...a superb and eye-opening account of this important chapter in 20th century history that will be indispensable reading for those anxious to learn more about this seminal event and the aftershocks that followed ... The Russian Revolution is a carefully researched, well-written assessment of the complex and confusing events that did so much to shape the last century. McMeekin is a reliable guide to a complex story and the book moves seamlessly and clearly across a vast landscape of people and events.
Well-written, with new details from archival research used for vivid descriptions of key events, The Russian Revolution comes nearly three decades after Richard Pipes’s masterpiece of the same name...McMeekin’s history follows the main events and players, though without much of Pipes’s sweeping context and analysis of Russian and European history ... McMeekin depends on a surprisingly narrow focus to make his overarching argument, eschewing analysis of the deeper social and political forces required for any comprehensive study of the revolution and its lessons for us today — when radical political groups are again relying on subterfuge and populism to force a fundamental change of the world order ... McMeekin points to what he calls a resurgence of Marxist-style philosophy, warning readers to be wary of 'openly avowed socialists' like Bernie Sanders — as if right-wing ideologies played no part in the 20th century’s convulsions. This is an especially bizarre conclusion when mounting nationalism and a global shift to the right are threatening the postwar liberal order today.
His true aim is to dish the Marxists, by which he means almost every social historian of Russia who has written since the 1970s. His hero is that cold war stalwart, Richard Pipes. The pace is fast; the book is half the length of Pipes’ 1990 work ... He is good on the diplomatic danse macabre that drew the tsarist empire into Balkan and then central European military politics, amusing on court scandals, predictable on the murder of Rasputin, who had warned the tsar against all armed adventures in Europe. But it is when he reaches the revolutionary year itself that the rabbits start appearing from his academic hat ... the idea that the revolution was an accident defies belief. For one thing, there is no question about the depth of popular misery on the eve of that historic 'break in the weather' ... In writing his fast-moving revisionist romp, McMeekin has listened mainly to the losers in the Russian case, and like the displaced everywhere they did not see the tidal swell till far too late.
[McMeekin] refreshingly doesn’t muddy the waters with too many characters, but he is thorough in his treatment, which is that much more interesting due to the wealth of information released following the downfall of the Soviet Union ... McMeekin effectively shows how easily one man could undermine the foundations of a nation, and he makes the revolution comprehensible as he exposes the deviousness of its leader.
With strong scholarly foundations and a riveting narrative, this book provides a broad survey of this tumultuous and fateful social transformation ... McMeekin’s analysis privileges wartime action over the various factions’ raisons d’être, and he suggests—based on flimsy evidence—that Lenin was a German agent and the Bolshevik insurrection was rooted in German strategic policy. The work claims to be 'unmediated by our current prejudices,' but it is emphatically anti-Bolshevik. Despite the glaring divergence between its objective and its content, this fluid work offers an overview of the revolution’s wartime context.