The Revenge of History

History has a way of taking its revenge on those who would violate it. It does not forget. Mikhail Heller and Aleksandr Nekrich are some of the few Soviet-born intellectuals who have studied how much current Soviet policies and propaganda abuse Russian history. Their book is an eloquent effort to set straight the historical record since the seizure of power by the Bolsheviks in 1917. It is thorough, balanced, and massively documented with primary sources from a broad range of scholarship. With apologies to Dr. Donald Treadgold (author of the classic Twentieth Century Russia), Utopia in Power is now the best general history of the Soviet Union available. A fourth of the book is devoted to the first five years of Communist Party rule, culminating in the death of Lenin, whose legacy is a key for understanding all that follows. Stalin is presented as the natural heir to Lenin, because he alone among the survivors grasped the fundamental truth: Marxism-Leninism is essentially an ideology to preserve and expand power. So long as this requirement is met, any expedient policy is justifiable.

In March of 1918, Lenin demanded that a peace treaty be signed with imperialist Germany at Brest-Litovsk, which would give the Germans the Ukraine, Belorussia, and the Baltic states—all of which belonged to Imperial Russia. Trotsky, Bukharin, and others were opposed to this compromise with capitalism, but Lenin reasoned that the...

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