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A People’s Tragedy

Narrated by: Roger Davis
Length: 47 hrs and 1 min
Categories: History, Russia
4.5 out of 5 stars (159 ratings)

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Summary

Opening with a panorama of Russian society, from the cloistered world of the Tsar to the brutal life of the peasants, A People’s Tragedy follows workers, soldiers, intellectuals and villagers as their world is consumed by revolution and then degenerates into violence and dictatorship. 

Drawing on vast original research, Figes conveys above all the shocking experience of the revolution for those who lived it, while providing the clearest and most cogent account of how and why it unfolded.  

Now including a new introduction that reflects on the revolution’s centennial legacy, A People’s Tragedy is a masterful and definitive record of one of the most important events in modern history.

©2018 Orlando Figes (P)2018 Audible, Ltd

What listeners say about A People’s Tragedy

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A good guide to the repeating history of Russia

On the whole, a great account of events of the time from many perspectives. Russian history has a habit of repeating itself over and over again, so this book contains a lot of common themes with later events, up to the present day. Some of the beliefs, habits and attitudes described will be (surprisingly?) familiar from today's context; it's worth reading this book just for the sake of drawing these parallels.

Don't be intimidated by the length of the audiobook -- time does fly by (although I found that listening at 1.1x most optimal). The one big issue with the audiobook is the narrator's terrible pronunciation of Russian words, names and place-names -- if you are a native speaker you won't have a good time with those, but should, on occasion, be able to decipher what he meant. Normally, bad pronunciation of Russian terms is OK, but this is a book about Russia guys, so it'd have been nice to have someone tell him how to pronounce these correctly. Other than this, the narrator is great and is a pleasure to listen to.

16 people found this helpful

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How awesome is this book???

One of the best history books I've ever encountered! Brilliantly written and so well read on top of that! It made me buy another one by Orlando Figes straight away. You know how audible says in the end "audible hopes yiu enjoyed this programme", well I just replied out loud to it "I did! I really and truly did!"

6 people found this helpful

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absolute nonsense

if this was a book written by a Russian about US or British history, it would have been branded "propaganda"... undoubtedly there is factual base for a lot of the information provided, but a lot of assertions are no more than "a poll in xxxx year showed that most Russians are either ignorant sociopaths or too uneducated to know better". comparing Russian revolution to the rise of head-chopping, heart-eating ISIS from we "liberal west" need to protect our beautiful democracy is nothing less than intellectual dishonesty. I hope that those that have an interest in Russian revolution will do their own research on the subject and visit the country to check the Russians' attitudes for themselves

15 people found this helpful

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Read all about it! Tula zemstvo! a peasant volost!

I listened to this on Audible - 46hrs is long; it took me a month of commuting. Hats off to the narrator Roger Davis whose voice never grated. I think he added value to the book.

The first quarter of the book is a kind of sociology of the old regime - from the Tsar down to the peasants. This was very well structured and organised and I wanted to know more about this.
The political narrative of the revolution itself (the bit that is covered in China Mieville's October) comes in the middle - oddly, I found the narrative bits the least gripping.
The final bits cover the civil war and the grain requisition with a return to the sociology approach. Again, without the central narrative it became more interesting. The conclusion summarises the main points and concludes the biographies of key figures (Semenov; Brusilov; and even the peasant volost).

I enjoyed it a lot more than I expected (for a big book with such a big reputation).
The chapters clearly don't work on Audible: mostly there was a pause and then the narrator shouted a random number - usually 'three' - and it carried on. I think it was chapter 12 before he mentioned the word 'chapter' and gave the sub-heading. I found this hilarious.

What I will take away most from this book are the phrases 'Tula zemstvo'; 'Tambov Province' and 'a peasant volost'. They keep on re-appearing in narration and sounded very poetic. Slightly less poetic when Tula Fortified Zone makes a late appearance!

3 people found this helpful

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An outstanding history

A thorough and comprehensive survey of the Revolution and its aftermath. The narration is excellent.

3 people found this helpful

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Well researched, some historical bias

Can be difficult at the start. Author has an evident slant against certain countries.

1 person found this helpful

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epic recounting of the long revolution

it is filled with fascinating anecdotes and the narrative is told from many different perspectives. an essential book to understand the revolution

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Excellent

A people’s tragedy indeed. A brilliantly interesting historical account of the Russian Revolution. Enjoyed it very much as I knew little about it. Quite long. I now feel I won’t get lost in any conversation about the RR! Definitely worth a read or listen.

3 people found this helpful

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A thorough and reasonably balanced history

Figes' history leaves room for many players, eschewing a Bolshevik-central perspective to capture the full diversity of the players seeking to capture revolutionary Russia and the contingency of their machinations while still allowing events to be driven in broad strokes by the forces and cultural trends of history -- not in the urban proletariat but of the peasantry.

His narrative is wry and gently ironic, never missing an opportunity to subtly (or, at times, overtly) highlight the discrepancy between ideology and practice. While all sides are skewered alike, at times (particularly during the civil war) the Bolsheviks are held to a loftier moral standard than their opponents, which can make the retelling feel a bit polemical in the final third: wartime requisitioning by White armies are mostly passed over as military foraging and famines seen as bad luck crippling their movement; the same acts by Red armies are lambasted in detail as cruelty baked into ideology and concurrent famines painted as consequences of Soviet ineptitude. That said, being held to a loftier moral standard is a price the victors of history usually pay in exchange for being seen as the agents of history, and at any rate Figes' case for the 1920s as a protected urban conquest of the rural areas makes their depredations more relevant to the narrative than those committed by other parties.

The reading by Roger Davis is excellent: while the pronunciation is not quite on-point, the voice work is lively and at times sardonic, underlining Figes' irony with a dripping tone of voice.

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excellent tour de force

this is the most thorough and intresting analysis of the Russian revolution you will find..extremely detailed and intresting..and certainly a warning from history on how the bolsheviks ruthlessly snatched power and inflicted misery on a nation

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  • privacy
  • 07-01-19

Excellent detailed history

Everything you could possibly want to know about the revolution and the personalities involved. Aside from just the history, the author includes the cultural aspects as well as the effects and reactions of Russia’s great artists....Tolstoy, Gorky etc.

The only criticism I have is a small problem with the narrator. Overall he is very good but occasionally he trails off at the end of sentences to the point where it is almost inaudible.

12 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Mark Bruns
  • 22-01-19

Easily one of the top 100 books in History ... maybe one of the top 100 books in all topics

An absolute necessity for anyone with a moderately serious interest in History ... Important not only for the topic itself and the Bolshevik Revolution deserves more serious studies of this caliber but this books is also important as an example of the method or architecture of the solid and consequential approach in telling the story behind the event. You might not like this event, but you should have this work on your [audio] bookshelf.

10 people found this helpful

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  • GB
  • 31-07-19

An Excellant Introduction

I'm not an historian nor am I an expert on Russia or the Russian Revolution. I bought this book to get a general idea of the subject and get my historical facts separated from myth. I got much much more.
This book is an exciting, fascinating and indeed astounding journey through the revolution, its causes and its characters. Every chapter left me wanting to find out more about the people and times it dealt with.
At nearly 50 hours of listening one expects a certian fatigue but Figes & Roger Davis keep it coming it tells hundreds of engaging stories within the main story, like any great Russian story. Each chapter has just enough detail to make it fascinating and not so much as to make it for experts only.
The Reader is brilliant he draws you into the text in the most fascinated way.
I'm not qualified to say if this is the best academic history book on the subject but I am qualified to say it is an astounding achievement. If you have any interest in the subject and perhaps even if you dont you will enjoy this book. You will come out feeling like you were taken as close as possible to a fascinating, exciting time in Human history.

7 people found this helpful

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  • The History Club
  • 27-12-18

Magnificent

You will not be disappointed with this book. The author dives beyond superficial story lines and seeks to understand this enormously complex event as it was experienced by Russians - Bolsheviks, their ideological adversaries and the average Russian as it happened. This is not just "another" retelling of the Russian Revolution - it is the telling of the Russian Revolution as Russians experienced it.

10 people found this helpful

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  • Tot
  • 22-02-19

One of the best books I’ve read

As usual, Figes does it again. You’ll not find another account of the revolution so well done. Most importantly, it is neither poisoned by a tone of right leaning dismissiveness/fatalism of the revolution or left leaning revisionism and fetishization of the bolsheviks. It’s an honest social history, with plenty of criticism for both the whites and the reds. You won’t find a better, more fair account of the revolution on Amazon. If you’re going to screech in the reviews because he didn’t confirm all your political biases one way or they other, it’s not the book for you. If you however, seek understanding, buy the book.

4 people found this helpful

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  • Mike From Mesa
  • 18-05-19

The three Russian Revolutions

Orlando Figes has given us an excellent history of The Russian Revolution and, to give the necessary background to explain what happened and why, starts this book by looking at the state of both Russia and the Russian people in the years leading up to the start of the 20th century. The background information is so thorough that it takes up almost 1/3 of the book and is, by itself, almost worth the cost of the book The remainder of the book covers the Menshevik and Bolshevik revolutions, the resulting civil war, The Terror unleashed by the Bolsheviks against first The Bourgeoisie and then against The Peasants and ends with the death of Lenin.

I bought this book because I wanted to know more about why the Russian Revolution happened, how and why the Bolsheviks managed to grab and hold power from the democratic revolution of early 1917 and how and why the Whites lost the resulting civil war, but learned as well how little I actually knew of Russia before the revolution, how poor the peasants were, how little experience Russians had with democratic institutions, how blind the Monarchy and Nobility were in understanding what was happening and how close Lenin and the Bolsheviks came to failing. I started this book understanding very little of what happened and why, and finished knowing a great deal more about the causes of the revolution and why all of the counter-revolutionary movements failed, even though the people were sick of the tyranny of the Bolsheviks.

The book, at 48 hours, is long but never boring. The history and politics of what was happening is clearly explained, the roles of those involved are clear and the failures of many of those involved are clearly related to their unwillingness to see what was happening rather than see what they wanted to see. The book is not kind to the Bolsheviks and it is clear from his speeches and letters that Lenin himself was the main reason that the revolution turned from its democratic beginnings and became the tyranny that caused the deaths of thousands in The Terror and of millions in the great famine, as well as the beginnings of the police state. Prior to reading this book I was familiar with many of the names of those in the Bolshevik movement - Trotsky, Zinoviev, Bukharin, Kamenev and others - but could not have explained precisely what they believed and how their views differed from each other, from Lenin and from Stalin, but all of that is also covered in this book.

Parts of the book are difficult to listen to, particularly those involving the famine and the forcible requisitioning of food and grain from the farmers. Those people become real in the telling rather than just the statistic they used to be for me, and the tragedy, made by the Bolshevik leaders, is painful to read about with only the saving grace of the relief effort made by the United States to feed those who were starving and provide grain for future harvests. In addition the wide-spread torture used by both the Reds and Whites as well as the pogroms against the Jews are covered and are painful to listen to.

The narration is excellent, the material is well organized and makes a history of what happened and why it happened easy to understand. The book also explains how Stalin gathered his power and became head of the Soviet government after the death of Lenin in spite of Lenin’s attempt to prevent his rise to power,

Highly recommended for anyone interested in this period of history.

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  • Michael Polevoy
  • 31-01-19

It would be 5 stars

It would be 5 stars, if Russian names and toponymics were not so mercilessly mangled. Native Russian speaker, sometimes I had hard time trying to recognize names of people and geographic points familiar to me from times of childhood.

9 people found this helpful

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  • Robert Reitter
  • 16-10-19

A Great Story

Gripping and well told, this is the story of how Bolshevism came to win out in Russia. The writing and narration are both superb.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Toadocean
  • 18-06-19

Perfect

The vast complexities of an entire country and an entire culture are hard to organize and hard to explain. This book has answered so many questions for me. So many questions that I was never able to understand until now. The performance is perfect; and the organization of the book is perfect as well. It’s simply one of the best historical books I’ve ever read.

1 person found this helpful

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  • KW
  • 24-02-19

Excellent Lesson in History

This book provides the facts I was missing to understand fully just how Lenin and his ilk managed to eliminate an equally inept and morally reprehensible monarchy. Also very well read. Hours well spent furthering my knowledge of the past as an armor against the flawed ideas and propaganda of the societal and political present. Thanks to the author and Audible for making this knowledge available.

3 people found this helpful