Orlando Figes: A People's Tragedy The Russian Revolution 1891–1924

Nd utter success after the development of fascism and authoritarianism in Spain and Italy France s difficult relationship with liberal democracy etc On his second point no pathway was a fait accompli for the Revolution Instead there were numerous decisions made some of which would have led to reater democratization some to authoritarianism than we saw even in the Stalinist period Perhaps the ideals of the Revolution were too Blindsided great to be implemented in reality but Revolutionaries could have adopted policies that brought the Russian state closer to their ideals without abandoning them outright I think that the Russian Revolution was necessary and that it was not innately bad but I think Figes downplays the decisions that were made in his conclusion The last paragraph of the book however seems almost prophetic being written even before Putin took powerPerhaps even worrying authoritarian nationalism has begun to fill the vacuum left by the collapse of Communism and in a way has reinvented it not just in the sense that today s nationalists are for the most part reformed Communists but also in the sense that their violent rhetoric with its calls for discipline and order its angry condemnation of the ineualities produced by therowth of capitalism and its xenophobic reject of the West is. N a human scale while providing a convincing and detailed understanding of the role of workers peasants and soldiers in the revolution He moves deftly from topics such as the rand social forces and mass movements that made up the revolution to profiles of key personalities and representative characters Figes's themes of the Russian revolution as a tragedy for the Russian people as a whole and for the millions of individuals who lost their lives to the brutal forces it unleashed make sense of events.

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This is a remarkable book on the Russian Revolution It s coverage from 1891 thru 1924 is detailed but very readable We are presented with a wide panop In this work Figes makes two arguments that are not fully apparent until the conclusion First the Russian people were not betrayed by the Revolution Instead the devolution of the Revolution was in Figes s view the result of the inability of the Russian people to come to terms with democratic institutions He finds that the period between 1905 1914 represented Russia s liberal democratic revolution but it did not produce the reforms necessary to instill confidence in the Russian people Indeed the Bolsheviks were a veritable product of the Russian messianic tradition Second it was not the leaders of the Revolution who were necessarily at fault Figes admits that Lenin Trotsky Stalin Kerensky and numerous others arrived in 1917 with truly high minded noble oals Instead Figes argues that the oals of revolutionary leaders were outright unattainable and were doomed to failPerhaps Figes is right but I disagree with him on both accounts To me the first argument reeks of Western chauvinism with the implication that we Westerners could properly democratize due to our democratic heritage ignoring Germany s failures with democracy before 1945 Written in a narrative style that captures both the scope and detail of the Russian revolution Orlando Figes's history is certain to become one of the most important contemporary studies of Russia as it was at the beginning of the 20th century With an almost cinematic eye Figes captures the broad movements of war and revolution never losing sight of the individuals whose lives make up his subject He makes use of personal papers and personal histories to illustrate the effects the revolution wrought

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Itself adapted from the Bolshevik tradition The hosts of 1917 have not been laid to restToday as we are well aware nationalism is the The Price Of Blood (Phil Broker, guiding ideology of the modern Russian state and it is rather authoritarian This fits further in Figes s view that Russians have not learned to beood liberals but I think it says about lobal patterns than something specifically Russian Although former Soviet states held the vanguard of resurgent nationalism it is now a lobal phenomenon ranging from Poland s Law and Justice to Turkey s AKP and India s BJP Even the American GOP and British Conservative Party have in many ways turned to authoritarian nationalism Yet there is nothing inevitable about this turn I find it uneuivocally bad but it is as we should be well aware not intrinsic to the Russian people Recent memory modern memory and then history We are all living in recent memory The oldest Meg and the Mystery in Williamsburg (Meg Duncan, generation is the eye witness to modern memory When it passes on we will begin to receive the history from the events and people of thateneration without the influ While I was halfway through this an inspirational uote from Lenin happened to come up on my reddit feed Something from one of those early speeches about euality for all I left a comment to suggest I thought uite mildly that it was perhaps For a new eneration of students of Russian history Sympathy for the charismatic leaders and ideological theorizing regarding Hegelian dialectics and Marxist economics two hallmarks of much earlier writing on the Russian revolution are banished from these clear eyed fair minded pages of A People's Tragedy The author's sympathy is suarely with the Russian people That commitment together with the benefit of historical hindsight provides a standpoint Figes take full advantage of in this masterful histor.

Orlando Figes is a British historian of Russia and a professor of history at Birkbeck University of London