The Russian Revolution

THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION is the culmination of forty years of research by noted historian Richard Pipes. This particular volume is really the second installment of Pipes’s penetrating look at Russian history. RUSSIA UNDER THE OLD REGIME (1974) was his first illuminating study; he will be adding a third volume, which will cover the Russian Civil War and trace the newly formed Soviet state into the 1920’s. This present volume is, without a doubt, the most comprehensive historical study of the Revolution. Pipes has left no stone unturned in his quest for the complete story.

As a true historian, Pipes builds his story gradually. He definitely has his prejudices and he is most certainly not a cheerleader for Bolsheviks, but he proves his case through painstakingly precise research. He begins by describing the Russian state under Czar Nicholas II. There were many strains on the old guard. Some could have been overcome, but World War I struck at the heart of Mother Russia, and it could not recover. The turmoil that existed within the country burst forth in the 1917 Revolution. A new democratic form of government came to power after the overthrow of the Romanov dynasty. Pipes details how this new government was doomed to failure. The intellectuals of this new government were unable to run a country, and in the wake of their failure, the more ruthless and organized Bolshevik Party seized power. Pipes leaves no doubt how brutal and authoritarian the Bolsheviks really were. He indicts the inspirational leader, Vladimir Lenin, as the instigator of the terror that was to become the backbone of the Communist government.

Indeed, THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION brings Lenin down from his saintly pedestal and points to his culpability for many of the crimes committed later by Joseph Stalin. There will probably be disagreements among scholars on this point, but no one can argue with the sheer magnitude of Pipes’s accomplishment in piecing this tale so convincingly together. THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION will most likely stand for some time to come as the definitive study of one of the truly towering events of the twentieth century.