The Bolsheviks in Power: The First Year of Soviet Rule in Petrograd

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The Bolsheviks in Power: The First Year of Soviet Rule in Petrograd

By Alexander Rabinowitch
Indiana University Press, 2007
520 pp. $34.95

As the detail of familiar objects under a microscope recasts preexisting impressions, Rabinowitch's week-by-week and, in places, day-by-day reconstruction of Bolshevik politics from the first to the second October under Soviet rule gives altogether familiar events an unfamiliar and far deeper resonance. The Bolsheviks were divided even in power, and over principle, not merely tactics; Lenin and his iron-fisted ally, Trotsky, emerge as not only single-minded, uncompromising, and ruthless but also genuinely in tune with the revolution-stoked workers, soldiers, and sailors of Petrograd and Moscow. How those among the Bolsheviks who believed power should be shared with other leftist parties and who recoiled from crude repression -- the dominant view among party leaders at the time of the revolution, Rabinowitch argues -- lost to the Leninists is at the heart of the drama. From the fresh and compelling detail Rabinowitch offers, the denouement seems to have come quickly -- indeed, within the first ten days after the seizure of the Winter Palace. Nonetheless, Rabinowitch's fine-grained history gives to largely foretold events a texture and complexity absent before.

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