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Three Whys Of The Russian Revolution [Paperback]

Richard Pipes
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Book Description

8 Jan 1998

It is my considered judgement that, had it not been for the Russian Revolution, there would very likely have been no National Socialism; probably no Second World War and no decolonization; and certainly no Cold War, which one dominated our lives. I will attempt here to distill the essence of my books The Russian Revolution and Russia Under the Bolshevik Regime by raising the three central questions addressed in those volumes: Why did tsarism fall? Why did the Bolsheviks gain power? Why did Stalin succeed Lenin?' Richard Popes, from Three Whys of the Russian Revolution.

Arguably the most important event of the twentieth century, the Russian Revolution changed for ever the course of modern history. Due to the Soviet clampdown on archives regarding the Revolution, many aspects of the event have been shrouded in mystery for over seventy years. However, since the collapse of Communism the archival depositories havebeen thrown open to interested parties.

The author of several groundbreaking and controversial works on Russian history, Richard Pipes has written an invaluable book for anyone who wishes to understand the complicated events taking place in Russia today.

Product details

  • Paperback: 96 pages
  • Publisher: Pimlico (8 Jan 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0712673628
  • ISBN-13: 978-0712673624
  • Product Dimensions: 21 x 13.8 x 1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 203,966 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"One of America's great historians." (Washington Post Book World)

"Pipes is not a mere communicator of facts but a philosopher examining the deeper, broader trends beneath the surface of history." (San Francisco Chronicle)

Book Description

The author of several groundbreaking and controversial works on Russian history, Richard Pipes has written an invaluable book for anyone who wishes to understand the complicated events taking place in Russia today.

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MY SUBJECT IS THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION, arguably the most important event of the twentieth century. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Good book 1 April 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Delivered in good time, packaged and in good condition. Good book ideal for studying the Russian revolution, easy language to understand and pick quotes from.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent 1 Nov 2013
Very clearly written and provides an alternative view of Russian Revolution. I think perhaps good for arguing your point in essay process. Would recommend without hesitation.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Good. 5 April 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I needed a book on the Russia revolution for coursework, this book was very useful in helping me find quotes.
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12 of 18 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
The Russian Revolution was perhaps one of the grestest events in the 20th century. In this book, Professor Pipes pinpoints three "whys" of the Russian Revolution - 1. Why Did the Tsardom Fall? 2. Why Did the Bolsheviks Triumph? 3. Why did Stalin Succeed Lenin? In answering these three questions, Professor Pipes gives us a clear picture of the weaknesses of the tsardom, the ruthless opportunism that enabled Lenin to seize power as well as the internal circumstance and external development that led to the rise of Stalinism. A short but clear and professional account.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.7 out of 5 stars  14 reviews
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A revolutionary rethink 24 Aug 2002
By K Scheffler - Published on
As well as completely changing the political and geographical structure of Europe, the demise of the Soviet Union has significantly altered the approach of historical scholarship about the Russian Revolution.
In Three Whys of the Russian Revolution, the eminent scholar of Russian history, Richard Pipes, confronts the challenge of assessing the causes and course of the Russian Revolutions from a post-Cold War perspective.
Pipes explains that for 70 years prior to the 1990's, historians in the West adopted a "revisionist" perspective of the Russian Revolutions that was largely influenced by Communist scholarship. The events of 1917, these Communist scholars concluded, were nothing but revolutionary activity.
Western scholarship's acceptance of this conclusion stems, Pipes explains, from a lack of source material, much of which was deemed classified by the Soviet regime.
But access to this information is now open, and Pipes, among others, has utilized this opportunity in an attempt to re-evaluate the Revolutions, with the product being two extensive works (on which these essays are based). Not surprisingly, his understanding of the events of 1917 has changed somewhat, and thus the three essays in the book are a continued attempt to debunk much of the "revisionist" perspective with less radical conclusions.
Among the notions that Pipes challenges is the very insistence by the "revisionists" that the Revolutions were in fact revolutions.
As the author clearly outlines, the events of 1917 were actually the work of a small group of intellectuals headed by the idealist Lenin. His overthrow of the Czarist regime is argued by Pipes as being a coup d'etat which involved the people as a whole in only a small degree.
This brings Pipes to his second major argument. Were the people ready, willing, or even a part of the coup d'etat process? It has often been a marvel to historians that the agrarian based nation of Russia was the one nation to take heed of Marx's dialectical writings. But, as Pipes explains, the people (that is, peasantry) indeed had little reason or precedent to desire a change in the ruling regime, and the radical writings of Lenin and his cohorts had little impact on them, since it offered little in the way of a betterment of lifestyle.
Lastly Pipes addresses the post-coup d'etat events surrounding the ascension of Stalin as the next leader of the Soviet Regime. Several years after the events of 1917, Lenin's failing health allowed Stalin to enter the scene, a man who Lenin recognized as having an unstable personality, one unviable for effectively continuing the Communist programmes as Lenin had planned.

This opposition to Stalin was glossed over by Communist scholars to maintain a healthy image of the leadership, and thus was subsequently adopted by Western scholars.
It is easily said, then, that there is much of value in Three Whys of the Russian Revolution to history students and others interested in the events of 1917. Pipes' three essays present sound, articulate, and compelling arguments as to the causes and course of the Revolutions, and is thus an important asset for future scholarship on the subject.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A very intriguing book 5 Jan 2000
By Ebru Kardan - Published on
This book explored three very important questions regarding the Russian Revolution: Why Tsarism fell, why the Bolsheviks gained power, and why Stalin succeeded Lenin. However, Pipes does not limit himself to giving simple solutions to these questions (which was a very good thing). He examines the events through different perspectives and, in effect, teaches the reader many interesting things that are not common knowledge concerning the Revolution. It was very well written and structured, and overall it was a great book. It is often difficult to read an historical book, but Pipes makes it easy.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good, Brief Intro to Russian Revolution 30 May 2002
By William Markley - Published on
Yes, Professor Pipes argues some conservative points, but this book is a very useful antidote to other histories written by persons with left-wing axes to grind. Pipes at least is open and honest about his background and perspective, and based upon his other works which I have read he has conducted careful, extensive scholarship. In his other more detailed books--The Russian Revolution and Russia Under the Bolshevik Regime--he provides further evidence for judgments provided in this volume, and narrative history of the Russian Revolution and its immediate aftermath.
One part of this book which I found particularly interesting was the discussion of why Stalin came to power. Pipes argues that, rather than being a deviation from the natural course of Bolshevism, Stalinism was a logical outcome, and Stalin implemented some, though not all, of Lenin's goals. Pipes also shows how Stalin achieved and consolidated his power through his skill at administration, and his ability to insert his supporters into key positions.
The Three Why's is written in a lively style without jargon. In addition to describing the collapse of the Tsarist regime, the Bolshevik seizure of power and Stalin's rise, it includes a general review of the historiography of the Russian Revolution, and a few brief observations on events during the breakup of the Soviet Union.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Just how really inevitable were tsarism's fall & Lenin's success, and was Stalin's rise an aberration? 20 April 2006
By brian komyathy - Published on
When was the Russian Revolution? The conventional answer would be October 1917. After all, people associate Lenin with the October Revolution, don't they? Well, Mr. Pipes (amongst an increasing group of others) would stop you right there. Upon the tsar's abdication Russia's first free elections (promised since that February) were held November 12, 1917. This was but days after Lenin's Bolsheviks supposedly "rode to power on a wave of popular support," yet Lenin's ilk only received enought votes to garner 175 seats out of 707! The Bolshevik takeover was more akin to a putsch, consequently. Trotsky himself wrote (in his memoirs) "that 25,000 or 30,000 people, at most, took part in the events of October in Petrograd"; this in a city of 2 million. It was largely bloodless and basically upended the hopelessly incompetent Provisional Government in the dead of one night in favor of the Petersburg Council---or "Soviet," to utilize the Russian word for council. And it was through this organ of competing power that Lenin was able to forestall Russian military units from marching in to St. Petersburg to resist him. In January when Russia's first Constituent Assemby opened Lenin immediately proposed a motion that would have prevented the duly elected Assembly from wielding any real power over the Petersburg Soviet, or any of the other Soviets in other cities. Lenin's Bolsheviks were handedly defeated in this, however; which marked the end of democracy in Russia. The next day Bolshevik Red Guards closed down the Assembly and it was never permitted to sit again. How Lenin was able to engineer this is the subject of the second part of this tri-part (extremely concise & worthy) mini-book of 84 pages. Pipes shows, in addition, how nothing of this was at all inevitable. Tsarism fell for particular reasons, mostly political, and whence it did was replaced by a Provisional Government (PG) bereft of any legitimacy. Said PG was meant to be a caretaker until elections for a Constituent Assembly could be held; elections which weren't held until more than 8 months later. The interim thus provided much time for Lenin & Company to champion the Soviets and their radical maneuverings---which disrupted the economy and war effort---while constantly calling for the elections for the CA to be held (the same Assembly which they smothered by armed force as soon as it sat). "No other group in Russia," but the Bolsheviks, Pipes writes "was prepared to consort with the enemy, and therefore, none could compete with him [meaning Lenin] effectively once the struggle for power got under way." And funds were not a problem either. "There is no longer any question," Pipes writes, "that he [Lenin] took money from Imperial Germany even while Russia & Germany were at war; we have plenty of [recently opened Russian archival] documents dating from 1917-18 proving this fact." Why didn't the democratic socialists ("who between them had garnered nearly 3/4 of the national vote") confront the Bolsheviks "on any other but the verbal level"? In Pipes's reading of the situation this was because these socialsits believed time to be on their side; that "the Bolsheviks would have no choice but sooner or later to invite them into government" to be able to get anything accomplished. Lenin, however, choose instead (based on his long written view to rule alone) to employ the use of terror to impose his will instead. Thus Pipes debunks fallacy #3 in this short treatise---that Stalin was an aberration when, in fact, he was a rather natural successor to Lenin. (Read Gorbachev advisor A. Yakovlev's book "A Century of Violence" for proof of Lenin's terror methods.) While Stalin's rise wasn't inevitable, it was a heck of a lot more likely than the 2 fallacies that he lays bare herein concerning the fall of tsarism & Lenin's rise. Tsarism's fall when it did wasn't inevitable & neither was Lenin's rise. (See Pipes's "A Concise History of the Russian Revolution" for all the details of the above.) (06Apr) Cheers!
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A complex revolution expressed in the simplist terms. 1 April 1999
By A Customer - Published on
As a college student reserching european history, I chose this book for a book review. Pipes has a reputation of being a sophisticated historian, but his book on the Three "Whys" expresses his complex thoughts in the simplist and easiest ways possible. Even though I haven't read his other works, I have heard that he combined his thoughts into this book from his other works on the examination of The Russia Revolution. I encourage any one to read this book who is looking for something easy to read or is looking for something that is straight to the point.
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