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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Full of very interesting and comprehensive detail about Lenin, ...
Full of very interesting and comprehensive detail about Lenin, this book compares well with any biography of significant figures in World History.
Published 6 months ago by Adamski

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33 of 38 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Book Fails to Present the Big Picture
This biography is so focused on its subject that important events like the First World War, the Russian Civil War and the murder of the Romanovs barely feature. Some readers might feel that is how a biography should be but I believe a biography of a man who may well have single handedly toppled an Empire and imposed a political system that shattered the world consensus...
Published on 5 Mar. 2010 by John Fitzpatrick


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69 of 102 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Robert Service on Lenin, 25 April 2004
This review is from: Lenin: A Biography (Paperback)
A book that tells us a lot more about Robert Service than it does aboutLenin. Despite the extensive research, it is packed with irritatingspeculation and blunt assertions and the events it describes are too oftenburied under Service's indignation. What are we to make of sentences suchas: "Lenin was not feeling in the best of sorts either physically oremotionally. And it served him right."?
We have endless speculation about what Lenin may have thought at any giventime. Among my favourites were: "It cannot be proved that Lenin held thetotal physical liquidation of the middle classes as a party objective" and"If Lenin dreamed of heading a European socialist federal regime, herefrained from giving vent to the notion". The Economist was right when itdescribed the book as: "... far more than a comprehensive summary of theestablished facts..."
In his haste to represent Lenin as a monster Service repeatedly confusesdictatorship by a class with dictatorship by an individual. Why couldn'the argue, if he thought it was true, that Lenin advocated the former butparticipated in a government controlled by a political elite? Why muddlethis point - "It was a fine dictatorship when the supreme leader wastreated contemptuously by his underlings!" It's nonsense and it appearsintentional.
Robert Service does not share Lenin's class-based view of history, whythen should he expect Lenin to share his moral scruples? To learn thatLenin's conduct might not be acceptable at a posh dinner party is about assurprising as finding out that Mozart didn't play heavy metal.
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17 of 26 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Well researched, but selective and biased, 21 Jun. 2009
This review is from: Lenin: A Biography (Paperback)
Robert Service in 'Lenin' does not give an account that is satisfyingly representative of the man. Service, despite his obvious learning, seems totally ignorant of established Marxist and Leninist perspectives. There are several examples, but the one which irritated me the most was his dealing with Lenin's magnum opus The State and Revolution. Service seems to suggest that the concept forwarded in this of the 'withering away of the state' was a hollow and fake belief of Lenin's that had no sincerity behind it. This is anachronistic and false. Marx himself had spoken of exactly the same thing, and to suggest that Lenin did not share the belief in the state's eventual destruction is fallacy. Also, the supposed irreverence Lenin held for democracy is hollow. Lenin insists in his works on a CLASS dictatorship to replace the current class dictatorship of the bourgeosie with a proletarian one. Of course it can be argued that this led to a personal dictatorship when Lenin got into power, but simply because his understanding of democracy differed from Service's does not provoke the numerous attacks that Service launches on Lenin's policy.

Although Service provides an acurate account of events, his perspective on Lenin is marred by his unceasing anti-Communism. Anybody can understand why this exists, but the bias creates the impression of a propoganda piece.

This is ultimately not the best use of the previously-censored documents which Service was lucky enough to get hold of. I would recommend this only for its outline of events, but with a few more minutes of searching a superior biography of Lenin could be found. If an alternative perspective on the revolution is what you really want, then try Trotsky's A History of the Russian Revolution.
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8 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Theory is Grey, but Life is Green, 8 Aug. 2009
By 
Ian Millard - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Lenin: A Biography (Hardcover)
"Theory is grey but Life is green" said Goethe, a citation used by Lenin more than once. This book is not dry and grey but lively and it does bring to life a figure otherwise and usually drawn as dry as dust, not least by his own misguided followers. The book is particularly good (using declassified Soviet documents only available since the Soviet "empire" toppled) at building up a picture of the young Lenin (Ulyanov)and his family background. I knew (and even before 1989, assumed) Lenin to be partly Jewish on the maternal side, but until I read this book was unaware that he was also part-Jew on the paternal side of the family. Of course, virtually all the leading members of his party were, among others, Martov, "Trotsky" (L.D. Bronstein), "Zinoviev" (G. Apfelbaum) etc. etc.

The weaknesses of the book are twofold, really. The author does tend to let his own opinions show through a lot (but not as much as other writers have done, and to a far greater extent, when compiling "histories" or biographies of Hitler. William Shirer was among the worst offenders but there have been many many others). The second weakness is that the book is heavily weighted in dealing with events before 1917 and particularly pre-1921 (i.e. the end of the Civil War, when the Bolsheviks started to exercise something approaching "state" power). Little is said about the effects of Leninist policies on the country as a whole. The author does concentrate very much on Lenin as a person, though he is puzzled by Lenin's final illness and seems unaware that Professor Forster, one of Lenin's doctors, who is mentioned in the text, found at autopsy that Lenin's brain was almost entirely calcified or sclerotized, something which usually brings upon the sufferer derangement and swift death. By the medical measure, it is amazing that Lenin lived as long as he did. He should, so to speak, have been dead years before.

I was interested to see that Service is intellectually alive enough to note just how extraordinary was the decision both to embalm Lenin's body and to put it in a step-pyramidical structure (the Mausoleum in Red Square). The only explanation I have read or heard of about this is contained in Sergei Prokofieff's book The Spiritual Origins of Eastern Europe and The Future Mysteries of the Holy Grail (available on Amazon and well worth reading).

Despite its flaws, this is really the only book on Lenin I have read which brings its subject to life, plausibly.
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4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, avoids academic over-theorising and gives detail, 11 Sept. 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Lenin: A Biography (Hardcover)
This is a rare thing; a biography of a major political figure by an academic which isn't dry as twigs. Rather than become pre-occupied with the various intellectual historical debates surrounding Lenin, Service cuts to the chase and talks about the man in immense detail such that you feel you've met the vile creature. The political stuff is all present and correct too, but it does not get in the way of telling the story of a life. Service is one of the few political biographers who knows that to separate the person from the history is folly - and lazy folly at that. Anyone can theorise; only good writers and biographers can tell a gripping yarn at the same time.
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5.0 out of 5 stars good service, 27 Feb. 2015
By 
Mr. J. J. Churchill "Scottish-Muppet" (North West England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Lenin: A Biography (Paperback)
Book came as described. very happy
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6 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Everything a biography should be, 23 Mar. 2012
By 
A. J. Smith (UK) - See all my reviews
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One cannot understate the scholarly nature of Robert Service's Lenin. Here we have one of the most mythologized characters of the 20th century presented to us in entirely human form.
Service traces every aspect of Lenin's life, including some interesting background information on his father and grandfather, which can seem like a digression at times.
However, what we have is a complete portrait, including events that shaped his early life such as the execution of his elder brother Alexander and the early death of his father.
Around two thirds of the book takes place prior to the October Revolution, and Lenin's travels and correspondences shape who he was considerably.
There are no attempts by Service to airbrush out any of Lenin's faults. We learn that he believed zealously in the use of state terror on Bourgeoisie, Kulaks and other reactionaries, he sought Europe wide revolution, and believed wholeheartedly in the violent seizure of power. Lenin was very principled, but also very rigid and zealous in the prosecution of his ideology.
Service not only tracks the intimate details of Lenin's life, but he also chronicles Lenin's intellectual development. Therefore this book serves as more than just a biography, but an aide to anyone studying Marxism-Leninism.
In short a scholarly, and very compelling biography.
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4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, enjoyable read!, 27 Sept. 2009
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This review is from: Lenin: A Biography (Paperback)
Perhaps surprisingly for such a book, this is really lucidly written and kept my attention throughout. It's not quite a 'can't put it down' text, but it's pretty close, even with its fairly specialist, superficially dry subject matter.

I felt it a very balanced, worthwhile text that gives a much better-informed view of Lenin than has been the case in the propaganda-based past.

Certainly worth having!
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7 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well written, but don't expect the full story of 1917, 3 Jan. 2007
This review is from: Lenin: A Biography (Paperback)
A very well written book that successfully evokes the atmosphere of turn of the century Russia. Unusually for a biography, the youth of Lenin is actually quite interesting, and Service knows to quickly move on to keep the narrative moving. Occasionally, however, you wish for more details - the execution of his brother, for example, happens so suddenly it is almost shocking.

By the middle of the book you are yearning to get to the revolutionary events of 1917, but again once there, it would have been good to have more details about events 'on the ground', and if you want a book about the 1917 revolution, it may be better to buy something more specifically about that (the impression here is that Lenin capitalised on circumstances more than he was actually involved in them). That aside, the whole is a fascinating tale told well. Service is not afraid to give his own occasional opinion on matters, while there's some analysis of how the communist revolution affected politics elsewhere in Europe, particularly in the reactive rise of fascism.
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12 of 20 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Party Without Guests, 30 Dec. 2007
This review is from: Lenin: A Biography (Paperback)
There is no doubt that Lenin achieved a level of recognition that will continue for as long as humans maintain a sentient capacity. The fact remains, however, that he gained this recognition largely through his association with others. Robert Service's biography does not acknowledge this aspect. In fact, those central to Lenin's rise are not even mentioned.
Martin Amis brilliantly encapsulated this problem in his 2004 Guardian review: 'Service's biography of this unique figure is flawed not by its inclusions but by its myopic exclusions. It is impossible to present a balanced account of Lenin without reference to the other three Beatles.'
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Tedious peace of work, 14 May 2013
This review is from: Lenin: A Biography (Paperback)
I started reading this book in an effort to better understand Russian history and the revolution. At the start a lot of mentioned about Lenin's relatives and when he was at a very young age him self. Maybe some of this is important but I couldn't see how any of this text was relevant to Lenin's later life as a politician. It feels as if this book is full of endless padding to bring it to the level of other biographical works. Peoples name are often mentioned but its hard to really picture any of their personalities. Now and again there are quotes from the various people mentioned but nothing which gives away their personalities. Over all it feels like a dull history book which includes dates and places but gives no real insight into Lenin or Russian socialism.
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Lenin: A Biography
Lenin: A Biography by Robert Service (Paperback - 16 April 2010)
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