TROTSKY by Dmitri Volkogonov


The Eternal Revolutionary
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 A revealing biography of perhaps the most tragic figure of the Russian Revolution. Leon Trotsky was once portrayed as the pivotal figure of the revolution, as idealistic as Lenin but far less ruthless than Stalin. If he had gained power, rather than Stalin, the theory goes, the revolution might have turned out differently. Volkogonov's biography Lenin: Life and Legacy (1994, not reviewed) destroyed any illusions about the man and Stalin: Triumph and Tragedy (1991) reinforced the dictator's negative image. Now we have the last volume in a collective biography of the leadership of the Russian Revolution. And perhaps no one was better prepared to write it than Volkogonov, who rose to the post of deputy chief of political indoctrination in the Soviet army despite the fact that his father had been a victim of one of Stalin's purges. Before his death last month, Volkogonov had unprecedented access to army, party, and NKVD archives, and even to Stalin's personal library. Here he does a masterful job of conveying the ``madness'' of revolution and Trotsky's intoxication with the myth of ``permanent revolution.'' Although Trotsky has always been held up as more humane than Stalin, Volkogonov unflinchingly reveals his brutality and fanaticism. Defenders of the Bolshevik Revolution once argued that Stalin betrayed its principles, but it now appears that Lenin set the pattern for the abuses and that Trotsky would have been constrained by the historical forces unleashed by revolution. In the end, Trotsky, unable to control these forces, which he had helped set in motion, or to accept the inadequacies of his own ideas, became an isolated, harassed figure, more memorable for the fervor of his beliefs than for their value. An authoritative and definitive biography of a figure instrumental in shaping the 20th century. (b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: March 12th, 1996
ISBN: 0-684-82293-8
Page count: 560pp
Publisher: Free Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 1996


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