This is a marvelous book IF you are interested in the Bolshevik Revolution and what happened BETWEEN February and October of 1917.
This was written in honor of the 100th anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution – October 25, 1917, this is a wonderful detailed look at the actual blow-by-blow events of that year, from February, the first revolution, to the bitter end and beyond – the Epilogue concerns alternatives to the doomed bloodbath of Stalin.
From the Epilogue: “It is not for nostalgia’s sake that the strange story of the first socialist revolution in history deserves celebration. The standard of October declares that things changed once, and they might do so again.”
October: The Story of the Russian Revolution
by China Miéville
2018 / 384 pages
read by John Banks- 11h 37m
rating: 8.5 / non-fiction history
I thought I knew a fair amount about the Russian Revolution of 1917 – the October one – where the Bolsheviks took control from the Provisionals and led the country into a Civil War. Turns out I knew some surface and general things. The whole revolution took about 9 months, from February to October (and I knew that) but what I didn’t know was that between the Tsar of February and the October Bolshevik takeover, known as the Bolshevik Revolution, there was a lot going on – a lot – especially underneath.
This is a month by month account of the events between February (a bit before) and March (with an afterward part) of 1917. There were Tsar struggles (mostly ended when the family was killed), parliamentary struggles, Duma struggles, military struggles on the front lines of WWI, international struggles (Finland and others), and internal military struggles. There were struggles and clashes between radicals and moderates of all sort – many violent, some not. There were conspiracies and complex tactics – there were committees within committees and Lenin was revered and shunned over the question of when and how to complete their revolution and how large it should be – there were assemblies and more assemblies, insurrections and more insurrections, there were congresses and more congresses as the tension and struggles mounted – when would the Bolsheviks have the support of enough to successfully proceed with armed insurrection. When to wait and when to charge against Kerensky’s forces – that was the question. The final decision among the Bolsheviks was very split but screaming, Lenin won out. The Soviets were nervous, but went ahead with their scheduled Congress; meanwhile, the soldiers at Peter and Paul Fortress voted. –
For all those activities, Mieville has organized the material masterfully and he writes well. He calls the October 1917 Russian Revolution the Revolution of Trains and expounds on the idea.
This is not a political work, it’s a history without much editorializing about which side or whose position was correct. All players, including Lenin, have deficiencies in some way. Mieville describes in detail the events between February and October – and there were lots and lots of events – It was basically two revolutions and we get that from the history books, but each one had it’s own buildup and side-taking and military battles complete with traitors, heroes, multiple parties, at least a couple of governments, and so on – It gets exciting and this reader was totally drawn into the action
This is a subject close to the heart of Mieville, a long-time self-proclaimed Marxist and a brilliant writer of science fiction/fantasy. He sticks to the facts here, as amassed from numerous accounts – but not actually sourced. What he’s done is include an annotated bibliography geared toward the layman. This works very nicely because I don’t really care where he got certain specific information as much as I’d like to know where I can read more.
But he writes t with painstaking detail and a lot of literary devices including rising tension. The same stuff used so masterfully in his best sellers as The City & the City and numerous other award winning novels.
Brilliant and masterful.
I plan to read this one day… not this year because I’ve already read a fair bit about the revolution, but later on when (inevitably) I’ve forgotten most it!
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It starts out kind of boring but it winds up with a huge punch – enjoy!
I will, I’m fascinated by Russia and would love to go back and explore more than Moscow and St P.
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Russia’s history fascinates me, I’ll certainly read this soon.
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