An illustrated account of one of the most pivotal events in modern history – the Russian revolution of 1917.
In the early years of the twentieth century, Imperial Russia was an ethnically diverse empire of some 125,000,000 souls, stretching from Ukraine and Belarus in the west to the Bering Sea and the Sea of Okhotsk in the Far East. At the head of this autocratic, fossilised and profoundly dysfunctional polity was Tsar Nicholas II, whose Romanov successors had ruled Russia since the start of the seventeenth century with a lethal mixture of domestic cruelty, expansionist energy and reactionary incompetence – interspersed with occasional reformist spasms.
By early 1917, Russia – mired since 1914 in a sapping war with Germany and Austria-Hungary on its eastern borders – was unreformable, and the tsar's authority irreparably damaged. In March of that year, Nicholas II abdicated and the tsarist system was overthrown. The provisional government installed in its stead to organise democratic elections lasted just eight chaotic months before being ousted by Lenin's Bolsheviks in the October Revolution. Lenin ended Russian participation in World War I in the spring of 1918, and civil war soon erupted between the Bolsheviks ('Reds') and the counter-revolutionary 'Whites'. By 1923, the victorious Reds had become the Communist Party, and established their power across the entirety of the old Russian empire to form the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR).
Writing with crisp immediacy, Victor Sebestyen narrates and analyses an unprecedented era of political and social convulsion. The revolutions of February and October 1917 changed the course of Russian history, and, more than a century later their backwash continues to be deeply felt across the world.
'Can first-rate history read like a thriller? With Lenin the Dictator the journalist Victor Sebestyen has pulled off this rarest of feats' New York Times.
'Sebestyen's attention to historical detail is flawless' Observer.
'Richly readable ... Enthralling but appalling' Mail on Sunday.
'A magisterial but totally gripping and fresh account of the noble, violent, and doomed Hungarian revolution' Simon Sebag Montefiore.
'This is an exceptionally involving and horrifying book ... Heaven knows [Sebestyen] can tell a story' Spectator