Books I Read: Victor Chernov. The Great Russian Revolution.

1 DONE [#6] Чернов, Виктор. Великая русская революция. (Victor Chernov. The Great Russian Revolution)    nonfiction science history

  • State "DONE" 2008-01-11 Fri 19:57
    • The collapse of the dynasty
    • The followers of Rasputin and the separate peace
    • Opposition in Duma
    • Duma against the revolution
    • The Soviet democracy
    • Position of socialist parties
    • Revolution and the workers
    • Peasants and revolution
    • Tragedy of the Russian army
    • Provisional government
    • Foreign policy of Provisional government
    • Conflict in industry
    • Government and the agrarian conflict
    • Dead-end in national politics
    • Dead-end in foreign politics
    • Army and revolution
    • Counter-revolution and general Kornilov
    • Mutiny and its corollaries
    • Party of socialists-revolutionaries
    • Slipping to bolshevism
    • Spirit of Russian revolution

    Before getting to the great undertaking of reading Richard Pipes, I decided to read the memoirs of some of the participants of the events of 1917. Viktor Chernov was a leader of the party of SRs (socialist-revolutionaries). The party had strong support among peasants and had the majority in the first Soviet and in the Constituent Assembly. Chernov was the minister of agriculture in the Provisional government and the chairman of the Constituent Assembly.

    The book begins with the chapter about the royal couple -- Nikolay II and his wife Alexandra Fyodorovna. In Chernov's opinion, Nikolay was weak and flabby. Alexandra, says Chernov, on the contrary, attempted to interfere and manipulate Nikolay. Then he talks about Rasputin, accusing him of pro-German sentiments and attempting to influence the war through Alexandra and, indirectly, Nikolay. Chernov quickly paces through the events of 1914-1916, noting the inability of the government to solve the growing problems caused by the war. The largest part of the book is about 1917, starting with the abdication of Nikolay. Chernov blames the first Provisional government formed mostly of constitutional democrats for the attempts to continue the work as if the revolution never happened. The second coalitional Provisional government was simply unable to do anything, being torn apart by the party interests, Chernov says. The third socialist Provisional government, in his opinion, was just insufficiently socialist. And of course, general Kornilov was for Chernov a potential dictator obsessed with power, who strived to destroy the achievements of the revolution and to become a Russian Napoleon. Basically, Chernov accuses everyone of not thinking like he does.

    Before you get annoyed by this style, not too uncommon among politicians, the book looks rather interesting. Some facts about the family of Romanovs and the political struggle in the years before the revolution are really interesting.

    However, the position of Chernov himself doesn't seem to be impeccable. Chernov describes Kerensky as a clown, a maniacal conceited poseur. And then he talk of himself in the third person: "Chernov was rather a theoretician, speaker, journalist, lecturer and scientist than a professional politician. He reconciled his really Slav broad nature, softness and eagerness for compromise with the tendency to escape to the ideal world of social forecasts and diagnoses, creative imagination and to leave the real work to the others." On the one hand, he criticizes himself, but on the other hand, how lovingly he does it!

    The weaknesses of the position of the SR are clearly seen in Chernov's perception of the French revolution: "Kropotkin told that the real history of the fourteen revolutionary months, since June 1793 till July 1794, was not yet written; the historians studied the external side of the events, the kingdom of terror, while the gist of these events is not the terror, but the mass redistribution of land, the agrarian revolution. The abolition of the feudal privileges without any compensation was the final point of the revolution." Chernov separates the terror from the revolution, failing to notice the obvious mutual links between the terror and the revolution and wishing to get the benefits without paying the price.

    Another dubious part of the book is when he talks about the episodes when peasants occupied the lands and captured the agricultural tools and machines of the pomeshchiks (landlords) from the permission of self-proclaimed village councils (Soviets). Chernov says that the only way to deal with these squatters was to officially recognize them; attempts to bring them under control would lead to mass disorders. It's like legalizing robbery because you can't stop it. Chernov justifies his position by quoting the letters and telegrams he received from the rural areas where the village councils refused to comply with the old legislation and threatened with rebellions, but he is so clearly biased that I would like to see a more balanced view of these events. By the way, R.Pipes notes that disorders began only after Chernov became the minister of agriculture in the Provisional government.

    Chernov tries to defend the famous Order #1, issued by the Soviets and which caused the collapse of the army:

    "For the commandment this order became the worst evil, the bomb thrown into the army intentionally, which destroyed the army discipline. However, the people who were familiar with the military discipline of the modern foreign countries, did not see anything scary in this order. The idea was simple: the strict discipline is only obligatory as long as the soldiers are on duty; outside the trenches and barracks the privates excercise the same rights as the officers. The revision of the purely superficial signs of discipline (like forbidding officers to be rude to the privates or introduction of new address "citizen general" instead of the pompous "your excellency", etc.) could not frighten anyone. Slightly more important was the abolition of saluting when off duty.

    Three articles defined the interaction of the privates with the political organizations they elected -- the Soviets and committees. Of course, from the point of view of the principle of the apolitical army it was herecy, but the army that has just accomplished the revolution could not remain apolitical. Moreover, the officers who demanded that their soldiers should stay away from politics, participated in the political events.

    One more article proclaimed that only those orders of the military commission of Duma must be obeyed which do not contradict the orders of the Soviet of soldiers' deputies. But this commission was just as political and self-styled as the Soviets.

    And the fifth, main, article would be impossible in the army. All weapons must remain at the disposal of the battallion committees and cannot be given out to the officers even under their requests. Worst of all was that this article was fair."

    Sorry for this huge quotation, but note how Chernov begins with really innocent articles of this order and justifies essence of this order, the articles that eventually ruined the army.

    And yet, this one-sided book is an interesting document that gives a chance to understand the position of the SRs, the party with the largest support in the pre-bolshevik Russia.

  • State "READING" 2008-01-01 Tue 02:53
  • State "TOREAD" 2008-01-01 Tue 02:52
    ISBN: 978-5-9524-2710-5
    BBK: 63.3(2)5
  • Великая русская революция. Воспоминания председателя Учредительного собрания. 1905-1920 / Пер. с англ. Е.А. Каца. - М.: ЗАО Центрполиграф, 2007. - 430 с.

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