Russian Revolution

The Russian Revolution ft. Dr. Mark Steinberg and the Midwest Bard Club

russian revolution

Russians in rural Wisconsin- celebrating the 100 year anniversary of the Russian Revolution. What did this revolutionary era mean to the people of 20th century Russia? And what does it mean to you and I as we pursue happiness in the land of the free?

Former episodes featuring rural Wisconsin ‘Ice age trail’, ‘Cardinal Directions’, and ‘Silicon Valley Fox

Russian Revolution 1905-1921 By Dr. Mark Steinberg 

Country strummin’ by Chip

The rest of the the spectacular music by members of the Midwest Bard Club.



I’m delivering fire wood to campgrounds in eastern Wisconsin. Its quiet out here. In the land the glaciers carved.    


Until you cross the wrong fence, Park incorrectly at the Hamburger Hause. Or pull out a microphone at the wrong time.


Life follows a sequence of expected norms. Discus the weather with campers, the green bay packers with bartenders, and ignore people at gas stations. Wave politely to neighbors but don’t distract them from yard work. This is America’s heartland, home of the free.

Last week my boss forwarded a private order from a new campground, Greenbush State park. New clients are exciting. It gives me a chance to explore new back roads, old collapsed barns, and surviving dairy farms. My instructions were specific: go to campsite number 9, find Boris, and stand up for yourself.

The entrance to the campground was framed by a canopy of yellow orange maple leaves. As I wound through the hills the road became narrower, and turns sharper. With the truck full of wood, I drove slow, 15mph. At campsite 1. I lost cell service. 3 the radio went fuzzy. 4 inaudible static


6. still no humans. Never saw sites 7 and 8. Campsite 9, my destination, I came to a dead end. Put the truck in park and stepped out into a sunny clearing, encircled by 50 foot pines.  In the center, 3 shirtless men sat at a picnic table. One stood up, and announced his name, Boris.

We talked business then Boris invited me to the picnic table. Where the two others chewed on ribs, sipped vodka, and spoke Russian. It was hard to ignore the bulky holsters hanging off their wastes. They weren’t guns. But they weren’t phones either.

Boris poured me a shot. Ralph gave me a slice of pork fat. And Jean cut sour pickles into bite size cubes.

“To good health”. We toasted

More vodka?

Can’t fly with just one wing

We were all standing now. Boris and Ralph broke off in Russian. Jean and I discussed Music, and Russia. The latter He doesn’t like talking about. He still has family there. And  They will never have as good of a life as him.

It was noon and seemingly much brighter than when I arrived. Boris offered me more alcohol. This time I had enough courage to say no. It was time to deliver the wood for tonights party. I started the truck and was about to pull away when Boris appeared in the driver side window and said, “come back at 7. You’ll  meet the mafia.”

AMERICAN MUSIC Truck recording

The rhythm of rural life was broken. I had a party to attend. So I slicked my hair back. Put on my boots, and bought a bottle of vodka. The expensive kind. Sky.

That night I returned to the same windy road. This time is was dark but no longer deserted.  Cars filled the campsites and people patrolled the roads. I parked at a distance. Grabbed my liter of vodka, and approached an unlikely scene.


A few hundred people sat quietly in lawn chairs wrapped in blankets under the cool starry night. Festoons hung overhead and kids played in the background. Boris, now wearing a denim tuxedo and a fedora, introduced each performer. One by one musicians played Russian folk tunes.

My friends form earlier had transformed from macho meat eaters to acoustic sentimentalists. No longer shirtless Jean took the stage with a 12 string guitar and a smile the crowd couldn’t resist

Twice a year this group of Russian Americans come together to play music. This year the theme was a celebration of the 100 year anniversary of the Russian revolution. A historical period, I am not qualified to discuss.

This most recent book is Russian revolution…

But Dr. Mark Steinberg is. As history professor and Director of Graduate Studies at the University of Illinois, he recently published a history of Russia’s revolutionary era. Titled  Russian Revolution 1905-1921.

In brief, the Russian revolution culminated in 1917 with 2 separate government overthrows. In February, the Tsarist autocracy was dismantled and replaced by the provisional government. When the Provisional government, lead by large capitalist and Nobel aristocracy, didn’t offer sufficient social relief, the Bolshevicks, lead by Lenin, marched on Petrograd and overthrew the provisional government.

In his book, Dr. Steinberg tells the story of the revolution in terms of individual experiences. I asked him if common experiences really existed during such a tumultuous time.

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