"The Unknown Lenin" by Richard Pipes

The Unknown Lenin From the Secret Archive Richard Pipes

Annals of Communism Series
Publication date:
10 Jun 1999
Yale University Press
240 pages: 229 x 152mm
10 b-w illus.

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Was Lenin a visionary whose ideals were subverted by his followers? Or was he a cynical misanthrope, even crueler than Stalin? This book, which contains newly released documents from the Lenin archive in Russia, lays bare Lenin the man and the politician, leaving little doubt that he was a ruthless and manipulative leader who used terror, subversion, and persecution to achieve his goals.

Edited and introduced by the eminent scholar Richard Pipes in collaboration with Y.A. Buranov of the Russian Center for the Preservation and Study of Documents of Recent History in Moscow, the documents date from 1886 through the end of Lenin's life. They reveal, among other things, that:

• Lenin's purpose in invading Poland in 1920 was not merely to sovietize that country but to use it as a springboard for the invasion of Germany and England;

• Lenin took money from the Germans (here we have the first incontrovertible evidence for this);

• in 1919 Lenin issued instructions to the Communist authorities in the Ukraine not to accept Jews in the Soviet government of that republic;

• as late as 1922 Lenin believed in the imminence of social revolution in the West, and he planned subversion in Finland, Turkey, Lithuania, and other countries;

• Lenin had little regard for Trotsky's judgment on important matters and relied heavily on Stalin;

• Lenin assiduously tracked dissident intellectuals and urged repressive action or deportation;

• Lenin launched a political offensive against the Orthodox Church, ordering that priests who resisted seizure of church property be shot--"the more the better."

"An important and welcome contribution?.Most of the newly released documents from the Soviet archives uncover Lenin's darker side."?Orlando Figes, New York Times Book Review

"Glimpses of Lenin's private strategizing, so different from his public image, make the volume compelling."?Scott Heller, Chronicle of Higher Education

"Illuminating reading about Lenin's inner circle, subversion abroad and torment at home."?Publishers Weekly

"This collection is a supplement to history, . . . an especially valuable supplement, providing a window on the forming of the Soviet nation, the betrayal of whose promise was perhaps the central moral and political event of the century."?-Richard Bernstein, New York Times

"A fascinating selection of those sacred texts that the Soviet authorities treasured worshipfully but deemed too sensitive to allow into the light of print."?Gabriel Schoenfeld, Wall Street Journal

"Pipes and his American and Russian collaborators have produced an immensely valuable book, which adds much to understanding the character and impact of the most influential revolutionary of the twentieth century. . . . His brief biography of Lenin, as well as the thoughtful commentary and annotation of the documents, have created a fascinating book for both the general reader and the specialist."?Herbert J. Ellison, Los Angeles Times Book Review

"The letters . . . cast fresh light on [Stalin's] motives, attitudes and expectations, and they disperse the smoke screen of self-righteousness and defensiveness in his public pronouncements to reveal him as cynical and aggressive."?Harold Shukman, The Times Higher Education Supplement

"Fascinating. . . . Professor Pipes's documents . . . reveal more clearly than ever before the brutal and devious personality of the founder of the Soviet state."?Christopher Andrew, The Sunday Telegraph

"[A] superbly edited selection of Lenin's documents. . . . [A] significant volume."?George R. Urban, The Times [London]

"[A] fascinating and enlightening collection of documents, which damns both the old image of Lenin as philanthropic revolutionary and also the Khrushchev-era claim that Lenin barely noticed Stalin and regretted his rise when he did. . . . Reading this book, . . . we get to know the real Lenin for the first time. We can hear his voice and see into his soul. It is not a pretty sight?but it is horribly compelling."?Simon Sebag Montefiore, The Sunday Times (London)

"This collection is a supplement to history, not history itself. But it is an especially valuable supplement, providing a window on the forming of the Soviet nation, the betrayal of whose promise was perhaps the central moral and political event of the century."?Richard Bernstein, International Herald Tribune

"Brings our image of the Communist dictator into excruciatingly sharp focus."?John O'Mahony, Financial Times

"If there are still any unreconstructed Leninists around, they ought to read the unvarnished truth in this book."?Virginia Quarterly Review

"The book provides a much-needed corrective to the benign portrait of Vladimir Lenin, leader of the Russian Revolution, that persists in some circles in the West."?Robert Leiter, Jewish Exponent

"The editor is one of the most important living historians of twentieth century Russia and this book is one of the most valuable ever published with regard to the horrors of Russian communism."?Edward Bradbury, Contemporary Review

"Pipes has transformed historical documents dating back three quarters of a century into stunning and vital components of contemporary debate."?S. Frederick Starr, Aspen Institute

"Lenin's words trace to him the pedigree of two of the twentieth century's defining ideas: totalitarianism founded on terror, and genocide as state policy."?George R. Will, Newsweek

"Add[s] some significant details to our knowledge of the man and the period."?Dominic Lieven, Slavic Review

"One of the most distinguished historians of Russia, and of Bolshevism in particular, Pipes habituaally deploys a grand narrative sweep." ?David Pryce-Jones, Commentary