The Russian Revolution, 1917-1945

The Russian Revolution, 1917-1945

The Russian Revolution, 1917-1945

The Russian Revolution, 1917-1945

Synopsis

For students and scholars of the Russian Revolution, there are pivotal questions that merit careful, comprehensive consideration: why did the Tsarist regime unravel in revolution? Why did the Bolsheviks come to power rather than some other party? How did Stalin--rather than a more popular and respected leader--win the mantle of Lenin and gain leadership of the ruling party? How should Stalin's regime be judged by subsequent generations of Russians, and in the context of world history?

In "Russian Revolution, 1917-1945," author Anthony D'Agostino discusses all these questions. His suggestions for further reading range over decades of writing on Soviet subjects and cite classics, revisionist works, curiosities, and studies done during and since the Gorbachev years. The book explores topics including the modernization of the Tsarist Russian state, World War I, the revolutionary project of Soviet Communism, the nationalist transformation of Soviet Communism under international pressures, the "Big Drive" to modernize Russia by force, and the external threat of fascism.

Excerpt

This is a concise introduction to the Russian revolution from 1917 to 1945, that is, in the period prior to the Cold War. Its premise is that the perspectives of the post-1945 period are not adequate to understand the international setting of the revolution in World War I, the Great Depression, and the rise of fascism. Indeed for the Western democracies to think in Cold War terms in those circumstances would at the worst have implied making common cause with the fascists against the “Jewish Bolshevik menace.” To say this is not necessarily to imply a critique of the Cold War, but merely to recognize the special demands of international life in the time before the world was divided between East and West. So the book has to account for the irony that, despite the Soviet regime’s revolutionary ideology and its internal horrors, it proved to be the valued ally of the Western democracies in their great time of trial and the main factor in the world’s salvation from Nazism.

The subject has taken on a different kind of relevance since the end of the Cold War. The Soviet Bloc and Soviet Communism are no more. We now have to ask whether the Russian revolution was a wretched excess of history, a ghoulish detour from the main line of progressive development, or if it may have served some necessary function in producing the world we live in, as we might say of the English revolution of the seventeenth century, the French revolution of the eighteenth, the American revolutionary war for independence, and the struggles of other nations for national self-determination. Instead of viewing the Russian revolution as a preparation for strategic and geopolitical conflict with the United States, I will attempt to explore the issues in the context of the period and its own special problems: the transformation and modernization of the Tsarist Russian state, the World War of . . .

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