Editor's Note: This article was originally published under the name "John David," the former pseudonym of NAS Communications & Research Associate David Acevedo. To learn more about why David no longer writes under this name, click here.
NAS Board of Directors member Jay Bergman has written a new book titled The French Revolutionary Tradition in Russian and Soviet Politics, Political Thought, and Culture. Published by Oxford University Press, the work describes how revolutionaries in Russia both before and after the October Revolution in 1917 were influenced by the French revolutions of the late-eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
Bergman argues that because their Marxist ideology considered any socialist or proletarian revolution in Russia premature, and therefore destined to fail, the Bolsheviks looked to France and its tradition of revolutions to justify their taking power when they did. In Bergman's own words, Russian revolutionaries "saw the revolutions in France in 1789, 1830, 1848, and 1871 as supplying practically everything Marxism lacked. In fact, these four events comprised what for the Bolsheviks was a genuine Revolutionary Tradition." The French revolutions offered "legitimacy, inspiration, guidance in constructing socialism and communism, and, not least, useful fodder for political and personal polemics." His analysis is not limited to France, also citing the English Revolution and the Puritan Commonwealth of the seventeenth century as an additional source of inspiration. Bergman contructs a truly intra-European historical narrative, one sure to be fresh and intriguing for all interested in the subject.
The book has already received high praise from readers:
"This is a first rate piece of scholarship on an important topic that has attracted less attention than it deserves. There are a few studies which impinge on the theme but nothing to compare with the range and depth of this study. . . It cuts deeply to the essence of the ideas of every significant political thinker in Russia since the time of the revolution. Anyone interested in any aspect of the history of ideas in Russia will benefit from consulting this study. . . Most impressive is the tone of engagement with the rich variety of ideas and the scrupulously balanced presentation of them, a stance which hardly varies throughout. The range of sources is enormous but the relaxed control over this vast range is admirable." - Christopher Read, University of Warwick, UK
"I found this book a fascinating read. To be sure, some of the broad themes and arguments have been discussed by historians before, but never in such a systematic manner. It is well written and entertaining, moving briskly across a wide range of thinkers, writers, events and developments." - Matthew Rendle, University of Exeter, UK
The French Revolutionary Tradition in Russian and Soviet Politics, Political Thought, and Culture can be found through Oxford University Press. The NAS congratulates Jay for this fine achievement.
John David is a staff intern at the NAS and a recent graduate of Columbia University.