Prelude to Revolution
The Petrograd Bolsheviks and the July 1917 Uprising
Indiana University Press 2008
It’s hard to know what to think about the Russian Revolution of 1917. Was it a military coup led by a band of ideological fanatics bent on the seizure of power? Was it a popular uprising led by an iron-willed party against a bankrupt political order? Or something else? The debate began immediately after the October Revolution and continues to this day. No one is in a better position to answer these and related questions about early Soviet power than Alex Rabinowitch. For over forty years he has been at the forefront of scholars trying to figure out just what happened in 1917 and the years that followed. His Prelude to Revolution. The Petrograd Bolsheviks and the July 1917 Uprising (Indiana UP, 1968) was “revisionist” before Revisionism and remains a classic of Soviet history today. The same might be said of his follow up book, The Bolsheviks Come to Power. The Revolution of 1917 in Petrograd (Norton, 1976; Haymarket, 2004). Now Professor Rabinowitch has treated us with yet a third installment in what is destined to become the standard work on the Bolsheviks in the Revolutionary period: The Bolsheviks in Power. The First Year of Soviet Rule in Petrograd (Indiana UP, 2008). The book, as we might well expect, is terribly impressive. It does all the things critical history should: debunks myths, establishes facts, and sets the story in a framework that makes what happened understandable. Thanks to Professor Rabinowitch’s work, it’s now much easier to know what to think about the Russian Revolution.
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