The Russian Revolution, 1917: A Personal Record

Excerpt

The consequences of the Russian Revolution have altered the velocity of history so pervasively that the revolution itself, together with the men who made it, has been muffled by a collective amnesia. Sukhanov's memoir, disinterred now from the archives, comes to us a lone voice from a world that has completely vanished, engulfed by the titanic upheaval it helped to bring about. The Russian intelligentsia of which Sukhanov was an offshoot has been swallowed up by its revolutionary byproduct, the bureaucracy of the Soviet state. The intellectual atmosphere and the political life revealed by Sukhanov's book have gone the way of the dodo.

It is difficult to recall the volatile, bickering, and unflaggingly garrulous Russian political exiles who contrived the web of ideas that lay in wait to ensnare the turbulent events of 1917. The endless polemical subtleties that were the stuff of life to the Russian Left wing now seem so dryly cerebral by contrast with the primordial explosion on the Russian land that as a medium of expression for it they must remain a source of astonishment.

From the point of view of the relationship between the intentions of its protagonists and their accomplishments, the revolution acquires the look of a vast comedy of errors. The forensic intricacies that formed the actual medium of contention cast into high relief, not the acumen of the disputants, but the naked qualities of passion and character that emerge as the moving force of political achievement.

The irony is inescapable that the Russian revolution, doubtless one of the most theorized about, talked about, and argued about events in history, frustrated the analysis of the innumerable intellectuals whose lives revolved around politics. Few details of this elemental outburst were foreseen. The fact itself, indeed, came as a complete surprise to every one of the old parties and leaders, both on the spot and abroad. As Sukhanov says, 'not one party was preparing for the great overturn'. And the actual development of the revolution, from the collapse of . . .

Additional information

Publisher: Place of publication:
  • London
Publication year:
  • 1955

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