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Red Star: The First Bolshevik Utopia (Soviet History, Politics, Society, & Thought) [Paperback]

A. Bogdanov , Loren R. Graham , Richard Stites
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

1 Aug 2006 Soviet History, Politics, Society, & Thought
A communist society on Mars, the Russian revolution, and class struggle on two planets is the subject of this arresting science fiction novel by Alexander Bogdanov (1873-1928), one of the early organizers and prophets of the Russian Bolshevik party. The red star is Mars, but it is also the dream set to paper of the society that could emerge on earth after the dual victory of the socialist and scientific-technical revolutions. While portraying a harmonious and rational socialist society, Bogdanov sketches out the problems that will face industrialized nations, whether socialist or capitalist. Alexander Bogdanov (1873-1928) was a Russian scientist, philosopher, and revolutionary. An early Bolshevik and a close associate of Lenin, he later quarreled with the Party and after 1921 devoted himself fully to scientific work. In 1926, he founded an Institute for Blood Transfusion and in 1928 died after transfusing himself with infected blood as part of an experiment. Loren R. Graham is Professor of the History of Science at MIT and author of many books on the history of Soviet science. His most recent book is "Moscow Stories" (IUP, 2006). Richard Stites is Professor of History at Georgetown University. His most recent books is "Serfdom, Society, and the Arts in Imperial Russia".

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Red Star: The First Bolshevik Utopia (Soviet History, Politics, Society, & Thought) + Landmarks: A Collection of Essays on the Russian Intelligensia - 1909 - Berdyaev, Bulgakov, Gershenzon, Izgoev, Kistyakovsky, Struve, Frank
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Product details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Indiana University Press (1 Aug 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0253203171
  • ISBN-13: 978-0253203175
  • Product Dimensions: 23.5 x 15.5 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 411,422 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"[A] surprisingly moving story." The New Yorker

About the Author

Loren R. Graham is Professor of the History of Science at MIT and author of many books on the history of Soviet science. His most recent book is Moscow Stories (IUP, 2006).Richard Stites is Professor of History at Georgetown University. His most recent book is Serfdom, Society, and the Arts in Imperial Russia.Charles Rougle is Associate Professor of Slavic and Eurasian Studies at the University of Albany. He is editor of Red Cavalry: A Critical Companion and translator of many works from Russian.

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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
By Lawrance M. Bernabo HALL OF FAME VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback
As the subtitle of this book points out, Alexander's Bogdanov's "Red Star" was "The First Bolshevik Utopia." Bogdanov was a major prophet of the Bolshevik movement and while the red star of his title is the planet Mars, he is clearly envisioning the kind of society that could emerge on Earth after the victory of not only the scientific-technical revolution, a belief that can be traced in utopian literature back to Francis Bacon's "The New Atlantis," but also the social revolution dictated by Marxism. The future of "Red Star" is the radiant future of socialism that Bogdanov believed would eventually triumphant everyone on earth. At one point in the novel the hero, a Bolsehvik activist named Leonid, declares: "Blood is being shed for the sake of a better future. But in order to wage the struggle we must KNOW that future." Of course, Bogdanov believes that he does indeed know the future, thanks to the writings of Marx and Engels.
From a historical perspective the key thing to keep in mind is that Bogdanov is writing well over a decade before the Russian Revolution. In fact, he is writing in reaction to the 1905 revolution that compelled Tsar Nicholas II to issue a constitution and create a parliament. This came after the 1903 split of the Russian Marxists into the Bolsheviks and Mensheviks. Like the hero of "Red Star," Bogdanov went with the former and Lenin, and was one of the original "twenty-two" who met in Switzerland to form a group dedicated to disciplined revolutionary action. As part of this effort, Bogdanov wrote "Red Star.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Follow The Star! 10 May 2012
Format:Paperback
I can't say I am going to offer a deeply analytical breakdown of this book, the times in which it was written, nor the reception it had with its contemporaries. I am, however going to tell you it was a dashed good read.

For anyone out there who enjoys the more mechanical periods of sci-fi futurism, and has a clenched, red, upraised fist for a heart, this is one to read.

Let's build more canals, baby...
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Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The 1908 Bolshevik utopia on Mars of Alexander Bogdanov 25 Oct 2003
By Lawrance M. Bernabo - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
As the subtitle of this book points out, Alexander's Bogdanov's "Red Star" was "The First Bolshevik Utopia." Bogdanov was a major prophet of the Bolshevik movement and while the red star of his title is the planet Mars, he is clearly envisioning the kind of society that could emerge on Earth after the victory of not only the scientific-technical revolution, a belief that can be traced in utopian literature back to Francis Bacon's "The New Atlantis," but also the social revolution dictated by Marxism. The future of "Red Star" is the radiant future of socialism that Bogdanov believed would eventually triumphant everyone on earth. At one point in the novel the hero, a Bolsehvik activist named Leonid, declares: "Blood is being shed for the sake of a better future. But in order to wage the struggle we must KNOW that future." Of course, Bogdanov believes that he does indeed know the future, thanks to the writings of Marx and Engels.
From a historical perspective the key thing to keep in mind is that Bogdanov is writing well over a decade before the Russian Revolution. In fact, he is writing in reaction to the 1905 revolution that compelled Tsar Nicholas II to issue a constitution and create a parliament. This came after the 1903 split of the Russian Marxists into the Bolsheviks and Mensheviks. Like the hero of "Red Star," Bogdanov went with the former and Lenin, and was one of the original "twenty-two" who met in Switzerland to form a group dedicated to disciplined revolutionary action. As part of this effort, Bogdanov wrote "Red Star."
What is most interesting is that the "tectology" that Bogdanov envisions in constructing his utopia on Mars does not ignore the dangers of collectivisim and high technology (which were at the heart of many of the anti-utopian fantasies of the late tsarist period). He even has a sense of humor: the vegetation on Mars is red, and Leonid calls it "socialist vegetation." On Bogdanov's Mars you will find clothes made out of synthetic material, three-dimension movies, and a death ray, but no political state. Citizens engage in both voluntary labor as well as leisure and culture. The conflict in the story comes when someone tries to change the Martian utopia. Ultimately, you can make the claim that "Red Star" is more science fiction than propaganda, since Bogdanov creates a perfect world where the "labor question" has been made moot by the industrialization of farming. There is no peasant class on Mars for Russian readers to relate too, provided, of course, they were inclined to reading a science fiction utopian novel.
"Red Star" was extremely popular during and after the Russian Revolution and is a fascinating example of utopian literature in that it deals with the problems faced by industrial nations, whether socialist or capitalist, such as atomic energy, the environment, biomedical ethics, and shortages of food and natural resources. The illustrations for "Red Star" are taken from the 1923 Moscow edition. This volume includes Charles Rougle's translations of the complete texts of not only "Red Star," but also Bogdanov's 1913 novel "Engineer Menni" and a 1927 poem "A Martian Stranded on Earth." These latter two works appear in English for the first time in this collection. "Engineer Menni" takes the then current beliefs about the natural history of Mars and uses it to tell a story about the construction of the canals as a parable of class struggle. The heroes of the story, as the title indicates, are the engineers, who would indeed do great work in transforming the Soviet Union in the 20th century. "Red Star" is an important example of utopian literature that should be back in print.
11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Snapshot in time 23 Dec 2005
By wiredweird - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
These two novellas, Red Star (RS) and Engineer Menni (EM), capture a fascinating time and frame of mind. The time was 1908 (1913 for EM), when the Bolsheviks were gaining strength but before their 1917 revolution against the Tsarists.

RS describes a Socialist Utopia on Mars, documented by a visitor from Earth. He is chosen among all earthmen for his properly revolutionary spirit, and whisked away to Mars as their earthly envoy. This Socialist paradise presents an odd paradox of individual vs. collective. Individual achievement is nominally scorned, because of the historical inevitability of a discovery, or because honoring the great inventor would implicitly dishonor the farmer or laborer. Still, the story focuses on the magnificent achievements of exceptional scientists, silently mocking the brotherly equality supposedly being celebrated. EM is a similar tribute of hero-worhip for a fictional engineer of RS's pre-Socialist past, with similarly hollow regard for the common proletarian.

Actual descriptions of the Martian Utopia sometimes sink under the weight of revolutionary rhetoric, but I consider that to be part of this book's value. The narrator's socialist zeal, bordering on ranting, seems to capture an actual mind-set of the time, or perhaps a fictional mind-set that Bolshevik propagandists wanted people to believe in. Every fact in the story had to be intepreted in a properly socialist way, down to details of physics and children's squabbles over toys.

This monomania, whether Bogdanov genuinely felt it or not, explains much of Soviet history up to the recent fall of communism in Eastern Europe. It appears in the narrator's fawning respect for a machine tool operator, one so devoted to his task that his supervisors were concerned that his zeal for work might endanger his health. It explains why the art museum has two sections, one where the inevitability of their contemporary art is traced in historical examples, the other where tools and consumer goods are displayed as the society's highest esthetic achievements.

An odd tone pervades both stories, though, an underlying melancholy that drives even the strongest of Bogdanov's characters to nervous collapse or to suicide. I don't know Russian literature very well. Perhaps that "memento mori" is part of their writing, perhaps there was thought to be something noble in ending one's own life before the weakness of age stripped one of his powers. A modern reader can only wonder why this profound sadness seemed to follow from the success of socialism.

Bogdanov's larger-than-life engineers and scientists remind me of Ayn Rand's characters in Atlas Shrugged, Anthem, and The Fountainhead. She was a Russian emigre, so she must have been exposed to the literary tradition and the kinds of heroes that Bogdanov portrayed. Her treatment of those very similar characters is very different, though. Where Bogdanov tried to diffuse their achievements across the socialist whole, Rand ennobled the individual. RS gives me a much better understanding of the trends and values that Rand answered in her own writing.

Although bland in themselves, RS and EM are informative. They show the ideals, whether heartfelt or imagined, that led to the revolution of 1917. They also show the core values that led to the revolution's eventual failure, so many years later.

//wiredweird
5.0 out of 5 stars Systems Thinking 2 Mar 2012
By Rafael - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The first systems thinking history oriented book.
Bogdanov had a futurist mind, the Utopia become a nightmare for totalitarism and a light for dreamers.
0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars completly satisfied 17 Mar 2011
By gdo145 - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I'M COMPLETLY SATISFIED. I RECEIVE MY BOOK

QUICKLY AND IT WAS NEW. I JUST HAVE TO SAY

THAT I'M SATISFIED
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