The End of the Russian Empire

The End of the Russian Empire

The End of the Russian Empire

The End of the Russian Empire

Excerpt

There is no more challenging theme in history than that with which this volume deals. It is not only the end of an empire but the transformation of a whole social system. The only parallel which modern history offers -- that of the French Revolution -- did not drive so deep a chasm between past and present as that which divides the old régime of Imperial Russia from the new and unique experiment of Bolshevism. While this volume does not carry the narrative beyond the threshold of the Soviet Republic and so stops short where most of the current literature on Russia begins, it opens the only way to the understanding of a revolution which surprised even those who led it. For the explanation of this event lies not in the theory of Communism but in the analysis of the facts of history.

It is such an analysis which this book supplies, an analysis of the interworking of the dominant elements of Russia's national life -- political, economic, social, moral, and intellectual -- under the stress and strain of war. It is a dramatic and tragic story, one which even after the last decisive struggle at the barricades of Petrograd and Moscow seemed to promise an altogether different outcome. For those who look back to this period from the standpoint of foreign observers, the first and dominant memory of Russia in the World War is the recurrent note of emphasis upon the strength of her armies, the inexhaustible supply of man power, the "Russian steam roller." Then, in the spring of 1917, the first Russian Revolution, with the apparent triumph of moderate liberalism, evoked both sympathy and enthusiasm for the new day of liberty that then seemed dawning. When these hopes of a militant, bourgeois republic were belied in the second revolution of November, 1917, the chief interest of the outside world was still concentrated upon Russia's foreign relations. It was no time for studying the interplay of the forces of revolution and stability in Russia itself. Finally, when the War was over and the revolutionary movement threatened the enfeebled structure of Central and Western Europe, there were more pressing problems to be considered than the historical analysis of this last chapter of the old Russian régime. Not only the fate of the Revolution, but its very nature had yet to be determined, whether it was to force . . .

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