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Russia in Revolution By S. A. Smith (Senior Research Fellow, All Souls College, Oxford Professor of History, University of Oxford)


A panoramic account of the Russian empire from the last years of the nineteenth century, through revolution and civil war, to the brutal collectivization and crash industrialization under Stalin in the late 1920s.

Russia in Revolution Summary

Russia in Revolution: An Empire in Crisis, 1890 to 1928 by S. A. Smith (Senior Research Fellow, All Souls College, Oxford Professor of History, University of Oxford)

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. Historian S. A. 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.

Russia in Revolution Reviews

Summing Up: Essential. All public and academic levels/libraries. * CHOICE *
Saturated with statistics and comparisons with the Chinese experience, Smiths volume is an excellent summary of the deep cultural and socio-economic causes and continuities of the revolutions of 1917. * Anton Fedyashin, European History Quarterly, Vol. 47 *
Smith's book is an ideal introduction to the history of the Russian Revolution, but it is more than that. A century after the events it describes, it is an indication that scholarship on the subject has matured, and that the Russia Revolution can be studied as objectively as any other episode in modern European history. The significance of Smith's work ought to be that it sets the tone for all future writing on the subject. * James D. White, SEER *
Smith's Russia in Revolution is an authoritative view of a seismic event, but also much more. By covering nearly thirty years from 1890, he illuminates what Franco Venturi called the roots of revolution, profiling the creation of a revolutionary generation as well as the fall-out of the 1920s: he also deals in detail with the civil wars that followed 1917. The result is a panoramic view of an upheaval which was cultural and economic as well as political; like Raymond Carrs history of modern Spain, it far transcends the limitations of a 'general history.' Above all it shows, impartially and decisively, both why the revolution failed to deliver its promises, and why it happened in the first place. * Roy Foster, University of Oxford *
A thorough study. * James Gallen, Roads to the Great War *
Among the best one-volume introductions to not only the history of the revolution but also of late tsarism, the Civil War (1918-21), and the years of the New Economic Policy. * Mark Edele, Australian Book Review *
...a major milestone in the international debates on the revolution... Smith's brilliant work will be invaluable for students of history, both in Russia and abroad, and for all those interested in global history in general and the Russian Revolution in particular. * Ivan Sablin, History *
A thorough study. * James Gallen, Roads to the Great War *
Well-researched, extremely balanced, nicely nuanced, and very readable. * JP O'Malley, Irish Examiner *
The most expansive history of the 1917 revolution available... Smith fairly and intelligently arbitrates the great debates among historians over how to interpret the revolution. * Robert Levgold, Foreign Affairs *
In what is the most assured general history yet to appear, Smith uses his deep knowledge of 20th-century Russia to place the upheavals in their larger social and historical contexts. * Tony Barber, Financial Times *
Laudable. * Sean Sheehan, Dublin Review of Books *
A useful overview... fair and balanced... Book of the month. * Socialist Review *
I can think of no better overview of the period written in recent years ... No one in Britain is better equipped to write about 1917 than Robert Service and Stephen Smith. Both men have devoted most of their scholarly lives to studying the revolution. They bring to their current works not just vast knowledge but also a deep commitment to balanced judgment, intellectual rigour and honesty, and accessible writing. * Dominic Lieven, Financial Times *
A well-proportioned and skilfully condensed panorama of the revolutionary situation in the Russian empire and its aftermath, covering nearly 40 years * Roland Eliot-Brown, Spectator *
an ideal introduction to the deep roots of the revolution, its unfolding and long aftermath * Matthew Price, The National *
[A] sober, well-researched and comprehensive history ... Even-handedness is the hallmark of Smith's solid and authoritative book * Sheila Fitzpatrick, London Review of Books *
Easily digestible ... It is one of Russia in Revolution's merits that the author lays out the scope of contending interpretations and leaves it to his readers to make up their own minds. * Robert Service, Times Literary Supplement *
SA Smith's majestic book sets the overthrow of Tsar Nicholas and the Bolshevik revolution in context [... and] skilfully reconstructs the cultural and socioeconomic context of 1917 * Geoffrey Roberts, Irish Times *
Fluently written and convincingly argued * Saul David, Evening Standard *
A challenging revisionist history reassessing the ongoing significance of the Russian Revolution Smith's work will be declared a subject standard, sure to stand out for its stellar research. * Library Journal *
Readers looking for an introduction to the deep roots of the revolution, its proximate causes and aftermath are well served by S.A. Smith's Russia in Revolution. * Korean Herald *
A master historian of the Russian Revolution, S.A. Smith has wrestled the events and personalities, policies and mass politics of the years 1890 to 1928 into a coherent and compelling story of the entrance of ordinary people onto the stage of history and the brutal, violent descent of Russia into dictatorship. Smith explains better than anyone else how a revolution marked by radical democracy and hope for social justice sacrificed many of its ideals to win and hold power and inspire an international movement against capitalism and imperialism. * Ronald Grigor Suny, Distinguished University Professor of History and Political Science, The University of Michigan *

About S. A. Smith (Senior Research Fellow, All Souls College, Oxford Professor of History, University of Oxford)

S. A. Smith is a historian of modern Russia and China, who was a graduate student at both Moscow State University and at Peking University. He is the author of many books and articles on the Russian and Chinese revolutions, including Red Petrograd: Revolution in the Factories, 1917-18 (CUP, 1983) and Revolution and the People in Russia and China: A Comparative History (CUP, 2008), and is editor of The Oxford Handbook of the History of Communism (OUP, 2014). He taught for many years at the University of Essex, where he is an honorary professor, and then at the European University Institute in Florence, before being elected to a senior research fellowship at All Souls College, Oxford, in 2012.

Table of Contents

Introduction 1: Roots of Revolution, 1880s-1905 2: From Reform to War, 1906-17 3: From February to October 1917 4: Civil War and Bolshevik Power 5: War Communism 6: The New Economic Policy: Politics and the Economy 7: The New Economic Policy: Society and CultureConclusionNotes

Additional information

Russia in Revolution: An Empire in Crisis, 1890 to 1928 by S. A. Smith (Senior Research Fellow, All Souls College, Oxford Professor of History, University of Oxford)
Oxford University Press
Winner of Winner of the PEN Hessell-Tiltman Prize for History 2018 Winner of the 2017 BASEES Alexander Nove Prize.
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