Books for an Introduction to The Russian Revolution and Stalin
If you have read any of my other hubs then you may have spotted that I hold an interest in modern history and have read quite a bit around the subject. However, one of the biggest issues I find when trying to find a subject area that I may be interested in is how much detail do I want and what is it that actually interests me? There are many great books out there but if you find yourself reading about subjects in too much depth, they can start to feel like a chore.
I first came across the 'History In An Hour' series when I was writing my hub on Modern South African History. As the name suggests these are a range of books on various historical subjects that will take just about one hour to read. Getting a fine balance between giving enough detail to cover the subject and going into too much depth is a fine balance but the authors of this series try to accomplish this feat.
One subject that has particularly interested me in recent months is The Cold War and I have read quite a bit on the subject. There is in fact a 'Cold War: History In An Hour' book and part of me wishes that I had read it before some of the more in depth texts I did go on to read. However, what happened before the Cold War started in Russia was something I still wanted to know a little more about and as I was going on holiday for a week, I downloaded this book and also one on the Russian Dictator Joseph Stalin to read before I left. They may not tick the boxes of relaxing holiday reading but at just an hour long each, I could see that they could give me a good understanding of the subject matter.
The Russian Revolution: History in an Hour - Rupert Colley
I started with this book in the Russian Revolution. Many people will have heard of Lenin and also the stories of the last Tsar of Russia being murdered alongside his family by the Bolsheviks (and subsequent conspiracy theories over the fate of his daughter). However, beyond that I didn't know too much more so I sat down to find out more. As a book scratching the surface this did a great job. One almost assumes that communism just 'came along' and overtook and overthrew the monarchy but this wasn't the case. The writer manages to engage you as he shows how Lenin and his fellow Bolsheviks grew among the Soviets (I'd never thought about what this word meant until reading this book), moving through various revolutions up until the death of Lenin in January 1924 which in turn started the reign of Stalin.
Reading the Stalin History in an Hour book immediately afterwards seemed a logical step and whilst there was obvious overlap, both books complemented each other in giving a full picture. Starting with his childhood with a violent father and a mother who wanted him to become a priest, you are able to see how this brutal man eventually came to power. It moves through his growth is what was to become the Communist party and how, on the death of Lenin he not only manoeuvred himself in to being the successor (despite Lenin's feelings against this) but also cut down anyone and everyone who displeased him. In his reign millions died either through famine, war or at the order of the state leading to his famous statement:"One death is a tragedy. A million deaths is a statistic". It also delves in to his insecurities towards the end of his life when he was constantly in fear of a coup against him and the repercussions of such an event.
The thing that I have particularly enjoyed about reading these books is the structured way in which they have all been written, making it easy to step through. Concise chapters outline the key parts of the subject with accompanying pictures that help bring some of the events and people to life (for example the picture of Lenin with no beard, a wig and dressed as a fisherman really brings home that he did indeed have to go disguised to move to/from Russia undetected). They then all have two appendixes, one gives brief biographies of some of the key players in the subject, the second a timeline of major events throughout.
If you, like me, have an interest in history (both modern and less so) then I would really suggest checking out this series of books. If you enjoy the subject matter there is nothing to stop you delving deeper in with longer books but these little tasters really help set the scene. In the examples of the Russian Revolution and Joseph Stalin, I don't think I'll be looking to read any more in to them at any time soon, but as a result of reading these books I now feel like I have a much better understanding of the rise of communism, Lenin, Stalin and several other key players. All of this then makes my overall understanding improve which will help give back story to mentions of the events as a possible cause of future events occurring, and also hopefully help me one day in a pub quiz!