BOOK Ý A People's Tragedy The Russian Revolution 1891–1924 Ë Orlando Figes
A People's Tragedy The Russian Revolution 1891–1924Yed about the arrogance of the Tsarist regime and Lenin’s ‘pitiless contempt’ for the ordinary people in his pursuit of the Communist utopia He also reveals the clientelism and corruption of the Bolshevik system; despite claiming to represent the people the Bolsheviks were deeply suspicious of peasants and resorted to brute force in order to seize control of their crops and grain Yet fighting under the Red Flag – the symbol of ‘the people’ – gave the Red Army a decisive advantage and they defeated the remaining White Army troops in Siberia in 1922 Two years later Lenin died Confined to a wheelchair after several strokes he had lived his last few years effectively the prisoner of his successor Josef StalinBy the time the Revolution ended the death toll was in the region of ten million people – counting only the deaths from the Civil War famine disease and the Red Terror Russia had not become as Lenin had described it ‘the freest country in the world’ The reason for this Figes suggests was that centuries of serfdom and autocratic rule had left the common people unprepared to claim their place as citizens in a democratic society Instead they had become the servants of a new regime which in many ways resembled the old oneA PEOPLE’S TRAGEDY Winner of five international awards• The NCR Book Award• The Wolfson Prize• The W H Smith Literary Award• The LongmanHistory Today Book of the Year Award• The Los Angeles Times Book Award “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 participated and it was even haphazard by ‘culturally isolated’ intelligentsia that really shouldn’t have worked out It was ultimately “successful” due to the incompetent backward thinking tsarist regime and Whites Reform was completely rejected yet essential to the future of the Romanovs In the beginning the Bolsheviks had scant support but they did have discipline ruthlessness and a cause Plus the peasants thought they could keep the land they took from the gentry under the Bolsheviks but would have to return it under the Whites Not a successful strategy in a hugely peasant country The Whites were all about revenge and turning back time They also wanted to restore the empire and tamp down on nationalist and local language movements The Bolsheviks paid lip service to these concerns and it ultimately worked for them A middle class barely existed Additionally Figes points out that in newly industrialized Russia the “workers” were really just peasants trying to make some money after harvest And “soldiers” were mostly peasants conscripted against their will So to rule Russia after Nicholas abdicated ya needed to improve or at the least convincingly promise to improve the lot of the peasants In the end we know how it worked out for the peasants Lenin needed them so he told them what they wanted to hear They were not at all political More like locally communal anarchists trying to escape the state in any form If you have time for only one book on the Russian Revolution this is itTsarist regime“The tsarist regime’s downfall was not inevitable; but its own stupidity made it so” “ the obstinate refusal of the tsarist regime to concede reforms turned what should have been a political problem into a revolutionary crisis” Alexander’s counter reforms his and Nicolas’s reactionary philosophy “To a large extent the workers’ revolutionary movement was created by the tsarist regime”Alexander II did not prep Nicolas to rule which reminded me of Peter and Catherine with their unfortunate heirs Alexandra was not the ideal spouse She pushed him to be even recalcitrant Combined with Rasputin Nicolas had the worst nepotistic advisors until today’s White House Nicolas had a astrong sense of duty He was not passive He just sucked at his job Had a narrow perspective focused on details The provinces were under governed “Romanovs became victim of their own propaganda”“Romanov regime fell under the weight of its own internal contradictions” In some ways a revolution started at the top like the one under GorbachevTsarist state turned many into revolutionaries after overreacting to any call for greater freedoms “In a way he probably found it easier to abdicate than to turn himself into a constitutional king That was Nicholas’s tragedy”PeasantsThe peasants did not feel part of a nation They did not abide by government rules unless forced“all started by the peasant revolution on the land” before 1917Emancipation of serfs landed nobles not getting up to speed freed serfs getting screwed“The emphatic rejection of the Whites by the peasantry and the non Russians determined the outcome of the civil war”MilitaryDisastrous war with Japan in the midst of a domestic social revolution Replay during WWI and the army got really fed up no food no uniforms poor training and lousy leadership As they began to realize they were cannon fodder they were revolutionized If the Tsar had signed a separate peace with Germany who knows? The soldiers may have showed him a some form of allegiance Once many in the army became revolutionized the Tsar was for all intents and purposes finished Famine 1890sThe famine further radicalized people “The conflict between the people and the regime had been set in motion”UrbanizationWas distabalizing in its rapidity in a “backward” unprepared country Poorly educated workers could not “progress beyond the simplest abstract ideas” Theirs was a black white world OTOH the literacy rate was growing rapidly which allowed people access to written propagandaThe BolsheviksMostly comprized of the urban intelligentsia who latched on to European ideas and dogmatized them snuffing out debate They had a “passion for big ideas” which gave us Tolstoy and Dostoevsky and also Lenin and Trotsky “Guilt was the psychological inspiration of the revolution” They witnessed huge horrifying gaps in standards of living They simultainiously mythologized the peasants and were disgusted by them Marxism which was never really practiced in Russia was treated as a “science” thus further enrapturing the areligious intelligentsiaThe inhumane viciousness of the Tsarist police led directly to the same in the Bolsheviks The tortured terrified and oppressed became the torturers terrorists and oppressors How novel is that? Waterboarding anyone?“ it is surely true that the Bolsheviks were psychologically prepared for a civil war in a way that could not be said of its opponents One might compare it to the Spanish Civil War Franco’s side was ready – and eager – for a civil war; the same could hardly be said of the Republicans”“There were times when the Bolsheviks acted like a local mafia than the ruling party of the largest country in the world”“The key to this Communist utopia was control of the food supply without that the government had no means of controlling the economy and society The Bolsheviks were painfully aware of the fact that their regime lay at the mercy of a largely hostile peasantry”“The Bolshevik fear of the peasant was the great unresolved tension of the 1920s – one that led inexorably towards the tragedy of collectivization” The recruitment of peasants into communism was mostly aimed at the resentful sons of peasants who were unsatisfied with and embarrassed by the peasant life Self hating peasants then turned on their own A big part of collectivization was the get rid of these apolitical peasant fathers” See Turganev“Bolshevism was a very Russian thing Its belief in militant action its insistence contrary to the tenets of Marx and Hegel that a revolution could ‘jump over’ the contingencies of history placed it firmly in the Russian messianic tradition”“One could argue that the command system was itself an inevitable outcome of the contradiction of October – a proletarian dictatorship in a peasant country”Imagining they could remake mankind the Bolsheviks “believed that human nature could be changed simply by altering the social environment in which people lived Man cannot be transformed uite so easily human nature moves slowly than ruling ideologies or society This is perhaps the one enduring moral lesson of the Russian Revolution – as it is indeed of the terrible history of this 21st century” AmenIntelligentsia“” the single greatest difference between Russia and the West was that in Western Eusrope citizens were generally free to do as they pleased so long as their activities had not been specifically prohibited by the state while the people of Russia were not free to do anything unless the state gave them specific permission to do it”The February Revolution was “ like a peasant riot” The men of February intoxicated by their own self image as the heirs of 1789 were deluded into believing that they could resolve problems of 1917 by importing Western constitutional practices and policies for which their were no real precedents nor the necessary cultural base in Russia” “Apart from the state itself there was nothing holding Russia together”“ the whole of the civilization of the gentry had never been than a thin veneer laid over the top of the brutal exlpoitation of the peasants from which the revolution had emerged”Lenin“The October seizure of power few historical events in the modern era better illustrate the decisive effect of an individual on the course of history Without Lenin’s intervention it would probably never have happened at all – and the history of the 20th century would have been very different” Lenin usurped power for power’s sake He held workers and peasants in contempt It was mostly about his needs He was ready to “ditch” the Soviets when he couldn’t use them The Masses“The tragedy of the Russian Revolution was that the people were too weak politically to determine its outcome”During WWI on the home front no food no provisions no heat etc“Historians have tended to neglect the connections between this plebian war on privilege and the origins of the Red Terror “it had a strange mass appeal” “Loot the looters” take from those who still have anything worthwhile” “ the whole of the social revolution had been largely driven by petty localism”Even if the revolution didn’t improve the lives of Russians at least it wrecked the aristocracy Russians seem to thrive on schadenfreude Zloradstvo?“This low cultural level of the Soviet bureaucracy was to be a permanent legacy of October which wouldn later come to haunt Bolshevik leaders” They destroyed the former leaders got rid of skilled workers massacred the aristocracy and drained what had been a tiny middle class New bureaucrats military officers etc were untrained and uineducated You can still pick up on a crass rudeness in public Moscow today TodayI wonder if Putin knows about this reoccurring Russian oversight of not grooming an heir inevitably leading to disaster Or maybe there will be another revolution Kids born since Yeltsin can easily compare their lot to the those of their Western peers Plus it must suck living in a society where the rule of law is meaningless Causes high anxiety and hatredTrump is certainly no Lenin for starters Lenin read books but this antisocial narcissistic personality disorder tool of the Kremlin is “running” my nation’s capitol like no one before him Or after God willing And you just know Trump hates the unwashed masses who voted for him just as Lenin hated the peasants and didn’t care much for the workers either Trump needed the white disaffected voters in the middle of this country so he told them what they wanted to hear Let’s see how it works out for themIn the passage above about the Bolsheviks operating as a mafia substitute “Bolshevik” with Trumpistas” and “largest” with most “powerful” and then have a shot of whiskeyGuilt is still a dangerous motivator much less dangerous when used as a dissuader Guilt is related to shame which has gotten the Middle East into a lot of trouble To me guilt implies belittlement What began as privileged guilt in Russia before the Revolution resulted in disaster White guilt is doing us no good Westerners who feel guilty for the difficulties many predominantly Muslim countries are experiencing with modernity and how the people of those countries are reacting seem to be looking down upon them Like they can’t be expected to play nice and improve their lot cuz they’re not white Christians I call BS on all of it It goes hand in hand with victimhood Also not a good motivator Sad Our continued involvement making war and social engineering in countries who don't want us and whom we do not understand is a never ending disaster We have now very overtly taken sides with the Sunnis against the Shia WHAT ARE WE THINKING??? What's the plan here?In the Southern US among former Confederacy states we are slowly dealing with “The Cult of the Lost Cause” by removing monuments honoring those who fought for the breakup of my beloved country This is the best speech of the year Hat off to Mr Landrieu Mayor of the great city of New Orleans More speeches like this please I think of this when I wonder if Russia can come to terms with its past Would be a very healthy thing to do “Their revolutionary tragedy lay in the legacies of their own cultural backwardness rather than the evil of some ‘alien’ Bolsheviks They were not the victims of the revolution but protagonists in its tragedy” Putin plays on this sickness of Russian victimhood today to help keep up his poll numbers The West is out to get us Poor innocent Russia “The ghosts of 1917 have not been laid to rest”The book was very long and sometimes repetitive However when dealing with the Russian Revolution you're allowed to go on It's just so complicated
KINDLE A People's Tragedy The Russian Revolution 1891–1924
FREE EPUB Ó MOBI A People's Tragedy The Russian Revolution 1891–1924 õ ✓ ORLANDO FIGES Õ ❴BOOKS❵ ✭ A People's Tragedy The Russian Revolution 1891–1924 Author Orlando Figes – Danpashley.co.uk A PEOPLE'S TRAGEDYA new illustrated edition A PEOPLE'S TRAGEDYA new illustrated edition of the acclaimed history of the Russian Revolution 1891–1924The Russian Revolution was one of the most extraordinary events of the 20th century transforming a medieval autocracy into the world’s first ever experiment in mass socialism A People’s Tragedy is the definitive account combining a masterly overview of events with the personal stories of individuals their hopes and ordeals Translated into over 20 languages and winner of five international awards this is an unforgettable account of a pivotal era in historyThe epic history of the Russian RevolutionOn Sunday 9 January 1905 a crowd of 150000 workers and their families marched to the Winter Palace in St Petersburg to petition the Tsar for food and material assistance More than a decade of famine caused by failed crops and government indifference had brought the Russian people to their knees Instead of succour however they were met with gunfire With 200 killed and 800 wounded the day would live on in infamy as Bloody Sunday the first day of the Russian RevolutionIn his acclaimed narrative history Orlando Figes goes back to the 1890s to explore the grievances that set the people on a collision course with the Tsarist autocracy Nicholas II Russia’s last Tsar was opposed to any form of modernisation and the rosy view he held of ‘his’ people bore little resemblance to the wretched existence of the Russian peasantry Moreover his wife Alexandra was 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?
Orlando Figes Ë A People's Tragedy The Russian Revolution 1891–1924 MOBI
Mistrusted because of her German ancestry and her association with the disreputable healer Rasputin Following the fallout of Bloody Sunday a reluctant Tsar and his government established a parliament but the fledgling democracy was doomed ‘No package of political reforms could ever resolve the profound social divide’ in Russian society The hardship caused by the First World War was the final undoing of the Tsarist regime; a bread shortage in 1917 sparked the February RevolutionFiges brilliantly captures the terrible plight of the Russian people over the ensuing years as the Revolution was followed by civil war pogroms famine and persecutions led by the Cheka or secret police He captures the personalities of key figureheads such as Leon Trotsky – the great orator whose arrogance and Jewish background made him unpopular with his party – and Vladimir Ilyich Lenin the iron willed demagogue who ‘gave himself entirely to politics’ He also follows half a dozen other individuals whose lives were torn apart by the conflict They include the aristocratic General Brusilov a hero of the First World War who went over to the Red Army in 1920 and lived to regret it; the writer Maxim Gorky whose faith in his people was shattered by the hideous bloodshed of the Revolution; and the peasant writer Sergei Semenov who attempted to improve conditions in his village but was shot in the back by a jealous neighbour after years of intimidationFiges is eually clear e 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 reign of Nicholas II to the death of Lenin it is epic in its sweep The only reasons I could not find it in me to give it five stars are the following1 Orlando Figes has developed a reputation for controversy First he wrote reviews for Com under an assumed name Birkbeck in which he excoriated competing writers on Russian history blaming them at first on his wife Secondly in his most recent work he has been assailed for misrepresentations and gross inaccuracies Both of these events came after the 1997 publication of A People's Tragedy A History of the Russian Revolution which seemed to this unsophisticated reader as a work displaying an admirable sense of balance2 The last third of the book about the Civil War showed some exhaustion in its composition There were so many parties over and above the Reds and the Whites including the Komuch the Don Cossacks Makhno's Ukrainian partisans Petliura's partisans to name just a few Also there were at least a dozen occasions when Figes would suddenly conclude that the main reason the Whites lost was A or B or C down to Z All were convincing reasons but they led to a loss of focus in this section3 This is not something I usually complain about and it has nothing to do with Figes at all but Viking the publisher For some reason the number one was shown as a capital I Hence monstrosities such as the year I9I9 Also in the Italic font used the letter b and the letter h were indistinguishable Hence the word burzhooi Russian for bourgeois looks like burzbooi whenever it appearsIn the end I think that Figes has done an admirable job compacting than thirty years of turbulent history broken into four epochs Tsarism the February Revolution the October Revolution and the Civil War into merely 824 pages Also I think his conclusions are by and large on the markBut Russia's prospects as a democratic nation depend to a large extent on how far the Russians are able to confront their own recent history; and this must entail the recognition that however much the people were oppressed by it the Soviet system grew up in Russian soil It was the weakness of Russia's democatic culture which enabled Bolshevism to take root This was the legacy of Russian history of centuries of serfdom and autocratic rule that had kept the common people powerless and passive 'And the people remained silent' was a Russian proverb and it describes much of Russian history To be sure this was a people's tragedy but it was a tragedy which they helped to make The Russian people were trapped by the tyranny of their own historyAh well I guess the book deserves four and a half stars It kept me on the edge of my toes for eleven long days of reading the book