Cover image for A concise history of the Russian Revolution
A concise history of the Russian Revolution
Pipes, Richard.
Personal Author:
First Vintage Books edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Vintage Books, 1996.

Physical Description:
xvii, 431 pages : illustrations, maps ; 21 cm
General Note:
"Condensation of two volumes published originally ... as: The Russian Revolution ... and Russia under the Bolshevik regime ... by Richard Pipes"--Verso t.p.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
DK265 .P47 1995C Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

On Order



Richard Pipes's authoritative history of the "violent and disruptive acts" that created the first modern totalitarian regime portrays the crisis at the heart of the tsarist empire. Drawing on archival materials newly released in Russia, he chronicles the upheaval that began as a conservative revolt but was soon captured by messianic intellectuals intent not merely on reforming Russia but on remaking the world. He provides fresh accounts of the revolution's personalities and policies, crises, and cruelties, from the murder of the royal family through civil war, famine, and state terror. Brilliantly and persuasively, Pipes shows us why the resulting system owes less to the theories of Marx than it did to the character of Lenin and Russia's long authoritarian tradition. What ensues is a path-clearing work that is indispensable to any understanding of the events of the century.

Author Notes

Richard Pipes was born Ryszard Edgar Pipes in Cieszyn, Poland on July 11, 1923. Soon after German troops entered Warsaw, he and his family fled to Italy on forged passports in 1939. They reached the United States a year later. He was attending Muskingum College in Ohio when he was drafted into the Army Air Corps in 1942. He was sent to study Russian at Cornell University. He received a bachelor's degree from Cornell in 1946 and a doctorate in history from Harvard University in 1950. His dissertation became the basis of his first book The Formation of the Soviet Union: Communism and Nationalism, 1917-1923.

His other books included Struve: Liberal on the Left, 1870-1905; Struve: Liberal on the Right, 1905-1944; U.S.-Soviet Relations in the Era of Détente; Survival Is Not Enough: Soviet Realities and America's Future; Russia Under the Old Regime; The Russian Revolution; Russia Under the Bolshevik Regime; and Vixi: Memoirs of a Non-Belonger. He served for two years as the director of Eastern European and Soviet affairs for President Ronald Reagan's National Security Council. He spent his entire academic career at Harvard University. He died on May 17, 2018 at the age of 94.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

For the busy but interested reader, Pipes has condensed his classic two-volume analysis of Russia's tragic cataclysm. How that great country became saddled with and ruined by Communism is complex--despite the Bolshevik victors' claims for historical inevitability. Without World War I, they would have remained an obscure intelligentsia; Lenin doubted he would live to see the revolution scarcely weeks before the czar's abdication. Of course, Russia had muddled through the 19th century quasi-expectant of a revolution, ardently so by socialist terrorists, apprehensively so by liberals and conservatives; and the 1905 revolution should have revealed to everyone what a full-blown social overthrow would be like. But as Pipes cogently and rather wistfully describes, the reformist track under Stolypin was stymied by the monarchist reactionaries. After the bizarre interlude of Alexandra and Rasputin, enter Kerensky, the Reds Lenin and Trotsky, the Whites Kolchak and Denikin, and the dolorous drama unfolds. Despite its sadness, insight abounds in this history, among the most reliably researched and skillfully synthesized works ever written on the revolution. --Gilbert Taylor

Publisher's Weekly Review

Harvard historian Pipes emphasizes that the Russian Revolution of October 1917 was actually a coup d'etat, a seizing of power by a tightly organized conspiracy, carried out with a show of mass participation but with almost no mass involvement. By synthesizing and condensing his two recent books‘The Russian Revolution (1990) and Russia Under the Bolshevik Regime (1994)‘into a superb narrative augmented with scores of photographs and maps, he has produced the single most readable, useful and illuminating chronicle of the revolution and its aftermath. Lenin, authoritarian, fanatical, secretive and intolerant, ordered the construction of concentration camps in 1918. Pipes shows how Lenin's one-party police state paved the way for Stalin by throttling democratic impulses and through unremitting terror and expropriations. Chapters cover the civil war, which crushed antimonarchist democrats (``Whites''); the Bolsheviks' annihilation of politically active peasants (``kulaks'') despite massive peasant revolts; the murder of the imperial family; the Soviets' subjugation of ethnic groups and nationalities; and the war against religion. Pipes's remarkably vivid, compelling narrative turns up fresh insights on every page. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Pipes (history, Harvard Univ.) has condensed his two-volume opus, The Russian Revolution (LJ 11/1/90) and Russia Under the Bolsheviks (LJ 3/15/94), into a single readable volume. Forcefully showing why the 70-year-old Communist experiment failed, he provides the nonacademic reader with accurate historical events in a highly readable format. Only a minor flaw in the fourth chapter, where he fails to explain who the Mensheviks were until 30 pages later in the next chapter, mars this excellent book. The approach parallels Dominic Lieven's contemporary volume Nicholas II (LJ 1/94) but is better organized and more complete. The last chapter does a fine job of summing up the revolution and adds a curious comparison between Bolshevik and Tsarist Russia. Ultimately, Pipes shows how the seeds of destruction of communism were planted at its inception in 1917. Recommended for public, academic, and school libraries.‘Harry Willems, Kansas Lib. System, Iola (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.