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

4.33  ·  Rating details ·  3,786 ratings  ·  325 reviews

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 pr

Paperback, 923 pages
Published March 1st 1998 by Penguin Books (first published August 26th 1996)
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CJ Spear I found a political science major who was forced to buy it for class but never read it, and I got it for free from him. It's worth a shot.…moreI found a political science major who was forced to buy it for class but never read it, and I got it for free from him. It's worth a shot.(less)

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May 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing
“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 experim ...more
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,’ clarif ...more
Ahmad Sharabiani
‭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 2011 می
David Gustafson
Oct 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing
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 beg
May 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
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 ...more
Aug 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, russia
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 w
In this work, Figes makes two arguments that are not fully apparent until the conclusion: First, the Russian people were not "betrayed" by the Revolution. Instead, the devolution of the Revolution was, in Figes's view, the result of the inability of the Russian people to come to terms with democratic institutions. He finds that the period between 1905-1914 represented Russia's "liberal democratic" revolution, but it did not produce the reforms necessary to instill confidence in the Russian peopl ...more
Feb 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: europe, russia
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 that 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? ...more
May 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
“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 iso
Czarny Pies
Nov 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in European history.
Shelves: european-history
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 ...more
Mikey B.
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
E. G.
Notes on Dates

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

Apr 02, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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. ...more
Tichana  (The Book Hobbit)
**** 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 nothi
Jun 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017, history
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 sub
Feb 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is probably the best single-volume work about the Russian Revolution ever printed in English. It was written after the Soviet archives were opened, making a vast mass of new material available to historians and significantly changing the story as it had been previously understood in the West. It is also the work of an author determined to present as full and true a picture as possible of what happened in Russia during those terrible years, a picture as free from bias and ideological distort ...more
Sep 08, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, russia
Orlando Figes is a British academic, historian and writer known for his works on Russian history. The Financial Times has called Figes "the great storyteller of modern Russian historians." His first major book, A People's Tragedy: The Russian Revolution: 1891-1924, was published in 1996. The book garnered several literary and history awards, winning the Wolfson History Prize, the WH Smith Literary Award, the NCR Book Award, the Longman/History Today Book Prize, and the Los Angeles Times Book Pri ...more
Jan 01, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
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 a
Mar 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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. ...more
Feb 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I found Orlando Figes' "A People's Tragedy" to be an excellent introduction on the topic of the Russian Revolution. Before proceeding, however, I would like to point out that this massive 800-page masterpiece can only be considered "introductory" by a professional historian or a history buff like myself. Therefore, this book is not really recommended for everyone.

I am ashamed to admit, but I had very little knowledge of the Russian Revolution prior to the reading of this book. What is undoubtedl
Frank Stein
Jan 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
Orlando Figes is a social historian nonpareil. He can summon up the world of pre-revolutionary Russia like no writer I've read. His descriptions of the peasant world of "Icons and Cockroaches," of the Tsarist army where soldiers were whipped and had to memorize intricate addresses for every possible superior, of the socialist underground where the new intelligentsia embraced the "cult of the bomb and the gun," where "murder and the scaffold took on a magnetic charm," as one of their own said, al ...more
Aug 22, 2019 rated it did not like it
“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 ...more
Jul 18, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I wanted to know what would motivate a country to adopt Bolshevism. Figes does an excellent job with the subject. It has given me more perspective on Russian politics and culture today than I ever would have had otherwise. As with slavery and its lasting effects on American politics and culture, Figes shows how serfdom has a similar effect on Russia today. Definitely helps that it is an easy read.
Cecilia Hendricks
Dec 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is undoubtedly one of the most intense things that I've ever read. It was highly intelligent and informative. It helped me see the Russian Revolution in greater detail. But man alive, this was a mighty endeavor. It was a hard but good read. ...more
Elizabeth May
Feb 26, 2016 marked it as to-read
Shelves: gb-research
Mr May just dropped this thing on my lap (it's like 1000 pages), said, "GOOD LUCK," and walked away laughing his ass off.

Trigger warnings: literally anything you can possibly think of, it's about the Russian Revolution...

I have been meaning to read this book for NINETEEN YEARS NOW. My year 12 history teacher read us some rather graphic excerpts that have been lodged in my brain since, like, August of 2000. So I finally picked it up and read it cover to cover, and frankly? I was a little disappointed.

Yes, it's a very detailed discussion of the Revolution and it would have taken a truly staggering amount of resear
Jun 12, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2012-finished
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
Sep 22, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Prof. Orlando Figes, of Oxford University, is unquestionably an authority on Russian history, and better yet he has the skill of a top-rate writer. He presents compelling narrative of the sad stories interwoven throughout Russian history, from both a macro- and micro-scopic perspective. This book well deserves its acclaim.
Oct 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Well there goes my faith in humanity.

I thought the length of this book would be daunting, but it was actually very well paced and highly readable - what I wasn't prepared for was the emotional weight of it. Near the end of this book the author notes that 7 years of war had cheapened human life in Russia to the point of people simply ignoring dead bodies in the streets. Besides all the political aspects of this history, the reality on the ground is an onslaught of violence and human suffering. A
A.L. Sowards
Jan 11, 2019 marked it as skimmed-or-read-portions-of
I just read portions of this one, but the parts I read showed solid research and solid writing.
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Orlando Figes is a British historian of Russia, and a professor of history at Birkbeck, University of London.

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126 likes · 31 comments
“The link between literacy and revolutions is a well-known historical phenomenon. The three great revolutions of modern European history -- the English, the French and the Russian -- all took place in societies where the rate of literacy was approaching 50 per cent. Literacy had a profound effect on the peasant mind and community. It promotes abstract thought and enables the peasant to master new skills and technologies, Which in turn helps him to accept the concept of progress that fuels change in the modern world.” 21 likes
“For all too many of these high-born revolutionaries, the main attraction of 'the cause' lay not so much in the satisfaction which they might derive from seeing the people's daily lives improved, as in their own romantic search for sense of 'wholeness' which might give higher meaning to their lives and to end alienation from the world.” 15 likes
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