Caught in the Revolution by Helen Rappaport (‘Let’s stop talking and act.’)

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I have long been enamored of Russia, taking so many Russian literature classes in college I practically earned a minor degree in the subject. It doesn’t matter how much I have read of their woe and heartache, my fascination still holds thirty years later. And it has only been reinforced by this most excellent book by Helen Rappaport. With a perfect blend of prose and quotations, she gives us an account of the Russian Revolution which happened one hundred years ago this month. Here are some excerpts from Caught in The Revolution describing the initial events:

Thursday, February 9, 1917:

“The Cossacks are again patrolling the city on account of threatened strikes-for the women are beginning to rebel at standing in bread lines from 5:00 a.m. for shops that open at 10:00 a.m., and that in weather twenty-five degrees below zero.” J. Butler Wright

Saturday, February 25, 1917:

“Violent protest was certainly the intention of the workers over in the factory districts that morning, as they gathered for a huge march on the city. This time they had ensured that they wore plenty of padding under their thick coats to ward off blows…The impromptu bread protests of two days ago had now expanded into a political movement, colored by more and more acts of violence and looting.” p. 62-63

Monday, February 27, 1917:

“Events had, in fact, taken a decisive turn in the early hours of 27 February when the army, as many had predicted, began mutinying…In those first few hours most of the rebellious soldiers appeared disoriented and numbed by the momentous decision they had made, and for some time they had no sense of where to go and what to do, other than incite other regiments to join them.” p. 85-86

But, once the prisons were opened, the workmen were armed, and the soldiers were without officers, things were no where near to being solved.

Helen Rappaport writes an absolutely compelling account of the Russian Revolution, so mesmerizing it practically reads like a novel. The pages fly by as I find myself absorbed in the first hand accounts and meticulous research which she has conducted.

Caught in the Revolution not only tells about the troubled history of Russia, it speaks pointedly of a nation’s unrest with a leader whom they see as non-conciliatory.  I’ve read about them in the French Revolution, the Russian Revolution, and I fear for our own country in its present state of discord and bitter unhappiness. It is not too far a stretch to draw parallels between the angry citizens of Russia and present day America although we are one hundred years apart.

The publication of this book couldn’t be more timely.

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