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10 thoughts on “A People's Tragedy The Russian Revolution 1891–1924

  1. says:

    While I was halfway through this an ‘inspirational uote’ from Lenin happened to come up on my reddit feed Something from one of those early speeches about euality for all I left a comment to suggest – I thought uite mildly – that it was perhaps ethically uestionable to be uoting with approbation someone responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people – only to be downvoted into oblivion by other users ‘You're pro

  2. says:

    If you thought the Season 5 finale of Game of Thrones was brutal Orlando Figes wants to educate you You don’t pick up a book like A People’s Tragedy with the notion that it’s going to be filled with newborn puppies i

  3. says:

    ‭A people's tragedy The Russian Revolution 1891 1924 Orlando FigesA People's Tragedy The Russian Revolution 1891–1924 is an award winning book written by British historian Orlando Figes and published in 1996 According to Figes the whole of 1917 could be seen as a political battle between those who saw the revolution as a means of bringing the war to an end and those who saw the war as a means of bringing the revolution to an endتار

  4. says:

    Recent memory modern memory and then history We are all living in recent memory The oldest generation is the eye witness to modern memory When it passes on we will begin to receive the history from the events and people of that gen

  5. says:

    First Figes briskly deals with all those things you thought you knew about the Russian Revolution Lenin Stalin Trotsky Kerensky the liberals the Bolsheviks the Tsar Again and again I realized I had picked up myths either promoted by

  6. says:

    This is at one and the same time a very long book and a fascinating one As a exhaustive study of Russian history from the

  7. says:

    In this work Figes makes two arguments that are not fully apparent until the conclusion First the Russian people were not b

  8. says:

    “The Russian Revolution launched a vast experiment in social engineering – perhaps the grandest in the history of mankind It was arguably an experiment which the human race was bound to make at some point in its evolution the logical conclusion of humanity’s historic striving for social justice and comradeship”Figes writes about the Russian Revolution as of a coup in both February and October the second time only Bolsheviks particip

  9. says:

    Orlando Figes' masterful A People's Tragedy The Russian Revolution 1891 1924 provides a rich and complex portrait that of Russian society at the time of the fall of the Romanov dynasty and the birth of the Commun

  10. says:

    This is a remarkable book on the Russian Revolution It’s coverage from 1891 thru 1924 is detailed but very readable We are presented with a wide panoply of characters; Tsar Nicholas II Lenin Prince Lvov Kerensky Gorky and many This gives a distinctive personal feeling where history is populated by real people and provides us with a ground view of the turbulent events of Russia It’s a brutal historySadly there were periods d

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Download ï eBook, PDF or Kindle ePUB ¼ Orlando Figes

A People's Tragedy The Russian Revolution 1891–1924

N a human scale while providing a convincing and detailed understanding of the role of workers peasants and soldiers in the revolution He moves deftly from topics such as the grand social forces and mass movements that made up the revolution to profiles of key personalities and representative characters Figes's themes of the Russian revolution as a tragedy for the Russian people as a whole and for the millions of individuals who lost their lives to the brutal forces it unleashed make sense of events. First Figes briskly deals with all those things you thought you knew about the Russian Revolution Lenin Stalin Trotsky Kerensky the liberals the Bolsheviks the Tsar Again and again I realized I had picked up myths either promoted by those who lost or those who consolidated the Revolution The mythmaking machine was going full tilt from 1917 onwards particularly during the Stalinist and Cold War Years and this book would be irreplaceable if only for stripping away so much that you thought you knew which was wrongSecond by starting the book in 1891 with a famine which revealed the incompetence of the Tsarist beaurocracy and ending with the death of Lenin in 1924 Figes permits himself a sweep of events that makes what actually happened even dramatic than it was Again and again you not only read about but hear from the survivors of mistakes errors misconceptions indolence arrogance foolishness well meaning idiocy in a way that as a human being is than heartbreaking Again and again the Revolution might never have happened a democracy might have developed steps taken could have been taken back but they weren t Instead one of the great mass tragedies of history occurred and you feel like a helpless bystander watching it happenThis is remarkable history and it is an extraordinary achievement It is bound to upset those with fixed ideologies on both the left and the right If you ever read only one book on the Russian Revolution make it this oneThe Communists are given heavy treatment in this text Not only do we see how they came to power we get huge doses of their philosophy Figes gives a detailed examination of the intellectual currents that gave rise to the Communist movement as well as their actions once they attained power What emerges is a bleak picture Communism is death to all it touches The Bolsheviks sought to not only rule by dictatorship but to change the very essence of man into an automaton subservient to the state Figes shows the reader the Red Terror and some of the other methods the Bolsheviks used to try and bring about this subservience It is a horrifying picture made worse of course under the rule of StalinFiges maintains a fairly neutral perspective throughout the book an apologist to neither the Tsar nor the Communists though harboring a noticeable preference and remorse for the incompetent Provisional Government When he does show some bias he is never overbearing and the few opinions that he expresses do not detract in any way from the materialThe Tsar is portrayed as an incompetent and stubborn fool which I have come away thinking is a fair assessment Figes gives ample evidence for his conclusions describing the failure of Nicholas to effectively rule over an inefficient and contradictory governmentI found the treatment of the Bolsheviks to be relatively sympathetic and the book does not suffer because of it They are depicted as a ruthless and especially fortunate revolutionary faction a group ready to use any means necessary to obtain power but in the end given a gift with the success of their unlikely coup Some readers may find this insufficiently damning but while I would have liked a little about how the nature of the revolution affected later developments the abominable governance which followed is not Figes s topic

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For a new generation of students of Russian history Sympathy for the charismatic leaders and ideological theorizing regarding Hegelian dialectics and Marxist economics two hallmarks of much earlier writing on the Russian revolution are banished from these clear eyed fair minded pages of A People's Tragedy The author's sympathy is suarely with the Russian people That commitment together with the benefit of historical hindsight provides a standpoint Figes take full advantage of in this masterful histor. In this work Figes makes two arguments that are not fully apparent until the conclusion First the Russian people were not betrayed by the Revolution Instead the devolution of the Revolution was in Figes s view the result of the inability of the Russian people to come to terms with democratic institutions He finds that the period between 1905 1914 represented Russia s liberal democratic revolution but it did not produce the reforms necessary to instill confidence in the Russian people Indeed the Bolsheviks were a veritable product of the Russian messianic tradition Second it was not the leaders of the Revolution who were necessarily at fault Figes admits that Lenin Trotsky Stalin Kerensky and numerous others arrived in 1917 with truly high minded noble goals Instead Figes argues that the goals of revolutionary leaders were outright unattainable and were doomed to failPerhaps Figes is right but I disagree with him on both accounts To me the first argument reeks of Western chauvinism with the implication that we Westerners could properly democratize due to our democratic heritage ignoring Germany s failures with democracy before 1945 and utter success after the development of fascism and authoritarianism in Spain and Italy France s difficult relationship with liberal democracy etc On his second point no pathway was a fait accompli for the Revolution Instead there were numerous decisions made some of which would have led to greater democratization some to authoritarianism than we saw even in the Stalinist period Perhaps the ideals of the Revolution were too great to be implemented in reality but Revolutionaries could have adopted policies that brought the Russian state closer to their ideals without abandoning them outright I think that the Russian Revolution was necessary and that it was not innately bad but I think Figes downplays the decisions that were made in his conclusion The last paragraph of the book however seems almost prophetic being written even before Putin took powerPerhaps even worrying authoritarian nationalism has begun to fill the vacuum left by the collapse of Communism and in a way has reinvented it not just in the sense that today s nationalists are for the most part reformed Communists but also in the sense that their violent rhetoric with its calls for discipline and order its angry condemnation of the ineualities produced by the growth of capitalism and its xenophobic reject of the West is itself adapted from the Bolshevik tradition The ghosts of 1917 have not been laid to restToday as we are well aware nationalism is the guiding ideology of the modern Russian state and it is rather authoritarian This fits further in Figes s view that Russians have not learned to be good liberals but I think it says about global patterns than something specifically Russian Although former Soviet states held the vanguard of resurgent nationalism it is now a global phenomenon ranging from Poland s Law and Justice to Turkey s AKP and India s BJP Even the American GOP and British Conservative Party have in many ways turned to authoritarian nationalism Yet there is nothing inevitable about this turn I find it uneuivocally bad but it is as we should be well aware not intrinsic to the Russian people

Download ï eBook, PDF or Kindle ePUB ¼ Orlando Figes

Written in a narrative style that captures both the scope and detail of the Russian revolution Orlando Figes's history is certain to become one of the most important contemporary studies of Russia as it was at the beginning of the 20th century With an almost cinematic eye Figes captures the broad movements of war and revolution never losing sight of the individuals whose lives make up his subject He makes use of personal papers and personal histories to illustrate the effects the revolution wrought o. While I was halfway through this an inspirational uote from Lenin happened to come up on my reddit feed Something from one of those early speeches about euality for all I left a comment to suggest I thought uite mildly that it was perhaps ethically uestionable to be uoting with approbation someone responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people only to be downvoted into oblivion by other users You re probably thinking about Stalin said one Fuck off clarified another Lenin was actually very socially liberal and kept his word about democracy for the people This would be the same Lenin who shut down Russia s constituent assembly who sidelined trade unions and had striking workers shot for desertion who turned the country into a police state built a chain of concentration camps and institutionalised terrorism as a matter of deliberate policy Painful to see him held up as a beacon of humanitarianism by people who apparently haven t even understood Animal Farm It s interesting though because even when I was growing up the far left was always uite cool in a way that the far right never was its unelectability made it harmless and it gained a certain cachet from its opposition to a string of unpopular Tory governments and by association with various cult figures like Morrissey or Alexi Sayle It was always kind of a joke People referred to each other with smiles as fellow travellers old Trots and still doThere was a feeling I had when I was reading this book an uncomfortable itchy feeling which made me fidget while I was reading shift in my seat and scratch my nose or my neck every few minutes as I turned the pages Eventually I realised what this sensation was hatred I just loathed the people responsible for prosecuting this grotesue experiment Now I realise this is of course a pathetically inadeuate response but partly it came from a kind of surprise A feeling that they had somehow got away with it that their reputations are nowhere near as dismal as they should be At one point Orlando Figes offers in passing a suggestion as to why this might be soThe Bolshevik programme was based on the ideals of the Enlightenment it stemmed from Kant as much as from Marx which makes Western liberals even in this age of post modernism sympathise with it or at least obliges us to try and understand it even if we do not share its political goals whereas the Nazi efforts to improve mankind whether through eugenics or genocide spat in the face of the Enlightenment and can only fill us with revulsionAnd perhaps there s something in this inasmuch as reality has in Stephen Colbert s words a liberal bias inasmuch as we are living historically speaking in a leftist world there is a sense in which the Communist experiment seems like something that went wrong not something that was wrong inherently But the enormities of Lenin s politics were built in ab initio terror Figes writes was implicit in the regime from the startthe resort to rule by terror was bound to follow from Lenin s violent seizure of power and his rejection of democracy And despite all the slogans of euality and democracy the turnaround was much faster than I had ever realisedNone of the democratic organisations established before October 1917 survived than a few years of Bolshevik rule at least not in their democratic form By 1921 if not earlier the revolution had come full circle and a new autocracy had been imposed on Russia which in many ways resembled the old oneThe thousand pages of Figes s history give plenty of scope for examining in detail what this meant for Russian citizens It isn t pretty but it is instructive There was the Civil War with widespread terror on both sides famine exacerbated by shitty agricultural policy and eventually the tightening grip of a one party state There are moments of acute revulsion and misery alongside a recurring sense of absurdity at one point currency depreciation becomes so severe that it costs to print the rouble than the rouble is actually worth the post and telegraph service have to be made free because the state is losing money by printing and charging rouble notes for them The situation was surreal but then this was Russia Figes remarks showing a grasp of the irony which this story demandsWhole books have been written of course about the failure of the left outside Russia to accept the reality of what was happening there under Communism or to blame it on a perversion of noble principles What s so rewarding and upsetting and moving about this book is that it illustrates how naturally the conseuences followed from the initial conditions and how unimportant the political debate is compared with its effects on real people There as the title of the book suggests Figes s summary is bluntInstead of being a constructive cultural force the revolution had virtually destroyed the whole of Russian civilisation instead of human liberation it had merely brought human enslavement and instead of the spiritual improvement of humanity it had led to degradationWhat makes it worse is that this whole catalogue of misery is in some sense being positioned only as a prelude Looming up over the narrative is the lengthening shadow of the Georgian Ioseb Jughashvili alias Stalin and where this book ends his story is just beginningAlthough this was written twenty years ago in some ways it s become relevant than ever and not just because next year marks the revolution s centenary In an impassioned final chapter Figes calls for urgent reevaluation of the political capitalism of the West pointing out that extremist rhetoric of the sort that fuelled the Bolshevik party is periodically going to prove popular as long as the mass of the ordinary people remain alienated from the political system and feel themselves excluded from the benefits of the emergent capitalism Perhaps even worrying he adds authoritarian nationalism has begun to fill the void Is this sounding familiar to anybody

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  • A People's Tragedy The Russian Revolution 1891–1924
  • Orlando Figes
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  • 04 February 2017
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About the Author: Orlando Figes

Orlando Figes is a British historian of Russia and a professor of history at Birkbeck University of London