Soviet historians make up the school of historical thoughtestablished and fostered by the Communist Party of the USSR up until 1991. Therole of Soviet historians was to eulogise the leadership of Lenin, celebratethe triumphs of the Revolution and legitimatise the rule of the Party. Thefollowing are the views and interpretations are from Russian Historians P.A.Golub, G.D. Obichkin and Édourd Nikolaevich Burdzhalov and western Marxisthistorian C.
Hill.Soviet historians are Marxist in their analysis of theRevolution, they believe the causes of the revolution are a result of theBolshevik victory was inevitable and followed the general laws of historyestablished by Marx. The believed soviet view of the Revolution was due to theleadership of Lenin and his evaluation of the Russian situation in Marxistterms: he was able to guide and lead Russia’s masses in a genuine popularuprising against a corrupt, bourgeois regime1.Revolutionary ‘mass consciousness’ was raised by the Party and the ‘people’were led to victory by the ‘vanguard’ of the Revolution. The success of theOctober Revolution was evidence of Lenin’s brilliance in leadership and histight, disciplined organisation of the Party; and the radical mass support ofthe Russian workers, peasants and soldiers2.The increasing authoritarian measures that had to be taken during the Civil Warwere necessary responses to crises and external military threat. The History ofthe Communist Party of the Soviet Union short-course, written under Stalin, isthe best example of this view, although it does give very biased accounts ofthe contributions of key figures, such as Trotsky and Kamenev, who had fallenunder the wrath of Stalin’s purges. The re-evaluation of Stalinism thatoccurred under Khrushchev after Stalin’s death led to a widening in Sovietviews; however, the overriding correctness and legitimacy of the CommunistParty’s authority to rule and the contributions of Lenin remained unquestioned3.
In analysing the February Revolution, Soviet historiansplace less emphasis on WWI, believing that there was an essential continuitybetween developments before and after the outbreak of war. The Revolution wasthus a conscious assault upon tsarism from the workers who had preserved thetraditions of 1905. The Bolshevik Party played a central role in shaping theworkers’ protests.
Soviet historians maintain that there was also continuity ofmass radicalism between the revolutions of 1905, February and October 1917.October was the ultimate fulfilment of the revolutionary aspirations of themasses and the laws of history4.Liberal View The liberal view has been, until recently, the dominant oneespoused by historians writing in the West and it continues to be a prominentinterpretation championed by a number of writers. However, it must be notedthat the liberal interpretation of the Revolution was shaped by the prejudicesof the Cold War and is therefore fundamentally hostile to the notions ofsocialism, Marxist theory and Communist Party rule. In general, liberalhistorians have traditionally interpreted history ‘from above’, focussing onthe ‘actors’ in ‘high politics’.
The role of key individuals or ‘principalcharacters’ (Tsar Nicholas II, Kerensky, Lenin, Trotsky) is central inexplaining the outcomes and nature of the Revolution. The masses on the otherhand, were largely irrational, ignorant, passive or simply anarchic in theirdemands and actions. The manipulation and exploitation of this “chaos” andnaivety were central in the Bolsheviks’ victory; whilst the failing andunpopular war effort, the rampages of the peasants and the unrealistic demandsof the workers created a situation in which the democratic ProvisionalGovernment could not hold power. For liberal historians, the October Revolutionwas “a classic coup d’etat” in which the Bolsheviks disguised their real aim -to build “a one party dictatorship”5.October was neither popular nor democratic. It was due to the superiororganisation and subterfuge of the masses by a professional, dedicated elitewho were intent on just one goal: the seizure and retainment of power.
Eventsfollowing the revolution would like-wise prove the undemocratic, authoritarianand intolerant nature of the October revolutionaries. It was in the nature ofthe Bolshevik Revolution to develop totalitarian tendencies from the out-set:the Bolsheviks aimed for a one-party, one-ideology state that tolerated noopposition and sought to control and manipulate every aspect of its citizen’slives. The early exponents of the liberal interpretation based muchof their work on the writings of Russian émigrés, whose views of the OctoberRevolution were understandably negative. It was these sources that led manyliberal historians to take an ‘optimist’ view of the February Revolution:Imperial Russia was steadily transforming into a modern, democratic, industrialsociety. However, WWI politically, socially and economically weakened thetsarist state and thwarted reformist tendencies. It was these enormous pressuresthat ultimately led to the collapse of the Tsar’s government. The FebruaryRevolution, however, again provided an opportunity for Russia to develop awestern-style democracy and civil liberties.
On-going pressure of the Warcontinued to cause problems, but the situation was ultimately subverted by theBolsheviks, who exploited the fears and desires of the masses. Russia’s chanceat democracy and a stable, civil and capitalist future was stolen by theBolshevik’s power-hungry grab for rulership. 1 http://www.tracesofevil.com/2014/03/russian-revolution-historiography.html2 Leninand the Russian Revolution by Christian Hilling3 https://quizlet.com/24952765/russian-revolution-histiography-flash-cards/4 http://www.tracesofevil.com/2014/03/russian-revolution-historiography.html5 https://books.google.co.uk/books?hl=en==5WftbhaBSSQC=fnd=PR5=-tdeD5W87n=i2cVr8E9yrq5uxcEChPriRIzYzA#v=onepage=false