A comprehensive, ideologically detached, and enormously enlightening work of Russian history.



A simultaneously sweeping and focused history of the Bolshevik Revolution as a brutal co-opting of the legitimate democratic groundswell.

On the 100th anniversary of Lenin’s 1917 coup, Engelstein (Emerita, Russian History/Yale Univ.; Slavophile Empire: Imperial Russia’s Illiberal Path, 2009, etc.) concentrates on the ferocious state-building of the Bolsheviks, which allowed them to assume power through civil war, social control, and economic collapse, defeating the counterrevolution and establishing a top-down socialist state. The author revisits the Revolution of 1905 that shook the Russian Empire “from stem to stern” and first provided the model for the 1917 February Revolution. The Bolshevik coup of the duly elected provisional government brought on a savage four-year civil war that Engelstein asserts was “implicit in the revolution from the beginning.” Taking Russia out of World War I and gambling instead on the sparking of worldwide revolution fractured the opposition: “men versus officers, peasants versus landowners, workers versus factor owners, poor versus rich, drunk versus sober.” The Bolsheviks exploited the divisions rather than contain them, and what Engelstein sees as the legitimate “procedures of democratic life,” which were reflected in the many committees and conferences—she notes that a third of the population, about 50 million people, voted for the Constituent Assembly—could, by the dominant Bolshevik party, “be dispensed with, or refashioned as instruments of rule.” Moreover, the Cheka, the police-state ancestor to the KGB, was put in place within weeks after the October Revolution, instigating the Red Terror, which was, as one official noted, “the rational direction of the punishing arm of the revolutionary proletariat.” Engelstein astutely and methodically examines the unquiet regions in turn, from Finland to the Baltics to Ukraine to central Asia to Poland. Crushing the rebellion of the Kronstadt sailors in 1921 was just the beginning of the revolution’s turning against itself.

A comprehensive, ideologically detached, and enormously enlightening work of Russian history.

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-19-979421-8

Page Count: 840

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: July 12, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2017

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.



Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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