THE IRISH IN THE USSR
With Maurice Casey
17/09/2020 at 6:30pm
This talk explores the lives of Irish emigrants and Russo-Irish families of the USSR, from the October Revolution to Perestroika. Stories will include the lives of Renee Mikhailovna O’Connell, the artist granddaughter of Daniel O’Connell, Margaret McMackin, a Belfast-born Russian-to-Irish translator, and Edward Brennan, the first Irish ambassador to the Soviet Union.
Join Dr Maurice Casey, Historian-in-Residence for EPIC and DFAT for the first in a series of talks looking at the hidden histories of the Irish abroad, and as part of the Dublin Festival of History 2020.
This first talk explores the lives of Irish emigrants and Russo-Irish families in the USSR.
Irish emigrants could be found in the Soviet Union from the early years after the fall of Tsarist rule to the collapse of the Soviet project which succeeded it. One of the earliest Irish emigrants to appear in the archives was Rosa Arnold, the Irish wife of a Latvian translator working at a 1922 congress on the future direction of international communism. Rosa was the first of a small trickle of Irish revolutionaries, translators, literary types and diplomats who made the world’s first socialist state their home.
Diaspora stories featured in the talk will include the lives of Renee Mikhailovna O’Connell, the artist granddaughter of Daniel O’Connell, Violet Conolly, a Dublin-born expert on Soviet affairs, Margaret McMackin, a Belfast-born Russian-to-Irish translator, and Edward Brennan, the first Irish ambassador to the Soviet Union. The talk will also consider Irish students at the International Lenin School, a secretive training school for revolutionaries that existed from the late 1920s through the 1930s. One of the Lenin School’s graduates, Belfast’s Betty Sinclair, would later play an important role in the Northern Irish Civil Rights Association.
The talk will also explore what Ireland and ‘Irishness’ meant in the USSR. Ireland, as a nation which challenged the British Empire, featured in Soviet history books. The first Soviet historian of Ireland, the Bolshevik Platon Kershentsev, had his own links to Irish diaspora history. He discovered his interest in Ireland in 1916 while sharing a New York boarding with an Irish couple. By the 1980s, news reports regularly featured coverage of the ‘Troubles’. There was even an ‘Ulster’ Café in Leningrad and a Soviet rock song about the conflict in Northern Ireland.
This talk uses a range of previously unseen archival documents to tell the fascinating story of this little-known diaspora community.
Booking is required for this event.