- Hardcover: 353 pages
- Publisher: Metropolitan Books (28 March 2017)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1627793011
- ISBN-13: 978-1627793018
- Product Dimensions: 16.2 x 3.4 x 24 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 567 g
- Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 288,727 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Lenin on the Train Hardcover – 28 Mar 2017
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"Catherine Merridale is one ofthe foremost foreign historians of Russia, combining wry insights with deepsympathy for the human beings suffering the tragedies she writes about . . . Leninon the Train combines diplomatic intrigue, spycraft, toweringpersonalities, bureaucratic bungling, military history and ideology."
"Merridale's account benefits from her thorough research . . . andvividly reminds us of how the fateful events of 1917 depended on a seeminglysmall episode."
--The New York Times Book Review
"Catherine Merridale, a distinguished historian of Russia and the SovietUnion . . . uses [Lenin's] journey as the centerpiece of a broader account ofthe fall of czarism and the mounting Bolshevik pressure on the government thatreplaced it."
--Wall Street Journal
"Merridale's excellent book . . . does an exemplary job of covering thecomplex history of the denials, evasions and cover-ups perpetrated by the Bolshevikleader and his successors."
--Dallas Morning News
"Memorable . . . a richly detailed book that turns familiar materialinto an intense adventure."
--Minneapolis Star Tribune
"Merridale tells the extraordinary story of Lenin's history-makingjourney. Drenched in atmosphere, [her] account has all the stuff of a spythriller."
"In vivid prose, [Merridale]recounts the whole engine of revolution . . . A superbly written narrativehistory that draws together and makes sense of scattered data, anecdotes, andminor episodes, affording us a bigger picture of events that we now understandto be transformative."
"History recovered as livingdrama . . . Merridale smuggles readers onto a train leaving Zurich in April1917 that is carrying explosive freight: Vladimir Lenin, the firebrand who willkindle a revolutionary conflagration in Russia."
"A colorful, suspenseful, andwell-documented narrative."
"The suberb, funny, fascinatingstory of Lenin's trans-European rail journey to power and how it shook theworld"
--Simon Sebag Montefiore, Evening Standard (Best Books of 2016)
"Twice I missed my stop on the Tube reading this book . . . this is ajewel among histories, taking a single episode from the penultimate year of theGreat War, illuminating a continent, a revolution and a series of psychologiesin a moment of cataclysm and doing it with wit, judgment and an eye for tellingdetail. . . . Catherine Merridale is one of those historians whose work allowsyou to understand something more about the world we inhabit now."
--David Aaronovitch, The Times
"Catherine Merridale, an experienced and enthusiastic historian ofRussia, has chosen the pivotal moment of Lenin's slow and halting odyssey tohang her history of how this ruthless fanatic hijacked a revolution."
"A sharply written, authoritative account of Lenin's train journey"
"Merridale brings to her subject a scholar's deep knowledge and alively narrative style. It is a work that enlightens as well as it entertains."
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Actually, the book is a recap of Lenin's role in the Russian revolution from the eve of the First World War, through and immediately after his return to Russia. Yet there is little new that is added to this well-worn tale, and little insight offered into Lenin's psyche other then repeated references to his intractability and ferocious energy. Of insights into the circle of people around him there is even less.
Perhaps the US edition cut some corners? In the acknowledgments the author rhapsodizes over the contributions of the person who produced the included photos and maps. Yet the maps are a very basic two (route of the journey, and street plan of Petrograd), and the photos are, alas, nothing special. The quality of the paper (often a bellwether of the degree of publisher interest) is poor as well.
Well written, surely, but a bit of a disappointment nonetheless.
Merridale vividly describes the collapse of the Czarist regime at home and on the war front and Lenin’s life in exile in Switzerland. It is the German government who seizes upon the idea of transporting Lenin into Russia with the goal of fomenting a revolution that would take that country out of the war. The plot succeeds brilliantly. The go between was a Bolshevik/ speculator Alexander Helphand also known as Parvus, who is quite a character. With the deal orchestrated Lenin and his entourage occupy three rail cars as they travel through Germany and beyond. Although it was known as a “sealed train” it was far from sealed and passengers actually disembarked on occasion. It was quite a menagerie and the passengers included such luminaries as Karl Radek, Grigory Sokolnikov and Grigory Zinoviev. All three would later die in the Stalin purges of the 1930s.
The interesting thing is that it was no secret. The Russian government knew, the British knew and the Bolsheviks knew that Lenin was coming. With his boisterous arrival he grabs the Bolshevik Party by the throat and with the force of his will he sets them on a revolutionary course. Lenin truly was the “plague bacillus” that Churchill described him as, because in his wake you can count the deaths in the tens of millions.
Although the book is slow going at times, Merridale tells the story with great verve and you get a sense of the drama building as the locomotive of history goes on its journey through northern Europe.
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