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"Russia" the book

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发表于 9-15-2022 12:50:46 | 显示全部楼层 |阅读模式
本帖最后由 choi 于 9-17-2022 11:25 编辑

Douglas Smith, A Nation Prone to Cruelty. If the American Civil War ended slavery, and the English Civil War restrained the monarchy, what did the Russian Civil War achieve? Wall Street Journal, Sept 14, 2022, at page A17
https://www.wsj.com/articles/rus ... cruelty-11663103338
(book review on Antony Beevor, Russia. Revolution and civil war, 1917-1921. Viking (to be published on Sept 20, 2022)

Note:
(a)
(i) Antony Beevor
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antony_Beevor
(1946- ; British)
Went to a military academy (one of many) for college.
(ii)
(A) hussar (n; Did You know?  etymology: Hungarian huszár hussar, (obsolete) highway robber, from Serbian & Croatian husar pirate, from Medieval Latin [noun masculine] cursarius [pirate]):
"a member of any of various European military units originally modeled on the Hungarian light cavalry of the 15th century"
https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hussar
(B) hussar
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hussar
(paintings)

(b) Douglas Smith (writer)
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Douglas_Smith_(writer)
(c) Beevor's book "fits squarely within the latest historiography."

historiography (n; First Known Use 1569):
"the writing of history[,] especially : the writing of history based on the critical examination of sources, the selection of particulars from the authentic materials, and the synthesis of particulars into a narrative that will stand the test of critical methods"
https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/historiography

(d) "The Whites were often no less bloody and gave as good as they got."
(i) give as good as you get: "phrase  informal   to compete or fight as hard as your opponent"
https://www.macmillandictionary. ... -as-good-as-you-get
(ii) give as good as one gets: "idiom  informal    to be as forceful in fighting or arguing against others as they are in fighting or arguing against oneself   <She can give as good as she gets in an argument with just about anybody>"
https://www.merriam-webster.com/ ... d%20as%20one%20gets
(iii) give as good as one gets:
• "retaliates or strikes back in an equal fashion   <Don't shove Johnny unless you want a bloody nose—that kid gives as good as he gets>"  Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2022 Farlex. Inc
• "Fig. [figurative] to give as much as one receives; to pay someone back in kind. (Usually in the present tense.)  <John can take care of himself in a fight. He can give as good as he gets>"  McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. © 2002
• "return in kind, retaliate  The general idea of this expression dates from the late 1600s, but the precise wording was first recorded only in 1952."  The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer. Copyright © 2003, 1997 by The Christine Ammer  1992 Trust.
https://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/give+as+good+as+one+gets

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 楼主| 发表于 9-15-2022 12:51:20 | 显示全部楼层
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Kherson. Kharkiv. Mariupol. Kyiv. The names have become painfully familiar in recent months, places of terror, destruction and death. Russia’s indefensible war against Ukraine reverberates with echoes of the gruesome violence that visited these lands a century ago in the wake of the collapse of the Russian empire. When Antony Beevor, the pre-eminent military historian of his generation and the author of "Stalingrad" (1998), began work on "Russia: Revolution and Civil War, 1917-1921," could he have guessed how timely his book would be?

An estimated 15.5 million people perished between 1918 and 1922 as a result of the civil war and accompanying disease and famine. "The fighting right across the Eurasian land-mass was violent beyond belief," Mr Beevor writes. Relentless descriptions of murder, rape and sadistic torture fill the pages of his book. He notes without exaggeration: “Europe had not seen such conspicuous cruelty used as a weapon of terror since the wars of religion.”

These tumultuous years have long fascinated historians. The literature is vast and diverse with interpretations to please every ideological and methodological taste. Beevor's "Russia" does not break any new ground or offer any new perspective, and it fits squarely within the latest historiography.

The provisional government, established after Nicholas's abdication and led by Alexander Kerensky -- "just a grandiloquent juggler," to quote one perceptive contemporary -- foolishly insisted on staying in the war [WW I]misreading the mood of the country and opening the door to the Bolsheviks. Mr Beevor's assessment of Lenin as a cynical master of realpolitik who saw civil war as the horse he would ride to power is unquestionable, "Right from the start," Mr Beevor stated, "civil war quite clearly constituted his extension of politics by other means." The Bolshevik coup d'état amounted , in the author's words, to "infanticide of democracy."

"Russia" focuses less on the politics of these years than on the military aspects of the conflict, which ought to be expected given Mr Beevor's expertise. Readers seeking a broader treatment will do well to read Laura Engelstein's "Russia in Flame" (2018), but for h story of warfare that bloodied the lands of the former Russian empire one can do no better than Mr Beevor's "Russia." The various armies, domestic and foreign, the ever0shifting fronts, the savage battles, the parade of striking personalities -- all are recounted here in riveting, and at timers revolting, detail.  

Aided by Lyuba Vinogradova, his longtime collaborator, Mr Beevor has mined more than 30 archives, museums and libraries, from Siberia to Stanford, There is a wealth of new information here that adds considerable texture and nuance to his story and helps to set "Russia" apart from previous works.

Bloody as the Bolsheviks were, they were single-minded in their purpose, which was one of the keys to their success. The Whites were often no less bloody and gave as good as they got. Mr Beevor records their atrocities, along with the corruption, drugs (cocaine, mostly) and thievery that characterized life in the territories they controlled. Geography played to the Reds' advantages as well, but the key factor in the Whites' defeat was their inability to offer the masses a vision of the future worth fighting for. Some vague notion of a republic could never compete with the opportunity to seize the land now and be done with old masters once and for all.

Would things have been any different had the Whites prevailed? Gen. Mikhail Alekseev, one of the White leaders, wrote to his wife: "A civil war is always a cruel thing, especially so with a nation like ours." A nation like ours. It's difficult to say what he meant by these words. Was he suggesting Russians were more prone to cruelty than others? If so, how much more blood would Whites have had to spill to win, and more important, maintain power?

After reading Mr Beevor's book, one can't help wondering what it was all for. If the American Civil War ended the barbarous inhumanity of slavery, and the English Civil War restrained monarchical power, what did the Russian Civil War achieve? What purpose did this tsunami of violence serve other than the establishment of a new form of Russian authoritarianism, one one even crueler, more bloodthirsty and repressive than the regime it had replaced? The Soviet state killed millions of its own people and industrialized with a recklessness that ravaged the natural environment and resulted in an economy that manufactures [sic; I do not know what it is present tense here, everywhere else in the sentence being past tenses; its it a typo?] nothing the world wanted other than weapons. After a decade of freedom, Russia has reverted to its autocratic traditions, unable, or unwilling, to break free from the past.

There are a few flashes of light in this dark history. Most of them come from the writer Konstantin Paustovsky. More of an observer than a a participant, Paustovsky, a much-beloved Russian author nominated for Nobel Prize in literature in the 1960s, left a powerful record of the period in his epic memoir, "The Story of a Life," which Mr Beevor quotes to excellent effect. Indeed, it is to Paustovsky that he gives the last word.

Like so many at the time, Paustovsky had hopes of a democratic future with the end of czarism. He understood the Bolsheviks' appeal to the masses, but could sense where they were driving the country. "The idyllic aspect of the first days of the revolution was disappearing," Paustovsky recalled.
"Whole worlds were shaking and falling to the ground."

The collapse of those worlds spawned a tragedy of epochal proportions. What ought the world expect after Putin's Russia comes crashing down?

Mr Smith's books include "Former People; The final days of Russian aristocracy" and "The Russian Job; The forgotten story of how America saved the Soviet Union from ruin."
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