In 1914, the Russian army marched off to war and the Russian people united behind the Romanov family. Four years later, the Romanovs had been shot andIn 1914, the Russian army marched off to war and the Russian people united behind the Romanov family. Four years later, the Romanovs had been shot and bludgeoned to death in a small basement and their corpses dumped in a well.
Of course, it was nothing like as sudden as this. Revolutionary tensions had been ebbing and flowing in Russia from the Decembrists of 1825 through to the half finished revolution of 1905. The story of these movements, the Tsars they looked to either reform or overthrow, and the relevant sections of Russian society in that period are the focus of this excellent book.
Crankshaw does a remarkable job of setting the Bolshevik revolution of November 1917 in the longer run of Russian history. He also does so with a focus on characters. So much stuff written about the Russian Revolution is from a Marxist perspective, in the historical sense, and sees it as the inevitable outcome of economic forces. Yet, Lenin himself is one of the greatest affronts to this theory. Individuals, great or small, drive history, a fact which Crankshaw embraces and he paints vivid portraits o those concerned here. It helps that Crankshaw, unusually for an author of this period, is aware of both the ultimate failure of communism in Russia and the fact that this failure begins with Lenin himself.
This book abounds with historical wisdom. Crankshaw writes (p. 293) "The Allies were no longer dynasts commanding, or appearing to command, their own peoples and able without a backward look to pledge themselves to one or other of their peers; allies now were the people themselves, only partly under command of rulers who increasingly found it necessary to stir up popular opinion for their own ends and, in consequence, were increasingly vulnerable to its moods". There you have the essence of the politics of total war which kept European nations slaughtering each other in such hideous numbers year after year between 1914 and 1918. His description of the fate of the Land & Liberty movement will resonate with anyone who has seen attempts to lift the 'lower orders' flounder on the indifference of those lower orders. We meet K. P. Pobedonostsev (p. 312) who "believed in the total incapacity of mankind to govern itself intelligently or even to behave in a reasonable and decently intelligent manner over any length of time"
This wise, rich, humane book is a marvel of writing, not just on the origins of the Russian Revolution, but on history and humanity generally.
The centenary of World War One has seen an avalanche of books on the subject and among the best and most valuable must be Prit Buttar's series on theThe centenary of World War One has seen an avalanche of books on the subject and among the best and most valuable must be Prit Buttar's series on the Eastern Fronts. This series has quickly become essential reading on the war for anyone with more than a general interest.
And that is 'fronts' rather than 'front'. In his previous books, Buttar gave ample coverage to the campaigns in Serbia and here the conquest of Rumania is covered better than in any other book I've read. ...more