From Tsar to Soviets: The Russian People and Their Revolution, 1917-21

From Tsar to Soviets: The Russian People and Their Revolution, 1917-21

From Tsar to Soviets: The Russian People and Their Revolution, 1917-21

From Tsar to Soviets: The Russian People and Their Revolution, 1917-21

Synopsis

This highly readable and authoritative new study of the 1917 Revolution restores to center stage the experiences of the ordinary men and women of Russia's towns and villages. By examining the revolution in the light of these experiences rather than the activities of central parties andpoliticians, the book challenges many commonly held assumptions and sheds new light on the realities of living through and participating in such tumultuous events. As well as putting forward a challenging and fresh interpretation of the revolution, this book provides readers with a superb synthesisof recent research, and is unrivalled in its clarity and balance.

Excerpt

A new way of looking at the Russian revolution is emerging. Twenty years ago, Petrograd was seen as the pacemaker of revolution, each stage beginning in the capital and spreading to the country, putting considerable emphasis on national politics conducted in the capital. The almost exclusive actors in the drama were the Provisional Government, the Petrograd Soviet and the leaders of the main parties within them. In particular, the conspiratorial role of the Bolsheviks was often stressed. Such a view, in simple form, can no longer be sustained. For some two decades now revisionist historians have paid more attention to social and, though still to a surprisingly small extent, economic history. The grass roots began to be understood better, though workers and the major cities of Petrograd and Moscow were still the centre of attention. Peasants and the provinces remained largely unexamined. Even more surprising, there were relatively few studies of soldiers and sailors who were deemed to be peasants (or, in some cases, workers) in uniform. Even so, the revisionists made it clear that without taking account of pressures from the provinces and the grass roots, the evolution of high politics could not be understood. Today there is more emphasis on the multitude of conflicting pressures and aspirations released by the collapse of the autocracy. There is a greater awareness of the activity of ordinary people as rational participants in the revolution in their own right. The various regional Russian and non-Russian populations of the Empire experienced revolutions different from one another in origin, aspiration, evolution and outcome, depending on local conditions such as proximity to the war front, the number of landowners, the density of population or the fertility of the soil. As a result, events in the Russian Empire do not constitute a single revolution but a multitude of sometimes conflicting revolutions. Every social group, every nationality, every region, every town, every village, had its own revolution.

The building block of each revolution was the individual, and, although . . .

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