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A People's Tragedy: The Russian Revolution, 1891 - 1924

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It is history on an epic yet human scale. Vast in scope, exhaustive in original research, written with passion, narrative skill, and human sympathy, A People's Tragedy is a profound account of the Russian Revolution for a new generation. Many consider the Russian Revolution to be the most significant event of the twentieth century. Distinguished scholar Orlando Figes presents a panorama of Russian society on the eve of that revolution, and then narrates the story of how these social forces were violently erased. Within the broad stokes of war and revolution are miniature histories of individuals, in which Figes follows the main players' fortunes as they saw their hopes die and their world crash into ruins. Unlike previous accounts that trace the origins of the revolution to overreaching political forces and ideals, Figes argues that the failure of democracy in 1917 was deeply rooted in Russian culture and social history and that what had started as a people's revolution contained the seeds of its degeneration into violence and dictatorship. A People's Tragedy is a masterful and original synthesis by a mature scholar, presented in a compelling and accessibly human narrative.

923 pages, Paperback

First published August 26, 1996

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About the author

Orlando Figes

36 books668 followers
Orlando Figes is an English historian of Russia, and a professor of history at Birkbeck, University of London.

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Profile Image for Warwick.
824 reviews14.5k followers
October 7, 2016
While I was halfway through this, an ‘inspirational quote’ from Lenin happened to come up on my reddit feed. Something from one of those early speeches, about equality for all. I left a comment to suggest – I thought quite mildly – that it was, perhaps, ethically questionable to be quoting with approbation someone responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people – only to be downvoted into oblivion by other users. ‘You're probably thinking about Stalin,’ said one. ‘Fuck off,’ clarified another. ‘Lenin was actually very socially liberal, and kept his word about democracy for the people.’

This would be the same Lenin who shut down Russia's constituent assembly, who sidelined trade unions and had striking workers shot for desertion, who turned the country into a police state, built a chain of concentration camps and institutionalised terrorism as a matter of deliberate policy. Painful to see him held up as a beacon of humanitarianism by people who apparently haven't even understood Animal Farm. It's interesting, though, because even when I was growing up the far left was always quite cool in a way that the far right never was; its unelectability made it harmless, and it gained a certain cachet from its opposition to a string of unpopular Tory governments and by association with various cult figures like Morrissey or Alexi Sayle. It was always kind of a joke. People referred to each other with smiles as ‘fellow travellers’, ‘old Trots’ – and still do.

There was a feeling I had when I was reading this book; an uncomfortable, itchy feeling which made me fidget while I was reading, shift in my seat and scratch my nose or my neck every few minutes as I turned the pages. Eventually I realised what this sensation was: hatred. I just loathed the people responsible for prosecuting this grotesque experiment. Now I realise this is, of course, a pathetically inadequate response, but partly it came from a kind of surprise. A feeling that they had somehow got away with it, that their reputations are nowhere near as dismal as they should be. At one point, Orlando Figes offers in passing a suggestion as to why this might be so:

The Bolshevik programme was based on the ideals of the Enlightenment – it stemmed from Kant as much as from Marx – which makes Western liberals, even in this age of post-modernism, sympathise with it, or at least obliges us to try and understand it, even if we do not share its political goals; whereas the Nazi efforts to ‘improve mankind’, whether through eugenics or genocide, spat in the face of the Enlightenment and can only fill us with revulsion.

And perhaps there's something in this: inasmuch as reality has (in Stephen Colbert's words) a liberal bias; inasmuch as we are living, historically speaking, in a leftist world, there is a sense in which the Communist experiment seems like something that went wrong, not something that was wrong inherently. But the enormities of Lenin's politics were built-in ab initio; terror, Figes writes, was ‘implicit in the regime from the start…the resort to rule by terror was bound to follow from Lenin's violent seizure of power and his rejection of democracy’. And despite all the slogans of equality and democracy, the turnaround was much faster than I had ever realised.

None of the democratic organisations established before October 1917 survived more than a few years of Bolshevik rule, at least not in their democratic form. By 1921, if not earlier, the revolution had come full circle, and a new autocracy had been imposed on Russia which in many ways resembled the old one.

The thousand pages of Figes's history give plenty of scope for examining in detail what this meant for Russian citizens. It isn't pretty but it is instructive. There was the Civil War, with widespread terror on both sides; famine, exacerbated by shitty agricultural policy; and eventually the tightening grip of a one-party state. There are moments of acute revulsion and misery, alongside a recurring sense of absurdity: at one point, currency depreciation becomes so severe that it costs more to print the rouble than the rouble is actually worth; the post and telegraph service have to be made free because the state is losing money by printing and charging rouble notes for them. ‘The situation was surreal – but then this was Russia,’ Figes remarks, showing a grasp of the irony which this story demands.

Whole books have been written, of course, about the failure of the left outside Russia to accept the reality of what was happening there under Communism, or to blame it on a perversion of noble principles. What's so rewarding, and upsetting, and moving about this book is that it illustrates how naturally the consequences followed from the initial conditions, and how unimportant the political debate is compared with its effects on real people. There, as the title of the book suggests, Figes's summary is blunt.

Instead of being a constructive cultural force the revolution had virtually destroyed the whole of Russian civilisation; instead of human liberation it had merely brought human enslavement; and instead of the spiritual improvement of humanity it had led to degradation.

What makes it worse is that this whole catalogue of misery is in some sense being positioned only as a prelude. Looming up over the narrative is the lengthening shadow of the Georgian, Ioseb Jughashvili, alias Stalin, and where this book ends his story is just beginning.

Although this was written twenty years ago, in some ways it's become more relevant than ever, and not just because next year marks the revolution's centenary. In an impassioned final chapter, Figes calls for urgent reevaluation of the political capitalism of the West, pointing out that extremist rhetoric of the sort that fuelled the Bolshevik party is periodically going to prove popular ‘as long as the mass of the ordinary people remain alienated from the political system and feel themselves excluded from the benefits of the emergent capitalism. Perhaps even more worrying,’ he adds, ‘authoritarian nationalism has begun to fill the void…’ Is this sounding familiar to anybody?
Profile Image for Matt.
917 reviews28.2k followers
December 4, 2020
“The Russian Revolution launched a vast experiment in social engineering – perhaps the grandest in the history of mankind. It was arguably an experiment which the human race was bound to make at some point in its evolution, the logical conclusion of humanity’s historic striving for social justice and comradeship. Yet born as it was of the First World War, when Europe had been brought to the brink of self-destruction, it was also one that many people believed was essential at the time…The experiment went horribly wrong, not so much because of the malice of its leaders, most of whom had started out with the highest ideals, but because their ideals were themselves impossible…”
- Orlando Figes, A People’s Tragedy: The Russian Revolution, 1891-1924

As one of the epochal moments in history, the story of the Russian Revolution has been told in many places, in many different ways. Like other great revolutions in history, it was messy, bloody, and complex, and its full meaning has been debated ever since.

The title of Orlando Figes’s A People’s Tragedy gives you a pretty good indication of his angle of approach to this huge subject. You don’t pick up a book like this with the notion that it’s going to be filled with newborn puppies, ice cream-giveaways, and people finding rolled-up-and-forgotten twenty-dollar bills in their pockets. More specifically, you are not going to find any moral shrugging at the cost of the Russian Revolution, or any glib notions that you can’t effect massive societal change without a bit of slaughter. This is 824-pages of small font despair, as the Russian people move from ruthless and ordered autocracy to ruthless and unordered Revolution, before finally settling on a ruthless Soviet government as dictatorial and arbitrary as anything seen under the Tsars.

Contained between these two covers are all the things my wife tells me are not appropriate “small talk” for dinner parties: War as waged by balmy idealists, fools, and crypto-dictators; the attendant butchery of that war as waged by the same; revolution and upheaval and the attendant carnage, as idealism turns to fanaticism. There is famine, torture, capriciousness, shortsightedness, disloyalty, backstabbing and betrayal, execution and murder. This is the kind of book from which I had to take several breaks. I just couldn’t push all the way through. The tragedy is so big. The font is so tiny.

Helpfully, the book is broken into manageable parts, allowing me to dip in and out whenever I needed a dose of perspective. Figes opens his narrative beautifully, with a Barbara Tuchman-like set-piece that describes the 300-year anniversary of Romanov rule over all the Russias. He then circles back to give a brief overview of that spotted reign, before devoting approximately the next 150 pages to the workings of Russia under the Tsar Nicholas II (fondly and aptly described by historian Margaret MacMillan as the ideal village postmaster). From there, we follow the revolution that caused the fall of Nicholas; the rise of the Provisional Government; the revolution that toppled that interim authority; and finally the slide into civil war.

Of all the characters of this saga, I found Nicholas II to be among the most fascinating, simply because he was so manifestly unsuited to being an autocrat in charge of one of the hugest, most powerful empires on earth. Part of him never seemed to want the job, and to learn about Nicholas is to learn of a man who loved and doted on his family, filled his diary with the most insipid banalities imaginable, and probably could’ve lived a long and immeasurably happier life by retiring to a faraway dacha. Frankly, I wouldn’t trust him to manage my slow-pitch softball team.

Despite his equivocations, however, he fiercely guarded his powers. When his people wanted an inch, he gave them a centimeter. Eventually, his people took a mile. By the time he realized his destiny was to be an average man, a good father, a caring husband, and a somnolent diarist, it was far too late.

The second part of the book, covering the years from 1891-1917, is devoted to the Tsar’s gradual erosion in authority. A disastrous war against Japan, a social revolution, and many unforced errors served to weaken the monarchy. In 1914, Franz Ferdinand was assassinated, and Russia suddenly found itself the linchpin of history: their choice to mobilize or not, to support Serbia or not, is one of the biggest factors in the July Crisis tipping towards general European war. Nicholas’s choice to go to war kind of feels like a troubled couple deciding to have a child to save a bad marriage. Hey, maybe if we go to war, all the people will love me again!.

It didn't work that way.

The story of Tsar Nicholas’s abdication, his imprisonment in Ekaterinburg’s House of Special Purpose, and his (and his family’s) murder is a familiar story, and Figes does not spend much time on this death pageant. Instead, in the book’s third section, he takes a deep dive into the workings and failures of the Provisional Government, and the plotting and scheming of the Bolshevik takeover.

In telling this, Figes takes pains to present many points of view. There is the obvious focus on the big names – Lenin, Trotsky, Gorky – and rightfully so. But he also finds peasants and workingmen – and peasants who became workingmen – to demonstrate how the Revolution began from the bottom up, and where it got its support. He makes an admirable attempt to follow certain people throughout the entire process, tracing their personal fortunes along with the ebb and flow of the wider historical moments. (Unsurprisingly, many of these people’s stories end dismally).

Figes also does not neglect to mention Rasputin’s penis:

Rasputin’s assassin and alleged homosexual lover, Felix Yusupov, claimed that his prowess was explained by a large wart strategically situated on his penis, which was of exceptional size. On the other hand, there is evidence to suggest that Rasputin was in fact impotent and that while he lay naked with many women, he had sex with very few of them. In short, he was a great lecher but not a great lover. When Rasputin was medically examined after being stabbed in a failed murder attempt in 1914, his genitals were found to be so small and shriveled that the doctor wondered whether he was capable of the sexual act at all. Rasputin himself had once boasted to the monk Iliodor that he could lie with women without feeling passion because “his penis did not function.”

History: It’s in the details!

While the third part of A People’s Tragedy is a rollercoaster, the fourth and final quarter is simply a downward plunge into brutal, unimaginably bloody civil war, followed by the initial formation of the Soviet system, which was to cause so much misery going forward.

When I first read this book, I did not know a ton about Russian history. Once Nicholas II was off the stage, I was in the wilderness, with many hundreds of pages left to go. Nevertheless, I never got lost, as Figes does a fantastic job of structuring this material. As I mentioned at the top, this is an extremely ambitious volume, striving for a certain level of comprehensiveness, and only ends in 1924, with Lenin dying, and the baton about to be passed to Georgian poet and former seminary student.

While this is eminently readable, it is still complex, and Figes is not dumbing anything down. He is more than talented enough as a writer to lead a relative novice through this thorny, convoluted, heavily-peopled period relatively unscathed. With that said, I don’t think this is an entry-level volume. It covers too much ground at too high a level to say that. What kept me glued to the page was Figes’s relentless focus on humanity. He doesn’t get lost in abstract political theorizing. Instead, he dwells on personalities and quirks and circumstances and tough choices and Rasputin’s penis, making this very human-oriented. One of the things that makes studying the Russian Revolution, Bolshevism, and Communism so difficult is the impenetrable Marxist terminology that serves the double purpose of providing a patina of intellectualism, while also obscuring the basic truths about what is happening. Figes strips that layer away.

This is a huge book befitting a huge subject, and Figes gives it the treatment it deserves. It is authored by that rare combination, an expert who can also write, making this both an academic and literary masterpiece. It took some patience – and Yellow Tail wine breaks – to complete, but it was well worth the effort.
Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,566 reviews56.5k followers
June 26, 2021
‭A People's Tragedy: The Russian Revolution 1891-1924, Orlando Figes

A People's Tragedy: The Russian Revolution: 1891–1924 is an award-winning book written by British historian Orlando Figes and published in 1996.

According to Figes "... the whole of 1917 could be seen as a political battle between those who saw the revolution as a means of bringing the war to an end and those who saw the war as a means of bringing the revolution to an end."

تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز بیست و نهم ماه آوریل سال 2011میلادی

عنوان: تراژدی مردم: انقلاب روسیه از سال 1891میلادی تا سال 1924میلادی؛ نویسنده: اورلاندو فایجس؛ مترجم: احد علیقلیان؛ تهران، نشر نی، سال1388؛ در دو مجلد؛ شابک دوره9789641850465؛ شابک جلد 1یک9789641850441؛ جلد 2دو9789641850458، موضوع تاریخ روسیه - نیکلای دوم - از سال 1891میلادی تا سال 1924میلادی از نویسندگان بریتانیا - سده 20م

داستان دو جلدی «تراژدی مردم»، روایت «اورلاندو فایجس»؛ استاد تاریخ دانشگاه «کمبریج»، از تحولات داخلی «روسیه»، در بین سالهای از سال1891میلادی تا سال1924میلادی است؛

از دیدگاه «فایجس»، «انقلاب روسیه»، دستکم از نظر تاثیراتش بر دنیای پیرامونی، یکی از بزرگترین رخدادهای تاریخ جهان به شمار میآید؛ گستردگی و ژرفای این تاثیرگذاری، تا حدود دو دهه پیش نیز، مشاهده و احساس میشده است؛ نگارنده، برای نشان دادن دامنه ی انقلاب، به شیوه هایی اشاره میکند، که انقلاب با آنها جان انسانها را گرفت: دهها هزار نفر را، بمبها و گلوله های انقلابیون کشت، و دستکم همین تعداد پیش از سال1917میلادی، در سرکوب رژیم «تزاری»، جان باختند؛

آن سالها هزاران نفر، در جنگهای خیابانی، جان خود را از دست دادند، صدها هزار نفر، در حکومت وحشت «سرخ»ها و طی سالهای پس از آن – اگر قربانیان قتل عام «یهودیان» را هم در نظر بگیریم – همین تعداد نیز، در حکومت وحشت «سفید»ها، به هلاکت رسیدند، بیش از یک میلیون تن، در جنگ داخلی کشته شدند، از جمله غیرنظامیان پشت جبهه، و با این همه، شمار مردمانیکه از گرسنگی، سرما و بیماری هلاک شدند نیز، از جمع اینها بیشتر بود؛ «فایجس»، روایت خود را از «انقلاب» از سال1891میلادی، که واکنش خیابانی مردم، به حکومت «تزار»، نسبت به بحران قحطی رخ داد، آغاز میکند، و در سال1924میلادی، که «لنین»، از دنیا میرود، به نگارگری پایان میدهد؛ یعنی زمانی که «انقلاب» به نقطه ی آغازین خود بازمیگردد، و نهادهای «استالینی» مستقر میشوند؛

از دیدگاه نگارنده ی کتاب، لحظه هایی تعیین کننده پیش از انقلاب سال1917میلادی، و در طی آن، در تاریخ «روسیه» وجود داشت، که میتوانست سبب شود، «روسیه» راه دمکراتیکی را در پیش بگیرد، اما چنان نشد و هدف از نگارش «تراژدی مردم» نیز، تبیین همین موضوع است، که چرا انقلاب در هیچیک از لحظه های خود، آن مسیرها را طی نکرد؛ از دیدگاه استاد دانشگاه «کمبریج»؛ برهان شکست دمکراسی «روسیه» را، باید در فرهنگ سیاسی، و تاریخ اجتماعی آن جستجو نمود؛

نبود نیروهای متعادل کننده ی دولت، در برابر استبداد «تزار»، شکنندگی جامعه ی مدنی «لیبرال»، عقب ماندگی مردمان در روستاهای «روسیه»، و خشک اندیشی روشنفکران تندرو «روسیه»، از جمله مولفه های این فرهنگ هستند؛ «فایجس»، در صدد بوده، تا نقش مردمان عادی را، به عنوان بازیگران اصلی نمایش انقلابی، برجسته سازد: «دهقانان»، «کارگران»، «سربازان»، و «اقلیتهای ملی، و قومی»، در این کتاب، به عنوان قربانیان انقلاب، معرفی نشده اند، بلکه خود جزو بازیگران اصلی نمایش بوده اند؛ نگارنده در تلاش برای تبیین تلویحی این نظریه، که مردمان، شایسته ی حاکمانی هستند، که بر آنان فرمان میرانند، نبوده و نیست، بلکه از: تایید نظریه های «کل به جزء»، که در آنها مردمان عادی، آلت دست بی اراده ی حکومتگران، شمرده میشوند هم گریزان است

ایشان با سود بردن از آثار نگارش شده ی غنی، و گسترده ای که در بایگانیهای دولتی، و شخصی موجود بوده، کوشیده، تا تصویری پیچیده تر، و باور پذیرتر از رابطه ی حزب با مردم، به خوانشگر خویش نشان دهند، و خیال «اصول کلی»، که «بلشویکها (اکثریتیها)» بر سرتاسر «روسیه»، تحمیل کرده اند را، بزداید؛ آنچه نام انقلابی مردمی به خود گرفت، سرانجامی جز سقوط، در بستر خشونت و دیکتاتوری، با خود به همراه نداشت؛ نگارنده ی کتاب، تنها به تحلیل عرصه ی عمومی نپرداخته اند، بلکه هر جا نیاز دیده اند، پای درد دل زندگی خصوصی آسیب دیدگان از جنگ، و انقلاب نیز، نشسته اند؛ دفترچه های خاطرات، نامه ها و دیگر نوشته های افراد نیز، جملگی به یاری نگارنده ی کتاب، برای سازماندهی روایتشان آمده اند؛ ایشان با دنبال کردن سرنوشت شخصیتها، خواسته اند، تا آشوبهای آن سالها را، به تصویر بکشند، آشوبهایی که با تراژدیهای ژرف انسانی همراه بودند، و رژه ی نیروهای نظامی، و ایدئولوژیهای اجتماعی- سیاسی، تنها نمایش لایه ی بیرونی آن بوده است

نگارش کتاب، شش سال به درازا انجامیده، و نخستین بار نگارنده آنرا در سال1995میلادی به پایان رسانیدند؛ کتاب در چهار بخش، و شانزده فصل، به سرانجام رسیده است؛

بخش نخست: در برگیرنده ی تاریخ روسیه، در دوره ی رژیم کهن است

بخش دوم: بحران قدرت در فاصله ی سالهای 1891م تا 1917میلادی را، مورد بررسی قرار میدهد

بخش سوم: روسیه در انقلاب، در فاصله ی ماه فوریه ی سال 1917میلادی تا ماه مارس سال 1918میلادی مبحث این بخش را تشکیل میدهد

بخش چهارم: جنگ داخلی و برپایی نظام شوروی، در فاصله ی سالهای 1918میلادی تا سال 1924میلادی در این بخش مورد بازنگری قرار گرفته است

کتاب با رخدادهای دوره ی «لنین» و ماجرای درگذشت ایشان به پایان راه خویش میرسد؛ نتیجه گیری، کتاب شناسی، نمایه و تصاویر تاریخی متعدد و دیدنی، ضمیمه ی مطالب اصلی کتاب است؛ «تراژدی مردم» مجموعه ای خواندنی برای علاقمندان به تحولات انقلاب «روسیه» به شمار میرود

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 04/04/1400هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for Maziyar Yf.
490 reviews238 followers
September 10, 2021
بارها از خود پرسیده ام که بدترین کشور برای زیستن کدامیک بوده ؟ روسیه سالهای 1900-1954 ، چین زمان مائو یا کامبوج تحت حکومت خمرهای سرخ ؟
این کتاب تا اندازه ای به این پرسش ، پاسخ داده است .
در کتاب تراژدی مردم ، اورلاندو فایجس به شرح بدبختی و مصیبت های سی و چهار ساله ملت روس در سالهای 1891-1924 پرداخته ، سالهایی که با خون آبیاری شده بودند، نویسنده در آن سالهای سرشار از خشونت ، بدبختی ، مصیبت ، قحطی وهرج و مرج تصویر بسیارواقعی و دردناک از مصیبتهای پیوسته چندین نسل مردم روس نشان داده ، بلاها و مصیبت هایی که از فرط تکرار شدن ، تراژدی شدند و یک ملت بزرگ و سرسخت و مبارز را در دور باطلی از جنگ ، خشونت و بدبختی گرفتار کردند .
فایجس در این کتاب بسیار ارزنده به تمامی جزییات جامعه ، اقتصاد ، سیاست ، ادبیات و هنر روسها پرداخته و ریزترین نکات را دیده است . نویسنده از شهر پترزبورگ که پایتخت تزارها و نشانی از نگاه به سمت غرب روسیه بوده زندگی مردمان را وصف کرده تا زمانی که مسکو پایتخت سرخها شد ، زمانی که اولویت ها عوض شد ، زمانی که کشاورزی مقدم بر صنعت شد و زمانی که روسیه از یک کشور اروپایی به کشوری آسیایی – اروپایی تبدیل شد .
نویسنده بارها به ادبیات بسیار غنی روسیه در کتاب اشاره کرده ، مثلا کتاب پترزبورگ و مقدماتی که قهرمان کتاب برای قتل تهیه می کند ، که اشاره آشکاری ایست به قتل تزار الکساندر دوم . یا مثلا قتل شاتوف در کتاب شیاطین داستایفسکی که نشاندهنده ترور انقلابی دیگری ایست ، تا چیچیکوف قالتاق کتاب نفوس مرده که خرید و فروش رعیت مرده می کند ، تا تاراس بولبا با کینه قدیمی ملت های روس و لهستان از همدیگر . همه آنان در تراژدی مردم حضور دارند و هر یک به گونه ای برروی این کشور شعله ور در آتش ، بنزین می ریزند .
بخش مهمی از کتاب به نیکلای دوم ، آخرین تزار روسیه پرداخته . فایجس با شرح خصوصیات نیکلا ، همسر و فرزندان او خواسته یا ناخواسته شباهت های میان او و لویی شانزدهم و امپراتریس و ماری آنتوانت را بیان کرده ، گویی هنوز انقلاب آغاز نشده ، نیکلای هم مقدر شده که همان مسیر را برود . نویسنده با استادی دو کشور ترسیم کرده ، روسیه ثروتمند و غرق در نعمت و خوشی اشراف و روسیه واقعی ، کشوری شامل کشاورزان ، دهقانان و پیشه وران ، کشوری که به جای ملت ، رعیت و سرف دارد ، کسانی که هیچ حقی ندارند ، کسانی که همواره با خشونت با آنها رفتار میشده و آنها این خشونت را در خانه تکرار و بازتولید می کرده اند ، خشونتی که بخش مهمی از زندگی و فرهنگ روسها شده بود .
فایجس به صورت کامل و مفصل انقلاب سال 1905 و تبدیل شدن تزار از پادشاه مطلقه به پادشاه مشروعه و ظهور نسل نو از سیاستمداران مانند کرنسکی ، لووف ، ترتسکی و لنین سپس تلاش تزار برای باز پس گرفتن قدرت و سرکوب انقلاب پرداخته ، نویسنده به تاثیر فوق العاده زیاد نوشته های مارکس و انگلس بر توده های مردم پرداخته و به این ترتیب زمینه برای پذیرش اندیشه های بلشویک ها آماده شده بود .
تاریخ روسیه سرشار از حوادث بسیار بزرگ است ، مانند جنگ جهانی اول و شکست روسیه و برگشتن سیل آسای سربازان به شهرها و روستاها که مصادف با اعتصاب کارگران شده بود ، مرحله اول انقلاب و عزل تزار و به قدرت رسیدن کرنسکی و مرحله دوم ، استعفا کرنسکی و به قدرت رسیدن لنین و بلشویکها . لنین مالکیت خصوصی را لغو و اجرای امور را به شوراهای روستایی واگذار می کند ، تمام زمینها میان مردم تقسیم می شود ، اتحاد شوروی شکل می گیرد .
سپس فاجعه جنگ داخلی شروعی می شود ، سلطنت طلبها ، طرفداران سرمایه داری و مخالفان بلشویک ها با حمایت هشت کشورخارجی می خواهند بلشویک ها را در گهواره خود خفه کنند ولی شکست می خورند ، تلفات جنگ حیرت انگیز است : بین 8 تا 12 میلیون
برخی از این فجایع را میتوان در فیلم دکتر ژیواگو دید ، جایی که خانه اشرافی دکتر بین توده ها تقسیم می شود و به دکتر و خانواده اش یک اتاق برای زندگی می رسد ، زمانی که ملت برای فرار از شهر به ایستگاه های قطار فرار می کنند و به همان شکلی که در آینده یهودیان را به سمت مرگ می برند از مرگ فرار می کنند ، زمان قحطی و آدمخواری که با سکانسی دهشتناک در سریال دکتر ژیواگو نشان داده شده ، جنایات سرخها و سفیدها ، خشونت توده ها ، قربانی مردم ، زنان و کودکان
تعداد قربانیان قحطی و سرما نامعلوم است ، اما این آخرین قحطی روسیه نیست ، قحطی های بیشتری درآینده در راه است ، در قزاقستان ، در اوکراین ، در تاتارستان ، در سرتاسر روسیه .
کتاب با بیماری لنین و نبرد قدرت بین تروتسکی و استالین به پایان نزدیک می شود ، تروتسکی که رو به زوال است با مرگ لنین از حزب اخراج می شود ، سپس نوبت به استالین می رسد ، او آن قدر انسان می کشد که فاصله میان رژیم او و رژیم لنین دریایی از خون می شود .
نویسنده در این کتاب شاهکار هدف انقلاب روسیه را مبارزه با امپریالیست و سرمایه داری دانسته ، سوسیالیسم آمد تا دنیای کهن را براندازد و جهانی نو بسازد ، اما این ایده و ��زمایش به شکل هولناکی اشتباه از آب در آمد ، نه الزاما به دلیل بدطینتی رهبران انقلاب ، بلکه بیشتر به دلیل غیر ممکن بودن آرمان های آنها .

اما این کتاب یک قهرمان دارد ، ماکسیم گورکی ، این نویسنده شهیر و انقلابی در سرتاسر کتاب به دنبال کاستن از رنج و آلام مردم و فراهم کردن امکانات پزشکی و دارویی و نجات دادن ملت از قحطی و زندان بود ، گورکی در نجات کودکان از خود فروشی و فقر و فحشا نقش بسیار مهمی بازی کرد ، همچنین در جذب کمکهای آمریکا در جریان قحطی ، حدس زده شده که جان یازده میلیون نفر انسان توسط این کمکها نجات داده شده است . او به واسطه دوستی با لنین بارها ناجی زندانیان شد و آنها را از مرگ و نابودی نجات داد ، بیشتر نویسندگان و روشنفکران که از نزدیکی گورکی با حکومت به سختی انتقاد می کردند نجات جان خویش را مرهون تلاشهای گورکی بودند .
متاسفانه کتاب تراژدی مردم ،همواره مرا به یاد دو دوست و عزیز از دست رفته می اندازد که در زمان مطالعه دو ماهه کتاب درگذشتند . عزیزانی که همیشه به دنبال روشن کردن چراغ علم و آگاهی بودند .
یادشان گرامی
Profile Image for David Gustafson.
Author 1 book116 followers
September 9, 2020
Recent memory, modern memory and then history - We are all living in recent memory. The oldest generation is the eye-witness to modern memory. When it passes on, we will begin to receive the history from the events and people of that generation without the influence of contemporary bias or dialectics.

It has been almost a hundred years since the Russian Revolution and Civil War. It is still too early for its pure history, but reliable narratives, unbound by predictable dialectics, are finally beginning to emerge.

Orlando Figes' version is not perfect, but it is one of best summaries available to get the average reader up to a moderate speed on a very complex subject.

After presenting an unsparing portrayal of the various layers of Russian society from 1891 up until Bloody Sunday 1905, Figes' Revolution of 1914 becomes but the inevitable, bloody result. What comes as a surprise to the reader is the deep depravity of the Russian soul. It is black, evil, and violent regardless of class or party affiliation. Sparing neither women nor children, it wantonly murders, tortures, rapes, pillages and executes without a drop of conscience.

This pitch black evil infected the souls of peasants and workers as well as generals, nobels, police and party apparatchiks. It consumed the Tsar and Tsarina as well as Lenin, Totsky and Stalin.

In the midst of these psychopaths, Figes follows a small handful of spectators such as Maxim Gorky and General Brusilov, the only WWI tsarist hero, who eventually supported the Reds because they were the peoples' choice. Those two somehow manage to maintain their balance, decency, objectivity and humanity while witnessing this terror unfold.

When Comrade Stalin's emissary Mercado paid a visit to Leon Trotsky at his Mexico City home to plunge an ice pick into his skull, one can only hope the Angel of Karma was singing a hymn in the exiled revolutionary's ear with Leon's very own words from the Revolution, "We must put an end, once and for all, to the papist-Quaker babble about the sanctity of human life." During the Revolution and Civil War, Trotsky, Lenin and Stalin did the very best that they could to abide by that dictum millions (literally) of heartless times with their cold-blooded signatures.

The Revolution and Civil War replaced a totalitarian monarchy with a totalitarian police state run by bureaucrats. The classes that were terrorized, oppressed and executed before are terrorized, oppressed and executed once again on an even larger scale. As one revolutionary bemoaned afterwards, "Lenin and the Bolsheviks did not establish a dictatorship to safeguard the revolution, they made a revolution to safeguard a dictatorship." Enter Comrade Stalin.

A basic understanding of the twentieth century requires a grasp of the Russian Revolution that left its immense footprints across World War II, the Cold War as well as the intellectual dialectics of labor and capital that have defined the many shades of politics we experience today.

"A People's Tragedy," is a very good start towards that understanding.
Profile Image for Tim.
133 reviews56 followers
April 24, 2023
This is a long and detailed book covering the Russian Revolution through 1924. It is an impressive piece of work that methodically walks you through all the main characters and events in an engaging way.

I’m not sure what to say about it though. I just feel overloaded with facts I’m trying to absorb.

It’s so complicated and confusing. The downfall of the Tsars is one piece that is easier to understand. There is a history of repression, failed promises, an inability to connect with ordinary peasants and workers, and ineffectual leaders. It’s not surprising that it didn’t last. It’s also not surprising that communism became popular, since it was a hot new idea emerging just next door in Germany that seemed to give some hope for people suffering under the repression of the Tsars.

Where it gets complicated is things like: the various left-wing factions that emerged, the infighting that happened within the same factions, how exactly the Bolsheviks ended up winning this battle, the relative perspectives and interactions of the peasants in the countryside and the workers in the city, the impact of the Russia-Japan War and WWI on the revolution, the aftermaths of each of the Revolutions in 1917 (the February and November revolutions), including the weird period in between when there was a power vacuum that no one really tried to take full advantage of, the messy Civil War that lasted until 1923, and the messy period at the end of Lenin’s life and the succeeding power struggle for leadership of the Party.

I don’t really understand much of this. One of the main characters that kept popping in and out of the story was Russian writer Maxim Gorky. His life seems like a symbol of how complicated, confusing, and tragic this period was. How the idealism of intellectuals was never realized, and instead barbarism followed. And how some individuals made choices that are very hard to understand through a modern-day lens.

Born in 1868, he grew up as an orphan living in the most destitute poverty you could imagine. As a young man he became a dreamy Marxist. He grew up in the squalor and meanness of the city and imagined the peasants as living in harmonious communes, and would be natural allies of the Communists. But after traveling to the countryside he learned that peasant life was really, really horrifying. Perhaps the most memorable part of the book is when Figes vividly describes the brutality of peasant life in Russia.

Gorky’s attitude towards the peasants soured, but he still felt sympathy for urban laborers, and kept believing that a Marxist revolution was the way forward to improve their lot. He wrote stories and became, as Figes describes, “A national celebrity. The first real writer of inequality to emerge from the urban underworld of migratory laborers, vagabonds, and thieves, which his stories represented with vividness and compassion.”

He became friends with Lenin and then became aligned to the Bolshevik movement. But, after the February Revolution in 1917, he feared the revolution would result in “savagery” and switched his support to the more moderate Alexander Kerensky.

But then months later he switched back again to support the hardline Bolsheviks.

But not long after, his fears of savagery were realized, and he again turned on the Bolsheviks, going as far as to call Lenin and Trotsky “tyrants” who “have become poisoned with the filthy venom of power”. He worked with other countries like the U.S. to obtain international aid for the 1921 famine, and then left the country, continuing to speak out against the Bolshevik’s terror programs.

But in 1928, Stalin somehow lured him back to the Soviet Union, and he served as a mouthpiece for his regime, even supporting Stalin’s terror programs. But then once again he turned, again feeling disillusioned. But this time, he wasn’t able to have any impact. He was sick and weak, and the control of the State was more complete over what people could hear and read. When he died, Stalin turned his life and works into propaganda symbols for the state.

What a confusing and sad life. What a painful tragedy the revolution and its aftermath was for the Russian people.
Profile Image for Peiman.
279 reviews52 followers
April 21, 2023
این کتاب در حالی که اتفاقات ۳۰-۳۵ سال رو بیان می‌کنه اینقدر جزئیات داره که به نظرم میشه به عنوان یک درس ۴ واحدی تاریخ در دانشگاه تدریس بشه. بر خلاف بسیاری از کتابهای تاریخی کسالت آور نیست. الان نمیتونم ریویوو درخور این کتاب رو بنویسم اما اگر بعداً توانایی‌ش رو کسب کردم حتما خواهم نوشت. آیا خوندن این کتاب رو توصیه میکنم؟ بله، حتماً.ه
Profile Image for Jerome Otte.
1,745 reviews
June 25, 2012
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. Instead, one of the great mass tragedies of history occurred, and you feel like a helpless bystander, watching it happen.

This is remarkable history and it is an extraordinary achievement. It is bound to upset those with fixed ideologies on both the left and the right. If you ever read only one book on the Russian Revolution, make it this one.

The Communists are given heavy treatment in this text. Not only do we see how they came to power, we get huge doses of their philosophy. Figes gives a detailed examination of the intellectual currents that gave rise to the Communist movement, as well as their actions once they attained power. What emerges is a bleak picture. Communism is death to all it touches. The Bolsheviks sought to not only rule by dictatorship, but to change the very essence of man into an automaton subservient to the state. Figes shows the reader the Red Terror and some of the other methods the Bolsheviks used to try and bring about this subservience. It is a horrifying picture made worse, of course, under the rule of Stalin.

Figes maintains a fairly neutral perspective throughout the book, an apologist to neither the Tsar nor the Communists (though harboring a noticeable preference and remorse for the incompetent Provisional Government ). When he does show some bias, he is never overbearing, and the few opinions that he expresses do not detract in any way from the material.

The Tsar is portrayed as an incompetent and stubborn fool, which I have come away thinking is a fair assessment. Figes gives ample evidence for his conclusions, describing the failure of Nicholas to effectively rule over an inefficient and contradictory government.

I found the treatment of the Bolsheviks to be relatively sympathetic, and the book does not suffer because of it. They are depicted as a ruthless and especially fortunate revolutionary faction, a group ready to use any means necessary to obtain power but, in the end, given a gift with the success of their unlikely coup. Some readers may find this insufficiently damning but, while I would have liked a little more about how the nature of the revolution affected later developments, the abominable governance which followed is not Figes's topic.
Profile Image for Dmitri.
191 reviews136 followers
April 21, 2023
Once in a great while a history comes along that eclipses all others in the foreseeable future. And no, I am not Orlando Figes. This book has the passion and the pathos, the humor and the humanity. I guess this is what they call literature. My only critique is the sheer weight of the volume and its mind numbingly tiny text. Couldn't this be reissued as an e-book?


I followed this “scandal” and found it hilarious. Some of the things Orlando Figes posted on Amazon lavished praise on his own work:

"A fascinating book … leaves the reader awed, humbled, yet uplifted". “Beautiful and necessary.” It sounds like phony blurbs on the back of dust jackets throughout the world.

And his criticism of rival historians: “Awful.” “Rubbish” and “Hard to follow” seem like farcical send ups of critical reviews with exaggerated adjectives, worthy of a Monty Python skit.

I could picture Figes sitting in front of his computer at three in the morning after too many highballs, composing this frontal assault on the reliability of online reviews. The only problem was he pressed the post button.

Robert Service’s statement: "I am pleased and mightily relieved that this contaminant slime has been exposed to the light and begun to be scrubbed clean," lacks a similar self effacing sense of humor. In contrast Figes is a comedic genius.

As is said, all comedy is personal but I can’t remember another literary dust up that was so amusing.
Profile Image for Mikey B..
983 reviews363 followers
January 26, 2013
This is a remarkable book on the Russian Revolution. It’s coverage from 1891 thru 1924 is detailed, but very readable. We are presented with a wide panoply of characters; Tsar Nicholas II, Lenin, Prince Lvov, Kerensky, Gorky and many more. This gives a distinctive personal feeling where history is populated by real people and provides us with a ground view of the turbulent events of Russia. It’s a brutal history.

Sadly, there were periods during the Tsar’s rule and the first months after the 1917 revolution where the country seemed to be edging towards a democratic and liberal constitution – but this was thwarted time and again and fell back to authoritarianism, which to some extent seems ingrained in the Russian psyche. The author vividly portrays these figures for what they truly were – Nicholas was weak-kneed and never wanted anything to with democracy and liberalism – he hindered any attempts to proceed in that direction – falling back to a rigid domination was his rule-of thumb. Kerensky was the wrong man in the right place – in that small opening after the events of February 1917 there was a potential for parliamentarianism; but Kerensky was rudderless and a prima donna. Lenin knew what he wanted. Lenin was intolerant of any criticism and over time succeeded in establishing a strong centralist dictatorship. It was Lenin that made the Stalinist regime possible.

Throughout this period Russia was often in a state of virtual anarchy – particularly after the start of World War I where the country was not only combating external enemies, but at war with itself. After Lenin’s coup in October 1917, it was Lenin himself who precipitated these internal struggles against “enemies of the people” – war against the bourgeoisie, war against the peasants for allegedly hoarding foodstuffs, war against striking workers and of course the civil war (the Reds and the Whites –where often groups quickly switched allegiances).

The author gives us excellent depictions of the miserable and backward existence of the peasantry – and also how the urban cities were in a constant state of flux – revolution on the street, destitution and starvation.

One does come away with a view that Marxist-Leninist philosophy and dictums gave little credence to human rights and viewed the individual as subservient to the state. After all one of its principal slogans “Dictatorship of the Proletariat” has always emphasized “Dictatorship”. It hardly compares to the motto of the French revolution “Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity”.

The long authoritarianism of the Tsarist rulers gave way to an even more vicious dictatorship under Communism – where the rights of man were crushed under a Central government that stopped at nothing to implement state policies. If you wish to gain an insight into this key era of history this is definitely the book for you. One also comes away with an understanding of Russia and its vast land mass today. At over 800 pages it is lengthy but well worth it.

Profile Image for Anthony Taylor.
165 reviews30 followers
November 9, 2022
What a Book!

A People’s Tragedy by Orlando Figes is a true masterpiece and despite its sheer size I will definitely be revisiting in the future. I have read other books by Figes and have always considered him to be a fantastic writer, he has a certain talent when it comes to placing ink on a page, which for me, places him on a parapet above most other authors or historians. However he is not without fault, he has been criticised for is mistakes with Russian, surely embarrassing for a specialist in Russian History. In addition to this, there is a scandal where he wrote negative reviews under a pseudonym on Amazon of books of other authors of Russian history. Putting this to one side, his talents are undeniable.

This book has been on my wish list for years and I don’t know I didn’t pick it up. This leaves a mixed emotion of regret and pleasure as I have now been able to experience it, much older, much wiser and with greater knowledge of Russian and world history. I feel it was due to the depressing nature of the content, after all it is not called ‘A People’s Tragedy’ without reason. The Russian Revolution is one of the great disasters of history and in reality the story does not have a happy ending.

Could all of this have been avoided? Figes explains that like all history it was not inevitable. The monarchy could have survived if it were not for the stubbornness and fear of reform of the courts of the last two Tsars. By 1917 it was politically dead, the irony being that Nicholas II would have been a great constitutional monarch. Great liberal statesmen such as Prince Levov and other Zemstvos could not hold back the rot once the cracks began to appear and unfortunately they were swept aside into historical oblivion.

The character of Lenin and the aims of the Bolsheviks are explained in great detail which show how this evil man with a lack of any love or interest in anything other than a political revolution was able to take control and bring about the deaths of thousands of people. It shows how they truly ‘stole’ a nation and through mistake after mistake of the Tsarist government, a disastrous world war and by their own good luck and chance they ended up being in the right place at the right time. However, such is history and this could be argued through many points in time. However, their regime, only brought incompetence, misery and death on scales never seen before.

I could write so much more on this subject and A People’s Tragedy itself, however I recommend you simply pick it and find out for yourself. The history of the Russian Revolution, a lesson we all must learn is delivered here in a perfect presentation for those on either side of the political spectrum from Monarchists to Stalinists alike. It is a balanced and fair view and even though a huge narrative (980 pages of text in my version of the book) leaves one hungry for more. Simply brilliant.
Profile Image for Jim.
2,053 reviews673 followers
August 12, 2012
This is at one and the same time a very long book and a fascinating one. As a exhaustive study of Russian history from the reign of Nicholas II to the death of Lenin, it is epic in its sweep. The only reasons I could not find it in me to give it five stars are the following:

[1] Orlando Figes has developed a reputation for controversy. First, he wrote reviews for Amazon.Com under an assumed name (Birkbeck) in which he excoriated competing writers on Russian history, blaming them at first on his wife. Secondly, in his most recent work, he has been assailed for misrepresentations and gross inaccuracies. Both of these events came after the 1997 publication of A People's Tragedy: A History of the Russian Revolution, which seemed to this unsophisticated reader as a work displaying an admirable sense of balance.

[2] The last third of the book about the Civil War showed some exhaustion in its composition. There were so many parties over and above the Reds and the Whites, including the Komuch, the Don Cossacks, Makhno's Ukrainian partisans, Petliura's partisans -- to name just a few. Also, there were at least a dozen occasions when Figes would suddenly conclude that the main reason the Whites lost was A or B or C ... down to Z. All were convincing reasons, but they led to a loss of focus in this section.

[3] This is not something I usually complain about -- and it has nothing to do with Figes at all -- but Viking, the publisher. For some reason, the number one was shown as a capital "I." Hence, monstrosities such as the year I9I9. Also in the Italic font used, the letter "b" and the letter "h" were indistinguishable. Hence the word burzhooi, Russian for bourgeois, looks more like burzbooi whenever it appears.

In the end, I think that Figes has done an admirable job compacting more than thirty years of turbulent history, broken into four epochs (Tsarism, the February Revolution, the October Revolution, and the Civil War), into merely 824 pages. Also, I think his conclusions are by and large on the mark:
But Russia's prospects as a democratic nation depend to a large extent on how far the Russians are able to confront their own recent history; and this must entail the recognition that, however much the people were oppressed by it, the Soviet system grew up in Russian soil. It was the weakness of Russia's democatic culture which enabled Bolshevism to take root. This was the legacy of Russian history, of centuries of serfdom and autocratic rule, that had kept the common people powerless and passive. 'And the people remained silent' was a Russian proverb -- and it describes much of Russian history. To be sure, this was a people's tragedy but it was a tragedy which they helped to make. The Russian people were trapped by the tyranny of their own history.
Ah, well, I guess the book deserves four and a half stars. It kept me on the edge of my toes for eleven long days of reading the book.
Profile Image for Christopher Saunders.
895 reviews846 followers
March 16, 2022
Orlando Figes’ A People’s Tragedy is perhaps the greatest single-volume history (at least in English) of the 20th Century’s signature cataclysm, the Russian Revolution. Figes painstakingly recreates the stratification of late Tsarist Russia: the disconnect between the poverty and starvation of the peasantry and workers and the aristocratic elite remains jaw-dropping even in our day and age. Poverty and squalor crushed the country’s lower classes, enforced shockingly casual violence inflicted by the state, landowners or each other. Thus, Figes shows, the last half-century of Romanov rule hosted escalating atrocities: government repression led to bombings and assassinations; token reforms by tsars and their advisers only strengthened terrorists, whose misdeeds only triggered more oppression. After 1905′s abortive revolution, Imperial Russia saw its final chance to stem the cataclysm. But Nicholas II, a dimwitted autocrat who never questioned his monarchical privileges, granted the most meager of concessions: a Duma with no power, reforms that benefited workers little. This, in turn, emboldened extremists: reactionaries like the Tsar-funded Black Hundreds escalated violence against Jews, liberals and minorities, while the Left grew increasingly convinced that peaceful solutions were impossible. Thus the Bolsheviks, a fringe group of radical socialists led by Lenin and Trotsky, became increasingly powerful. Liberals and moderate socialists offered promises of democratic reform that, in this context, were entirely unrealistic. And when Russia embarked on the disastrous First World War, the collapse of the Romanov Dynasty became only a matter of time.

Figes renders this dense subject matter lucid and engaging; his prose is able and he laces the narrative with dry wit and colorful characterizations of Russian figures. The book alternates searching portraits of Nicholas, his family and their advisers; military leaders Brusilov, Kornilov and Kolchak; ill-fated liberals Stolypin and Kerensky; Bolsheviks Lenin, Trotsky and Stalin; along with ordinary peasants, farmers, soldiers, workers and bourgeoisie caught in the tumult. This book ably captures how the Revolution affected all levels of Russian society, from the high politics of Red October to the starvation and suffering in the countryside. The promise of the Provisional Government gave way to the brutality of Communism; pledges of peace turned into a savage civil war, with gut-wrenching atrocities perpetrated by all sides. Millions died during the war, whether from bombs and bullets or disease and famine, while postwar collectivization policies added thousands to the body count. By the time of Lenin’s death, the Soviet Union had became a dictatorship even more repressive, if that were possible, than the monarchy it replaced.

Figes isn’t kind to any of the players in this drama, aside from the ordinary Russians victimized by either side or some of the non-Russian nationalities whose hopes for independence were inflamed by the Revolution, only to be crushed (with the Finns and Poles being exceptions). He affords no sympathy to Nicholas; the nicest sentiment Figes offers is that the Tsar might have made a fair constitutional monarch, but as Supreme Autocrat his incompetence brought ruin. Nor does he have much use for the Bolsheviks, though he recognizes that their ruthlessness and clarity of purpose made their platform seem not only plausible but desirable. Figes is also quite harsh towards Kerensky, portrayed as a strutting wannabe Bonaparte devoured by his ego, the White Generals and other liberals like Prince Lvov who overestimated their ability to reconcile a hopelessly divided country. No amount of reform could work; radical surgery was needed. And in Communism, Russia received the most radical surgery of all. It’s all recounted in a book that’s breathtaking in its depth and detail, heart-rending in its contents and damning in its judgment; a masterpiece of historical writing.
Profile Image for Fearless Leader.
186 reviews
August 22, 2019
“The people’s tragedy,” to put it simply, is the definitive Blairite history of the Russian Revolution. He dilutes himself with humanitarian idealism and his insistence that only democratic reform could have saved the Czarist Regime. I am not convinced on this point entirely. Nor am I convinced that the Whites could have won if only they embraced land reform. But these are plausible ideas and are not the reasons why I am giving this book one star. I am giving it one star because on every page I can point to a snide comment that is designed to bias the readers opinion to his neoliberal point of view. For those who want an honest history, this is not it.

The authors Menshevik and Gorkyite leanings are made obvious at every turn. And yet he is blind to the contradictions in their humanitarian ideas. And, the false notion that under their leadership or “the people’s” leadership through a democracy that things would have been different. This is nonsense. All revolutions end in blood; or as Lenin put it “there has never been a revolution without firing squads.”
Profile Image for Moshtagh ghurdarvazi.
313 reviews37 followers
December 31, 2020
«‏تراژدی آن ها این بود که درست همان زمانی که روسیه داشت پا به قرن بیستم می گذاشت تلاش می کردند به قرن هفدهم برگردند»

کتاب ارزنده تراژدی مردم نوشته ارلاندو فایجس روایتی مستند وار از زمانه و زندگی مردم روسیه در آخرین روزهای قرن هجدهم و در جریان انقلاب داره کتاب ارزشمند نه فقط برای کسانی که به تاریخ چپ و شوروی علاقه‌مند هستند کتابی برای همه!
برای من لذت بخش ترین بخش کتاب جاییست که چهره واقعی انقلابیونی مثل لنین و تروتسکی رو نمایان می‌کنه که در انتها نوشتم.

حرف های نویسنده بعد از انتشار و پخش کتاب؛
پس از انتشار کتاب «تراژدی مردم» من با خوانندگانی مواجه شدم که می گفتند زمانی چپ بودیم و گرایش مارکسیستی داشتیم و تاریخ انقلاب روسیه را می‌خواندیم اما هیچ وقت از فجایع آن دوران به این روشنی مطلع نشدیم و نمی‌دانستیم پشت پرده آهنین شوروی چه قبل از انقلاب و چه بعد از انقلاب چه می‌گذرد؟ یعنی این کتاب ما را درون زندگی مردم عادی و مردم اعماق می‌برد، ضمن این که زندگی حاکمان و بلندپایگان حکومت شوروی را هم نشان می‌دهد. زندگی ماکسیم کورگی، ژنرال‌ها، تروتسکی، بوخارین و استالین و نزدیکان لنین را بازگو می‌کند. یعنی این کتاب به روش آکادمیک و مستند نوشته شده و خود فایجس استاد تاریخ روسیه است. شناخت فایجس از تاریخ روسیه حیرت انگیز است و از این شناخت برای پرداختن به پرسش‌های مهم‌تر درباره خود ماهیت تاریخ بهره برده است. این کتاب را مانند یک رمان تاریخی می‌توان خواند و لذت برد. فایجس استاد تاریخ دانشگاه کمبریج است و این کتاب را در سال ۱۹۹۵ نوشته است.
این کتاب درس‌های فراوانی برای اغلب جوامع دارد. درس اساسی این کتاب این است که همه انقلاب‌ها در طول چند دهه از اهداف اولیه فاصله می‌گیرند و به نتایجی می‌رسند که برخلاف آرمان‌های کسانی است که بذرهای انقلاب را کاشتند. در روسیه چرنیشفسکی و بوخارین نخستین جرقه‌های انقلاب را زدند و برخی حتی یاران نزدیک لنین بودند اما دهه‌ها بعد که استالین به قدرت می‌رسد همه این یاران لنین درو می‌شوند. اگر معتقد باشیم انقلاب ثمره و میوه‌ای داشت، این را افراد فرصت‌طلبی مثل استالین می‌چینند. در همین کتاب نویسنده تاکید می‌کند که زمینه‌ها فراهم بود و میل لنین هم این بود که بعد از او تروتسکی زمام حکومت را به دست بگیرد. اما تروتسکی مغضوب استالین قرار گرفت و... یا فجایعی که پس از انقلاب به وجود آمد در دوران آخرین تزار هیچ وقت سابقه نداشت.

نقل از مهراد واعظی‌نژاد استاد تاریخ معاصر لندن
«فرض کنید به جای خواندن کتابی درباره انقلاب ایران، ساعتها فیلم خام از روزهای انقلاب ببینید.‏ بعد ساعتها فیلم خام از چند سال اول پس از انقلاب. بعد هرچه می‌خواهید از یکی دو دهه پیش از انقلاب. و بعد تازه برایتان آلبوم عکس و دفترچه خاطرات بیاورند از آدمهای عادی که درگیر انقلاب بوده‌اند. بعد از دیدن و خواندن و ورق زدن اینها، تجربه‌تان نه، اما درکتان از انقلاب احتمالاً /‏۳. از جنس درک مردمی که آن دوران را زندگی کرده‌اند خواهد بود: آنی، آشفته، پرشور، و مثل ناپدید شدن موجی که به صخره می‌رسد، تراژیک.
کتاب «تراژدی مردم» همین کار را با آنچه از سر عادت انقلاب اکتبر یا انقلاب بلشویکی می‌نامیم، می‌کند. یعنی آنچه گذشت را توضیح نمی‌دهد، تصویر می‌کند . از روی خاطرات و نامه‌ها و یادداشتهای کسانی که هر روز دانسته یا ندانسته م��غول انقلاب‌کردن بودند: نه فقط لنین و تروتسکی، بلکه دهقانی به اسم سرگئی یا سربازی به اسم دیمیتری، که نامشان احتمالاً در هیچ کتاب دیگر تاریخ انقلاب اکتبر نیامده. از این جهت، کتاب احتمالاً خواننده‌ای را که صرفاً دنبال «علل» انقلاب آمده باشد نومید می‌کند – به‌خصوص که نزدیک به هزار صفحه است. اما خواننده‌ای که می‌خواهد بداند در دهه پایانی قرن نوزدهم و دو دهه اول قرن بیستم در روسیه – یعنی در مزرعه و پادگان و کارخانه، نه فقط در کاخ تزار و اتاق کار لنین – چه خبر بوده، به خواسته‌اش
‏۶. می‌رسد.
نسخه فارسی کتاب را متأسفانه ندیده‌ام، اما نثر اورلاندو فیجز روان است. محتوای کتاب هم البته به سادگی نثر کمک می‌کند. چون قرار نیست انقلاب را با مفاهیم انتزاعی توضیح بدهد. درواقع بیش از آنکه تاریخ انقلاب باشد، داستان انقلابی‌هاست.»

"تراژدی مردم روسیه"گزارشی عمیق از انقلاب روسیه،ازمهمترین اتفاقات قرن بیستم،برای نسل جدید است.محقق برجسته،اورلاندو فایجز،در آستانەآن انقلاب نمایی ازجامعه روسیه ارائه می دهد، سپس داستان این که چگونه این نیروهای اجتماعی باخشونت پاک شدند راروایت می کند.در محدوده جنگ و انقلاب ،تاریخچه های مینیاتوری افراد وجود دارد، که فایجس سرنوشت بازیکنان اصلی را دنبال می کند زیرا دیدند امیدهایشان می میرد و جهانشان نابود می شود!
برخلاف حساب های قبلی که ریشه انقلاب را دررسیدن به نیروهای وآرمان های سیاسی فراوان ردیابی می کند، فایجس معتقد است ‏شکست دموکراسی در سال 1917 عمیقا ریشه در فرهنگ و تاریخ روسیه داشت و آنچه که به عنوان انقلاب مردم آغاز شده بود شامل دانه های انحطاط آن بود.
تراژدی مردم یک سنتز استادانه و اصلی است که توسط یک محقق بالغ انجام می شود و در یک روایت قانع کننده و قابل دسترسی انسانی ارائه شده است.‏به جرأت میتوان گفت که تراژدی مردم یکی از بهترین کتاب هایی است که در حوزه انقلاب روسیه میتوان مطالعه کرد.
بخش های جالبی از کتاب:
«‌ حکومت آخرین تزار روسیه با فاجعه آغاز شد. چند روز پس از تاجگذاری در ماه مه ۱۸۹۶، جشنی در میدان خودیانکا، میدان مشق نظامی درست در بیرون مسکو، ترتیب داده شد. صبح زود نیم میلیون نفر پیشاپیش در آنجا گرد آمده بودند و امیدوار بودند از دست تزار جدید لیوان‌های آبجوخوری یادگاری و بیسکویت‌هایی که تاریخ و مناسبت این رویداد به صورت نقش برجسته روی آن حک شده بود هدیه بگیرند. آبجو و سوسیس رایگان قرار بود به مقدار فراوان میان جمعیت توزیع شود. وقتی جمعیت بیشتری از راه رسید، شایعه‌ای دهان به دهان گشت مبنی بر اینکه که هدیه‌ها به همه نمی‌رسد. جمعیت هجوم آورد. مردم سکندری می‌خوردند و درون خندقهای نظامی می‌افتادند، و عده‌ای خفه شدند و عده‌ای زیر دست و پا له شدند. ظرف چند دقیقه ۱۴۰۰ نفر کشته و ۶۰۰ نفر زخمی شدند. با این حال تزار را متقاعد کردند که مراسم را ادامه دهد. شب همان روز، وقتی جنازه‌ها را با گاری حمل می‌کردند، نیکلا حتی در ضیافتی که مارکی دو مونت بلو، سفیر فرانسه، ترتیب داده بود شرکت کرد. ظرف چند روز بعدی باقی جشن‌های برنامه‌ریزی شده، ضیافت‌ها، مجالس رقص و کنسرت‌ها ادامه یافت، پنداری هیچ اتفاقی نیفتاده بود. افکار عمومی خشمگین شد، نیکلا کوشید با دادن مأموریت به وزیر سابق دادگستری برای یافتن علل این فاجعه آن را جبران کند. اما وقتی وزیر دریافت که "گراند دوک سرگیوس" والی مسکو و شوهر خواهر امپراتور مقصر است، گراند دوکهای دیگر به شدت اعتراض کردند. آنها می گفتند که تأیید خطای یکی از اعضای خاندان سلطنتی در ملأعام اصول حکومت مطلقه را از بنیان سست خواهد کرد.»

«رومانوف ها به گذشته پناه میبردن به امید اینکه اونا رو از شر آینده حفظ کنه»

:«پس از رسیدن خبر کناره گیری تزار به روستاها،کلیسا از دهقانان گریان پر شده بود که تکرار می کردند : چه بر سر ما خواهد آمد؟ حال که تزار را از ما گرفته اند... به ویژه عده ای احترام یک خدای روی زمین را برای تزار قائل بودند و خلع او را حمله ای به دین تلقی میکردند و آن را یک گناه می دانستند. آنها عقیده داشتند که سرنگونی امپراتور معصیت بود،زیرا خداوند او را در مسند قدرت نشانده بود. شاید رژیم جدید در این دنیا به مردم کمک کند،اما مردم مطمئنا در آن دنیا تاوانش را خواهند داد. بخش دوم:ِ شادمانی همگان و آرامش دهقانان در نتیجه ی کشف این نکته که در واقع می توانند بدون تزار زندگی کنند، در حالی که به آنان گفته می شد که بی او نمی توانند زندگی کنند، این افسانه ی رایج را که دهقان روس در راه تزار جان می دهد و بی او نمی تواند زندگی کند، باطل کرده است. اکنون دهقانان می گویند : تزار هم موجبات سرنگونی خود را فراهم کرد و هم ما را به نابودی کشاند.»

«‏"دیوان سالاری یک دنده تا تاییدیه آماری که مردم محتاج دیگر هیچ چیز برای سیر کردن شکم خود ندارند به دستش نمی رسید از تحویل مواد غذایی جلوگیری می کرد؛ که معمولا نوشدارویی بعد از مرگ میشد.
در استان سیمبیرسک کودکان از گرسنگی میمردند. لباس بچه آنجا فرستادند اما همه برگردانده شد ‏...
کسی زنده نمانده بود که آنها را بپوشد. خشم مردم از این دیوانسالاری ناکارآمد هر روز بیشتر میشد."»

«‏اتکا به دولت برای کسب ثروت،و در واقع برای بیش تر مشاغل،
اشراف روسیه را از تبدیل شدن
طب��ه مستقل زمیندار که مانند آنچه در بیش تر نقاط اروپا از قرن شانزدهم رخ داده بود وزنه تعادلی در برابر سلطنت ایجاد می کرد باز می داشت»

«پزشکی خطاب به انجمن پزشکی غازان در ۱۸۹۵ گفت: این وحشیگری نه تنها فطرت آدمی را تباه می‌کند بلکه آن را خشن‌تر و درنده‌خو‌تر می‌کند؛ چخوف نیز، که خود یک پزشک بود، تنبیه بدنی را محکوم می‌کرد و می‌گفت این کار نه تنها مجرمان بلکه کسانی را هم که مجازات را اجرا می‌کنند و کسانی را که شاهد آنند زمخت‌تر و درنده‌خو‌تر می‌کند. خشونت و قساوتی که رژیم کهن در مورد روستاییان به کار می‌برد به خشونت دهقانان تبدیل شد که نه تنها چهره‌ای زشت به زندگی روزانه‌ی ده داد بلکه به صورت خشونت هولناک انقلاب بر سر خود رژیم خراب شد.
اگر روستای روسی جای خشنی بود، خانه‌ی روستایی حتی بدتر از آن بود. قرن‌ها بود که دهقانان به خود حق می‌دادند زنان‌شان را کتک بزنند. ضرب‌المثل‌های روستایی روسیه پر بود از اندرز در باب حکمت این گونه تنبیه‌ها:
- زنت را با دسته‌ی تبر بزن، خم شو و ببین که نفس می‌کشد یا نه. اگر نفس می‌کشید بدان خودش را به موش‌مردگی زده و کتک بیش تری لازم دارد.
- زن را هرچه بیشتر بزنی، سوپی که برایت می‌پزد خوشمزه‌تر خواهد بود.
- زنت را مثل کت خز بتکان، این طوری سروصدای کمتری به‌پا می‌شود‌.
زن دوبار زیباست: یکی آنگاه که در لباس عروس به خانه می‌آورندش، و دیگر آنگاه که از خانه به قبرستان می‌برندش.
در ضرب‌المثل‌های مردم کتک‌زدن مردها هم فواید بسیار دارد: در ازای مردی که کتک خورده باید دو مرد کتک‌نخورده بدهی و تازه باز هم شاید نتوانی طرف را راضی کنی. حتی یک ضرب‌المثل روستایی می‌گفت "زندگی خوب بی‌خشونت کامل نیست." "اوه، زندگی محشریه، ولی حیف که کسی پیدا نمی‌شه کتکش بزنیم!" دعواکردن تفریح مطلوب روستاییان بود. در کریسمس، عید تجلی و ایام توبه، مشت‌بازی درست و حسابی و اغلب مرگباری بین بخش‌های مختلف یک روستا و گاه بین روستاها، از جمله بین زنان و کودکان ترتیب داده می‌شد که با مشروب‌خوری حسابی همراه بود. اختلافات جزئی در ده غالبا به دعوا ختم می‌شد. گورکی در مورد ایامی که در کراسنوويدو و گذرانده بود می‌نویسد: " سر یک گلدان سفالی شکسته که فقط دوازده کوپک قیمت داشت سه خانواده با چوب به جان هم افتادند، دست یک پیرزن شکست و جمجمه یک پسر جوان ترک برداشت. این جور دعواها هر هفته به راه بود. این فرهنگی بود که جان مردم در آن بهایی نداشت. و صرف‌نظر از این که ریشه‌های این خشونت چه بوده است، نقشی عمده در انقلاب داشت.»

« در شخصیت لنین خصلتی زاهدانه وجود داشت که بعدها در فرهنگ سیاسی رژیمش نمود یافت. ویژگی مشترک انقلابیون نسل لنین ریاضت بود. آنان همگی از راخمتف قهرمان انقلابی از خودگذشته‌ی رمان «چه باید کرد؟» چرنیشفسکی الهام می‌گرفتند. لنین با سرکوب احساساتش، با دریغ داشتن لذات زندگی از خود می‌کوشید اراده‌اش را قوی کند و خود را مانند راخمتف بی‌اعتنا به رنج‌های دیگران بار آورد. معتقد بود که این همان «سختی» است که هر انقلابی موفقی بدان نیازمند است: توانایی خونریزی برای اهداف سیاسی... لنین نیز همچون راخمتف برای تقویت عضلاتش وزنه می‌زد. این‌ها هم بخشی از فرهنگ جاهل‌مآبی (کت‌چرمی مشکی، زبان خشن، ایمان به عمل و کیش خشونت) بود که اساس بلشویسم می‌شد. لنین سیگار نمی‌کشید، می‌شود گفت مشروب نمی‌خورد و سوای دوستی رمانتیکش با اینسا آرماند علاقه‌ای به زنان زیبا نشان نمی‌داد. کروپسکایا(همسرش) او را "ایلیچ"، نامی که در حزب با آن می‌شناختندش، صدا می‌زد و لنین هم او را «رفیق» صدا می‌کرد. بیش‌تر منشی شخصی لنین بود تا همسرش و شاید از نیکبختی‌شان بود که فرزندی نداشتند. عواطف در زندگی لنین جایی نداشت. یک بار پس از اجرای سونات آپاسیوناتای بتهوون اقرار کرد که: "خیلی نمی‌توانم موسیقی گوش کنم. مجبورم می‌کند حرف‌های محبت‌آمیز و احمقانه بزنم و بر سر مردم دست نوازش بکشم. اما حالا باید بر سرشان کوبید و بی‌ترحم کتکشان زد."»
در مورد راسپوتین:
«انگشتاشو کرده تو ظرف مربا و به یه خانم سلطنتی گفته 'غرورتو بشکن،بلیسش!'»

«‏دکتر کوزنتسف: مردم مسکو به معنای واقعی کلمه دارند از گرسنگی می‌میرند.
تروتسکی: گرسنگی این نیست. زمانی که تایتیوس، امپراتور روم، اورشلیم را محاصره کرده بود، مادران کلیمی فرزندان خود را میخوردند. وقتی مادرها را مجبور کردیم بچه‌هایشان را بخورند، می‌توانید بگویید گرسنه هستیم.»

لنین موقعیت انقلابی دریک جامعه را در وجود بحران در طبقه حاکم به این معنا که توان سیادت خود را از دست بدهند،افزایش تضاد بین طبقه حاکم و مردم زیر فشار و افزایش فعالیت سیاسی مردم جهت عمل انقلابی میدانست.او بر این نظربود که این هر۳ شرط لازم‌ست تا بگوییم جامعه درشرایط انقلابی‌ است.‏
همین لنین که رهبر انقلاب بود درژانویه ۱۹۱۷(سال انقلاب)در زوریخ گفت:
«ما،آدمهای پیر شاید آنقدرزنده نمانیم که نبردهای سرنوشتساز انقلاب آتی راببینیم.امامیتوانم بااعتمادبه‌نفس بسیار از این امیدسخن بگویم که جوانانی نه فقط شادمانی نبردبلکه شادمانی پیروزی درانقلاب راتجربه خواهندکرد.»‏۵-
لنین به عنوان رهبرانقلاب آن اندازه انقلاب در روسیه را دور میدید که مانند اکثر انقلابیان از پیروزی انقلاب شگفت‌زده شد.او وقتی خبر انقلاب را شنید با تعجب به کروپسکایا،همسرش،گفت:
"حیرت‌انگیز است.اصلا نمیتوان باورکرد."
Profile Image for Tristram Shandy.
697 reviews199 followers
February 14, 2020
Ein Triumph ansprechender Geschichtsschreibung

Der britische Historiker Orlando Figes zeigt mit seiner Monumentalmonographie Die Tragödie eines Volkes, die 1996 erschien und zwei Jahre später ins Deutsche übersetzt wurde, wie Historiker aus dem angelsächsischen Sprachraum es zumeist schaffen, Geschichte auf eine fesselnde Art und Weise zu erzählen, ohne dabei den Anspruch auf Wissenschaftlichkeit aufzugeben.

Figes ist Professor für Geschichte am Birkbeck College in London und gilt als ausgewiesene Koryphäe auf dem Gebiet der modernen russischen Geschichte. Sein erstes Werk Peasant War, Civil War von 1989 eröffnet den Reigen seiner Darstellungen über die Russische Revolution, und seine letzte Monographie The Whisperers aus dem Jahre 2007 befasst sich mit dem Terror in der Sowjetunion unter der Knute Stalins.

In Die Tragödie eines Volkes widmet sich Figes der Epoche der russischen Revolution, und er tut dies in einer dichten und dennoch flüssig geschriebenen Darstellung, die den Leser sofort in ihren Bann schlägt. Figes beginnt sein Buch mit einer Darstellung der vorrevolutionären Zustände im zaristischen Russland ab dem Jahr 1891, wobei er eingehend auf die Mechanismen der autokratischen Zarenherrschaft eingeht, deren Grundfesten schon vor der Bauernbefreiung Ende des 19. Jahrhunderts und dem Aufkommen von Anarchismus und Terrorismus zu bröckeln begannen. Auch die Instrumentalisierung panslawistischer Allmachtsphantasien und des Antisemitismus – von 1911 bis 1913 etwa zog sich in Kischinjow die sog. Bejlis-Affäre hin, in deren Verlauf ein Jude des Ritualmords beschuldigt wurde – zugunsten der Zarenherrschaft werden in diesem Zusammenhang beleuchtet. Figes wirft auch einen Blick auf die bäuerliche Gesellschaft des vorwiegend agrarisch geprägten Riesenreichs und entlarvt die Barbarei der dort herrschenden Verhältnisse.

Ausgehend von dieser umfangreichen Strukturanalyse erzählt er im folgenden die Geschichte erster Demokratisierungsbestrebungen, die allerdings recht schnell im Sande verliefen, bevor dann mit dem Ersten Weltkrieg die Weichen für die beiden Revolutionen des Jahres 1917 gelegt wurden – wobei die sogenannte Oktoberrevolution freilich nichts weiter als ein von Trotzki und Lenin orchestrierter Putsch war. Eindrucksvoll lässt Figes die dramatischen Ereignisse vor allem im Petrograd jener Tage wiederauferstehen und schafft es auch, einen sehr guten Eindruck von den Parteiungen und Richtungsstreitigkeiten innerhalb der revolutionären Bewegung zu vermitteln. Darüber hinaus zeichnet er mit gewandter Feder die Porträts sowohl maßgeblicher Handlungsträger als auch eher unbekannter Zeitgenossen. Über Lenin heißt es beispielsweise: „Er lebte und kleidete sich wie ein Provinzbeamter mittleren Alters, mit exakt festgelegten Zeiten für Mahlzeiten, Schlaf, Arbeit und Muße, hielt auf Sauberkeit und Ordnung und war pedantisch bei seinen Finanzen, notierte auf Zettel alles, was er für Essen, Bahnfahrten, Schreibmaterial usw. ausgab. Jeden Morgen räumte er seinen Schreibtisch auf. Seine Bücher standen alphabetisch geordnet. Er nähte Knöpfe an seinem Nadelstreifenanzug an, entfernte Flecken darauf mit Benzin und hielt sein Fahrrad penibel sauber.“ (S.415) Warum ist das so wenig überraschend?

Auch der stille Kampf des russischen Schriftstellers Gorkij gegen die zunehmende Unmenschlichkeit, die von der Politik ins Alltagsleben getragen wurde, erfährt durch Figes‘ Darstellung eine angemessene Würdigung.

Figes unternimmt es darüber hinaus, die Wirren des Bürgerkrieges, der von 1918 bis 1920 das Land verheerte und unzählige Menschenleben forderte, gekonnt nachzuerzählen – allein das schon eine Aufgabe, vor der nicht wenige Historiker sich in allgemeine Darstellungen flüchten würden. Der Verfasser lässt seine Geschichte im Jahre 1924, dem Todesjahr Lenins, enden, wobei er allerdings noch einen kurzen Ausblick gibt, indem er verfolgt, wie die Lebensläufe einiger der Personen, die der Leser im Laufe der Darstellung kennengelernt hat, enden.

Es gibt sicherlich einige Leser, die sich von dem Umfang des Werkes abschrecken lassen, doch meiner Meinung nach spricht nichts gegen ein fast tausendseitiges Werk, wenn es nur gut geschrieben ist – und dies ist hier eindeutig der Fall. Figes versteht es, Narrativität und den Blick auf Strukturen und Hintergründe meisterhaft miteinander zu verbinden, so dass die Darstellung nicht in Vereinfachungen oder Einseitigkeiten abgleitet, sondern durchweg wissenschaftlichen Ansprüchen genügt. Umfangreiches Karten- und Bildmaterial rundet die Darstellung ab, indem es dem Leser beispielsweise hilft, die Vorgänge in Petrograd topographisch nachzuvollziehen.
Die Tragödie eines Volkes kann den Leser nicht kalt lassen, denn die Schicksale und Lebensläufe, die vorgestellt werden, bewegen. Ohne hier in moralingetränkten Betrachtungen versumpfen zu wollen, wage ich die Frage zu stellen, inwieweit es wirklich sinnvoll ist, menschliche Ungerechtigkeit und menschliches Leid systematisch auf dem Weg über gesellschaftliche Umwälzungen oder eine Neudefinierung des Menschen lösen zu wollen. Die Sowjetunion jedenfalls ist ein bedeutendes Beispiel des Scheiterns solcher Bestrebungen, und all jene, die – auch heute – dafür sind, persönliche Freiheiten einzuschränken, um mehr Sicherheit, mehr Gesundheit und mehr Gemeinschaftsgefühl zu erhalten, sollten überlegen, wo sie die Grenzen von Erziehung gesetzt wissen wollen.
Profile Image for Mary.
285 reviews12 followers
May 26, 2017
“The Russian Revolution launched a vast experiment in social engineering – perhaps the grandest in the history of mankind. It was arguably an experiment which the human race was bound to make at some point in its evolution, the logical conclusion of humanity’s historic striving for social justice and comradeship.”

Figes writes about the Russian Revolution as more of a coup in both February and October (the second time only Bolsheviks participated and it was even more haphazard) by ‘culturally isolated’ intelligentsia that really shouldn’t have worked out. It was ultimately “successful” due to the incompetent, backward-thinking tsarist regime and Whites. Reform was completely rejected yet essential to the future of the Romanovs. In the beginning the Bolsheviks had scant support but they did have discipline, ruthlessness and a cause. Plus, the peasants thought they could keep the land they took from the gentry under the Bolsheviks but would have to return it under the Whites. Not a successful strategy in a hugely peasant country. The Whites were all about revenge and turning back time. They also wanted to restore the empire and tamp down on nationalist and local language movements. The Bolsheviks paid lip service to these concerns and it ultimately worked for them. A middle class barely existed. Additionally, Figes points out that in newly industrialized Russia, the “workers” were really just peasants trying to make some money after harvest. And “soldiers” were mostly peasants conscripted against their will. So, to rule Russia after Nicholas abdicated, ya needed to improve, or at the least convincingly promise to improve, the lot of the peasants. In the end, we know how it worked out for the peasants. Lenin needed them so he told them what they wanted to hear. They were not at all political. More like locally communal anarchists trying to escape the state in any form. If you have time for only one book on the Russian Revolution, this is it.

Tsarist regime
“The tsarist regime’s downfall was not inevitable; but its own stupidity made it so.” “… the obstinate refusal of the tsarist regime to concede reforms turned what should have been a political problem into a revolutionary crisis….”

Alexander’s counter-reforms, his and Nicolas’s reactionary philosophy “To a large extent… the workers’ revolutionary movement was created by the tsarist regime.”

Alexander II did not prep Nicolas to rule, which reminded me of Peter and Catherine with their unfortunate heirs. Alexandra was not the ideal spouse. She pushed him to be even more recalcitrant. Combined with Rasputin, Nicolas had the worst nepotistic advisors until today’s White House. Nicolas had a astrong sense of duty. He was not passive. He just sucked at his job. Had a narrow perspective, focused on details. The provinces were under-governed.

“Romanovs became victim of their own propaganda”

“Romanov regime fell under the weight of its own internal contradictions.” In some ways, a revolution started at the top like the one under Gorbachev.

Tsarist state turned many into revolutionaries after overreacting to any call for greater freedoms.

“In a way, he probably found it easier to abdicate than to turn himself into a constitutional king. That was Nicholas’s tragedy.”

The peasants did not feel part of a nation. They did not abide by government rules unless forced.

“all started by the peasant revolution on the land” before 1917.

Emancipation of serfs, landed nobles not getting up to speed, freed serfs getting screwed.

“The emphatic rejection of the Whites by the peasantry and the non-Russians determined the outcome of the civil war.”

Disastrous war with Japan in the midst of a domestic social revolution. Replay during WWI and the army got really fed up (no food, no uniforms, poor training and lousy leadership). As they began to realize they were cannon fodder, they were revolutionized. If the Tsar had signed a separate peace with Germany, who knows? The soldiers may have showed him a some form of allegiance. Once many in the army became revolutionized, the Tsar was for all intents and purposes, finished.

Famine 1890s
The famine further radicalized people. “(T)he conflict between the people and the regime had been set in motion.”

Was distabalizing in its rapidity in a “backward”, unprepared country. Poorly educated workers could not “progress beyond the simplest abstract ideas.” Theirs was a black-white world. OTOH, the literacy rate was growing rapidly which allowed people access to written propaganda.

The Bolsheviks
Mostly comprized of the urban intelligentsia who latched on to European ideas and dogmatized them, snuffing out debate. They had a “passion for big ideas” which gave us Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, and also Lenin and Trotsky.

“Guilt was the psychological inspiration of the revolution.” They witnessed huge, horrifying gaps in standards of living. They simultainiously mythologized the peasants and were disgusted by them.

Marxism (which was never really practiced in Russia) was treated as a “science” thus further enrapturing the areligious intelligentsia.

The inhumane viciousness of the Tsarist police led directly to the same in the Bolsheviks. The tortured, terrified and oppressed became the torturers, terrorists and oppressors. How novel is that? Waterboarding anyone?

“… it is surely true that the Bolsheviks were psychologically prepared for a civil war in a way that could not be said of its opponents. One might compare it to the Spanish Civil War: Franco’s side was ready – and eager – for a civil war; the same could hardly be said of the Republicans.”

“There were times when the Bolsheviks acted more like a local mafia than the ruling party of the largest country in the world.”

“The key to this Communist utopia was control of the food supply: without that the government had no means of controlling the economy and society. The Bolsheviks were painfully aware of the fact that their regime lay at the mercy of a largely hostile peasantry.”

“The (Bolshevik) fear of the peasant was the great unresolved tension of the 1920s – one that led inexorably towards the tragedy of collectivization.” The recruitment of peasants into communism was mostly aimed at the resentful sons of peasants who were unsatisfied with and embarrassed by the peasant life. Self-hating peasants then turned on their own. A big part of collectivization was the get rid of these apolitical peasant fathers.” See Turganev.

“Bolshevism was a very Russian thing. Its belief in militant action, its insistence, contrary to the tenets of Marx and Hegel, that a revolution could ‘jump over’ the contingencies of history, placed it firmly in the Russian messianic tradition.”

“One could argue that the command system was itself an inevitable outcome of the contradiction of October – a proletarian dictatorship in a peasant country….”

Imagining they could remake mankind, the Bolsheviks “believe(d) that human nature could be changed simply by altering the social environment in which people lived. Man cannot be transformed quite so easily: human nature moves more slowly than ruling ideologies or society. This is perhaps the one enduring moral lesson of the Russian Revolution – as it is indeed of the terrible history of this (21st) century.” Amen.

“”… the single greatest difference between Russia and the West… was that in Western Eusrope citizens were generally free to do as they pleased so long as their activities had not been specifically prohibited by the state, while the people of Russia were not free to do anything unless the state gave them specific permission to do it.”

The February Revolution was “more like a peasant riot” The men of February, intoxicated by their own self-image as the heirs of 1789, were deluded into believing that they could resolve problems of 1917 by importing Western constitutional practices and policies for which their were no real precedents, nor the necessary cultural base, in Russia.” …. “Apart from the state itself, there was nothing holding Russia together.”

“… the whole of the civilization of the gentry, … had never been more than a thin veneer laid over the top of the brutal exlpoitation of the peasants, from which the revolution had emerged.”

“The October seizure of power…: few historical events in the modern era better illustrate the decisive effect of an individual on the course of history. Without Lenin’s intervention it would probably never have happened at all – and the history of the 20th century would have been very different.” Lenin usurped power for power’s sake. He held workers and peasants in contempt. It was mostly about his needs. He was ready to “ditch” the Soviets when he couldn’t use them.

The Masses
“The tragedy of the Russian Revolution was that the people were too weak politically to determine its outcome.”

During WWI, on the home front, no food, no provisions, no heat, etc.

“Historians have tended to neglect the connections between this plebian war on privilege and the origins of the Red Terror….. “it had a strange mass appeal.” “Loot the looters” "take from those who still have anything worthwhile.” … “… the whole of the social revolution had been largely driven by petty localism.”

Even if the revolution didn’t improve the lives of Russians at least it wrecked the aristocracy. Russians seem to thrive on schadenfreude. Zloradstvo?

“This low cultural level of the Soviet bureaucracy was to be a permanent legacy of October which wouldn later come to haunt Bolshevik leaders.” They destroyed the former leaders, got rid of skilled workers, massacred the aristocracy and drained what had been a tiny middle class. New bureaucrats, military officers, etc, were untrained and uineducated. You can still pick up on a crass rudeness in public Moscow today.

I wonder if Putin knows about this reoccurring Russian oversight of not grooming an heir inevitably leading to disaster…. Or maybe there will be another revolution. Kids born since Yeltsin can more easily compare their lot to the those of their Western peers. Plus, it must suck living in a society where the rule of law is meaningless. Causes high anxiety and hatred.

Trump is certainly no Lenin (for starters, Lenin read books) but this antisocial-narcissistic-personality-disorder-tool-of-the-Kremlin is “running” my nation’s capitol like no one before him. Or after, God willing. And you just know Trump hates the unwashed masses who voted for him, just as Lenin hated the peasants (and didn’t care much for the workers either). Trump needed the white disaffected voters in the middle of this country so he told them what they wanted to hear. Let’s see how it works out for them.

In the passage above about the Bolsheviks operating as a mafia, substitute “Bolshevik” with Trumpistas” and “largest” with most “powerful” and then have a shot of whiskey.

Guilt is still a dangerous motivator (much less dangerous when used as a dissuader). Guilt is related to shame which has gotten the Middle East into a lot of trouble. To me, guilt implies belittlement. What began as privileged guilt in Russia before the Revolution resulted in disaster. White guilt is doing us no good. Westerners who feel guilty for the difficulties many predominantly Muslim countries are experiencing with modernity and how the people of those countries are reacting seem to be looking down upon them. Like they can’t be expected to play nice and improve their lot cuz they’re not white Christians. I call BS on all of it. It goes hand in hand with victimhood. Also not a good motivator! Sad! Our continued involvement making war and social engineering in countries who don't want us and whom we do not understand is a never-ending disaster. We have now very overtly taken sides with the Sunnis against the Shia. WHAT ARE WE THINKING??? What's the plan here?

In the Southern US, among former Confederacy states, we are slowly dealing with “The Cult of the Lost Cause” by removing monuments honoring those who fought for the breakup of my beloved country. This is the best speech of the year: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WQ29U... Hat off to Mr. Landrieu, Mayor of the great city of New Orleans. More speeches like this, please.

I think of this when I wonder if Russia can come to terms with its past. Would be a very healthy thing to do. “Their revolutionary tragedy lay in the legacies of their own cultural backwardness rather than the evil of some ‘alien’ Bolsheviks. They were not the victims of the revolution but protagonists in its tragedy.” Putin plays on this sickness of Russian victimhood today to help keep up his poll numbers. The West is out to get us! Poor, innocent Russia! “The ghosts of 1917 have not been laid to rest.”

The book was very long and sometimes repetitive. However, when dealing with the Russian Revolution, you're allowed to go on. It's just so complicated....
Profile Image for Alireza.
60 reviews
October 23, 2022
تراژدی مردم رو میشه به یه سریال بلند تاریخی تشبیه کرد پر از بازیگرهای مختلف که اغلب شخصیت‌هایی خاکستری دارن
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فصل سوم در مورد انقلاب فوریه، دولت موقت، انقلاب اکتبر، آغاز شکل‌گیری نظام کمونیستی و افراد مهمی مثل کرنسکی، لنین، تروتسکی، بوخارین و ...
در فصل آخر هم جنگ‌های داخلی، تثبیت قدرت، اقدامات لنین و درنهایت استالین
در طول این سریال هم چهره‌های ثابتی از قشرهای مختلف بودن که نویسنده باهاشون میاد جلو و شرایط‌شون توی این دوره‌های مختلف به تصویر کشیده میشه. این افراد معمولا چهره‌های مثبتی هستند که خواننده میتونه باهاشون هم‌ذات‌پنداری کنه و حالشون رو درک کنه مثل گورکی، بروسیلوف، سمیونوف، کاناتچیکوف و چند نفر دیگه. البته همونجور که اول گفتم، شخصیت‌ها خاکستری هستن و حتی گورکی که به نوعی قهرمان این سریال هست هم مصون از اشتباه و جهت‌گیری غلط نیست.
حجم کتاب زیاد هست و با توجه به موضوع مورد نظر جزئیات خیلی خیلی زیادی داره که اگر از روی بعضی‌ها سریع رد نشید ممکنه وقت زیاد و حوصله بالایی رو نیاز داشته باشه
نویسنده هم سعی کرده زمینه‌های مختلف فرهنگی، اقتصادی، اجتماعی رو برای دلایل این انقلاب به تفصیل توضیح بده
به نظر من برای جمع‌آوری مطالب و نوشتن این کتاب زحمت زیادی کشیده شده و نویسنده کار بزرگی رو انجام داده
از نکات مثبت این کتاب اینه که خیلی خشک نیست و نویسنده سعی داشته حتی‌الامکان این موضوع سنگین تاریخی رو با یه روایت مناسب ببره جلو. از همه جذاب‌تر اینه که نویسنده غیر از تاریخ با ادبیات هم میونه خوبی داره و جای جای کتاب ��ز نویسنده‌ها، کتاب‌ها، نمایشنامه‌هاو منابع مهم صحبت میکنه که کلی خوراک به خواننده برای مطالعات بعدیش میده. ترجمه کتاب هم قابل قبول و روان هستش
نکته منفی کتاب اینه که دیدگاه نویسنده (با وجود تلاشی که داشته) بیشتر در نقد چپ‌ها هستش و در راهکارها معمولا «اگر»هایی رو مطرح میکنه که میتونسته از انقلاب جلوگیری کنه یا اجازه نده دولت موقت سقوط کنه
در انتها هم اینکه اگر به خوندن تاریخ روسیه علاقه دارید قطعا پیشنهاد میکنم ولی باید بدونید که با یه کتاب طولانی روبه‌رو هستید که در بعضی صفحات بسیار تخصصی میشه و نیاز به یه مقدار دانش سیاسی و اقتصادی داره و در بعضی جاها هم ممکنه طاقت‌فرسا و خسته‌کننده بشه (به نظرم تقصیر نویسنده نبوده و ذکر بعضی رخدادها لازم بوده که ذاتا موضوعات خسته‌کننده‌ای هستن و انتقادی به ایشون نیست)
Profile Image for Czarny Pies.
2,483 reviews1 follower
November 24, 2016
Orlando Figes' masterful "A People's Tragedy: The Russian Revolution: 1891-1924" provides a rich and complex portrait that of Russian society at the time of the fall of the Romanov dynasty and the birth of the Communist state. One does not read it for Figes' opinions but rather for the amount of detail that he is able to marshall and synthesize on the key social, cultural and political trends of the revolutionary era. The book is a great pleasure for anyone fascinated by the culture and history of Russia. Even those who disagree with Figes' conclusions, will agree that he has taught them a great deal about the era.
In terms of primary research, Figes' specialty is Russian peasant society. Not surprisingly then, the greatest strength of the book is the analysis of the role of the peasantry during the revolutionary era. Figes argues that very effectively that the overriding goal of the leaders of the peasant communes times was to acquire ownership of the land held by the nobility. When the Tsar's regime fell, the peasant communes spontaneously seized the noble lands. Subsequently they supported the Communists who promised them that they could keep the land against the Whites who said that they would restore it to the nobles. Once the Whites had been expelled from Russia, the Communists proceeded to collectivized the land by taking advantage of a generational cleavage in the countryside. The Communists recruited young peasants who had moved to the city to work in factories to act as bureaucrats in the agricultural communities and lead the fight against the oder communal leaders d. In this way the Communists used one generation of peasant leaders to fight the Whites and a second generation of peasants to imposed collectivization.
Relying on the writings of other historians, Figes makes the additonal points:
1. Tsar Nicholas was the author of his own downfall. He packed his government and his army with individuals who were loyal to his autocracy but totally lacking in ability. Consequently the Russian war effort was bungled in every aspect which brought down the Tsar's regime.
2. It was also the Tsar's fault that liberal democracy failed in Russia. For the previous 20 years, Nicholas had resisted every effort to create a constitutional monarchy in Russia which prevented the development of a strong class of liberal democratic politicians. Thus when the Romanov dynastry fell in February 1917, the provisional government lasted less than a year before a second revolution brought the Bolcheviks to power.
3. The Bolcheviks came to power not because they had the greatest support amongst the working class but because of Lenin's energy and uncommon sense of timing. In Figes' view, Lenin stole the revolution from the Soviets.
4. The notion that Stalin was the one who established terror and totalitarianism in communist Russia is a revisionist myth fabricated by Left wing historians. It was in fact Lenin in fact that who established the practices and institutions of the communist dictatorship.
Orlando Figes' "A People's Tragedy" is a very dense book but one that is richly rewarding. It will give a great deal of pleasure to anyone who has the energy required to read it through to the end.

Profile Image for John.
226 reviews104 followers
May 22, 2015
Far and away the best single volume of the background of the various revolutions and of early Soviet history (through Lenin's death and Stalin's rise to power) that I know of. Figes, a truly gifted story-teller, has given us a griping narrative that he spins from massive erudition. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Perato.
116 reviews9 followers
August 11, 2021
A Book of biblical proportions in terms of what it covers to what the implications were to Russia and the world. Over 800 pages of Russian history that covers about 30 years of turmoil. It gives a lot of food for thought and because of it's(the book and the topic) magnitude it's hard to digest all of it in just one read let alone trying to review it in just after the end.

Although the actors, political parties, locales etc. change fast and a lot, it was quite easy to keep up what he was talking about. The writing is good, yet I cannot really say about his arguments since I'm not that familiar with the topic and was a bit overwhelmed about the amount of information. This isn't just a recollection of events, but sort of an explanation to why things happened the way they happened. It's quite broad in it's focus, it's not just about few party people but a whole of nation, explaining a lot of the old Tsarist Russia before even entering WW1(around p. 250). Also a lot of focus is in the peasants and in agriculture instead of factories although after you read it, you understand why. The book increased my understanding of the Soviet union and the people especially since my main interests lie in the times after these events.

I'm sure to return to this book once I've devoured more Russian classics and when I'm more informed about the French Revolution. I'd say this is a cornerstone book to anyone interested in the history of 1900's Europe, World Wars, Cold War or communism.

One flaw worth mentioning is the writers habit of repeating himself, although in a book of this scope I felt it was somewhat useful to be reminded of things often. The other one is his random comments about Russians and Russia which occasionally come off as rude remarks of a nation/nationality.
Profile Image for Ray.
575 reviews114 followers
January 1, 2019
A real brick of a book, heavy and difficult to hold for any kength of time without getting cramp. Dense text which in places I had to read twice and more.

I enjoyed reading this, it had a lot of detail and insight into a subject that fascinates me. It is good at getting over the sense of how close the Russian revolution was to failure, seemingly always on the brink of disaster yet held together somehow by the implacable will of Lenin and the discipline of his cadres. Being able to lie with ease and take down opponents one at a time helped with this of course.

It also makes clear that the roots of Stalin's reign of terror and his countless murders lie with Lenin, and his callous indifference to the means as long as the objective is reached.

One thing I did not like was the teaser thrown in at the end, that Kirov was plotting against Stalin at the time of his assassination. It is clear that Stalin murdered Kirov, and this gives a reason - as if Stalin needed a reason to kill - but the plot idea is not explored.
Profile Image for Dave.
153 reviews35 followers
March 10, 2013
I just pulled this volume off the shelf to revisit the Czech Legion's role in the Revolution/Civil War, one of the many amazing subplots of that time and place. This book is historical writing as it should be done for a popular audience; the style is reminiscent of Barbara Tuchman's very best stuff. I read the entire book about 10 years ago and I frequently reread extended passages to refresh my memory of specific events and for sheer entertainment. A masterful writer on a fascinating topic.
Profile Image for Tichana .
98 reviews18 followers
September 2, 2020
**** 3.25 Stars ****

I have to start by saying that I think Orlando Figes is a brilliant historian. The amount of detailed information in People's Tragedy was ridiculous and I enjoyed it thoroughly. However, I have to admit that Figes's bias was evident in his writing. I do acknowledge that every topic researched is loaded with bias in general. There is no such thing as objective research. The fact that the researcher picks a topic they are interested in is by itself biased. There is nothing wrong with bias as long as the researcher is aware of it and does not twist the truth to fit their agenda.

I noticed from the start that Figes did not like Lenin or the Soviet Union and I mean I definitely do not blame him. However, I did have issues with him making it sound like the Russian mass was not in favour of the Bolshevik revolution of 1917. I think that is a bit misleading. For a revolution like that to occur and be able to rise above any other power and get rid of both landlordism and capitalism, the mass has to be in on it. It just does not make sense. Figes however makes it sound as if the revolution brought nothing but death, hunger, and disease to the Russian people. I think that is part of the truth but not entirely.

I think the issue of not being able to grasp the fact that a nation would want a revolution like that lies in the fact that a lot of Western historians view the world from a Western perspective that is embedded in favour of Capitalism. A socialist revolution simply does not fit in that agenda. There is this idea in the West that the East is always in need of saving and that saving can only be achieved by a Western intervention. The West often views the rest of the world as a place of chaos that needs saving by assimilating into the Western culture.

In addition, Figes makes it sound as if there was a lot of blood shed during the October revolution, but as I have read before from other historians that the October revolution was bloodless, but the civil war was where the bloodbath began.
The fact that Figes indirectly implies that both Bolshevism and Stalinism are the same thing and that one emerged from the other is also misleading and far-fetched. Because to be completely honest, if they were so similar, I don't see why people like Trotsky (who was a Bolshevik) would have any problem with Stanlinism and why would he choose to fight it till the end, or why Lenin would strongly oppose putting Stalin in power before his death.
Figes also seemed to imply that if the Czar had acted differently, maybe the revolution could have been avoided. But I think that is completely the opposite of what would have happened. Fascism would've stayed in Russia if Czarism continued to rule.

But what did I like about this book? apart from the issues mentioned above, I liked everything else. I liked reading about Nicholas the 2nd. Nikolai Romanov was definitely not fit to be Czar. The whole idea of Czarism seemed wrong to me as a ruling system. The revolution could not be avoided, but I may be wrong.
I also liked reading about the Russian culture in general and the ongoing tension between the peasants and the bourgeois. Figes's knowledge of the Russian culture was displayed here the most in my opinion.
I quite enjoyed Figes' writing style as well. I found it organized and informative. There were no pages wasted on unimportant information. I found his writing to be professional and very detailed. I did not find the book to be long at all. For such a revolution to be completely written in details, it definitely needs beyond 1000 pages.

Would I recommend People's Tragedy? Absolutely but with the thought in mind that Figes has his own biases, and maybe other books from different perspectives need to be read as well. Perhaps one written by a Russian historian would be interesting.
Overall, I quite enjoyed People's Tragedy and I definitely learned a lot from it about the revolution of 1917 and the Russian culture in general. I plan to read other works on the topic in the future.
Profile Image for Colleen Browne.
286 reviews68 followers
August 9, 2018
Despite a few slip-ups by the editors on sentence structure, this is an extraordinarily researched and well-written book. Some people will be put off by its length but the information it offers is well worth the effort. The reader cannot help but be impressed by Figes' knowledge of the Russian Revolution. Perhaps no one has a better grasp of that period of Russian history.

Throughout the book, the reader is left wondering if Russia is an ungovernable country. Figes refers to a quote from Bertrand Russell in which he argued that "terrible though Bolshevik despotism was, it seemed the right sort of government for Russia." This is an extraordinary statement coming from someone like Russell and yet, it seems to be accurate. Lenin trying to jump over the parts of Marx's dialectic to reach socialism sooner was obviously a failure on his and his party's part.

The peasants of Russia, who made up most of the population supported Lenin's revolution in an effort to throw off the chains that had bound them for so long. During the Civil War, they continued to support the Bolsheviks in part because the Bolsheviks played on the peasants hatred of the tsar but once the war had ended, the Bolsheviks in the view of the peasants had merely replaced one form of tyranny for another. Moreover, the incompetence of the Bolsheviks guaranteed that staying in power would not be easy. The amount of deaths during that period is hard to grasp. Between WWI, the revolution, and the Civil War, not to mention all the famines and the bloody way that the Bolsheviks imposed their will led to the deaths of better than 10 million people.

I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in Russian history.
Profile Image for Leah.
1,384 reviews209 followers
June 27, 2017
Exemplary mix of the political, the social and the personal...

In order to tell the story of the Russian Revolution, Figes begins three decades earlier, in 1891, with the famine that could be seen as starting the journey towards revolution; and continues up to 1924, the year that the first dictator, Lenin, died. This is a huge work, massive in scope, meticulously researched and delivered with a level of clarity that makes it surprisingly easy to read and absorb, even for someone coming to the subject with no previous knowledge. It's divided into four sections that thoroughly cover each period, looking at all the different parts of society and how they were affected at each point. It's very well written, remains largely free of academic jargon and, to my joy, contains all the relevant information in the main body of the text, meaning no flicking backwards and forwards to notes. The notes at the back are mostly reserved simply to give information about the extensive sources Figes has used.

The first part describes society as it was at the point where revolutionary ideas were still in their infancy. Figes describes the Romanov dynasty in some depth – Nicholas II's autocratic style of rule, the influence on him of Alexandra and, through her, Rasputin, and the methods of government that were in force, with all power still concentrated in the hands of a relatively small class of nobles. He shows what life was like for the peasants, still nasty, brutish and short, but with some more liberal landowners making efforts to provide education for the young. He takes us into the new industrial centres, beginning to suck people in from the villages including those newly educated peasants – places which appalling working and living conditions made ripe for the revolutionary ideas beginning to circulate via the intelligentsia. The church, which Figes suggests never had a solid grip even on the peasant classes, was weakened further as people moved to the cities where there weren't enough churches to serve the rapidly expanding population. The army, meanwhile, was becoming increasingly out of date – Nicholas loved to parade his cavalry and to see his officers in smart uniforms, but wasn't terribly interested in the less romantic motor vehicles and new weapons being incorporated into the armies of the bordering nations, west and east.

Part 2 covers the period from 1891 to just before the revolution proper began. Again Figes ranges widely, often using the stories of individuals to add a human face to the political history. The famine of 1891, due largely to failures in policy, eventually forced the Tsar to appeal for voluntary groups to provide aid to the starving masses. The liberal intelligentsia dived enthusiastically into this, and thus began some of the organisations which would become political protest movements. But still Nicholas rejected reforms, leading to increasing radicalisation of the disaffected. The 1904 war against Japan, which Nicholas expected to win easily, highlighted the weakness of the army, while the eventual loss was a national humiliation which further undermined the monarchy. The 1905 revolution arose from all of these factors, further aggravated by the brutal force used to disperse protest marches. Although this revolution failed, Figes shows how it hardened attitudes and consolidated the various factions which would play major roles in the years to come. Figes explains these factions well, including their various policy aims, which is a great help in understanding the confusion of personalities and groups that feature in the events of 1917. And finally this section takes us up to the early years of WW1, showing the terrible losses and huge hardships suffered by soldiers and civilians.

The third section concentrates on the revolutionary year – from February 1917 to the signing of the peace of Brest-Litovsk in March 1918. This is basically the period covered in Trotsky's History of the Russian Revolution which I recently read and reviewed, and while Trotsky's massive account is obviously more detailed, this one has the huge advantage for the reader that Figes has done the groundwork of explaining all the different groupings and factions. So where Trotsky lost me a little in the mid-section, Figes manages to keep a level of clarity throughout the confusion of this year. It seems to me that Trotsky's history must have been one of Figes' major sources for this section, and the two accounts complement each other well, I found. In retrospect, I suspect it would have been better to read them the other way round though – this one first, then Trotsky. Figes gives what feels like a less biased account, not unnaturally, dismissing the idea of the coup as 'bloodless' and showing some of the horrors that took place, along with an almost complete breakdown of any kind of social order. He also discusses the issues of Lenin's return on the 'sealed train' and German funding of the revolution, suggesting that the Germans did indeed provide gold but that Lenin and his comrades were not at any point acting as German agents.

Part 4 tells the complex tale of the Civil War that followed the revolution – the various factions within the Whites, all fighting for different aims, and thus never really consolidating as a unified force; the former Allies, primarily Britain, providing support for the Whites in an attempt to destroy the Bolsheviks; the growth of the Red Army under Trotsky's leadership to huge numbers of men, but without sufficient equipment to keep them supplied; the forced conscription, massive brutality and violent anti-Semitism inflicted by both sides. Figes then goes on to describe Lenin's regime after the war, including the huge rise in bureaucracy that allowed the major players in the regime to begin to form their own fiefdoms and power bases. He also shows the country in a state of ruin, the cities depopulated, the villages racked by famine and starvation, until eventually Lenin was forced to turn back towards a form of capitalism, prompting accusations of betrayal by those who were still fanatical about the ideals of the revolution.

Figes concludes that the people brought about their own tragedy. The country's social and economic backwardness and lack of real belief in democracy meant that they opened the door for what was essentially a return to tsarism in a different form. And he warns, prophetically when you remember this book was first published in 1996, that the fall of the USSR would not necessarily lead to an embracing of democracy in the former states, or in Russia itself.

The book is generously illustrated with over a hundred plates. Some are the usual portraits of the main players, but many show the ordinary people of the cities and villages and, often, the real horrors they endured. Some are indeed upsetting – the ones relating to torture or cannibalism for instance – and while I found those pictures, and Figes' vivid and unsparing descriptions of the events behind them, hard to take, I didn't feel either were gratuitous or sensationalised – they are an essential part of the historical record, and that's the way in which Figes presents them.

This is an exceptional book – one of the best broad scope histories I've read. It's brilliantly written and well laid out, making it easy to read and understand despite the immense complexity of the subject. It is an exemplary mix of the political, the social and the personal, so that I came away from it understanding not just the politics and timeline of events, but how it must have felt to have lived through them. Should you ever be struck with a sudden desire to read an 800-page history of the Russian Revolution, then without a doubt this is the one to read. My highest recommendation.

NB This beautifully produced, special centenary edition of the book was provided for review by the publisher, Bodley Head.

Profile Image for Yair Zumaeta Acero.
96 reviews19 followers
March 15, 2021
La literatura existente sobre la Revolución Rusa es bastante prolífica. Cientos de ensayos y estudios se han hecho, lastimosamente en su gran mayoría, ideologizados y cargados de contenido subjetivo / político, especialmente por obra y gracia de historiadores de corte marxista, socialista o soviético. Igualmente, la mayoría de estos escritos se centra especialmente en los acontecimientos de Febrero y Octubre de 1917, con una visión romántica y hasta heroica de los ejércitos bolcheviques como salvadores del pueblo ruso, del sistema soviético como liberador del espíritu humano, de Lenin como un patriarca casi divino y de la Revolución en general como la fuerza constructiva de una mejor civilización rusa.

El mayor acierto de este libro es precisamente el respeto que tiene Orlando Figes para con sus lectores. En lugar de adoctrinar y manipular, el autor, gracias a la apertura al público de numerosos archivos censurados por el régimen soviético antes de su caída en 1991, permite mostrarle al lector el panorama aterrador, inhumano y hasta dantesco que fue la Rusia de Lenin, sin los sesgos, censuras y versiones heroicas de los acontecimientos previos y posteriores a la Revolución Rusa.
Gracias a importantes fuentes como la prensa de la época, la correspondencia oficial y las cartas privadas de la mayoría de sus protagonistas (desde el mismísimo Lenin hasta simples campesinos siberianos), Figes logra en un corpulento libro de casi 1000 páginas, ilustrarnos objetivamente sobre la Rusia previa a la Revolución, con la dinastía Romanov tambaleándose, la hambruna de 1891, la revolución de 1905, la Primera Guerra Mundial; para luego centrar su estudio en la caída del zar Nicolás II, las revoluciones de febrero y octubre de 1917, el gobierno provisional, su caída, el ascenso de los bolcheviques y la toma del poder por parte de éstos.

En la mayoría de libros sobre la historia de la Revolución Rusa, la historia comienza con las protestas por el pan de febrero de 1917 y termina con la toma de los bolcheviques del Palacio de Invierno. Sin embargo, el libro de Figes no sólo analiza profundamente las causas de la Revolución, sino también sus consecuencias, dedicando un gran apartado a la Guerra Civil Rusa entre bolcheviques (rojos) y monárquicos (blancos), y a las revueltas campesinas de 1920-1921, a la profunda hambruna de 1921, al régimen de terror bolchevique y al ascenso de Stalin, eclipsando a un agónico y moribundo Lenin, finalizando el libro con la muerte éste último en 1924.

Pero éste no sería más que un muy completo y detallado libro de historia, sino fuese porque Figes logra incluir magistralmente una metodología de narración de la historia social. El sufrimiento inconmensurable de más de 10 millones de muertos por las revoluciones de 1917, la guerra civil, el terror bolchevique, las hambrunas, las requisas de alimentos y las epidemias, sin mencionar los casi 2 millones de exiliados y los millones huérfanos que deambularon por las calles de Petrogrado y Moscú, robando o prostituyéndose por una hogaza de pan. “La tragedia de un pueblo” (Subtítulo en español, título original en inglés), está perfectamente enmarcado en la descripción que hace el autor de los horrores que vivieron obreros, campesinos, civiles y soldados a lo largo de 33 años de conflicto.

A pesar del inmenso esfuerzo requerido para leer un libro con este volumen, la narración de Figes es amena, aunque requiere de un alto grado de atención por parte del lector dado el tamaño de los datos, fechas, personajes y acontecimientos que se manejan. Para dar respiros en la narración histórica (así como fundamento a lo que se está relatando), el autor incluye sabiamente citas, conversaciones, pasajes, relatos y correspondencia de los protagonistas de los hechos, aunque los más estremecedores resultan ser las narraciones hechas por aquellos que más padecieron: Campesinos que describen las requisas de alimento por los bolcheviques, familias que mueren de hambre y recurren al canibalismo, soldados desolados en los campos de muerte de la Primera Guerra Mundial, obreros con las esperanzas destrozadas por los abusos del régimen bolchevique, un “régimen proletario en un país de campesinos”.
Tal como comencé esta reseña, diré que libros sobre la Revolución Rusa hay muchos, pero éste de Orlando Figes tal vez se erige como la obra “definitiva” sobre el tema. Interesante, objetivo, crítico y magistralmente documentado, sin lugar a duda es uno de los mejores ensayos históricos publicados sobre uno de los acontecimientos más importantes, sangrientos y terribles del brutal y atroz siglo XX.

“En lugar de ser una fuerza cultural constructiva, la revolución había destruido casi la totalidad de la civilización rusa; en lugar de la liberación humana, había provocado simplemente la esclavización humana; y en lugar de la mejora espiritual de la humanidad, había conducido a la degradación."
Profile Image for Lizixer.
132 reviews33 followers
June 12, 2012
This is a painful read for a number of reasons.

First and foremost, it does not spare you with detail of how badly people suffered during this period. Life became very, very cheap. It demonstrates that wholesale slaughter of Jewish communities was not invented by the Nazis. It also firmly places Bolshevism in the same life-denying, destructive category as fascism and National Socialism, linking it to a philosophy, born out of the blood of the first World War, that the next stage in evolution was to turn people into cogs in a vast state machine that would render terms such as individuality, happiness and creativity meaningless. It is a reminder of why, in 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights had to be written following a period of history where human lives were squandered in their millions by totalitarian dreams of national and ideological supremacy.

Figes is very readable and despite it being a doorstep of a book, it is not hard to get through. Recommended.
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