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Lenin the Dictator: An Intimate Portrait by…
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Lenin the Dictator: An Intimate Portrait

by Victor Sebestyen

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When The Spouse and I visited Russia in 2012 (well before anti-Russian sentiment reached its current peak) we were surprised to see that statues of Lenin were still intact and still in place. And by coincidence, as I was drafting this review, the Twitterfeed of the often hilarious @SovietVisuals offered an example that shows that young people still hold Lenin in regard. Since it goes some way towards explaining this persisting affection for the leader of the Soviet Revolution, this new biography, Lenin the Dictator by Victor Sebestyen is timely, and not just because of the 100th anniversary of the revolution. As I said when reviewing Tony Kevin’s Return to Moscow, IMO in our messy interconnected world, it’s now more important than ever to understand countries like Russia.

Lenin the Dictator is also very good reading. From the first chapters about Lenin’s childhood to the story of the revolution itself, this book kept my attention throughout. Just occasionally I had some doubts about the author’s objectivity*, but by and large this biography seems to be a balanced account of the life, achievements and flaws of one of the most significant figures of the twentieth century. Inevitably, the story of Lenin’s life is also the story of the Russian Revolution, and this book is also a clear and lucid explanation of how this remarkable event took place.

Because it was remarkable. The Bolshevik revolution could have faltered at so many different moments in time, but Lenin as its leader was lucky that it happened at all and was then utterly ruthless in maintaining it in its early days. And yet in some ways, revolution of some sort was inevitable: Russia in the early twentieth century was an economic basket case and there had been agitation for reform for decades. Sebestyen makes it clear that the collapse of the Romanov dynasty was brought about by their own stupidity, incompetence, refusal to change and the epic, thoughtless scale of the bacchanal, the drinking and promiscuity, [which] went beyond decadence. One after the other the Tsars had presided over a country that desperately needed political and economic reform, and they maintained their grip on power with ruthless repression that was a model for the Bolsheviks to subsequently follow. Lenin’s own brother was hung at the age of twenty-one for agitating for political reform, and the entire family was one of thousands exiled to keep the activists out of Petrograd (Leningrad/St Petersburg).

To read the rest of my review please visit https://anzlitlovers.com/2017/05/23/lenin-the-dictator-by-victor-sebestyen/ ( )
  anzlitlovers | May 23, 2017 |
Mit seiner mitreißend erzählten Lenin-Biografie gelingt dem britischen Historiker Victor Sebestyen ein großes Kunststück auf wissenschaftlich wohlbestelltem Boden: Wladimir Iljitsch Uljanow alias "Lenin" war ein russischer Radikaler von kleinbürgerlicher Statur.
 
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