The Russian Revolution transformed the face of an empire, established the world’s first socialist state, and profoundly affected the course of world history for the rest of the twentieth century. A hundred years on, the master historian Professor Stephen Smith reflects on the tumultuous events of 1917 and our attempts to understand this epochal moment in history.
By Andy Willimott, Lecturer in Modern Russian and Soviet History, University of Reading
With the centenary of the 1917 October Revolution approaching, historians who focus on this period, like me, find ourselves in demand. As well as highlighting the facts of Russia’s second revolution that year, we often find ourselves focusing on the turning points, the personalities, and the politics.
Of course, it’s impossible to view the events of 1917 without considering those that followed. The popular uprising of that momentous year could be viewed as a mere punctuation mark in a story that takes in five-year plans, Stalin, the Gulag and a reign of Terror.
But the socialist revolution in Russia was about more than just Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin, and the birth of a new state.