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Three "Whys" of the Russian Revolution [Paperback]

Richard Pipes
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)

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Book Description

May 27, 1997 067977646X 978-0679776468 1st Vintage Books ed
America's foremost authority on Russian communism--the author of the definitive studies The Russian Revolution and Russia Under the Bolshevik Regime--now addresses the enigmas of that country's 70-year enthrallment with communism. Succinct, lucidly argued, and lively in its detail, this book offers a brilliant summation of the life's work of a master historian.

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Editorial Reviews

From Kirkus Reviews

For those without the energy or leisure to digest Pipes's magisterial history of revolutionary Russia (Russia Under the Bolshevik Regime, 1994; The Russian Revolution, 1990), the author has distilled his arguments concerning several key questions: Why did tsarism fall? Why did the Bolsheviks triumph? Why did Stalin succeed Lenin? The book, based on lectures given at the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna, has a nicely colloquial feel, clarity, and vigor. At the heart of the answers to the first two questions is Pipes's assertion that, far from being the product of large, impersonal forces of history, the fall of the tsar and the rise to power of the Bolsheviks (in, he reminds us, a coup d'‚tat largely unsupported by the Russian people) were the result of the old regime's clear failings and Lenin's genius for manipulation and appetite for total power. Stalin succeeded Lenin, Pipes asserts, because Lenin had so successfully suppressed all elements of democracy that no alternatives were possible. There's little new here, but the volume does offer a concise and eminently straightforward summary of current research on the rise and nature of Communism in Russia. -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.


It is my considered judgement that, had it not been for the Russian Revolution, there would very likely have been no National Socialism; probably no Second World War and no decolonization; and certainly no Cold War, which one dominated our lives. I will attempt here to distill the essence of my books The Russian Revolution and Russia Under the Bolshevik Regime by raising the three central questions addressed in those volumes: Why did tsarism fall? Why did the Bolsheviks gain power? Why did Stalin succeed Lenin?' Richard Popes, from Three Whys of the Russian Revolution. Arguably the most important event of the twentieth century, the Russian Revolution changed for ever the course of modern history. Due to the Soviet clampdown on archives regarding the Revolution, many aspects of the event have been shrouded in mystery for over seventy years. However, since the collapse of Communism the archival depositories havebeen thrown open to interested parties. The author of several groundbreaking and controversial works on Russian history, Richard Pipes has written an invaluable book for anyone who wishes to understand the complicated events taking place in Russia today. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 96 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; 1st Vintage Books ed edition (May 27, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 067977646X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679776468
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.2 x 0.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #224,150 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A revolutionary rethink August 24, 2002
As well as completely changing the political and geographical structure of Europe, the demise of the Soviet Union has significantly altered the approach of historical scholarship about the Russian Revolution.
In Three Whys of the Russian Revolution, the eminent scholar of Russian history, Richard Pipes, confronts the challenge of assessing the causes and course of the Russian Revolutions from a post-Cold War perspective.
Pipes explains that for 70 years prior to the 1990's, historians in the West adopted a "revisionist" perspective of the Russian Revolutions that was largely influenced by Communist scholarship. The events of 1917, these Communist scholars concluded, were nothing but revolutionary activity.
Western scholarship's acceptance of this conclusion stems, Pipes explains, from a lack of source material, much of which was deemed classified by the Soviet regime.
But access to this information is now open, and Pipes, among others, has utilized this opportunity in an attempt to re-evaluate the Revolutions, with the product being two extensive works (on which these essays are based). Not surprisingly, his understanding of the events of 1917 has changed somewhat, and thus the three essays in the book are a continued attempt to debunk much of the "revisionist" perspective with less radical conclusions.
Among the notions that Pipes challenges is the very insistence by the "revisionists" that the Revolutions were in fact revolutions.
As the author clearly outlines, the events of 1917 were actually the work of a small group of intellectuals headed by the idealist Lenin. His overthrow of the Czarist regime is argued by Pipes as being a coup d'etat which involved the people as a whole in only a small degree.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A very intriguing book January 5, 2000
This book explored three very important questions regarding the Russian Revolution: Why Tsarism fell, why the Bolsheviks gained power, and why Stalin succeeded Lenin. However, Pipes does not limit himself to giving simple solutions to these questions (which was a very good thing). He examines the events through different perspectives and, in effect, teaches the reader many interesting things that are not common knowledge concerning the Revolution. It was very well written and structured, and overall it was a great book. It is often difficult to read an historical book, but Pipes makes it easy.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good, Brief Intro to Russian Revolution May 30, 2002
Yes, Professor Pipes argues some conservative points, but this book is a very useful antidote to other histories written by persons with left-wing axes to grind. Pipes at least is open and honest about his background and perspective, and based upon his other works which I have read he has conducted careful, extensive scholarship. In his other more detailed books--The Russian Revolution and Russia Under the Bolshevik Regime--he provides further evidence for judgments provided in this volume, and narrative history of the Russian Revolution and its immediate aftermath.
One part of this book which I found particularly interesting was the discussion of why Stalin came to power. Pipes argues that, rather than being a deviation from the natural course of Bolshevism, Stalinism was a logical outcome, and Stalin implemented some, though not all, of Lenin's goals. Pipes also shows how Stalin achieved and consolidated his power through his skill at administration, and his ability to insert his supporters into key positions.
The Three Why's is written in a lively style without jargon. In addition to describing the collapse of the Tsarist regime, the Bolshevik seizure of power and Stalin's rise, it includes a general review of the historiography of the Russian Revolution, and a few brief observations on events during the breakup of the Soviet Union.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
When was the Russian Revolution? The conventional answer would be October 1917. After all, people associate Lenin with the October Revolution, don't they? Well, Mr. Pipes (amongst an increasing group of others) would stop you right there. Upon the tsar's abdication Russia's first free elections (promised since that February) were held November 12, 1917. This was but days after Lenin's Bolsheviks supposedly "rode to power on a wave of popular support," yet Lenin's ilk only received enought votes to garner 175 seats out of 707! The Bolshevik takeover was more akin to a putsch, consequently. Trotsky himself wrote (in his memoirs) "that 25,000 or 30,000 people, at most, took part in the events of October in Petrograd"; this in a city of 2 million. It was largely bloodless and basically upended the hopelessly incompetent Provisional Government in the dead of one night in favor of the Petersburg Council---or "Soviet," to utilize the Russian word for council. And it was through this organ of competing power that Lenin was able to forestall Russian military units from marching in to St. Petersburg to resist him. In January when Russia's first Constituent Assemby opened Lenin immediately proposed a motion that would have prevented the duly elected Assembly from wielding any real power over the Petersburg Soviet, or any of the other Soviets in other cities. Lenin's Bolsheviks were handedly defeated in this, however; which marked the end of democracy in Russia. The next day Bolshevik Red Guards closed down the Assembly and it was never permitted to sit again. How Lenin was able to engineer this is the subject of the second part of this tri-part (extremely concise & worthy) mini-book of 84 pages. Pipes shows, in addition, how nothing of this was at all inevitable. Read more ›
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Gives the reader some interesting insights into the era surrounding...
In this fascinating book, world-renowned Russian history expert Professor Richard Pipes answers "Whys" of the Russian Revolution: 1) Why did Tsarism Fall? Read more
Published 15 months ago by Kurt A. Johnson
5.0 out of 5 stars Three "Whys" of the Russian Revolution
Dr. Pipes has distilled his historical expertise down into this 80 page refresher course on Russian history. Read more
Published 16 months ago by Gavin W. Hooks
5.0 out of 5 stars Quick and fun read on Russia.
Pipes is just fabulous. He's a huge expert and yet he keeps his writing understandable. It was a quick read, something for a chilly afternoon with a cup of tea. Read more
Published on June 24, 2012 by jjstiv02
3.0 out of 5 stars More essays than a book
What bothered me most about this book was that I was looking for a little more history and little less political philosophy. Read more
Published on April 10, 2012 by Patrick M. Carroll
2.0 out of 5 stars Right Wing View of Russian Revolution
This view of the Russian Revolution leaves out much of the history and the viewpoint is very to the right. Read more
Published on February 20, 2011 by Hal Bluethman
3.0 out of 5 stars Don't listen to the revisionists, says Pipes
As one can well discern from the title, Richard Pipes addresses the three main questions surrounding the Russian Revolution - Why did Tsarism fall? Read more
Published on April 25, 2005 by pseudonym
2.0 out of 5 stars Refutes Marxist mythology, but ultimately misleads
Although Richards Pipes does an excellent job of supporting his thesis that the October 1917 revolution was fundamentally a coup without significant popular support, he neglects to... Read more
Published on January 19, 2005 by Stephen Judkins
3.0 out of 5 stars Well Written but too Conservative
I enjoyed Richard Pipes short but too the point look at the Russian Revolution. I have read and heard that he is one of the top authorities on the Russian Revolution. Read more
Published on March 24, 2000
2.0 out of 5 stars Richard Pipes at his best (or worst).
The series of lectures comprising this book show Pipes at his 'best', clearly justifying critics views of him as "among the most politically reactionary and intellectually... Read more
Published on May 3, 1999
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