Revolution from Within

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REVOLUTION FROM WITHIN tells the story of how the YMCA became the unexpected sponsors of, The 160, prominent Russian thinkers exiled by Vladimir Lenin and the Bolshevik Party of the Soviet Union in 1922. It describes the battle that ensued for the hearts and minds of the Russian people, within and outside the Communist Party, over a 70-year period and how ideas and writings published and preserved can become the seeds for change, for overthrow, from within.

This is the story of determination, unlikely partnerships, and concepts that are increasingly relevant — worldwide. Freedom, Creativity and Compassion sit at the heart of this book as events from over a century ago tie back to parallels occurring today.

What is REVOLUTION About?

1922, during the Bolsheviks’ fateful reign of terror, 160 intellectuals were rounded-up, forcibly loaded onto steamships, and exiled from Russia.

“The 160,” as these intellectuals became known, were the last vestige of Russia’s great classical culture. They were political theorists and spiritual philosophers. These were the guardians of knowledge about the Russian soul, personal enlightenment (Godmanhood), federalism, and free, local communities (Sobornost’) as alternatives to materialism and state-dominated totalitarianism. Cast out, they were the Russian equivalents of Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and the other American founders… expelled instead of victoriously enshrined as enlightened revolutionary leaders of a newly-minted government.

Repressed, then banished from their native land, The 160 persisted in their quest to change Russia from within and remind their countrymen, from all classes and occupations, about their history and heritage. This courageous group served as the first resistance to Bolshevik tyranny.

As conditions in Russia became increasingly difficult, The 160’s monumental struggle—their Revolution from Within—spread to homes, factories, and public meeting rooms… to churches and temples… as well as to prisons and labor camps. The 160 inspired Russian workers, soldiers, sailors, and peasants—God-seekers and atheists—as incomprehensible violence and terror engulfed their beloved country.

Like the first crack in a concrete foundation, The 160 sparked a tiny flicker of freedom in their oppressed country, and light returned to Russia as the flame grew.

So much so, that in the 1980s, leaders of the same Communist Party that had banished The 160 staged a massive restructuring and democratization effort leading to the demise of communism and the collapse of the Soviet Union. The architects of this internal change in the USSR acknowledged their debt to The 160, directing the wholesale return of their suppressed writings and inspirational ideas to Russians almost 70 years later.

How did The 160 and their ideas not just survive, but also continue to persuade generations of Russians, in the end, undermining even the most dedicated Communist Party leaders’ faith?

Their writings were kept in print thanks to the efforts of the YMCA, which created a publishing arm in Europe and provided critical humanitarian aid to Russian émigrés. Revolution from Within is a story of hope, tragedy, irony, and surprising twists that change our understanding of the Russian Revolution and the Cold War.

The YMCA stands at the center of this dramatic narrative: an unexpected sponsor conducting an unusual mission to save afflicted human beings from death, starvation, and despair brought on by an ideology bent on destroying their faith and individuality.


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