20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A People's Tragedy by Orlando Figes
I've always wanted to make some sense of the chaos of Russian History in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and this book comes as close to this as it is humanly possible. In addition to providing a rich and detailed view of the events in the period under consideration Orlando Figes manages to answer convincingly such questions as "Who is the main villain behind the...
Published on 22 Sep 2009 by Bostjan Vilfan
46 of 86 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars An unscrupulous depiction of bolsheviks as cold-blooded despots.
One small example of the problems with Figes' book, small but typical : on pages 631-632 we are treated with the horrendous shooting of Bim-Bom, the clown who dared mock the bolsheviks, at the hands of the Cheka bursting onto the circus in the middle of the comedian's act.
Except that a small amount of research would have made Figes aware that Bim-Bom was not a...
Published on 10 Oct 2007 by Ilestre
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A People's Tragedy by Orlando Figes,
This review is from: A People's Tragedy: The Russian Revolution, 1891-1924 (Paperback)I've always wanted to make some sense of the chaos of Russian History in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and this book comes as close to this as it is humanly possible. In addition to providing a rich and detailed view of the events in the period under consideration Orlando Figes manages to answer convincingly such questions as "Who is the main villain behind the disasters that befell Russia in this period", and "Why, for all their failings, did the Bolsheviks ultimately prevail". One comes away from this book with the distinct feeling that history is not the product of random forces, but the result of follies and miscalculations of some of the actors of history as well as insights and audacity of others.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars long, tough but fascinating!,
This review is from: A People's Tragedy: The Russian Revolution, 1891-1924 (Paperback)this was a long and sometimes tough read but also a fascinating one. what Figes has done here is give the world a complete account of a very long and complicated event in human history that is still misunderstood today. the russian revolution was a huge event in the 20th century, one whose legacy we still live with today. standing apart from other authors Figes has gone an extra mile here in not just writing about 1917 but does an entire history of russia from 1891 to 1924 in giving a total story of how the ideals of the revolution built and how the desire for change began. his writing style in engaging (and very witty in some parts) with there rearly being any dry moments as he tells an incredible story of human suffering, endurance and ultimately tragedy. if anyone here ever wishes to learn anything on russian history then this book is mandatory reading as it not only tells the story of the revolution but also of russians in general. be cautious as well because in parts this is a quite shocking book with many hideous stories of torture, cannibalism and human degradation that will shock any reader as we see just how cruel and animalistic we are capable of becoming. Figes has shown that if we are to ever learn from the revolution we must come to terms with what happened and that still has not happened as he says in the final sentence of his work
"the ghosts of 1917 have still not been laid to rest"
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Road to Hell is Paved with Good Intentions,
This review is from: A People's Tragedy: The Russian Revolution, 1891-1924 (Paperback)Whoever reads this account of the Russian revolution will surely feel that after the tercentenary celebrations of Romanov rule in 1913 there was nothing actually carved in stone on the wall of fate. It is with hindsight that we can mouth the still prevailing Marxist perception of history where feudalism had to make way for capitalism with imperial aspirations which in turn must bow out when the workers of the world unite. In actual fact in 1913 we have a scenario where "the side" that makes the least mistakes is the side that must eventually prevail. Time and again it is shown that there were opportunities missed that could have changed the course of history.
Orlando Figes admits it took him six years to write his physically unwieldy 900 page tome which covers the social history of the period 1891-1924 as much as the political events that shaped it. It might have benefitted being conceived as two volumes, but either way it must be granted that Figes is not dry or dull and where he occasionally gives way to a narrative account his book becomes highly entertaining. For non-historians it is possible to get a bit confused after the October Revolution with all the balooning buraucratic changes that the Bolsheviks bring about in order to consolidate the Leninist position : apart from the trades unions and the Soviets where the grass-roots of the Party lay, there were the staff of the Central Committee, with nine departments, together with a Party Secretariat and a special organization bureau (Orgburo), the Cheka - or secret police - often somewhat independent of the Party itself, and Sovnarkom, the Council of the People's Commissars.
If only Tsar Nicholas had had a more flexible attitude vis à vis his status and divine right to rule absolutely; if only the German born Tsarina had not alienated many liberals by her interference in affairs of state and her blind faith in Rasputin; if only the World War where the Tsar felt obliged to commit Russia's participation had not weakened so terribly the Imperial regime; and later .... if only the Whites engaged in the civil war had been less reactionary in their views concerning the need to overthrow the land reforms in full and without compromise. If only !!! And the Bolsheviks who eventually took power could reflect on their mistakes which at times had alienated them from their very own supporters - the peasants, industrial workers and the soldiers - yet by the time Lenin died Stalin had all but taken control of the Party and he was not someone known for showing remorse !
This is a great study in the origins and perpetuation of tyranny and shows how the Russian people liberated themselves from one regime only to be enslaved by another - ironically carrying out their programmes in the name of the people they subjugated.
48 of 56 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars whatever did happen to leon trotsky,
By A Customer
This review is from: A People's Tragedy: Russian Revolution, 1891-1924 (Hardcover)Having already read "Natasha's Dance", "A People's Tragedy" had a lot to live up to - it did. In this superb book, Figes describes the social forces and events that led to, then ruined, the democratic revolution in Russia. The book achieves a rare balance between the stories of the great personalities who helped shape the revolution, and the lives of the common people who felt its effects. He is even-handed, taking to task both left- and rightist interpretations of the revolution and the motivations of those involved; it is this impartiality that condemns both the old tsarist regime and the new Bolshevik dictatorship. "A People's Tragedy" is long, but is an enthralling, if grim, read throughout.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Perfect for coursework,
This review is from: A People's Tragedy: The Russian Revolution, 1891-1924 (Paperback)This book by Orlando Figes has been incredibly useful for my A-Level Coursework. There is incredible detail and it is full of primary sources. I would definitely recommend it!
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Most detailed account of the Russian Revolutions,
This review is from: A People's Tragedy: The Russian Revolution, 1891-1924 (Paperback)Excellent record of the 20th C in Russia. A long read but worthwhile if you are a history student. No study would be complete without it.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Masterpiece in Narrative History,
This review is from: A People's Tragedy: The Russian Revolution, 1891-1924 (Paperback)There are few books on history that stand out in the way Orlando Figes' book does. A People's Tragedy is in simple words a masterpiece of narrative history. Figes takes the reader from the peasant communes of late 19th century Russia to Lenin's deathbed in 1924, in such a flawless, detailed analysis that one wonders if he is reading a book on history or a great work of literature.
And in a sense, A People's Tragedy is both. Orlando Figes is not only a distinguished researcher on the history of Russia, but also a master of narrative history. Reading this book, one can "see" the coronation of Nicholas II, the frustrated crowds filling the squares in 1905 and 1917, and the Bolsheviks storming the Winter Palace in October. The detail and the extracts from primary sources which Figes uses throughout the book, bring the Russia of the early 20th century back to life. I could read pages and pages without getting tired - I found the book to have an excellent flow from one point to the next.
Orlando Figes combines both social history and individualist history in his analysis. Thus he addresses both the factors connected with the Russian society at large (culture, class divisions etc), and the factors that are connected with individual historical figures (Nicholas II, Lenin, Kerensky and so on).
Figes also uses the new Soviet archives that were at last opened for historians after the regime's collapase in 1991, shedding light in previously unresolved or debated historical issues. Furthermore, Figes addresses various historical controversies concerning specific events of the Russian Revolution, providing the views of left or right wing historians throughout the book. He then evaluates these views with the help of the new data found in the archives, disproving old views that do not stand up to hard evidence, or showing the difficulties in finding a clear answer concerning specific issues due to the lack of evidence. I found this aspect of the book to be both useful and respectful towards the reader. Figes is a historian who won't claim to have the answer for everything, but will show his readers the difficulty of establishing a clear answer to controversial events.
This is in my opinion the best one-volume book on the Russian Revolution. Orlando Figes is a master on his subject, and it shows throughout the book. Full of detail, use of newly found sources, and wonderful narrative analysis, A People's Tragedy is simply a masterpiece of narrative history.
52 of 62 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best marathon you'll ever run,
This review is from: A People's Tragedy: The Russian Revolution, 1891-1924 (Paperback)This is a long book, for those looking for short sharp read look elsewhere because you won't find it here. What you will find is a book that humanises an often sterile topic. by bringing out human examples again and again Figes does not just cater for the undergraduate historian searching for information but also personalises the plight of the russian people in such a way that is both captivating and informative, making it a good read for any audience. This is no harry potter, you won't find people reading it around a swimming pool but if you have the time it is well worth it. Most importantly do not be put off by its size. the author assumes little prior knowledge whilst at the same time allowing the learned reader an even more in-depth look at the chaos and brutality of imperial Russia and beyond. For beginners and scholars alike this book is second to none and a must for anyone with an interest in the soviet union. To understand any nation especially one governed by rigid ideals one must understand the events and context in which those ideals were introduced, moulded, and ultimately distorted.
15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Masterpiece of History,
This review is from: A People's Tragedy: The Russian Revolution, 1891-1924 (Paperback)I have recently finished 'A People's Tragedy' and read it as part of ongoing revision and research for my AS History Paper on Russia in Revolution.
I thought that it was a stunning book that left out little and offered a thorough examination of events with Figes concluding on his own opinion on matters that would be heavily argued between the right and left of the historical world!
This allowed for clearer reading (and should not be a criticism of him) and also meant that I could compare my own interpretation of events with his.
Do not let the number of pages out you off at all! If you want to learn about the Russian Revolution in it's entirety from the late Tsars to the death of Lenin then this is the book for you!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Work on the Russia Revolution,
This review is from: A People's Tragedy: The Russian Revolution, 1891-1924 (Paperback)Orlando Figes offers a very comprehensive overview of a significant period of Russia's history in what is a very good read yet also extremely informative, particularly focusing on the Russian Revolution of 1917.
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A People's Tragedy: The Russian Revolution, 1891-1924 by Orlando Figes (Paperback - 31 July 1997)