Drawing on recent archival scholarship, Russia in Revolution pays particular attention to the varying impact of the Revolution on different social groups: peasants, workers, non-Russian nationals, the army, women, young people, and the Church. The book provides a fresh approach toward the big, perennial questions about the Revolution and its consequences: why the tsarist government's attempt to implement political reform after the 1905 Revolution failed; why the First World War brought about the collapse of the tsarist system; why the attempt to create a democratic system after the February Revolution of 1917 never got off the ground; why the Bolsheviks succeeded in seizing power; and why Stalin came out on top in the power struggle inside the Bolshevik party after Lenin's death in 1924.
A final chapter reflects on the larger significance of 1917 for the history of the twentieth century - and, for all its terrible flaws, what the promise of the Revolution might mean for us today.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2017-01-16
- Reviewer: Staff
Smith (Revolution and the People in Russia and China), a fellow of All Souls College, Oxford, draws on new archival sources in this stirring account of the social, economic, and political crises that convulsed Russia and its empire between the fall of the czarist aristocracy and the violent collectivization unleashed by Stalin. Intended for readers new to the subject, the book provides a sophisticated introduction to the major events of the crisis period, emphasizing the continuities between the czarist regime and its Bolshevik successor while reflecting on the role of revolutions in world history. Smiths skill as a historian is on clear display: sections on gender, popular culture, and the lived experience of the Soviet welfare state shift the emphasis away from political events to their effects on ordinary people, a welcome counterpoint to accounts of Russian history that focus on elites while ignoring the bulk of the rural population. Smith makes a convincing case for the relevance of Russian history to debates on the nature of power and the possibility of social transformation, arguing that while contingent historical factors created the revolution, its lessons are universal. Observers of Russian politics and students of history will welcome this scrupulously researched, eminently readable account of events that shook the world. Maps. (Apr.)