Revolutionary Russia, 1891-1991: A History
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Revolutionary Russia, 1891-1991: A History

4.1 of 5 stars 4.10  ·  rating details  ·  136 ratings  ·  37 reviews
From the author of A People’s Tragedy, an original reading of the Russian Revolution, examining it not as a single event but as a hundred-year cycle of violence in pursuit of utopian dreams

In this elegant and incisive account, Orlando Figes offers an illuminating new perspective on the Russian Revolution. While other historians have focused their examinations on the catacl...more
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published April 8th 2014 by Metropolitan Books
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El
This review is of a book won from Goodreads First Reads Giveaway program.

In college I took a history course by this young professor straight out of professor-school whose specialty, if I remember correctly, was Russian history. He was on loan from the university in town, which is something that happened occasionally at my school because we were small and didn't always have someone to teach certain courses. I do not remember his name (because that's how my stupid brain works), but I do remember w...more
Maciek
Orlando Figes has written a very readable history of Russia, beginning with the slow decay of the Empire which brought upon the famine of 1891 and the first kindling of fire which would spark the Russian Revolution in the late 19th century, and ending with the revolutions of 1989 and the final dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. This isn't a definitive work on this fascinating and tumultuous period of Russian history - it has just 336 pages to cover a whole century, while Figes's own book o...more
Louise
Orlando Figes succeeds in presenting a short political history of Russia 1891-1991. He shows the political changes, social upheaval and economic catastrophe but does not flesh out his thesis that Russia was been in a 100 year revolutionary cycle.

On P. 286 he says "the real test of a successful revolution is whether it replaces the political elites". This is followed by an analysis of who remained in power after the 1991 dissolution of the Soviet Union showing that this restructuring was not revo...more
Matt
GOODREADS FIRST READS REVIEW

The popular historical view of the Russian Revolution is the Bolshevik coup of October 1917 launching the world’s first Communist state; however Orlando Figes offers a new perspective on the Revolution not as a single but a continuous event covering a century of Russian history. In relating this new perspective Figes reveals how three generations viewed and lived the Russian Revolution before it and the Soviet Union collapsed.

Beginning with the famine of 1891, Figes d...more
Connie
I highly recommend this thoroughly researched and incredibly well-written book to anyone interested in the Russian Revolution. This book filled many of the gaps I had concerning pre and post-Stalinst Russia, allowing me to understand the author’s perspective of the revolutionary time frame. Figes makes good sense out of a complicated history. The details are quite accessible, and the text flows easily from one event to the next without getting too bogged in any one area. This steady pace makes i...more
Joshua May
It is a difficult thing to sift through the obscurantism that so often peppers historic tomes. Figes mostly avoids the trappings of injecting personal politics by providing as much context as possible to each of the key elements of the Russian Revolution. Furthermore, the human element is also included extensively by way of personal accounts by those involved. With a wealth of citations and a zeal for providing an accurate picture of history, both historians and casual readers alike are presente...more
Kevin
More storytelling than analytical. Figes tends to forget his thesis frequently over the course of his work. While working through Revolutionary Russia one can see why Figes had the idea of a continuous revolution, but one gets the impression that there were either numerous revolutions unrelated to the ones that came directly before each new one, or, instead of, and more realistic, one revolution, there was evolution of what not only the events of 1917 meant but what Communism means. Figes could...more
Nikki
Speaking to a Dutch friend of mine I said "Reading this book makes me think the reason I was never taught any Russian history was because I was never meant to learn that the people could overthrow the powers that be."

This is not to say that the word of Figes can be taken without a grain of salt. I enjoyed the book immensely not only for its readability but because I saw in these people the reflection of the stories told to me by distrustful parents and grandparents about the tribulations of Sou...more
Denny


An excellent read especially with recent events in Russia's sphere of influence -- Georgia, Crimea, Ukraine, etc.

Rather than starting with 1917 revolution start, Orlando Figes spends more time describing the Tsarist Russia experience. The first event was the Great Famine of 1891, a century before the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the founding of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) in December 1991.

Observations

o The Russian Empire/Soviet Union included many neighboring countries,...more
Peter Mcloughlin
this short book covers Revolutionary movements in Russia through the 1890s to the revolution in 1917 and through Lenin, Trotsky and Stalin and the post Stalin regime and ending in the dissolution in 1991. It is not a generally happy tale the communist experiment in Russia. It had some successes in industrializing itself and fighting off the Nazi's during WWII but mostly it is a story of disaster for the people living under totalitarian government. This book does explain the origins of the stali...more
Adam Hall
Good and short summary of a hundred years of Russian History, especially regarding the rise and eventual fall of communism there. It was well written, and in an approachable style. The author generally backed up any claims with plenty of evidence, except for one: the assumed inevitability of the failure of a planned economy. Granted, they have never worked, but Mr Figes, in several places in text said something like "of course, it wasn't x that was the issue, it was the planned economy". It may...more
Vasia
I got this book from the firstreads programme :)

History books are tricky. Sometimes you start reading one and halfway through you are not sure if what it says it's true or mindless propaganda. Luckily with this book that was not the case. Orlando Figes presents a very well researched and written book about one of the most interesting centuries in the history of Russia. The book is easily read even by people who know little about that time, and for those who already have some knowledge fills a lo...more
Vikas Datta
Economic distress, political repression, revolution... A wonderfully incisive analysis of a century of Russian history and politics, which establishes the continuity among Russian rulers - the Romanovs, the communists and the others - and how this proud and great land has lived - and often suffered - under various ideologies of the Right and the Left , absolute monarchist, communist, Jacobin and great powerist.... A must read for anyone interested in this topic as Figes encapsulates the broad tr...more
Grace
This is a concise overview of the founding and collapse of the Soviet Union. It's more heavily weighted towards the events of the revolution, but it's nice to be able to see the repercussions all the way until 1991 (plus a page or so on Putin at the very end.) Some of the history is certainly glossed over, but this is just an introduction. The audience for this book is a little unclear to me as it's not quite as readable as your average popular history but it wouldn't cover much new ground for t...more
Antonia
This was a useful overview of this period in Russia, and for one who knew so little, a good start that aroused further questions. A nation that enslaved and/or starved millions of its citizens, simultaneously managed to make the jailers and assassins believe they were doing it for patriotic reasons, and enables today's citizens to look back and feel nostalgic for this period? THAT is an incredible feat! Gotta hand it to Putin! He has really pulled the rabbit out of the hat!
Rachel Brune
A thoroughly engaging study of the Russian Revolution from its inception to the reverberations throughout modern-day Russia. The writing was in-depth and detailed, yet still retained a clear narrative and Figes' signature storytelling. I picked up this book after reading his "Crimean War," and both books have convinced me that I need to read more by this author.
Ben
This is a pretty good primer on modern Russian history, though it reads more like an extended thesis than a popular history book. It's also quite frontloaded, with the majority of the book covering 1905 through WWII. The last 40 years of the USSR, from Stalin's death to Krushchev to Breshnev to Gorbachev to Yeltsin, are covered in just 50 pages.
Michael de Percy
This was a rather easy read and was useful to fill a great deal of gaps in my knowledge. At the same time, the period after World War II seems to receive less attention than the period up until immediately after Stalin's death,so it is far from a complete history. Nonetheless, for an airport read, it was certainly time well spent.
Matthew
A very thoughtful history of the Russian Revolution from start to finish. The book is very heavy on the history through Stalin's death, and then kind of speeds through the rest of the century, so it feels very slapdash and superficial, and Figes's conclusions about the end of the Revolution are not nearly as convincing as his conclusions about its beginning.
Mac
An excellent cursory overview, particularly of the early revolutionary years and Stalinism, but his chapters on the later years feel extruded through his broader historical argument. Not in the same ballpark as his more masterful book on the Crimean conflict.
Richard
One of the best books on history I've read so far. Very readable, page-turner like a good novel. I was surprised how concise it is, and how he was able to put so much information on such a relatively short book. Excellent overview of a 100-year period in Russian history.
Emma Bull
***RECEIVED FROM FIRST READS GIVEAWAY***

I am a huge lover of history, and the story of the Romanovs in 1917 always fascinated me when I was younger. Orlando Figes has put together a book that is knowledgeable, full of historical information that does not bore as some historical nonfiction can have the tendency to do. His argument for the Russian revolution lasting over 100 years is sound and convincing. I particularly liked the concluding chapter on the attitudes of the Russian people today and...more
Kierra
I love learning about Russian history and this book is very good for research or for just reading. But can be a little slow at times and dull.
Kalyan Panja
A painstakingly delved into as well as extremely finely on paper volume for anybody fascinated in the Russian past starting with the famine of 1891, ascent of Lenin and the Bolsheviks, collapse of the Tsarist rule, October uprising, the Stalinist era and the Gorbachev period until the disintegration of the Soviet structure and Communist party. In the midst of a mammon of credentials, equally historians as well as unfussy booklovers equally are offered with a charming description of some undeniab...more
Tim Smith
Succinct, compact, and thorough overview of Bolshevik Russia and all its important personas.
Steve
Excellent book on the history of Russia and how the revolution began and throughout Stalin's Reign of Terror in the 1930's throughout World War II. It also tells of the downfall of Communism in the former Soviet Union.
Rock Angel
A century of politics in under 300 pages!
John
As a history teacher, I look for books that will teach me something new. Figes did this in the first 20 pages. It will be more difficult for the casual reader to get through, but if you are curious about the Russian Revolution it will be worth the effort.
Jeremy
While watching the the winter olympic opening ceremonies,I was surprised at how much I did not know about Russia,thus spurring my interest.

While this book only covers one hundred years,it was relatively easy to read,if i only read a few chapters at a sitting.Definitely a great resource book.
Katie Lind
Good overall, though I was frustrated by how the author would discuss something on a certain date but leave off the year, and by how he seemed to assume knowledge of certain details (for instance, some major people like Trotsky were just suddenly mentioned by their last name, with no introduction). Otherwise it was a pretty easy and enjoyable read and gave a nice overview of Russian history.
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Orlando Figes is a British historian of Russia, and a professor of history at Birkbeck, University of London.
More about Orlando Figes...
A People's Tragedy: The Russian Revolution: 1891-1924 Natasha's Dance: A Cultural History of Russia The Whisperers: Private Life in Stalin's Russia The Crimean War Just Send Me Word: A True Story of Love and Survival in the Gulag

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