32 of 34 people found the following review helpful
on 6 November 2003
This is a very concise chronological accout of the Revolution of 1917. The book deals well with the context of the situation of Russia, detailing the failings and popular views of the Tsarist regime. It goes on to detail the events of 1917 and the eventual Bolshevik Revolution in October. Without getting bogged down the book introduces the various ideologies of the factions contesting power, as well as a brief introduction to the main figeures, especially Lenin. The book is good a platform from which a full study of the doctrines, ideologies and impacts of the Revolution can be made.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on 19 July 2009
Bought the book for summertime and I was very pleased by the non-scholar tone, yet the book is filled with facts and very pleasant to read. I knew many aspects of the Russian revolution but the book did reveal many internal mechanisms used by the Bolsheviks to seize and stay in power - Congratulations
on 8 July 2015
Critics of the Very Short Introduction series, have long attacked these books for 'dumbing down' serious topics. I beg to differ. Informative, tightly woven, and jam-packed with information, without losing control, this is an excellent introduction for the layman, on a pivotal era of world history.
If this brief introduction whets your appetite, then the extensive reading list proves more than adequate to satisfy your intellectual curiosity.
And they're pocket size to boot, making them handy for reading on the train or bus. With hundreds of topics to choose from, I cannot recommend these books enough.
10 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on 11 August 2005
THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION by Sheila Fitzpatrick is very concise and excellently written, giving a better understanding of the revolution and its purpose as well as a better outlook to the characters than other books on that era of history. I recommend this book with UNION MOUJIK, PUTIN'S RUSSIA, THE LIFE AND DEATH OF LENIN, RUSSIA'S UNFINISHED REVOLUTION to compliment this book on the Russian revolution and its aftermath until today's Russia.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 1 April 2013
Started a module at university on the Russian Revolution, covering the years of around 1840-1930. This book was brilliant for a basic coverage of the period as it includes a good description and analysis of events. I would recommend this to anyone studying the revolution as it is a fantastic place to start. It must also be noted that this book went past the 1930 mark that my course set covering Stalin's great purges which dominated the 1930s.
12 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on 5 December 2005
This book was lent to me by my hitory teacher, for some catchup work and background reading. I found that not only did it give an overview of the whole revolution but also an in depth look at the topic I required(NEP coincidentally). i would definitely give this a read, no matter who you are, although A-level or GCSE students will probably benefit the most, as it is really easy to read.
3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
From 1905 to 1938, Russia underwent not one but arguably four revolutions. The first was the failed 1905 revolution in the wake of Russia's defeat at the hands of Japan; the second and third the February and October revolutions of 1917; the fourth Stalin's revolution from above in the early 1930s. This book covers all four with an economy of effort (172 pages of text and another 19 pages of notes and bibliography) and is an excellent introduction to the subject.
I was particularly interested in Fitzpatrick's interpretation of the revolution as I think that it is a novel one and made me think differently about how to understand it. For Fitzpatrick, the Russian revolution was a process, not an event. It began in October 1917 and ended sometime in the late 1930s, after the end of Stalin's purges. Throughout this period, there were three motifs: modernization, class and terror. Interpreting these motifs lead us to understand the revolution differently to what we may previously have been led to believe.
Regarding modernization, the first motif, the Bolsheviks were great admirers of the productive and technological accomplishments of Western industrialisation, if not its class aspects. Stalin's industrialisation of the country was inspired by conceptions of the superiority and necessity of urbanization and industrialisation with the peasantry the principal bearers of the financial and human cost of this drive. (Fitzpatrick's discussion reminded me why the prospects of a communist revolution in an advanced country are nil: once modernity has been achieved, communism as an appeal to overcome backwardness has no force).
The Bolsheviks were of course class warriors and took power in the name of the working class in a predominantly peasant country, among a competing plethora of revolutionary sects. In this sense, they did not command mass support because of the sociological composition of the country and the fragmented nature of the revolutionary left in 1917. But they did command strong support among the country's incipient working class, support that was to wax and wane over the coming decades and upon which they were to build.
What support the working class offered ultimately did not depend on the Bolsheviks achieving equality of outcomes and elimination of wage differentials but social advance. The regime set out to make workers former workers, to become white-collar staffers of a communist version of industrial modernity and to reward these upwardly mobile ex-workers material perks - better pay, housing and access to consumer goods. Moreover, the state actively encouraged workers to compete for these rewards. Experiments in industrial democracy or workers control were discontinued. There were managers and the managed.
It would be wrong to describe this as capitalism restored. The state dictated at all times who would get what. And what the state could give, it could take away. But the effects were dramatic. Over 1.5 million workers moved into white-collar jobs during the first Five Year Plan. Along with this went stricter social controls like making divorce harder to obtain and curtailing the right to abortion, hence reversing moves towards greater permissiveness and social liberalism in the 1920s. In the realm of culture, the avant-garde was suppressed and the status of old classics like Pushkin and Swan Lake restored.
Finally there is the motif of terror, one about which we probably know most about. Terror and extra-legal means were employed at the very creation of the Soviet state, principally against its real or perceived enemies at the beginning during the civil war of 1918 to 1920. But its apotheosis was the so called Great Purge of 1937 and 1938 when 690,000 people perished, many of these communists, which Fitzpatrick argues was perhaps caused in part by the need of Stalin to show that the revolution was not dead, that its enemies were ever present and vigilant and to cut out the dead wood. The Great Terror, manipulated from above, commanded genuine popular enthusiasm from below, not least by offering an opportunity to step into the shoes of a purged rival, with the attendant perks. But after the terror, it was time to cool off. People had endured twenty years of upheaval.
It is important to understand that this book is meant to be an introduction, not a systematic review of the formidable mass of scholarly work published on this topic. Therefore the criticism from the three star review that the book is `simplistic' misses the point. For a short book, it covers a lot of ground. For me, it offered thought provoking reflections on a wide range of issues. It is an excellent summary that gives a sense of the many faces of the Russian revolution: not just violence, terror and disillusionment, but also of passion, enthusiasm and idealism
3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 13 April 2009
Sheila Fitzpatrick is a well-known academic in the field of modern Russian history. She presents the reader with a good introduction to the turbulent years immediately preceding and following the February and October revolutions. The basic facts are given in a clear, informative and catchy fashion. The model Fitzpatrick follows in her treatment of the Russian revolutinary years is Crane Brinton's, according to whom revolutions have a life cycle passing through phases of increasing fervour till they reach the climax, which is in turn followed by a "Thermidorian" phase of restoration of order.
You may not necessarily agree with such a view (I don't, by the way) but this choice allows Fitzpatrick to organize her work along clearly defined lines that make the events readily understandable in their context by the reader. The Bolsheviks' success in derailing and monopolizing an otherwise popular and widely shared revolutionary effort becomes dramatically clear.