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A People's Tragedy: The Russian Revolution: 1891-1924 Paperback – March 1, 1998
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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 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 squarely with the Russian people. That commitment, together with the benefit of historical hindsight, provides a standpoint Figes take full advantage of in this masterful history. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
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 wrong.
Second, 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 more 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 more 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.Read more ›
He is not starry-eyed about any of the participants. He is very clear about how the monarchy failed to reform in time, failed to listen to good advice, and basically brought about its own downfall. He also describes how the Tsarist secret police was just as nasty as its Bolshevik equivalent. All of Russia's totalitarian machinery was in place long before the revolution.
He also describes how Russia's peasant culture usurped the Marxist ideals of the revolutionaries. This was a crude egalitarian culture, that punished people who became rich, by stealing or confiscating their property, that tolerated drunken layabouts, and that was generally happy to see no improvement in its standard of living over the course of the 19th century. These Russian peasants deeply distrusted the Bolshevik Jews, especially those who came from the cities to "educate" them.
The accounts of the revolution are breathtaking, and all those famous events, like the Cruiser Avrora, are put in their place, as well as descriptions of how the military was mobilised to the side of the Bolsheviks. Figes' history of the First World War, and how it fit into the revolution, was also first-rate.
So I would recommend this as a starter to anyone looking to get a grasp of the detailed history of the Bolshevik revolution.Read more ›
While the length and subject matter of this book is somewhat daunting, Figes presents this history in a highly readable fashion without skimping on fascinating detail. Part of how he does this is by interspersing historical detail with personal histories of both famous and everyday Russians. Figes foes beyond just describing the key events but analyzes why they happened and how it impacted the Russian people at all levels of society. Importanty, Figes also stresses how the history of Russia formed its people and how these people formed the Revolution and the resulting disaster of Bolshevism. He goes into great detail concerning the other key political groups of this era. Figes scope and knowledge of his subject matter is amazing. I feel much wiser for having spent a couple weeks plowing through this important tome.
I would say if you read only one book on the Russian Revolution, this is the one. However, this is the only book I have read on the subject. So, with that qualification, I will say that--in my opinion--this is a darn good book for someone looking to better understand one of the most important events of the twentieth century.
Figes goes against the grain with this book. In opposition to such scholars as Richard Pipes (author of another huge tome I own but have yet to read), Figes believes that the Russian Revolution was in fact a "bottom up" revolution. Figes proves that the peasantry in Russia were sick to high heaven of a system that degraded them to a status of barely human. To the peasant, the most important thing was land and freedom from the state. All government forms, from the tsarist state to the Bolsheviks, were judged by how much autonomy the peasants earned under them. Figes actually seems to measure the success and failure of each government according to how the peasants received them. Not surprisingly, the tsarist system was a dismal failure. It's easy to be a Monday morning quarterback with history, but the tsarist regime was pathetic. The list of the problems confronting Tsar Nicholas is too numerous to list here, but what is important to note is that this regime failed them all. Land reforms were desperately wanted, but the Tsar denied them. Nationalism in the peripheral states around Russia was not only denied, but a program of Russification was instituted that caused more problems than were necessary. The list could go on and on. The problem was power.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Really quite good. It is particularly good at exploring the motivations of the peasants and the so unlikely triumph of the Bolsheviks. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Amazon Customer
In Over 1,000 pages Mr. Figes never thinks to ask how a "people's revolution" scores twenty million dollars from a Jewish banker, one Mr. Read morePublished 5 months ago by emmett mckenna
This gives you a very nice and clear narrative on the events leading up to the Russian Revolution, as well as information on all the different people who were involved. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Legend86
Figes has brought the Russian revolution (actually several revolutions) to us in exquisite detail. In "A Peoples Tragedy" we learn the causes of the revolution as well as... Read morePublished 5 months ago by Bill Babbitt
I have not studied the Russian revolution and its surrounding events in depth, and have found 'A People's Tragedy' very enlightening and detailed. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Michael B
an excellent book but I have to warn you. The photos are quite horrific. Specifically I remember a photo of cannibals selling human body parts. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Gryphon50
If you want the definitive one-volume take on Lenin's revolution and all that it entailed, this is your book. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Robert J. Crawford