What was Russia’s October Revolution for, and does it matter any more?

[From The Conversation]

Few episodes in history capture the imagination quite like the Russian Revolution of 1917, undeniably one of the most important episodes of modern history. But a century later, what does it really mean? After all, the Soviet state that emerged from 1917 no longer exists, and the Cold War is over. Does the revolution have any relevance today?

To judge by the flurry of interest in the centenary, a great deal. Historians and writers are in overdrive trying to convey what happened, how, and why, many focusing on the “ordinary” people involved and the extraordinarily talented artists who experienced, made, and captured the revolution. That’s certainly in the spirit of the thing; Lenin himself described revolutions as “festivals of the oppressed and the exploited”. But it’s unwise to romanticise revolution in general, and the Russian Revolution in particular.

The course the Revolution took was determined above all by Lenin and his ruling Bolshevik party, often alongside “the people”, but often also by force against them. One of the most important questions to ask, then, is: what was the October Revolution actually for? Why did the Bolsheviks take power?

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