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Revolutionary Russia, 1891-1991: A History

3.97  ·  Rating Details ·  783 Ratings  ·  99 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
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published April 8th 2014 by Metropolitan Books (first published April 2014)
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Oct 22, 2015 Ilse rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, russia, 2015, reviewed
Even now the Cold War is over, history writing on the Russian revolution and 20th century Russian communism still is a tricky, slippery path and rises passions. Historians who tackle this inexhaustible subject and try to transcend the dry facts, are imminently classified as rightist of leftist, and their work treated correspondingly.

Figes is a bestselling historian, and somehow controversial, both the man and his approach to writing history seem to inspire his fellow academics with some profess
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
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
Before the revolution in Russia, Lenin held the Second Party Congress in London at the Communist Club at 107 Charlotte Street in August 1903, which is now the headquarters of the global advertising agency Saatchi and Saatchi.

Dig this. Mikhail Gorbachev was the first leader since Lenin with a university degree.
Jun 06, 2014 Louise rated it really liked it
Shelves: russia-bio-hist
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
Jan 02, 2014 Matt rated it it was amazing

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
Titus Hjelm
I am not an expert in the field, but I find it curious that the (mainstream) history of revolutionary Russia has been completely monopolised by right wing historians. Although in a different generation from Cold War warriors such as Richard Pipes and Robert Service, Figes is squarely in the same bracket politically. The beginning of his ‘long view’ on the revolution, from 1891 to the consolidation of Stalin’s power, is basically one big lament about the missed opportunities of the 1% aristocrat- ...more
Aug 13, 2016 Marks54 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book presents a history of Russia from 1891 to 1991, when the Soviet Union went out of business, thus tracing a nice 100 year arc of "Revolutionary Russia". This is a useful way to package the Russian Revolution in a book coming out just in advance of the 100 year anniversary of the October Revolution. Figes is a readable historian and makes a good try at a manageable one volume history of a hugely complex train of events. The novelty here is using the "revolution" as the unit of analysis, ...more
Aug 14, 2014 Kevin rated it liked it
Shelves: history
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
Gary Schantz
Sep 09, 2014 Gary Schantz rated it liked it
Although I am not sure why but I have always had a very big interest in Russian history. When I saw this book, I skimmed it and thought it might make for a good quick read since it covered 100 years in 300 pages.

However, I must say that it was tough getting through through the first half of the book because of the way it's written. The author (for good reasons, I am sure) basically names every political group that ever existed during the time of the Russian Revolution in 1917. After awhile, I ha
Jan 02, 2014 Connie rated it it was amazing
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
May 23, 2014 Vasia rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
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
Joshua May
Feb 04, 2014 Joshua May rated it it was amazing
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
Feb 18, 2015 Laura rated it liked it
This book is great for someone who wants a quick overview of Russia from 1891-1991. If you are already familiar with this subject, you will find this book to be too much of an overview. Serious Russian history buffs should skip.
Anh  Le
Apr 15, 2015 Anh Le rated it it was amazing
Shelves: europe
Wonderful introductory text with a broad synthesis and an argument in place written by one of the leading historians of the Soviet Union.
Nov 28, 2016 Bill rated it did not like it
This book reads like a research paper and not a very interesting one. I will give Figes credit and say that he mentioned some interesting historic tidbits in the first section from 1891 until the Revolution of 1905. After that the book jumps around in ways that don't make sense. For example, in one chapter he talks about the Civil War and War Communism and Lenin's death. The following chapter discussed the New Economic Policy, which was championed by Lenin.
In another chapter Figes discusses th
Dec 24, 2016 Joe rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Living during the 2nd half of this brutal slice of Russian history, albeit far removed, I'm surprised how many names I knew.
Nov 06, 2016 Nikoleta rated it it was amazing
Very clearly and well written
Oct 11, 2016 Ryan rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
This is a short and sweet history of Russia. It's a great starting point to understanding how Russia got to where it is today. Due to the length, it obviously leaves a lot unsaid or said too briefly. if you want that, I believe the author has written longer works. This book was perfect for me because I wasn't interested in all the details. I just wanted a quick overview, and this book successfully delivered. Most importantly, I have a much greater understanding for why Putin is in power even tho ...more
Wouter Hk
Of hoe Orlando Figes het dertiende boek uit een dozijn schrijft

Rusland, het blijft fascineren. In de turbulente geschiedenis van een quasi megalomaan land als Rusland heeft elke periode zijn tot de verbeelding sprekende episodes, zowel op vlak van kunst en cultuur, maar niet in het minst ook op vlak van politiek. Rusland, een plaats voor experiment, begeestering en machtsmisbruik. Maar ook voor revolutie, het onderwerp waarmee Orlando Figes aan de slag gaat om een beeld te schetsen van de opkoms
Aug 05, 2014 Denny rated it really liked it

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.


o The Russian Empire/Soviet Union included many neighboring countries,
Feb 28, 2017 Jen rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Ugh Figes, we just don't get along. I've completed 2 of his books and each time I came away thinking he need a few more editing passes and a stronger attention to detail.

There's nothing bad about this book, it was an 'ok' quick read-through of the Soviet Era. But here's the thing - it wasn't detailed enough for a beginner and it didn't add anything new for anyone else. So who is the audience? I wouldn't recommend this to anyone.

Also, there's this weird premise to the book that claims the Revolut
Benjamin A'Lee
A few issues with this book. Firstly, although Figes’ premise is that the revolution must be understood as a whole, from 1891 to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, he doesn't really follow up on this claim very well. Stalin's death occurs at the end of Chapter 16; the breakup of the Soviet Union is covered in chapter 19. 38 years of history are covered in just 44 pages; the preceding 62 years had 244. It feels like these are only tacked on to allow Figes to include the final chapter, a ra ...more
Jeff Buddle
Jul 16, 2015 Jeff Buddle rated it really liked it
In “Revolutionary Russia 1891-1991, Orland Figges argues that Russian Revolution spanned the entire history of the U.S.S.R. with every leader from Lenin to Gorbachev believing that they were implementing and/or protecting the ideals of the Bolsheviks.

It’s a compelling –but not so surprising—argument. From the very beginning Lenin believed that communism could not be built in backwards Russia, that in order to sustain his revolution’s momentum, he’d need the working class in European countries t
Mar 26, 2016 Rayrumtum rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
This is a book about a century of Russian history in a mere 300 pages. It is an easy enjoyable read for those readers who like their history served with a heavy dose of syrup. More serious fans of history will find it excessively glib in content. But what the heck, isn't it better people learn at least a little history in our ignorant age?
The book's positives include that it is an easy read and some interesting perspectives proposed. Looking at such an extended period in a short book telescopes
Ben Cullimore
May 21, 2015 Ben Cullimore rated it really liked it
Condensing one-hundred years of Russian history into little more than three-hundred pages is always going to be a struggle, but it is no surprise that an historian as talented and knowledgeable as Orlando Figes has been able to do so in such a vivid and engaging manner.

Revolutionary Russia, 1891-1991: A History chronicles the history of Russia from the 1891-92 famine - one of the catastrophes that, Figes argues, set in motion the desire for widespread social change that led to the Bolshevik Revo
Jun 25, 2014 AphroPhantasmal rated it liked it
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
David James
Aug 15, 2015 David James rated it it was amazing
It's impossible to offer a comprehensive history of an entire century in a book with fewer than 300 pages of text, but the author isn't attempting that here. Instead what we get is an analytical assessment of how the Bolshevik Revolution came about, why it contained its own failure in its very beginnings, and how Stalinism was an inevitable result of what the Bolsheviks unleashed (like other recent historians, Figes lays the blame in no small measure on Trotsky who in his writings envisaged the ...more
Dec 23, 2016 Elien rated it it was amazing
An absolute recommendation if you want to read about Russia's recent history: told like a story, written as a page-turner.
John Kaufmann
Oct 29, 2014 John Kaufmann rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
A great history of Russia - just the right length and level of detail. Figes has a great sense of the salient points without getting bogged down in distracting side details. He connects events causally and builds anticipation so the reader has a good sense of why things turned out as they did, why certain decisions were made, and it made sense as a whole.

The story starts with the food shortages in 1891 and the Tsar's failure to respond; proceeds to how this led to the first phase of the revoluti
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One Great Book 1 1 Dec 22, 2015 12:32AM  
Goodreads Librari...: Please un-combine (two different books mistakenly merged) 3 30 Jan 09, 2014 01:53PM  
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Orlando Figes is a British historian of Russia, and a professor of history at Birkbeck, University of London.
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“The word ‘soviet’ means ‘council’ in Russian (there was nothing particularly Communist about it until after 1917).” 1 likes
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