The Civil War and Perestroika

To calculate where a cannonball will land, it is necessary to know its initial angle of trajectory and the amount of force that propels it. It is the persuasive thesis of W. Bruce Lincoln that the Russian Civil War was the historic explosion that ever since has determined the direction and velocity of the Soviet system. As the formative experience in the creation of the Soviet state, the civil war is now especially useful in understanding the dynamics involved in the current dissolution of the Soviet Empire. While traditional Soviet historians and other scholars have emphasized the October Revolution of 1917 as the key to Soviet history, Lincoln—whose latest book successfully completes the masterly trilogy which began with In War's Dark Shadow: The Russians Before the Great War and was followed by Passage Through Armageddon: The Russians in War & Revolution 1914-1918—makes a compelling case for his revisionist view.

While the October Revolution constituted the "Ten Days That Shook the World," it was the Provisional Government of Kerensky that replaced, in March 1917, the three-hundred-year-old Romanov Dynasty: this event, which occurred during the devastation of World War I, changed the basis of Russian sovereignty for the first time since the 12th century. In contrast, the Leninist putsch eight months later simply brought down the Kerensky government in a conflict that involved...

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