Teaching the Russian Revolution February 1917 and the role of the elites

It seems appropriate on the centenary of the first of the revolutions of 1917 to have a look at the much-contested view, promulgated in the late 1920s and early 30s, that it was one of the most spontaneous revolutions of all time. Fifty years of revisionist scholarship has significantly challenged that view and now focuses much more on the role of the elite in isolating Tsar Nicholas. In a stimulating article for this month’s Modern History Review Chris Read, Professor of modern European history at the University of Warwick, changing historiography is revisited leaving Chris to conclude that the Revolution was accomplished by Nicholas most loyal servants ‘whose objective was to stop developing social revolution in its tracks. The aim of the elite, he argues, was to put the cork back in the bottle. “What they actually did”, he concludes,”was to shake the bottle so that the cork flew out and the contents exploded into the open. They had not cut social revolution short, they had given it a new lease of life”.

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