In This Review
Russia under the Bolshevik Regime

Russia under the Bolshevik Regime

By Richard Pipes

Alfred A. Knopf, 1994, 587 pp.

With this third volume Pipes concludes what is the most considerable history project of our day devoted to imperial Russia, the Bolshevik revolution and the formative years of the Soviet regime. In it he adds to our knowledge of the Russian civil war (1918-21), particularly on the side of the forces opposing Lenin's government, including their brutality against Jews, of the regime's assault on the Russian Orthodox Church in the early 1920s, and of repression associated with the economic retrenchment known as the New Economic Policy.

The author, however, means to do much more than this; he means to capture the very essence of the Bolshevik experience to get to the heart of Lenin's years in power, the years between 1917 and his death early in 1924. For some, including a large ready audience in Russia he will have succeeded, because he makes the case against Lenin and his colleagues as well and as severely as a responsible historian can. For others, however, he will have fallen short, precisely because the case is so unrelenting, so single-minded. Not only do Lenin and those around him emerge as violent, partially obsessed, largely cynical people determined to seize, hold and enlarge power, but the environment in which these predators operate is equally uncomplicated. In the relationship between state and society, society's only role is to put up obstacles from time to time, which the Bolsheviks smash with cruel abandon.