Thursday, September 27, 2018

Too soft on Uncle Joe

“Dictionary of the Russian Revolution” is an encyclopedia dealing with the period 1917-21 in Russian history. In other words, the February and October revolutions, plus the Civil War. The entries aren't encyclopedia-like, though, at least not in the sense most people are used to. They are rather a kind of mini-essays. My guess is that this volume is better suited for serious or advanced students of Russian history, rather than for the beginner. The dictionary covers important personalities, political parties, and the course of the revolution in various geographical areas (such as Belarus or Kazakhstan). It also gives some background on War Communism, Russian agriculture, etc.

Die hard anti-Communists of the reds-under-the-bed variety may find the entries on Lenin and Stalin too soft (the Stalin essay being written by J Arch Getty). But then, progressives will probably have a problem with the entry on the White movement, which argues that Kolchak and Denikin were really democrats (but strangely closeted ones). Writing objectively about the Russians have never been easy, it seems!

I will nevertheless give this volume four stars. Could be worth your time, if only as a kind of case study…

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