A People's Tragedy: The Russian Revolution, 1891-1924

A People's Tragedy: The Russian Revolution, 1891-1924

by Orlando Figes
     
 

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It is a history on an epic yet human scale. Orlando Figes provides a panorama of Russian society on the eve of the revolution, and then narrates the story of how these social forces were violently suppressed. Within the broad strokes of war and revolution are miniature histories of individuals - pieced together from their private writings - in which Figes follows the… See more details below

Overview

It is a history on an epic yet human scale. Orlando Figes provides a panorama of Russian society on the eve of the revolution, and then narrates the story of how these social forces were violently suppressed. Within the broad strokes of war and revolution are miniature histories of individuals - pieced together from their private writings - in which Figes follows the main players' fortunes as they saw their hopes die and their world crash into ruins. There is the patriotic general Brusilov, the progressive peasant Semenov, the critical socialist Maxim Gorky...individuals whose lives collapsed under the weight of history. Thus develops a remarkable and unique perspective on what is considered by some to be the century's most important event. Figes depicts the revolution as a tragedy - both for the Russians as a people and for so many individuals whose lives became caught up in the storm. Yet he also shows that the major social forces - the peasantry, the workers, the soldiers, and the subject people of the empire - were not just the victims of the Bolsheviks but also actors in their own complex revolutionary tragedies. Figes argues that the failure of democracy in 1917 was deeply rooted in Russian culture and social history and that what had begun as a people's revolution contained the seeds of its degeneration into violence and dictatorship.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Packed with vivid human detail and incident, British historian Figes's monumental social and political history spans Russia's entire revolutionary period, from the czarist government's floundering during the famine of 1891 to Lenin's death in 1924, by which time all the basic institutions of the Soviet dictatorship-a privileged ruling elite, random terror, secret police, torture, mass executions, concentration camps-were in place. Figes dismantles any number of myths surrounding the Bolshevik Revolution of October 1917, a military coup rammed through at Lenin's insistence ("hardly any of the Bolshevik leaders had wanted it to happen until a few hours before it began"). Using diaries, letters, memoirs and archival documents, Cambridge don Figes provides masterful portraits of cynical, power-hungry Lenin, driven by an absolute faith in his mission; Alexander Kerensky, weak-willed, vain democratic leader, the self-styled savior of Russia; writer Maxim Gorky, plagued by the fear-and later by the terrible realization-that the "people's revolution" was a descent into barbarism; Tolstoyan peasant reformer Sergei Semenov; and dozens of lesser-known figures. In this vibrant magnum opus, Figes illumines the manifold sources of Russia's failure to take a democratic path. Illustrations not seen by PW. (Mar.)
Steven Merritt Miner
Figes has written a marvelous account of one of history's greatest tragedies. -- Steven Merritt Miner, The New York Times Book Review

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780670859160
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
03/01/1997
Pages:
960
Product dimensions:
6.44(w) x 9.40(h) x 2.20(d)

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