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Revolutionary Russia, 1891-1991: A Pelican Introduction by [Figes, Orlando]
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Revolutionary Russia, 1891-1991: A Pelican Introduction Kindle Edition

4.5 out of 5 stars 30 customer reviews

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Review

A primer intended for readers unfamiliar with the territory, it sparkles with ideas, vivid storytelling, poignant anecdotes, and pithy phrases . . . Fresh and dramatic.--Victor Sebestyen "The Sunday Times (London) "

A primer intended for readers unfamiliar with the territory, it sparkles with ideas, vivid storytelling, poignant anecdotes, and pithy phrases . . . Fresh and dramatic. Victor Sebestyen, "The Sunday Times (London)"

The dean of contemporary Russian studies-and a gifted popularizer-ventures a refreshing thesis that joins the fondest dreams of the Bolsheviks to the full-circle collapse of the Soviet Empire. "Kirkus Reviews, starred review""

About the Author

Orlando Figes is the author of eight books on Russia that have been translated into twenty-seven languages; they include "The Whisperers," "A People's Tragedy," "Natasha's Dance," and "Just Send Me Word." A professor of history at Birkbeck, University of London and a frequent contributor to "The New York Review of Books," Figes is the recipient of the Wolfon History Prize, the W. H. Smith Literary Award, the NCR Book Award, and the" Los Angeles Times" Book Prize, among others.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1074 KB
  • Print Length: 428 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0141043679
  • Publisher: Pelican (1 May 2014)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00I9PVKLQ
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars 30 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #96,877 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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By F Henwood TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 31 May 2014
Format: Paperback
The first thing you might ask, looking at the title, is why does a history of the Russian revolution start in 1891 and end in 1991? Eighteen ninety-one saw a major famine - and the failure of the Tsarist autocracy to tackle it meant precipitated a crisis of authority from which it never recovered. Eighteen ninety-one was the first nail in the coffin of autocracy; but 1991 was the final nail in the coffin of the Soviet revolutionary experiment. Hence the span of a 100 years. The revolution did not begin and end in 1917. It had antecedents before that year, and consequences well beyond it, consequences that we still live with today.

The demise of the autocracy was all but guaranteed after 1891, though the triumph of the Bolsheviks in 1917 was not. The Bolshevik seizure of power was a coup against the background of a genuine social revolution (the Soviets were local workers' councils and not the Bolsheviks' invention). There is an interesting discussion on the continuities (and departures from) the first phase of the Bolshevik experiment in the 1920s and Stalin's `great break' of the 1930s. Was Stalin necessary? According to the author, he was not. The New Economic Policy might well have succeeded, and modernised Russia at far less human cost then Stalin's breakneck industrialisation.

Was Stalin an inevitable consequence of the system Lenin founded? Here is the answer seems to be a qualified `no.' There were marked discontinuities between the 1920s and 1930s (with the latter period socially far more conservative than the former) and the personalities of the two men were different. Lenin could be brutal but observed limits. Murdering fellow Bolsheviks for thinking differently was out of the question - Stalin decimated the old Bolsheviks.
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Format: Paperback
It was hard to rate this one. It is a great overview of the Russian Revolution and covers a full 100 years. But because of this large timespan the book is actually quite sparse of detail. This is especially true when compared to Figes' other books, which are full of detail and much bigger reads (and awesome). That being said, this is a good overview and covers the whole period from the famine in 1891 to the downfall of Communism and does help the reader to see the greater sweep of recent Russian history rather than an intense focus on one particular time period.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Did exactly what I wanted. It is no doubt too brief for the specialist or someone with some knowledge of the subject. Coming to the topic for the first time I found it an excellent overview and, with the extensive further reading list, provides plenty of scope for further detailed reading of specific areas.
This is the place to start.
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Format: Kindle Edition
This book was very good at giving an overview over the whole period of the existence and build up to the USSR. What it lacked in the very fine detail, it made up for with it's brilliant narrative and interspersing of quotes and figures.

A very highly reccommendable book!
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
A few issues with this book. Firstly, although Figes’ premise is that the revolution must be understood as a whole, from 1891 to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, he doesn't really follow up on this claim very well. Stalin's death occurs at the end of Chapter 16; the breakup of the Soviet Union is covered in chapter 19. 38 years of history are covered in just 44 pages; the preceding 62 years had 244. It feels like these are only tacked on to allow Figes to include the final chapter, a rather moralistic and handwringing look at the legacy of the USSR, mostly in terms of what Figes thinks should have happened but didn't (e.g., human rights trials, a “truth and reconciliation commission”), and the “disturbing” observation that most Russians don't think negatively of Communism.

This is, however, quite in fitting with the rest of the book. Figes' ideological bias is clear throughout, holding the USSR to outrageous double standards. For example, he complains that the USSR hadn't joined the League of Nations, preferring to act alone; a few pages later, he complains that it joins the League of Nations, in the face of the threat of fascism. He notes that the Western powers were unwilling to ally themselves with the USSR against Germany during the 30s (indeed, for all intents and purposes Britain and the USA found themselves on the same side as Germany in the Spanish Civil War); he further notes that the USSR was not in a position to fight Germany alone. Yet, then, he goes on to criticize Stalin for signing a nonaggression treaty with Germany, laying the blame for World War 2 not on Hitler, or on the Western democracies intent on appeasing Hitler, but (explicitly) on Stalin.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Anyone fascinated by the Soviet Union will receive a unique insight into the complex background machinations and intrigues that resulted in the Soviet Union's remarkable achievements and failures. If this were fiction you simply would not believe it. This is no dry history book but an easy to read and hard to put down book.
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Interesting and informative throughout. Unsympathetic. Some truths defy emotional loading, and it seems Mr Figes often gives a communist, particularly Leninist view in spite of himself but largely social democracy under!ies the history as a preferred alternative. Leaves one asking :is it true the suppression of native Americans killed more people than Stalin?
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