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October Revolution

Norman Naimark

To person

Ph. D., born 1944; Robert and Florence McDonnell Professor in East European Studies, Stanford University, Encina Hall E107, Stanford, CA 94305 - 6055, USA.
Email: [email protected]

The revolution brought an ideological elite to power. The most extreme violence in Soviet history took place during the "Second Revolution" and the rise of Stalin to become the all-powerful dictator.


Anniversaries of the Russian Revolution arouse mixed feelings; there are no particularly positive ones. The ailing and autocratic tsarist rule, which was brought to its knees in 1917, had many weaknesses, regardless of the strains of the First World War that sealed its end. But when you consider what came after that, late Imperial Russia is still doing comparatively well under the Romanovs. At least there was a chance of social progress under the tsars. Some historians argue that the October Revolution paved the way for a Leninist system that was ideologically incapable of reform; others are convinced that the lack of serious systemic reforms in the post-Stalinist era depended on fortuitous factors both in the international fabric and in the country itself. [1] One thing is undisputed: the Bolshevik revolution has led Russia down a path of false hopes and imposed behavior that has ended in an impasse. Ultimately, by the early 1990s, Russia's leaders had no choice but to admit historic defeat and start over. This painful process continues to this day.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn remarked in 2007, a year before his death, that the coup d'├ętat of 1917 - he refuses to speak of a "revolution" - "broke the spine of Russia". [2] The totalitarian ideology of class hatred and social upheaval fueled violence instead of establishing spiritual community and tore Russia's society apart instead of uniting it. The revolution brought to power a conspiratorial elite responsible for the capture and death of tens of millions of its citizens. [3]
Soviet labor camp, location and date unknown. (& copy picture-alliance / akg-images)

With the exception of the military conflicts of the Civil War and World War II, the most extreme violence in Soviet history took place during the "Second Revolution" and the rise of Stalin to all-powerful dictator from 1928 to 1938. [4] But even in the post-Stalinist era, the threat of violence that began in the October Revolution lived on in subtle ways: in the surveillance of Soviet citizens; in the strict control of departure, freedom of movement and contact with foreigners; in the censorship apparatus and in the infiltration of public and private life by the party and the secret services.