Was Revolution Inevitable? Turning Points of the Russian Revolution

Edited by Tony Brenton. Oxford Univ., $17.95 trade paper (384p) ISBN 978-0-19-065891-5
Brenton (The Greening of Machiavelli), British ambassador to Russia from 2004 to 2008, assembles a team of experts to offer a “series of snapshots” that ask whether the unfolding of the 1917 Russian Revolution “might have been radically different.” As Brenton points out, the revolution was replete with “forks in the road where one senses that there genuinely was a question over which way things could go.” Familiar scholars of Russian history such as Dominic Lieven, Orlando Figes, and Richard Pipes appear among the contributors to this uniformly well-researched and well-reasoned chronological volume. Donald Crawford asserts that, “given the wreckage that [Czar Nicholas] had mindlessly left behind him,” neither Nicholas nor his defenders could fall back upon “historical inevitability” to excuse their misdeeds. Sean McMeekin argues for the centrality of Lenin’s role in events of the summer of 1917, and Martin Sixsmith suggests that “the fate of the world” might have been changed had Fanny Kaplan succeeded in assassinating Lenin a year later. Not all the contributions are affirmative. Simon Dixon interprets Stolypin’s 1911 assassination as attracting more attention than it merits as a turning point, and Evan Mawdsley considers the anti-Bolshevik movement’s “fatal divisions” as “unavoidable.” Balanced and well crafted, Brenton’s volume rewards its readers’ investment. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 01/16/2017
Release date: 03/01/2017
Genre: Nonfiction
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