What is history?
It is something written by the winners.
There is a stereotype that history
should be focused on the rulers,
like Lenin or Trotsky.
As a result, people
in many countries, like mine, Russia,
look at history as something
that was predetermined
or determined by the leaders,
and common people could not
influence it in any way.
Many Russians today do not believe
that Russia could ever have been
or ever will be a truly democratic nation,
and this is due to the way
history has been framed
to the citizens of Russia.
And this is not true.
To prove it, I spent two years
of my life trying to go 100 years back,
to the year 1917,
the year of the Russian Revolution.
I asked myself, what if the internet
and Facebook existed 100 years ago?
So last year, we built
a social network for dead people,
My team and I created our software,
digitized and uploaded
all possible real diaries and letters
written by more than 3,000 people
100 years ago.
So any user of our website or application
can follow a news feed
for each day of 1917
and read what people
like Stravinsky or Trotsky,
Lenin or Pavlova
and others thought and felt.
We watch all those personalities
being ordinary people like you and me,
and we see that history consists
of their mistakes, fears, weaknesses,
not only their "genius ideas."
Our project was a shock for many Russians,
who used to think that our country
has always been an autocratic empire
and the ideas of freedom and democracy
could never have prevailed,
just because democracy
was not our destiny.
But if we take a broader look,
it's not that black and white.
Yes, 1917 led to 70 years
of communist dictatorship.
But with this project, we see that Russia
could have had a different history
and a democratic future,
as any other country could or still can.
Reading the posts from 1917,
you learn that Russia
was the first country in the world
to abolish the death penalty,
or one of the first ones
to grant women voting rights.
Knowing history and understanding
how ordinary people influenced history
can help us create a better future,
because history is just a rehearsal
of what's happening right now.
We do need new ways of telling history,
and this year, for example,
we started a new online project
that is called 1968Digital.com,
and that is an online documentary series
that gives you an impression
of that year, 1968,
a year marked by global social change
that, in many ways,
created the world as we know it now.
But we are making that history alive
by imagining what if all the main
characters could use mobile phones ...
just like that?
And we see that a lot of individuals
were facing the same challenges
and were fighting for the same values,
no matter if they lived
in the US or in USSR
or in France or in China
or in Czechoslovakia.
By exposing history
in such a democratic way,
through social media,
we show that people in power
are not the only ones making choices.
That gives any user a possibility
of reclaiming history.
Ordinary people matter.
They have an impact.
We shape society.
We all make history.