in many ways: many immigrants returned to participate in them, others were deported back to Russia, and still others remained in the West but shaped their politics in dialogue with the Russian revolutionaries. The political spaces created by the revolution, including the soviets, museums, and journals, and the literary, artistic, and political creativity of the revolutionary period fertilized anarchist imaginations for many generations to come, while the ascendency of the Bolsheviks left a lasting legacy about the dangers of the wrong kind of revolution. Later anarchist revolutionary practices in Spain, along with steadfast activism on behalf of political prisoners, were stimulated in part by the uneven inheritance from the earlier Russian Revolution.

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