What caused the Russian Revolution?
Did it succeed or fail?
Do we still live with its consequences?
Orlando Figes teaches history at Birkbeck, University of London and is the author of many acclaimed books on Russian history, including A People's Tragedy, which The Times Literary Supplement named as one of the '100 most influential books since the war', Natasha's Dance, The Whisperers, Crimea and Just Send Me Word. The Financial Times called him 'the greatest storyteller of modern Russian historians.'
Figes (A People's Tragedy) covers familiar terrain in his new account of Russia and its revolution with a sharp and confident analysis. He presents a centurylong revolution stretching from 1891 to 1991, and divides it into three phases: the rise of the Bolsheviks, Stalin's rule, and the repercussions of Khruschev's denouncement of Stalin. Figes works to dispel the mythology that still surrounds Lenin, Stalin, and the Revolution, plenty of which still survives in the West even after the Cold War. He reminds us that Lenin "was a stranger to Russia," having spent most of the preceding 17 years outside the country, and that the Bolshevik storming of the Winter Palace was more like a house arrest, a coup d' tat that few observers, including some Bolsheviks, thought could last. Analyzing Stalin's leadership, Figes notes that even though intelligence reports suggested the Germans were massing for an attack in 1941, Stalin ignored the signs and, due to fears inspired by his Great Terror, his military commanders refused to contradict him. Figes strips away the propaganda and nostalgia to emphasize the Revolution's destructive powers, a perspective that is all the more relevant as Vladimir Putin seeks to capitalize on many Russians' hunger for the so-called glory days of the Soviet Union.