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The Bolsheviks: The Intellectual and Political History of the Triumph of Communism in Russia [Paperback]

Adam B. Ulam
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

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Book Description

May 1, 1998 0674078306 978-0674078307
The rise of the Bolsheviks is an epic Russian story that now has a definitive end. The major historian of the subject, Adam Ulam, has enlarged his classic work with a new Preface that puts the revolutionary moment, and especially Lenin, in perspective for our modern age.

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The Bolsheviks: The Intellectual and Political History of the Triumph of Communism in Russia + Bukharin and the Bolshevik Revolution: A Political Biography, 1888-1938
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Editorial Reviews Review

Although titled in the collective, Adam Ulam's masterful study of the Communists' rise to power in Russia, first published in 1965, focuses predominantly on one man, Lenin. As the historical evidence assembled by Ulam demonstrates, this is only proper; the story of the advance of the Bolsheviks is deeply interwoven with the story of Lenin. The only comparable analogues in this century, perhaps, are Gandhi's relationship to the Indian independence movement and Martin Luther King Jr.'s connection to the civil rights movement, but even these examples lack the direct link between activism and authority that Lenin achieved.

The Bolsheviks is an intellectual biography of the highest sort. Whenever there is an opportunity to ask probing questions that would clarify Lenin's position and motivations in the reader's mind, Ulam gets the answers. His language is both undaunting and precise; one comes away from this book having achieved a substantial understanding of early Soviet history without ever having felt plunged in over one's head.


From reviews of the first edition:

Notwithstanding the title...this is the most rewarding single study of Lenin that I have yet encountered...The really impressive feature of Ulam's book is that he is thinking hard all the way. No comfortable historical generalization or biographical cliché escapes his critical attention, and he has a most satisfying way of asking, in effect--is this an adequate explanation; what else may be involved? In these days of rampant 'be-that-as-it-may' writing, Ulam's intellectual seriousness is a great relief and pleasure.

(Henry L. Roberts New York Times)

This biography of so good that it is not merely superior in degree to any other life of Lenin, but different in kind. The conjunction of scholar and artist is the rarest thing. We used to be told that it was worth learning Italian to read Dante. Here is a new one: it is worth developing an interest in Lenin to read Adam Ulam. (The Observer [UK])

Product Details

  • Paperback: 628 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press (May 1, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674078306
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674078307
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 5.8 x 8.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,333,383 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good biography of Lenin February 9, 2000
Anyone interested in a good biography of Lenin written from a non-Communist slant should pick this up. Its amazing that this book, written in the '60s, required no revisions upon being re-published in 1998.
This book is a critical look at the life and career of V.I. Lenin. It is not entirely one-sided, however, and the author generally does a good job of putting events in their proper perspective. Those considering buying the more well-known Lenin biography written by Dimitri Volkogonov would do well to read this instead. It is far superior in every respect.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Detailed history of Lenin and the Bolsheviks March 25, 2000
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I read this book for a class to get an understanding of Lenin's influence on the Russian Revolution. This book is very detailed and not for someone who doesn't understand what the Bolsheviks were rebelling against. Little background is given on the Tsar's reign and the problems associated with autocratic rule. The story is never presented from the Tsar's side. What the reader does receive is a detailed account of Lenin's private and political life. Lenin was full of contradictions and paradoxes that were reflected in Communism. It was almost as though his influence was so powerful that the political culture reflected his egnimatic personality. In addition to being a fine intellectual biography of the man, Ulam's text details all the political movements that competed with Lenin in addition to highlighting the beginnings of the Stalin era.
Ulam writes well and is interesting to read. As a lay reader I found all the details sometimes overwhelming, and I had to do additional research to understand the issues that the Bolsheviks were responding to. As a non-scholar, I found this book readable and memorable.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars First the Decembrists... August 7, 2004
There are many more recent books on this subject but rereading this one was interesting for the way it properly places the beginning of the subject in the nineteenth century beginning with the mutiny of the Decembrists in the 1820's. The history of Russian Communism told in a void is misleading in some ways. The whole tragedy begins with the extreme reaction of the Russian system (before and)after the repression of the Decembrists and the poisoning of the faintest indications of emerging liberal culture. This forced the issue from the beginning and virtually manufactured the extreme explosion that finally came. All this also puts the Bolshevik era in direct descent from the era of the French Revolution and the period of the Restoration in the era of the abortive birth of the bourgeois culture. All of a piece. The rest follows.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent detailed history January 15, 2006
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Very readable, fun, interesting history. It has a lot of good background, a lot of detail on political history of the Social Democrat party. Very insightful. If your interest is in the party as it led up to revolution, this is a great book to start with and the footnotes will help you find others to follow up with. It is 500 pages of the background of the party leaders, Lenin as central of course but with insight into the early party workings; it is not a private personal book about Lenin or a history of the Bolsheviks once in power, but for pre-power Bolshevism, its a great start.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars really just a biography of Lenin July 28, 2009
Amazon's page says this is from 1998. That was just a reprint. The original is from 1965.

And it's mistitled. It's not so much a history of the movement so much as it is a biography of Lenin, but on that score it is superb.
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