History Today Subscription

The Roles of Lenin and Stalin in the Russian Revolution

How should we interpret the Bolshevik Revolution, in the light of later events? Michael Lynch explains the issues with which we have to grapple and gives tips on how to impress the examiners.

Falsified detail of a photo from the VIII Congress of the Russian Communist Party , March 1919. L-R: Stalin, Lenin, and Mikhail KalininDid Stalin fulfil or betray the revolution that Lenin had begun in 1917? Was he the heir or the betrayer of Lenin? These are not simply academic questions specially thought up by fiendish examiners to terrorise candidates. They relate to a genuine historical debate that continues to cause controversy among politicians and to divide historians.

Importance of the Theme

Probably more books have been written about the Russian Revolution than any other event in the twentieth century. The reason is not hard to find. Despite the collapse of Soviet Communism in the early 1990s, there are Marxists who still believe that the Russian revolution was a unique event in human history. According to this belief, the taking of power by the Bolsheviks in October 1917 marked a momentous stage in the development of human society. The Bolshevik Party represented the proletarian masses whose historical role was to sweep aside their class oppressors. 1917 therefore, was a new dawn in human history. The workers of Russia had taken power for themselves. They had begun a revolution which would rapidly spread worldwide until it had destroyed capitalist governments everywhere and initiated the rule of the workers.

To continue reading this article you will need to purchase access to the online archive.

Buy Online Access  Buy Print & Archive Subscription

If you have already purchased access, or are a print & archive subscriber, please ensure you are logged in.

Please email digital@historytoday.com if you have any problems.



Get Miscellanies, our free weekly long read, in your inbox every week