Book Review, History

Book Critique

Revolutionary Russia, 1891 – 1991: A History by Orlando Figes

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I enjoyed this book. My interest in this topic started after my last red, The Devils’ Alliance: Hitler’s Pact with Stalin, 1939-1941. I picked Figes’ book to get my feet wet and discover some history of the Russian Revolution that lead to one of the most oppressive regimes of the 20th century.

Figes says from the start his aim is to “provide a brief account of the Russian Revolution…as a single revolutionary cycle.” The cycle starts, he believes, with the famine of 1891 and lasted until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

I thought the book was a very readable and concise book on the rise and fall of the Soviet Union It has me hungry for more. Figes’ argument breaks the revolution down into 3 generational phases–each phase the regime’s dictator, using their take on Leninism as the foundation, laid the roadmap of how a Communist utopia could be achieved. He concludes with the system collapsing from its own undoing trying to carry on what Lenin started.

I read quite a few of the low-star reviews on here. I can respect and agree with some criticisms of the book. The book covers way more information and detail from 1891 to 1953. After Stalin’s death, it felt like Figes wanted to get right to the finale. Some parts seemed out of order. I thought he could have spent more time covering the last 38 years of the USSR–almost feels like a race to the finish rather than taking the reader on the historic journey to the end. There were also times when he gave statistical assertions or claims that just didn’t have the sources to back them up.

I give the book a total of 3 stars. I thought, for me at least, it was a readable book and was a starting point for more thorough accounts of this period of Russian history. I thought his argument was lacking–he never came back to it at the end. I didn’t feel like he proved that this thing was a 100-year revolution. Felt much more like a decade-long revolution followed by 65 years of how the regime intended to remain in power by any means necessary. I thought he chose to spend a lot of time on the front end of the revolution, and then just fast-forwarded to the last 6 years of the Soviet Union.

Can anyone recommend another book and/or author for a more in-depth history of the Soviet Union?

View all my reviews

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