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Revolutionary Russia revealed in Leeds
Items from the Leeds Russian Archive, on display in The Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery.

LEEDS.- A new exhibition at the University of Leeds reveals the dramatic events of the Russian Revolution from a new, British, perspective.

Caught in the Russian Revolution: the British Community in Petrograd, 1917-1918 is the latest exhibition at the Treasures of the Brotherton Gallery, University of Leeds.

The exhibition marks the centenary of the 1917 Russian Revolution, which changed the course of world history.

Dr Stella Butler, University Librarian and Keeper of the Brotherton Collection, said: “By putting these items from the Leeds Russian Archive on public display for the first time we are bringing a slice of one of Russia’s most tumultuous periods to Leeds.”

Offering a unique perspective on this violent episode, the exhibition focuses on the British community in St Petersburg, renamed Petrograd at the start of the First World War.

The community was well established from the 18th century. Several generations of families helped to develop the city's infrastructure and commerce. The Revolution in February 1917 disrupted all their lives and the Bolshevik seizure of power in October destroyed any hope for their future in Russia.

This exhibition draws on the Leeds Russian Archive, which includes eyewitness accounts in the form of diaries, letters, and photographs to explore a pivotal moment in world history. The exhibition celebrates 35 years of the Leeds Russian Archive at Special Collections in Leeds University Library. The LRA has been designated as nationally and internationally important by Arts Council England.

Richard Davies, curator of the exhibition, has been archivist of the Leeds Russian Archive since its establishment in 1982. Mr Davies, who was awarded an MBE for services to Anglo-Russian Scholarship in 2003, said: “The exhibition tells a story of a community experiencing at first hand the extreme upheaval and turmoil of a revolution.”

Stories and objects on display include:

Patent of hereditary Russian nobility granted to George Baird by Alexander II, 1872
George Baird belonged to a Scottish civil-engineering and ship-building dynasty. The patent of nobility was granted by Emperor Alexander II in recognition of George, and his family’s, contribution to the development of St Petersburg and Russian shipping from the late 18th century. This unique artefact is an intricate handmade object which comes with the huge seal of Alexander II, and represents the integration of British families, like the Bairds, into Russian life prior to the Revolution.

Reverend Lombard’s prison mug, letters and drawings, 1918
Reverend Bousfield Swan Lombard was Chaplain of the British Embassy and English Church in Petrograd from 1908 to 1918, and a central figure in the British community in Russia. During the October Revolution, shortly after drinking tea together in the British Embassy, Reverend Lombard witnessed the murder of his friend Captain Francis Cromie, naval attaché and Royal Navy submarine commander. Reverend Lombard, alongside many of the remaining British community, was subsequently imprisoned. Lombard’s prison mug, letters he received and drawings he made whilst incarcerated, act as vivid reminders of the brutal end to the British Community in Russia.

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