A tightly focused narrative of the year that Russia overthrew the Romanovs only to fall under the yoke of another despotic government. Moynahan (Claws of the Bear, 1989), former chief foreign correspondent of the London Times, has not uncovered any new material about the birth of the USSR, but he presents familiar information with an eye for the lively anecdote as told by eyewitnesses. In his view, although the overthrow of the well-intentioned but weak Czar Nicholas II and his dominating wife Alexandra may have been inevitable, the eventual triumph of the Bolsheviks was anything but. The usual pivotal events of the Revolution are chronicled--including the murder of Rasputin, the February Revolution, the March abdication of Nicholas, the Communists' abortive summer coup, the supposed threat from the military that allowed them a comeback, the October Revolution that brought the Bolsheviks to power, and the fateful formation of the Cheka, the first instrument of Sovietsponsored state terror. Among the large cast of characters here, two stand out: Alexander Kerensky, the charismatic but vacillating revolutionary and eventual prime minister who let his democratic government be whipsawed by four cabinet changes in six months, economic deprivation, and unsuccessful participation in WW I; and cowardly, fanatical V.I. Lenin, who transformed the Bolsheviks from the most marginal of Russia's splinter groups to the only one by year's end, chiefly through ruthlessness (""How can you make a revolution without executions?"" he scolded colleagues after a vote abolishing capital punishment). A cautionary tale to be remembered as the infant Commonwealth of Independent States tries to remain democratic and economically viable without veering between anarchy and a new, yet unknown dictatorship.