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

4.31  ·  Rating details ·  3,098 ratings  ·  250 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 prese

Paperback, 1024 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.

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4.31  · 
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 ·  3,098 ratings  ·  250 reviews

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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
May 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing
If you thought the Season 5 finale of Game of Thrones was brutal, Orlando Figes wants to educate you. You don’t pick up a book like A People’s Tragedy 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. If you do have that notion – well, you should really reread the title. Even so, the collection of misery in Figes massive history of the Russian Revolution is pretty overwhelming. ...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 میل
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 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 begin
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
An astonishing and grand overview of one of the most defining events of the 20th century - the Russian Revolution.

A powerful and convincing portrait of the madness and decay of Imperialist Russia to the total bloodshed of WWI and beyond. Portraits of all of the major figures - the inept tsar and his fat toady ministers, the futile attempts of the fledgling Duma, the insatiable drive for power of the Bolsheviks, and the intense suffering undergone by the masses of peasants.
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
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
Notes on Dates

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

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
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
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
Jun 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, 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 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
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
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.

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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
A. 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.
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.
Jan 19, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I cannot believe I finally finished this book. I've been reading it for nearly a YEAR. It's superbly written but (/and?) very, very detailed. Not really designed for the type of commute-reading I do these days. I do recommend it to all, though.
Antonio Nunez
Jul 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Figes’s A People’s Tragedy is an extraordinary achievement. It is the finest single volume history of the Russian Revolutions of 1917, with a substantial excursus on the Old Regime and the aftermath of the October Revolution, including the Civil War, the Famine until the death of Lenin and the advent of Stalin. An observer may be surprised by the collapse of the tsarist system less than four years after its apotheosis in the tercentennial celebrations of 1913. Figes shows that both the dynasty a ...more
Joe Dumoulin
Oct 15, 2011 rated it really liked it
I have read a few histories of the Russian revolution and civil war: from sympathetic (Deutchser and Trotsky) to unsympathetic (Pipes) to the hostile (Volkogonov), and the fairly even-handed Fitzgerald. It often seems like each of these authors is talking about different events and people who happen to be in the same place at the same time with the same names. One can, with effort, piece together a consistent picture of what happened and why, but you can't really be comfortable with conclusions ...more
Feb 09, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
An incredibly comprehensive history of the Russian Revolution. Figes's prose is interesting, and his book quite engaging. Despite the incredible density of detail, it manages to flow well. I only abandoned it because it was far too detailed for my current (very limited) knowledge of Russian history, and went far beyond my own learning goals in this subject. I was looking for an entry-level overview of Russian history in the late 19th through 20th centuries. This book, for its many virtues, just ...more
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.
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Orlando Figes is a British historian of Russia, and a professor of history at Birkbeck, University of London.
“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.” 17 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.” 11 likes
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