Essay Example on Jonathon Smele's Monograph

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The Russian Civil Wars 1916 1926 Ten Years That Shook the World 2015 contemplates the events which preceded the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the ramifications on not only Russia but Europe and Asia too Smele in arguing the Russian Revolution was a continuum of crisis rather than one bloody occurrence posits the transnational and ethnic aspects of the struggles of this tumultuous decade which has been defined in this book as the Russian civil wars Smele s work is split in to six with each chapter taking on the form of a different set of years these further breakdown into larger context into systematic units Smele s title alone brings three matters which epitomizes this work the first thing which stands out is Russia which is in inverted commas secondly Smele pluralises the event s and thirdly Smele places the date of events within 1916 to 1926 Holquist s continuum of crisis follows as war revolution and civil war the rhetoric of civil war before the revolution was thus born and Smele builds upon this predating Russia's civil war to one year before the October revolution when an anti Russian uprising in Central Asia during the summer of 1916 in a rebellion that anticipated the later Basmachi movement resisted forced mobilisation into labour battalions to service the Russian Army Smele s use of inverted commas in his title implies that conflict was both an internal and external threat in the civil wars which the Bolsheviks were threatened by and had to act upon 



Especially with regards to the years 1921 26 where much conflict took place outside of Russia following the White s defeat Smele tends to focus on the Bolshevik s bias towards violence and remarks how the Bolsheviks which exited the Russian revolution were less tolerant of difference Where Holquist s narrative of civil war ceased at 1921 with White defeat Smele writes a military history spanning ten years and follows conflicts spread all over Russia's empire Smele starts with the Basmachi uprising in 1916 and follows the Bolsheviks as they break across the empire including Ukraine Siberia and Poland to win people to their cause despite the economic strains and the harsh famine Though Smele s school of thought can be traced back to 2002 his book has challenged many schools of thought Smele produces a more contemporary account of the time by donning the years 1916 1926 Smele rejects the Soviet perspective which glorifies Lenin and the triumphs of the revolution Smele no doubt acknowledges the success of the civil wars the White forces were driven back notably from Moscow and Petrograd The Soviet Ukrainian War was won by Moscow in 1920 In Transcaucasia the briefly independent republics of Azerbaijan Armenia and Georgia were toppled during 1920 and 1921 The Mensheviks Socialists Revolutionaries and Popular Socialists were all defeated or emasculated in the course of the civil wars Smile though is critical of the civil wars and the Bolsheviks victory Smele says that the civil wars were in effect underpinning much of what was to come under Stalin The Great Purge of the 1930s harkened back to the civil war s justification and use of extreme violence as a way to qualm political disputes Stalin's use of the NVKD in Mongolia would not have been out of sorts in the civil war period 



Smells book title is perhaps misleading regarding Ten Years That Shook the World one would expect strong presence of social perspective but this goes amiss Undoubtedly a military history yet the marxist nature of the Russian Revolution and the initial Basmachi rising consequently where Smele ends his monograph would at least implore a historian who proclaims such a time shook the world to consider such perspectives Moreover Smele displays characteristics of a revisionist the year span addresses the complexity of the civil wars and how the revolutions altered the scape of Russia's politics but disregards the marginalised Smele focuses on Transcaucasian Campaigns yet still lacks a social analysis of the situation Of the Crimean Tatars Smele says Rather than face a life in exile thousands chose voluntarily to return to Crimea to uncertain and usually unbearable fates Smele simplifies the brutality the Tatars faced when from 1921 onwards they endured forced collectivisation and the confiscation of food supplies 150 000 Crimean Tatars an estimated half their population were killed deported or fled abroad by 1933 a loss which equated to the largest loss of an indigenous group in Russia


Smele s work is valuable in providing what is a fresh look at the Russian Revolution and its lasting effects on Russia and its once empire Smele has used a range of literary sources and has clearly made use of Russian documents about the civil war which became available following the collapse of the Soviet Union Smele s use of geopolitical history shifts attention from the pre conceptions that the Russian Revolution was innately Russian and seeks to add a contemporary perspective which alludes to the civil war and its effects still being an important issue in history 100 years on It would have been a valuable addition had Smele also focused on a social history of the civil war and how it determined racial or religious tensions in Russia however Smele s work is clearly a military history on the conflict and remaining as so is then Smele has shown us how limited we have been when considering the scope of the Russian revolution and ensuing civil war


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