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The Russian Revolution by Sheila Fitzpatrick
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The Russian Revolution

by Sheila Fitzpatrick

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Historians often think that writing for a popular audience means using more adverbs and adjectives. Better is keeping it short and sweet, modest and elegantly structured, and most of all, offering honest questions along with answers to obvious questions. This book does those things amazingly well, with a nice balance of social, cultural, and political history, including sections on women in the revolution. Also deals deftly with the question of defining the event itself. Annotated bibliography seems to offer a good little guide to the older literature, especially memoirs, etc.
  samstark | Mar 30, 2013 |
I am reading this book again for perhaps the third time. This time, its because I am teaching the Russian Revolution to Year 12s and I need a recap.

The best thing about recapping with Fitzpatrick is that her book is a concise, yet still profoundly intelligent interpretation of the revolution. Its making me excited about the Russian Revolution all over again.

A must read for students of history - I own the second edition but have had possession of a copy of this book since I was 16 - although maturity has helped me to recognise the skill with which she succinctly describes the political complexities of the time. ( )
  JediJane | Jan 20, 2011 |
The Russian Revolution represents a unique interpretation of the Russian Revolution and its aftermath. Its author, Sheila Fitzgerald, is a professor of history at the University of Chicago, and a well-known Sovietologist and Slavic history specialist. She is the author of numerous books about the Soviet Union, especially cultural histories of the Stalin era. In the reviewed work, she considers a 'long' Russian Revolution, one that lasts from 1917 until the end of the purges in 1938. She argues that this long view is important because the events of the 1920s and 1930s were revolutionary in nature. The inclusion of these two decades allows Fitzpatrick to fit the Russian Revolution into a 'model' of revolutions, based on the example of the French Revolution. Over the course of this narrative pattern, she considers such themes as dictatorship, modernization, and the nature of class struggle.
Fitzpatrick divides the Russian Revolution in a series of eras, each corresponding to the classic outline of the French Revolution. First there is the 'fervor and zeal' of 1917-18 and continuing through the Civil War. After a brief pause for the NEP, the 'fervor' continued through the 1920s with the Five Year Plans and Stalin's 'revolution from above.' This was followed by the Thermidorean respite of the 1930s, when the state began concentrating on progress and order rather than revolution. For Fitzpatrick, the revolution finally ends with a last, dramatic outburst of revolutionary zeal in the purges of 1938.
While considering the other themes of the book, Fitzpatrick looks at old topics in new ways. While most historians have recognized the importance of dictatorship to this period, Fitzpatrick broadens our perspective by forcing us to consider its social aspects. For example, instead of just focusing her attention on the ruthless rise of Stalin, she also examines the opportunities that dictatorship created for young, enthusiastic party members whose zeal allowed them to advance within the party and Soviet hierarchy.
Fitzpatrick does not convince the reader of the validity of her French revolutionary model. Instead, one gets the sneaking suspicion that she fit the events to her model by selective use of evidence. She does not satisfactorily explain the place of the New Economic Plan within her model; an apparent Thermidorean event is not one. Yet, if we forget the clumsy French model, we may benefit from her 'long' view of events. The development of Soviet Communist power is made clearer than it would have been if she had just analyzed 1917-1918. Themes such as the necessity of violence and brutality for a Bolshevik victory become readily apparent; the continued use of violence by Communism to maintain power demonstrates to the reader the ultimate source of Communist legality—violent repression.
In the end, Fitzpatrick provides a valuable overview of the development of the Revolution, as well as help explain why the Bolsheviks won: they demonstrated a willingness to act when no one else was willing to, and they provided a clear platform while others could not. Ironically, a measure of popular support was necessary for the success of the Revolution.
  cao9415 | Jan 30, 2009 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0192802046, Paperback)

This provocative and eminently readable work looks at the many upheavals of the Russian Revolution as successive stages in a single process. Focusing on the Russian Revolution in its widest sense, Fitzpatrick covers not only the events of 1917 and what preceded them, but the nature of the social transformation brought about by the Bolsheviks after they took power. Making use of a huge amount of previously secret information in Soviet archives and unpublished memoirs, this detailed chronology recounts each monumental event from the February and October Revolutions of 1917 and the Civil War of 1918-1920, through the New Economic Policy of 1921 and the 1929 First Five-Year Plan, to Stalin's "revolution from above" at the end of the 1920s and the Great Purge of the late 1930s.
Lucid and concise, this classic study makes comprehensible the complex events of the revolution.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:33:27 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

This work looks at the many upheavals of the Russian Revolution as successive stages in a single process. Focusing on the Russian Revolution in its widest sense, the author covers not only the events of 1917 and what preceded them, but the nature of the social transformation brought about by the Bolsheviks after they took power. Making use of a huge amount of previously secret information in Soviet archives and unpublished memoirs, this detailed chronology recounts each monumental event from the February and October Revolutions of 1917 and the Civil War of 1918-1920, through the New Economic Policy of 1921 and the 1929 First Five-Year Plan, to Stalin's "revolution from above" at the end of the 1920s and the Great Purge of the late 1930s. This study makes comprehensible the complex events of the revolution.… (more)

» see all 2 descriptions

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