Red Flag Unfurled: History, historians, and the Russian Revolution by Ronald Grigor Suny

Reviewed by
April 2018, no. 400
Sheila Fitzpatrick review 'Red Flag Unfurled: History, historians, and the Russian Revolution' by Ronald Grigor Suny

Red Flag Unfurled: History, historians, and the Russian Revolution

by Ronald Grigor Suny

Verso, $39.99 hb, 314 pp, 9781784785642

Red Flag Unfurled: History, historians, and the Russian Revolution by Ronald Grigor Suny

Reviewed by
April 2018, no. 400

The centenary of the Russian Revolution has just passed, leaving a rather eerie silence, as Vladimir Putin’s Russia decided not to hold any official commemoration. In the current climate of what has been called a ‘new Cold War’ with Russia, people in the West often forget that the Soviet Union and its communist regime ceased to exist in 1991. The Russia of our imagination is still a superpower – despite the fact that its GDP has shrunk to approximately the size of Spain’s, putting it just below Australia in global ranking. Putin is not Stalin, however; for him the Soviet past is a mixed bag, part of which he wants to keep and part not. The once sacred October Revolution seems to be on the throw-out list.

Western Russia scholars were wary of the centenary, too. The general tenor of their assessments was that the revolution was a failure because it led to Stalinism. While Eric Hobsbawm’s judgement in The Age of Extremes (1994) was that the Russian Revolution was the key event of the global twentieth century, historians in the centenary year were keen to downplay its significance. In this, as in many other issues during his distinguished career in Soviet studies, American historian Ronald Grigor Suny is not marching in step. He thought the revolution mattered in the 1960s, when, as a young radical Marxist, he entered the historical profession and became a Soviet specialist, and he thinks it matters now. His lively and erudite new book, comprising six historiographical essays focusing on the interpretation of the revolution and its aftermath, is eloquent testimony to this belief.

Sheila Fitzpatrick review 'Red Flag Unfurled: History, historians, and the Russian Revolution' by Ronald Grigor Suny

Red Flag Unfurled: History, historians, and the Russian Revolution

by Ronald Grigor Suny

Verso, $39.99 hb, 314 pp, 9781784785642

From the New Issue

You May Also Like

Leave a comment

If you are an ABR subscriber, you will need to sign in to post a comment.

If you have forgotten your sign in details, or if you receive an error message when trying to submit your comment, please email your comment (and the name of the article to which it relates) to ABR Comments. We will review your comment and, subject to approval, we will post it under your name.

Please note that all comments must be approved by ABR and comply with our Terms & Conditions.