[EPUB] A People's Tragedy The Russian Revolution 1891–1924 by Orlando Figes
Orlando Figes ↠ 3 downloadA people s tragedy The Russian Revolution 1891 1924 Orlando FigesA People s Tragedy The Russian Revolution 1891 1924 is an award winning book written by British historian Orlando Figes and published in 1996 According to Figes the whole of 1917 could be seen as a political battle between those who saw the evolution as a means of bringing the war to an end and those who saw the war as a means of bringing the evolution to an end 2011 1891 1924 1388 2 9789641850465 1 9789641850441 2 9789641850458 1891 1924 1891 1924 1917 1891 1924 1917 1995 1891 1917 1917 1918 1918 1924 This is at one and the same time a very long book and a fascinating one As a exhaustive study of Russian history from the eign of Nicholas II to the death of Lenin it is epic in its sweep The only easons I could not find it in me to give it five stars are the following1 Orlando Figes has developed a eputation for controversy First he wrote eviews for Com under an assumed name Birkbeck in which he excoriated competing writers on Russian history blaming them at first on his wife Secondly in his most ecent work he has been assailed for misrepresentations and gross inaccuracies Both of these events came after the 1997 publication of A People s Tragedy A History of the Russian Revolution which seemed to this unsophisticated eader as a work displaying an admirable sense of balance2 The last third of the book about the Civil War showed some exhaustion in its composition There were so many parties over and above the Reds and the Whites including the Komuch the Don Cossacks Makhno s Ukrainian partisans Petliura s partisans to name just a few Also there were at least a dozen occasions when Figes would suddenly conclude that the main eason the Whites lost was A or B or C down to Z All were convincing easons but they led to a loss of focus in this section3 This is not something I usually complain about and it has nothing to do with Figes at all but Viking the publisher For some eason the number one was shown as a capital I Hence monstrosities such as the year I9I9 Also in the Italic font used the letter b and the letter h were indistinguishable Hence the word burzhooi Russian for bourgeois looks like burzbooi whenever it appearsIn the end I think that Figes has done an admirable job compacting than thirty years of turbulent history broken into four epochs Tsarism the February Revolution the October Revolution and the Civil War into merely 824 pages Also I think his conclusions are by and large on the markBut Russia s prospects as a democratic nation depend to a large extent on how far the Russians are able to confront their own ecent history and this must entail the ecognition that however much the people were oppressed by it the Soviet system grew up in Russian soil It was the weakness of Russia s democatic culture which enabled Bolshevism to take oot This was the legacy of Russian history of centuries of serfdom and autocratic ule that had kept the common people powerless and passive And the people emained silent was a Russian proverb and it describes much of Russian history To be sure this was a people s tragedy but it was a tragedy which they helped to make The Russian people were trapped by the tyranny of their own historyAh well I guess the book deserves four and a half stars It kept me on the edge of my toes for eleven long days of eading the book Orlando Figes masterful A People s Tragedy The Russian Revolution 1891 1924 provides a ich and complex portrait that of Russian society at the time of the fall of the Romanov dynasty and the birth of the Communist state One does not ead it for Figes opinions but ather for the amount of detail that he is able to marshall and synthesize on the key social cultural and political trends of the evolutionary era The book is a great pleasure for anyone fascinated by the culture and history of Russia Even those who disagree with Figes conclusions will agree that he has taught them a great deal about the eraIn terms of primary esearch Figes specialty is Russian peasant society Not surprisingly then the greatest strength of the book is the analysis of the ole of the peasantry during the evolutionary era Figes argues that very effectively that the overriding goal of the leaders of the peasant communes times was to acuire ownership of the land held by the nobility When the Tsar s egime fell the peasant communes spontaneously seized the noble lands Subseuently they supported the Communists who promised them that they could keep the land against the Whites who said that they would estore it to the nobles Once the Whites had been expelled from Russia the Communists proceeded to collectivized the land by taking advantage of a generational cleavage in the countryside The Communists ecruited young peasants who had moved to the city to work in factories
to act as bureaucrats in the agricultural communitiesact as bureaucrats in the agricultural communities lead the fight against the oder communal leaders d In this way the Communists used one generation of peasant leaders to fight the Whites and a second generation of peasants to imposed collectivizationRelying on the writings of other historians Figes makes the additonal points1 Tsar Nicholas was the author of his own downfall He packed his government and his army with individuals who were loyal to his autocracy but totally lacking in ability Conseuently the Russian war effort was bungled in every aspect which brought down the Tsar s egime 2 It was also the Tsar s fault that liberal democracy failed in Russia For the previous 20 years Nicholas had esisted every effort to create a constitutional monarchy in Russia which prevented the development of a strong class of liberal democratic politicians Thus when the Romanov dynastry fell in February 1917 the provisional government lasted less than a year before a second evolution brought the Bolcheviks to power3 The Bolcheviks came to power not because they had the greatest support amongst the working class but because of Lenin s energy and uncommon sense of timing In Figes view Lenin stole the evolution from the Soviets4 The notion that Stalin was the one who established terror and totalitarianism in communist Russia is a evisionist myth fabricated by Left wing historians It was in fact Lenin in fact that who established the practices and institutions of the communist dictatorship Orlando Figes A People s Tragedy is a very dense book but one that is ichly ewarding It will give a great deal of pleasure to anyone who has the energy euired to ead it through to the end If you thought the Season 5 finale of Game of Thrones was brutal Orlando Figes wants to educate you You don t pick up a book like A People s Tragedy with the notion that it s going to be filled with newborn puppies ice cream giveaways and people finding olled up and forgotten twenty dollar bills in their pockets If you do have that notion well you should eally eread the title Even so the collection of misery in Figes massive history of the Russian Revolution is pretty overwhelming This is 824 pages of small font despair as the Russian people move from uthless and ordered autocracy to uthless and unordered Revolution before finally settling on a uthless Soviet government as dictatorial and arbitrary as anything seen under the Tsars Contained between these two covers are all the things my wife tells me are not appropriate small talk for dinner parties War war as waged by fools the attendant slaughter of war as waged by fools evolution the attendant slaughter of evolution as waged by fanatics famine torture capriciousness shortsightedness disloyalty backstabbing and betrayal execution and murder This is the kind of book from which I had to take several breaks I just couldn t push all the way through The tragedy is so big The font is so small Helpfully the book is broken into manageable parts allowing me to dip in and out whenever I needed a dose of perspective Traffic is bad But at least my farm hasn t been taken over by a Bolshevik stooge Figes opens his narrative beautifully with a Barbara Tuchman like set piece that describes the 300 year anniversary of Romanov ule over all the Russias He then circles of #ROMANOV RULE OVER ALL THE RUSSIAS HE THEN CIRCLES # rule over all the Russias He then circles give a brief overview of that spotted eign before devoting approximately the next 150 pages to the workings of Russia under the Tsar Nicholas II I ead this book as part of my Two Person Russian Book Club which includes me and my friend Jamie As part of our elite exclusive Book Club I m the founder President treasurer and drunk Jamie is the member Vice President and chief enabler we ve already ead a couple books on Nicholas Alexandra and their doomed family Thus this first section seemed pretty straightforward and standard You have Nicholas II who ose to power far too soon after his father s early death inexpertly wielding his prerogatives without the faintest idea that the world had shifted off its axis Historian Margaret MacMillan is fond of describing Nicholas II as an ideal village postmaster I love that description because it fits him so wellat least to a point This is a guy of such strikingly limited. Opening with a panorama of Russian society from the cloistered world of the Tsar to the brutal life of the peasants A People's Tragedy follows workers soldiers intellectuals and villagers as their world is consumed by evolutio. .
Abilities that I would hesitate to let him manage my slow pitch softball team Yet he led one of the great powers on Earth with almost no brakes on his powers Part of him never seemed to want the job He loved and doted on his family He filled his diary with the most insipid banalities He probably could have lived a long and immeasurably happier life if he d just etired to a dacha somewhere and let someone anyone else ule in his place And yet at the same time he fiercely guarded his powers When his people wanted an inch he gave them a centimeter Eventually his people took a mile By the time he ealized his destiny was to be an average man a good father a caring husband and a somnolent diarist it was far too late The second part of the book covering the years from 1891 1917 covers the gradual erosion of the Tsar A disastrous war against Japan a social evolution and many unforced Tsarist errors served to weaken the monarchy In 1914 Franz Ferdinand was assassinated and Russia suddenly found itself the linchpin of history their choice to mobilize or not to support Serbia or not is one of the biggest factors in the July Crisis tipping towards general European war Nicholas s choice to go to war kind of feels like the choice of a troubled couple to have a kid or a second or third or fourth kid to paper over a bad marriage Hey maybe if we go to war all the people will love me again It didn t work that way The story of Tsar Nicholas s abdication his imprisonment in Ekaterinburg s House of Special Purpose and his and his family s murder is a familiar story and Figes does not spend much time on this death pageant Instead he takes a deep dive into the workings and failures of the Provisional Government and the plotting and scheming of the Bolshevik takeoverIn telling this Figes takes pains to present many points of view There is the obvious focus on the big names Lenin Trotsky Gorky and ightfully so But he also finds peasants and workingmen and peasants who became workingmen to demonstrate how the Revolution began from the bottom up and where it got its support He makes an admirable attempt to follow certain people throughout the entire process tracing their personal fortunes along with the ebb and flow of the wider historical moments Unsurprisingly many of these people s stories end dismally Figes also does not neglect to mention Rasputin s penis Rasputin s assassin and alleged homosexual lover Felix Yusupov claimed that his prowess was explained by a large wart strategically situated on his penis which was of exceptional size On the other hand there is evidence to suggest that Rasputin was in fact impotent and that while he lay naked with many women he had sex with very few of them In short he was a great lecher but not a great lover When Rasputin was medically examined after being stabbed in a failed murder attempt in 1914 his genitals were found to be so small and shriveled that the doctor wondered whether he was capable of the sexual act at all Rasputin himself had once boasted to the monk Iliodor that he could lie with women without feeling passion because his penis did not function History It s in the detailsAt this point I should mention that I don t know a ton about Russian history Once Nicholas II was off the stage I was in the wilderness I know I just made a big deal about my Two Person Russian Book Club But eally we e a lot of talk and some wine I m not an expert I m at the point in my life where I can still get Kerensky and Kornilov confused if I m not paying close attention I also have little knowledge to draw on when it comes to the ideological underpinnings of the Bolsheviks or the Mensheviks or what it means to be a Marxist Fox News tell me it s bad but this is not tremendously helpful That s why it s telling that I still enjoyed this book so much It is unbelievably dense and elatively long it s tremendously long when compared to most books only elatively long when compared to books by Russians or about Russia but still manageable Figes is a generous enough writer to lead a elative novice through this thorny complex heavily peopled period elatively unscathed On the other hand I don t think this is an entry level volume It covers too much ground at too high a level to say that What kept me grounded and eading was Figes s elentless attention to the human detail He doesn t get lost in abstract political theorizing He focuses on Rasputin s penis personalities and uirks
And Circumstances And Tough Choicescircumstances and tough choices is an individual based telling of history where people s decisions matter Tolstoy probably would have disapproved I on the other
Hand Thought It Wasthought it was This is a huge book befitting a huge subject and Figes gives it the treatment it deserves It is authored by that are combination an expert who can also write It took some patience and Yellow Tail breaks to complete but it was well worth the effort First Figes briskly deals with all those things you thought you knew about the Russian Revolution Lenin Stalin Trotsky Kerensky The Liberals The Bolsheviks The Tsar the liberals the Bolsheviks the Tsar and again I ealized I had picked up myths either promoted by those who lost or those who consolidated the Revolution The mythmaking machine was going full tilt from 1917 onwards particularly during the Stalinist and Cold War Years and this book would be irreplaceable if only for stripping away so much that you thought you knew which was wrongSecond by starting the book in 1891 with a famine which evealed the incompetence of the Tsarist beaurocracy and ending with the death of Lenin in 1924 Figes permits himself a sweep of events that makes what actually happened even dramatic than it was Again and again you not only ead about but hear from the survivors of mistakes errors misconceptions indolence arrogance foolishness well meaning idiocy in a way that as a human being is than heartbreaking Again and again the Revolution might never have happened a democracy might have developed steps taken could have been taken back but they weren t Instead one of the great mass tragedies of history occurred and you feel like a helpless bystander watching it happenThis is emarkable history and it is an extraordinary achievement It is bound to upset those with fixed ideologies on both the left and the ight If you ever ead only one book on the Russian Revolution make it this oneThe Communists are given heavy treatment in this text Not only do we see how they came to power we get huge doses of their philosophy Figes gives a detailed examination of the intellectual currents that gave ise to the Communist movement as well as their actions once they attained power What emerges is a bleak picture Communism is death to all it touches The Bolsheviks sought to not only ule by dictatorship but to change the very essence of man into an automaton subservient to the state Figes shows the eader the Red Terror and some of the other methods the Bolsheviks used to try and bring about this subservience It is a horrifying picture made worse of course under the ule of StalinFiges maintains a fairly neutral perspective throughout the book an apologist to neither the Tsar nor the Communists though harboring a noticeable preference and emorse for the incompetent Provisional Government When he does show some bias he is never overbearing and the few opinions that he expresses do not detract in any way from the materialThe Tsar is portrayed as an incompetent and stubborn fool which I have come away thinking is a fair assessment Figes gives ample evidence for his conclusions describing the failure of Nicholas to effectively ule over an inefficient and contradictory governmentI found the treatment of the Bolsheviks to be elatively sympathetic and the book does not suffer because of it They are depicted as a uthless and especially fortunate evolutionary faction a group eady to use any means necessary to obtain power but in the end given a gift with the success of their unlikely coup Some eaders may find this insufficiently damning but while I would have liked a little about how the nature of the evolution affected later developments the abominable governance which followed is not Figes s topic The Russian Revolution launched a vast experiment in social engineering perhaps the grandest in the history of mankind It was arguably an experiment which the human ace was bound to make at some point in its evolution the logical conclusion of humanity s historic striving for social justice and comradeship Figes writes about the Russian Revolution as of a coup in both February and October the second time only Bolsheviks participated and it was even haphazard b While I was halfway through this an inspirational uote from Lenin happened to come up on my eddit 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 ethically uestionable to be uoting with approbation someone esponsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people only to be downvoted into oblivion by other users You e probabl Recent memory modern memory N and then degenerates into violence and dictatorship Drawing on vast original esearch Figes conveys above all the shocking experience of the evolution for those who lived it while providing the clearest and most cogent acco.
Nd then history We are all living in ecent memory The oldest generation is the eye witness to modern memory When it passes on we will begin to eceive the history from the events and people of that generation without the influence of contemporary bias or dialecticsIt has been almost a hundred years since the Russian Revolution and Civil War It is still too early for its pure history but eliable narratives unbound by predictable dialectics are finally beginning to emergeOrlando Figes version is not perfect but it is one of best summaries available to get the average eader up to a moderate speed on a very complex subject After presenting an unsparing portrayal of the various layers of Russian society from 1891 up until Bloody Sunday 1905 Figes Revolution of 1914 becomes but the inevitable bloody esult What comes as a surprise to the eader is the deep depravity of the Russian soul It is black evil and violent egardless of class or party affiliation Sparing neither women nor children it wantonly murders tortures apes pillages and executes without a drop of conscienceThis pitch black evil infected the souls of peasants and workers as well as generals nobels police and party apparatchiks It consumed the Tsar and Tsarina as well as Lenin Totsky and StalinIn the midst of these psychopaths Figes follows a small handful of spectators such as Maxim Gorky and General Brusilov the only WWI tsarist hero who eventually supported the Reds because they were the peoples choice Those two somehow manage to maintain their balance decency objectivity and humanity while witnessing this terror unfold When Comrade Stalin s emissary Mercado paid a visit to Leon Trotsky at his Mexico City home to plunge an ice pick into his skull one can only hope the Angel of Karma was singing a hymn in the exiled evolutionary s ear with Leon s very own words from the Revolution We must put an end once and for all to the papist uaker babble about the sanctity of human life During the Revolution and Civil War Trotsky Lenin and Stalin did the very best that they could to abide by that dictum millions literally of heartless times with their cold blooded signaturesThe Revolution and Civil War eplaced a totalitarian monarchy with a totalitarian police state un by bureaucrats The classes that were terrorized oppressed and executed before are terrorized oppressed and executed once again on an even larger scale As one evolutionary bemoaned afterwards Lenin and the Bolsheviks did not establish a dictatorship to safeguard the evolution they made a evolution to safeguard a dictatorship Enter Comrade StalinA basic understanding of the twentieth century euires a grasp of the Russian Revolution that left its immense footprints across World War II the Cold War as well as the intellectual dialectics of labor and capital that have defined the many shades of politics we experience todayA People s Tragedy is a very good start towards that understanding 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 esult of the inability of the Russian people to come to terms with democratic institutions He finds that the period between 1905 1914 epresented Russia s liberal democratic evolution but it did not produce the eforms 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 goals Instead Figes argues that the goals of evolutionary leaders were outright unattainable and were doomed to failPerhaps Figes is ight but I disagree with him on both accounts To me the first argument eeks 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 and utter success after the development of fascism and authoritarianism in Spain and Italy France s difficult elationship 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 greater democratization some to authoritarianism than we saw even in the Stalinist period Perhaps the ideals of the Revolution were too great to be implemented in eality 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 einvented it not just in the sense that today s nationalists are for the most part eformed Communists but also in the sense that their violent hetoric with its calls for discipline and order its angry condemnation of the ineualities produced by the growth of capitalism and its xenophobic eject of the West is itself adapted from the Bolshevik tradition The ghosts of 1917 have not been Laid To RestToday As We Are Well to estToday as we are well nationalism is the guiding ideology of the modern Russian state and it is ather authoritarian This fits further in Figes s view that Russians have not learned to be good liberals but I think it says about global patterns than something specifically Russian Although former Soviet states held the vanguard of esurgent nationalism it is now a global phenomenon anging 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 This is a emarkable book on the Russian Revolution It s coverage from 1891 thru 1924 is detailed but very eadable We are presented with a wide panoply of characters Tsar Nicholas II Lenin Prince Lvov Kerensky Gorky and many This gives a distinctive personal feeling where history is populated by eal people and provides us with a ground view of the turbulent events of Russia It s a brutal historySadly there were periods during the Tsar s ule and the first months after the 1917 evolution where the country seemed to be edging towards a democratic and liberal constitution but this was thwarted time and again and fell back to authoritarianism which to some extent seems ingrained in the Russian psyche The author vividly portrays these figures for what they truly were Nicholas was weak kneed and never wanted anything to with democracy and liberalism he hindered any attempts to proceed in that direction falling back to a igid domination was his ule of thumb Kerensky was the wrong man in the ight place in that small opening after the events of February 1917 there was a potential for parliamentarianism but Kerensky was udderless and a prima donna Lenin knew what he wanted Lenin was intolerant of any criticism and over time succeeded in establishing a strong centralist dictatorship It was Lenin that made the Stalinist egime possibleThroughout this period Russia was often in a state of virtual Anarchy Particularly After The Start Of World particularly after the start of World I where the country was not only combating external enemies but at war with itself After Lenin s coup in October 1917 it was Lenin himself who precipitated these internal struggles against enemies of the people war against the bourgeoisie war against the peasants for allegedly hoarding foodstuffs war against striking workers and of course the civil war the Reds and the Whites where often groups uickly switched allegiancesThe author gives us excellent depictions of the miserable and backward existence of the peasantry and also how the urban cities were in a constant state of flux evolution on the street destitution and starvationOne does come away with a view that Marxist Leninist philosophy and dictums gave little credence to human ights and viewed the individual as subservient to the state After all one of its principal slogans Dictatorship of the Proletariat has always emphasized Dictatorship It hardly compares to the motto of the French evolution Liberty Euality and Fraternity The long authoritarianism of the Tsarist ulers gave way to an even vicious dictatorship under Communism where the ights of man were crushed under a Central government that stopped at nothing to implement state policies If you wish to gain an insight into this key era of history this is definitely the book for you One also comes away with an understanding of Russia and its vast land mass today At over 800 pages it is lengthy but well worth it. Unt of how and why it unfolded Now including a new introduction that eflects on the evolution's centennial legacy A People's Tragedy is a masterful and definitive ecord of one of the most important events in modern histor.