The Russian Revolution: A Very Short Introduction

OUP Oxford
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This Very Short Introduction provides an analytical narrative of the main events and developments in Soviet Russia between 1917 and 1936. It examines the impact of the revolution on society as a whole—on different classes, ethnic groups, the army, men and women, youth. Its central concern is to understand how one structure of domination was replaced by another. The book registers the primacy of politics, but situates political developments firmly in the context of massive economic, social, and cultural change. Since the fall of Communism there has been much reflection on the significance of the Russian Revolution. The book rejects the currently influential, liberal interpretation of the revolution in favour of one that sees it as rooted in the contradictions of a backward society which sought modernization and enlightenment and ended in political tyranny. ABOUT THE SERIES: The Very Short Introductions series from Oxford University Press contains hundreds of titles in almost every subject area. These pocket-sized books are the perfect way to get ahead in a new subject quickly. Our expert authors combine facts, analysis, perspective, new ideas, and enthusiasm to make interesting and challenging topics highly readable.
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About the author

Stephen Smith is Professor of History at the University of Essex. He works on the social history of the Russian and Chinese revoltuions and is author of Red Petrograd: Revolution in the Factories, 1917-1918 (Cambridge University Press, 1983), and A Road is Made: Communism in Shanghai, 1920-27 (Curzon Press, 2000).
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Additional Information

Publisher
OUP Oxford
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Published on
Feb 21, 2002
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Pages
192
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ISBN
9780191578366
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Language
English
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Genres
History / Europe / General
History / Modern / 20th Century
History / Russia & the Former Soviet Union
Political Science / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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The Russian Revolution of 1917 transformed the face of the Russian empire, politically, economically, socially, and culturally, and also profoundly affected the course of world history for the rest of the twentieth century. Now, to mark the centenary of this epochal event, historian Steve Smith presents a panoramic account of the history of the Russian empire, from the last years of the nineteenth century, through the First World War and the revolutions of 1917 and the establishment of the Bolshevik regime, to the end of the 1920s, when Stalin simultaneously unleashed violent collectivization of agriculture and crash industrialization upon Russian society. Drawing on recent archivally-based scholarship, Russia in Revolution pays particular attention to the varying impact of the Revolution on the various groups that made up society: peasants, workers, non-Russian nationalities, the army, women and the family, young people, and the Church. In doing so, it provides a fresh way into the big, perennial questions about the Revolution and its consequences: why did the attempt by the tsarist government to implement political reform after the 1905 Revolution fail; why did the First World War bring about the collapse of the tsarist system; why did the attempt to create a democratic system after the February Revolution of 1917 not get off the ground; why did the Bolsheviks succeed in seizing and holding on to power; why did they come out victorious from a punishing civil war; why did the New Economic Policy they introduced in 1921 fail; and why did Stalin come out on top in the power struggle inside the Bolshevik party after Lenin's death in 1924. A final chapter then reflects on the larger significance of 1917 for the history of the twentieth century - and, for all its terrible flaws, what the promise of the Revolution might mean for us today.
“During the first two months of 1917 Russia was still a Romanov monarchy. Eight months later the Bolsheviks stood at the helm. They were little known to anybody when the year began, and their leaders were still under indictment for state treason when they came to power. You will not find another such sharp turn in history especially if you remember that it involves a nation of 150 million people. It is clear that the events of 1917, whatever you think of them, deserve study.”
--Leon Trotsky, from History of the Russian Revolution

Regarded by many as among the most powerful works of history ever written, this book offers an unparalleled account of one of the most pivotal and hotly debated events in world history. This book reveals, from the perspective of one of its central actors, the Russian Revolution’s profoundly democratic, emancipatory character.

Originally published in three parts, Trotsky’s masterpiece is collected here in a single volume. It serves as the most vital and inspiring record of the Russian Revolution to date.

“[T]he greatest history of an event that I know.”
--C. L. R. James

“In Trotsky all passions were aroused, but his thought remained calm and his vision clear.... His involvement in the struggle, far from blurring his sight, sharpens it.... The History is his crowning work, both in scale and power and as the fullest expression of his ideas on revolution. As an account of a revolution, given by one of its chief actors, it stands unique in world literature.”
--Isaac Deutscher
The Russian Revolution of 1917 transformed the face of the Russian empire, politically, economically, socially, and culturally, and also profoundly affected the course of world history for the rest of the twentieth century. Now, to mark the centenary of this epochal event, historian Steve Smith presents a panoramic account of the history of the Russian empire, from the last years of the nineteenth century, through the First World War and the revolutions of 1917 and the establishment of the Bolshevik regime, to the end of the 1920s, when Stalin simultaneously unleashed violent collectivization of agriculture and crash industrialization upon Russian society. Drawing on recent archivally-based scholarship, Russia in Revolution pays particular attention to the varying impact of the Revolution on the various groups that made up society: peasants, workers, non-Russian nationalities, the army, women and the family, young people, and the Church. In doing so, it provides a fresh way into the big, perennial questions about the Revolution and its consequences: why did the attempt by the tsarist government to implement political reform after the 1905 Revolution fail; why did the First World War bring about the collapse of the tsarist system; why did the attempt to create a democratic system after the February Revolution of 1917 not get off the ground; why did the Bolsheviks succeed in seizing and holding on to power; why did they come out victorious from a punishing civil war; why did the New Economic Policy they introduced in 1921 fail; and why did Stalin come out on top in the power struggle inside the Bolshevik party after Lenin's death in 1924. A final chapter then reflects on the larger significance of 1917 for the history of the twentieth century - and, for all its terrible flaws, what the promise of the Revolution might mean for us today.
The impact of Communism on the twentieth century was massive, equal to that of the two world wars. Until the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, historians knew relatively little about the secretive world of communist states and parties. Since then, the opening of state, party, and diplomatic archives of the former Eastern Bloc has released a flood of new documentation. The thirty-five essays in this Handbook, written by an international team of scholars, draw on this new material to offer a global history of communism in the twentieth century. In contrast to many histories that concentrate on the Soviet Union, The Oxford Handbook of the History of Communism is genuinely global in its coverage, paying particular attention to the Chinese Revolution. It is 'global', too, in the sense that the essays seek to integrate history 'from above' and 'from below', to trace the complex mediations between state and society, and to explore the social and cultural as well as the political and economic realities that shaped the lives of citizens fated to live under communist rule. The essays reflect on the similarities and differences between communist states in order to situate them in their socio-political and cultural contexts and to capture their changing nature over time. Where appropriate, they also reflect on how the fortunes of international communism were shaped by the wider economic, political, and cultural forces of the capitalist world. The Handbook provides an informative introduction for those new to the field and a comprehensive overview of the current state of scholarship for those seeking to deepen their understanding.
In Like Cattle and Horses Steve Smith connects the rise of Chinese nationalism to the growth of a Chinese working class. Moving from the late nineteenth century, when foreign companies first set up factories on Chinese soil, to 1927, when the labor movement created by the Chinese Communist Party was crushed by Chiang Kai-shek, Smith uses a host of documents—journalistic accounts of strikes, memoirs by former activists, police records—to argue that a nationalist movement fueled by the effects of foreign imperialism had a far greater hold on working-class identity than did class consciousness.
While the massive wave of labor protest in the 1920s was principally an expression of militant nationalism rather than of class consciousness, Smith argues, elements of a precarious class identity were in turn forged by the very discourse of nationalism. By linking work-related demands to the defense of the nation, anti-imperialist nationalism legitimized participation in strikes and sensitized workers to the fact that they were worthy of better treatment as Chinese citizens. Smith shows how the workers’ refusal to be treated “like cattle and horses” (a phrase frequently used by workers to describe their condition) came from a new but powerfully felt sense of dignity. In short, nationalism enabled workers to interpret the anger they felt at their unjust treatment in the workplace in political terms and to create a link between their position as workers and their position as members of an oppressed nation. By focusing on the role of the working class, Like Cattle and Horses is one of very few studies that examines nationalism “from below,” acknowledging the powerful agency of nonelite forces in promoting national identity.
Like Cattle and Horses will interest historians of labor, modern China, and nationalism, as well as those engaged in the study of revolutions and revolt.
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