Posted: November 27th, 2013
Road to Revolution by Avrahm Yarmolinsky
Yarmolinsky’s book ‘Road to Revolution’, published in the year 1959 and republished three years later was a classic detailed description of the sequence of tragedy in Russia. The book highlights the recurring violent incidences that led to many detrimental effects like loss of many innocent lives, oppression, impossible attempts at political revolutions and many mistakes done by the Russian leaders and their revolutionary enemies. The book well discusses the period in the 19th and early 20th centuries just before Bolshevik’s reign in 1917. This was also the period when Russia was experiencing various revolutionary acts. The book generally describes, with conviction, the beginning of the tradition of revolutionary action.
The book also covers about eighty years of the 18th century with majority of it covering the period that Alexander II reigned over Russia. The insight provided by the author details new materials that give explicit details on the period. It also gives good accounts of the Holy League’s attempts to stop or possibly reduce the propaganda that was being radically staged both abroad and in their own soil. The professional revolutionary’s problems with morality are also brought into view by the author as he explains them in detail. As described by the author, “…Morality, religion, the public good, and the economic interest of the masters themselves are invoked in turn” (Yarmolinsky, 2010). The revolutionaries were mostly using an immoral means to get to a redemptive end as described by the author.
The author’s work has an excellence in areas concerning illustration, detail though its interpretive part is quite difficult especially for a person who is not well versed in 18th to 20th century Russian politics. The book is quite a depressing one to read because it gives the gruesome accounts of the inhumane acts that used to go on in the Russian state so vividly. He includes accounts of police reports and eyewitnesses to improve the content; however, other softhearted people are quite affected by Yarmolinsky’s words. At the same time, he paints a picture that implies that the period he talks about was quite mild compared to when Stalin and Lenin were in power. This shows just how bad the two periods were since the English scholars that have detailed Stalin and Lenin’s periods claim that they were quite horrifying.
The book is quite informative with explicit and profound details that give even the locations and names of specific people and places that were affected during the period in discussion. One of these was socialism, which was described as “a doctrine that secured the allegiance of a segment of the Russian educated public as far back as the ‘forties” (Yarmolinsky, 2010). The author also gives detailed accounts of the policies used, how they worked on the people and their specific successes and failures. The conflicts between the leaders who all had the same aim are also highlighted along with their ideologies and the differences that existed between them. The book also has indices included in it. The index covers five pages of the book and gives a large base of key words to issues that one would like to read from the book.
The bibliography provided for the book is an excellent and detailed one and offers very extensive materials that would be enough for the reader to do an extensive reading and research on the subjects highlighted in the book. The author however avoids the use of footnotes and endnotes as he gives a bibliography. The people targeted by the book are those familiar with the modern Russian history and those who are unfamiliar. The author however seems to have had a difficulty in writing the history of the Russian nineteenth century radicalism. This is because the topic was vast and had many details to cover. The exchange in leaders during the two centuries also contributed some difficulty in the analysis of the topic.
The language of the author is quite simple and easy to understand and his flow of thoughts is good. The thoughts, events, timings and locations match one another well and the explanation that the author offers describes vividly to the reader of the events and happenings in the book. The book would however use some graphical changes in the content especially in the areas of the animosity that took place. The book would also use some objectiveness. The author is supposed to write in a way to let the readers suggest and make an opinion for themselves other than dictating the feelings and emotions for them. The book is supposed to inform the reader of the situation, offer explicit information and then let the reader decide for him or herself of the opinion and the interpretation of the message delivered. For instance in the statement “another protagonist of Westernism was Herzen” (Yarmolinsky, 2010), the author describes Herzen as a protagonist instead of highlighting a situation where Hezren shows his protagonism.
The Russian community had a vast exchange of leaders as highlighted in the book. The society was filled with rulers who were dictators, aristocrats and ruthless leaders. This weighed heavily on the people of Russia. As highlighted in the book in specific examples offered by the author, the people of Russia experienced quite difficult times as most of them were forced to do several different things that were against either their morals or their religions. Some of these were the Jews. As is well known, the Jews in Russia and most importantly the Central part of Germany had very many instances of persecution especially due to their religion. As the author illustrates, “…Jews constituted seven per cent of those placed under police surveillance, fifteen per cent of those deported and four and a half per cent of the serious offenders who were tried in court” (Yarmolinsky, 2010).
Yarmolinsky’s book has a defect that is brought about by his indecision especially when he is faced with the important task of analyzing Russian Revolutionary history. He tries to avoid this defect in the most part of the book by confining himself to providing a careful and informative account of the ideas of the Russian revolutionaries. Occasionally, he sticks to the plan and delivers what he promises his readers. Overall, the book is a good explanatory account of the Russian revolutions encountered in the 18th to the early 20th centuries. It is also a good explanatory feature of the happenings of the discussed period. Yarmolinsky does a good job in explaining to his readers about his country and the sequence of events as they take place.
Yarmolinsky, Avrahm: Road to Revolution; A Century of Russian Radicalism. New York, NY: General Books LLC, 2010. Print.
Place an order in 3 easy steps. Takes less than 5 mins.