The Revolution and its impact


An important contribution to an understanding of the Russian Revolution’s long-term implications for democratic politics and its relevance for struggles for social justice across the world.

Achala Moulik’s book is an important contribution to our understanding of the Russian Revolution of 1917 and its impact on global political developments in the 20th century and after. The author seeks to emphasise that the revolution, far from being a one-off event, is of a permanent character with long-term implications and has contributed to the continued relevance of the concept of welfare state in an era of free-market capitalism. Achala Moulik’s narration of the events is indeed fascinating and comprehensive not only in the national context of Russia but in the international context as well. Her courage, commitment and candour in explicating the complexities of the politics of the Soviet Union that emerged from the revolution become relevant for the struggles for social justice across the world.

The author is a former civil servant and writer on European cultural history, physical heritage and of biography and novels. A Pushkin Medal awardee, her play, Pushkin’s Last Poem, was performed in Moscow and St. Petersburg. Russian President Vladimir Putin attended the Moscow session. Educated in Washington, New York, Rome and London, Achala Moulik took an honours degree in economics, history and international law from the University of London.

The book is dedicated to the memory of Alexander Mikhailovich Kadakin, an eminent diplomat and friend of India. The author was admittedly never posted in the Indian Embassy in Moscow. The book is based entirely on her independent study supplemented by discussions with informants and experts. Her interest in Russia began early when as a schoolgirl she read Rabindranath Tagore’s Letters from Russia (in Bengali), which prepared the ground for her later pursuit of Russian literature and history as a student in London.

In her brilliant conclusion (pages 456-458), the author notes that while the Western world could adjust to the emerging social justice concerns of the times, the conflagration of the First World War and the ideology of communism were required to shake up Russia’s tsarist regime and trigger the Bolshevik Revolution, leaving behind an enduring legacy. The universality of the ideology of Marxism, according to the author, made its impact felt not just in the Western world but also in the non-Western world under colonial rule. Marx, Engels and Lenin had indeed critically evaluated European colonialism. Although many changes had taken place in the Soviet Union since 1917, including the dissolution of the Soviet state and the emergence of the Russian Federation, the ideas generated by the Russian Revolution have remained relevant, says the author, who does not fall into the trap of fashionable denunciation of Marxist-Leninist ideas.

An interesting feature of the book is the detached manner in which the author is able to explicate the collapse of the Soviet Union under President Mikhail Gorbachev and the emergence of leaders such as Boris Yeltsin, Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev.

The 461-page book is divided into six parts.

Part 1 titled “A Stormy Prelude” has four chapters, which briefly explain the history of Russia and the context of the revolution.

Part 2, “The Revolution and its Aftermath”, with 10 chapters, explores the post-revolutionary situation touching on Lenin’s new economic policy; has pen portraits of Lenin and Stalin and an interesting account of Stalin and Hitler; narrates the consequences of the Second World War, which made the Soviet Union a superpower; and talks about Nikita Khrushchev’s “Thaw” and the “Brezhnev Era”.

Part 3 explores the “Intellectual and Creative Ferment in the Soviet Union” with chapters on education, health care, science, art, literature, ballet and theatre, music composers, the Red Army Ensemble, chess and sports.

Part 4 on “Soviet Union and the World” begins with a chapter on the ideological foundations of Soviet foreign policy; the Cold War (1946-1991) and the Soviet Union’s relations with several countries, especially Afghanistan, India and Iran.

The most important section, Part 5, titled “A New Age is Created by a Dying One”, includes several chapters on the decline and collapse of the Soviet Union and the creation of the Russian Federation and the roles especially of Gorbachev, Yeltsin, Putin and Medvedev. It includes an interesting chapter on “Road to Damascus”.

Part 6 on “Resurgent Russia” has two chapters, “A New Prelude” and “November 1917 Revisited”. In the concluding chapter, the author provides an amazingly positive vision of the overall impact of the Russian Revolution on global politics.

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