Spies and Commissars: The Early Years of the Russian Revolution [NOOK Book]

Overview

The early years of Bolshevik rule were marked by dynamic interaction between Russia and the West. These years of civil war in Russia were years when the West strove to understand the new communist regime while also seeking to undermine it. Meanwhile, the Bolsheviks tried to spread their revolution across Europe at the same time they were seeking trade agreements that might revive their collapsing economy. This book tells the story of these complex interactions in detail, revealing that revolutionary Russia was ...

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Spies and Commissars: The Early Years of the Russian Revolution

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Overview

The early years of Bolshevik rule were marked by dynamic interaction between Russia and the West. These years of civil war in Russia were years when the West strove to understand the new communist regime while also seeking to undermine it. Meanwhile, the Bolsheviks tried to spread their revolution across Europe at the same time they were seeking trade agreements that might revive their collapsing economy. This book tells the story of these complex interactions in detail, revealing that revolutionary Russia was shaped not only by Lenin and Trotsky, but by an extraordinary miscellany of people: spies and commissars, certainly, but also diplomats, reporters, and dissidents, as well as intellectuals, opportunistic businessmen, and casual travelers. This is the story of these characters: everyone from the ineffectual but perfectly positioned Somerset Maugham to vain writers and revolutionary sympathizers whose love affairs were as dangerous as their politics. Through this sharply observed exposé of conflicting loyalties, we get a very vivid sense of how diverse the shades of Western and Eastern political opinion were during these years.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Library Journal
"[A] well-researched, detailed, and thoughtful analysis of the Russian Revolution, here removed from the global vacuum into which it is often relegated…. Service is careful not to lose focus on the cultural, political, and economic weight that the revolution brought to a dispirited Russia…. [A] nuanced and important contribution to the history of the Russian Revolution. Readers of Russian and early Soviet history, both in and out of academia, will find it illuminating."

Kirkus Reviews
"Careful, dense scholarly study" that "paints detailed portraits of the revolutionary principals and their sometimes-surprising allies and enemies."

Booklist"The twenty-first century needs this kind of unflinchingly honest history." Simon Sebag Montefiore, Wall Street Journal"An outstanding work of scholarship with all the excitement of a real spy novel—and with lessons beyond its historical moment" that "is especially valuable, in our own epoch of Arab revolutions, for showing the fragility and unpredictability of new regimes."

Minneapolis Star-Tribune“Robert Service is a wizard. Not only does he make the often complicated history and personalities of modern Russian history intelligible to contemporary readers, as his excellent recent biography of Trotsky attests, but he's also an expert at de-mythologizing the "enigma wrapped in a riddle," as Churchill famously stated. In "Spies and Commissars," Service gives us a remarkably clear portrait of Russia as it emerged from the Bolshevik coup d'etat, and the efforts of its erstwhile allies — Britain, France and the United States — to compel the regime to (a) remain in the war against Germany, and failing that, to (b) isolate it and extinguish the bacillus of communism. The story is told with panache and great insight. Yes, it has been told before, but Service's achievement is that he has drawn together threads from disparate sources to weave a story that is vivid and fresh. Moreover, the characters that loom large in the telling — wildly colorful Western agents and their grim Bolshevik foes — are a match for anything to be found in the most enthralling political thrillers. Quite a triumph.”

CHOICE
“An excellent account of the international intrigue that took place during the Russian Revolution…The author uses lesser- and well-known historical figures to facilitate understanding of the global significance of WW I, which most prominently included the survival of the Soviet state. The book's broad perspective makes it useful in world history survey courses.”
New York Review of Books
“[a] colorful history.”

Library Journal
In his previous studies of the Russian Revolution, its leading figures, and its place in time and history, Service (Russian history, Oxford Univ.; Stalin: A Biography) focused, as many historians have, on the revolution from an internal, Russian perspective. In this work, he combines his previous insights with his view of the Russian revolutionary period (1917–21) from an external perspective. He examines not only the internal machinations of the Bolshevik struggle to gain and maintain power in Russia, but how the international community's reactions and aggressions altered or influenced Bolshevik tactics. The result is a well-researched, detailed, and thoughtful analysis of the Russian Revolution, here removed from the global vacuum into which it is often relegated. In the process, Service is careful not to lose focus on the cultural, political, and economic weight that the revolution brought to a dispirited Russia. VERDICT This is a nuanced and important contribution to the history of the Russian Revolution. Readers of Russian and early Soviet history, both in and out of academia, will find it illuminating.—Elizabeth Zeitz, Otterbein Univ. Lib., Westerville, OH
Kirkus Reviews
British historian Service (Russian History/Univ. of Oxford; Trotsky, 2009, etc.) examines the fraught birth of the Soviet Union in this careful, dense scholarly study. The conventional view of the Bolshevik Revolution and its aftermath posits a Marxist-Leninist regime cut off from the rest of the world, a state behind an iron curtain decades before the fact. As Service capably shows, this view is incorrect. The outside world was well aware of events inside the new Soviet Union, while the Union had a network of agents, representatives and sympathizers able to convey its wants and demands abroad. During the first years of the Soviet experiment, civil war raged in the country. The White and Red armies were well apprised of one another's actions, and it seems largely thanks to the ineptitude and personal strangeness of many of the anti-Soviet commanders that the Revolution was not overwhelmed, particularly since foreign expeditionary forces--including American, British and French detachments--were fighting on behalf of the Whites inside Russia. One of the most interesting snippets of Service's book is a passing reference to what happened to the White leaders after the civil war ended: Pëtr Wrangler died suddenly and mysteriously in Serbia, Anton Denikin wound up in the United States and Nikolai Yudenich retired quietly to the French Riviera "and shunned émigré affairs through to his peaceful end in 1933." Meanwhile, on the opposing side, Trotsky suffered a terrible end, Lenin was embalmed and entombed and Stalin took the nation through several grim decades. Service paints detailed portraits of the revolutionary principals and their sometimes-surprising allies and enemies--e.g., one British spy who worked inside the Soviet Union was the noted writer W. Somerset Maugham. Why did the Soviets kill the tsar? Why was Finland granted its independence? How did Keynesian economics save Lenin's skin? For those with an interest in such questions, Service's book will hold plenty of appeal.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781610391412
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs
  • Publication date: 5/8/2012
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 480
  • Sales rank: 515,573
  • File size: 4 MB

Meet the Author

Robert Service is a British historian, academic, and author who has written extensively on the history of Soviet Russia, particularly the era from the October Revolution to Stalin’s death. Service is the author of twelve books, including the acclaimed Lenin: A Biography; Stalin: A Biography; and Comrades: A History of World Communism. He is currently a professor of Russian history at the University of Oxford, a Fellow of St. Antony’s College, Oxford, and a senior fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution.

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations ix

Maps xi

Preface xiii

Introduction 1

1 Revolution

1 Troubling Journeys 11

2 Russia on Its Knees 23

3 The Allied Agenda 33

4 Cheering for the Soviets 43

5 Revolution and the World 51

6 In the Light of the Fire 62

7 Diplomatic Impasse 72

8 The Other West 82

2 Survival

9 Talks at Brest-Litovsk 95

10 Breathing Dangerously 106

11 Revolts and Murders 118

12 Subverting the Allies 128

13 Germany Entreated 137

14 Subverting Russia 146

15 A Very British Plot 155

16 The German Capitulation 166

3 Probings

17 Revolving the Russian Question 179

18 The Paris Peace Conference 190

19 European Revolution 200

20 The Allies and the Whites 210

21 Western Agents 219

22 Communism in America 229

23 Soviet Agents 239

24 The Allied Military Withdrawal 248

4 Stalemate

25 Bolshevism: For and Against 259

26 Left Entrance 268

27 The Spreading of Comintern 280

28 To Poland and Beyond 289

29 Trade Talks Abroad 300

30 The Economics of Survival 309

31 The Second Breathing Space 318

32 The Unextinguished Fire 329

Postscript 341

Notes 351

Select Bibliography 402

Index 417

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 2, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Worth the time and money if you have an interest in the development of the modern world and the craziness of secular religion made universal.

    Another worthwhile window on Russia, and another on the true believers of any religion, though in this case it was universal communism.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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