Lenin on the train

Catherine Merridale, 1959-

Book - 2017

A meticulously researched account of Lenin's fateful rail journey across Europe to Petrograd, where he ignited the Russian revolution and forever changed the world. In the early spring of 1917, as the First World War stretched on and Tsar Nicholas II's abdication sent shock waves across Europe, the future leader of the Bolshevik revolution, Vladimir Lenin, was far away, exiled in Zurich. When the news reached him, Lenin immediately resolved to return to Petrograd and lead the revolt. B...ut to get there, he would have to cross Germany, which meant accepting help from the deadliest of Russia's adversaries. The German government, however, saw in Lenin's plight an opportunity to sow further confusion in an increasingly chaotic Russia and arranged for Lenin and a small group of extremists to make the journey in a sealed railway car. Now, drawing on eyewitness testimonies and wartime archives, renowned historian Catherine Merridale provides a riveting account of this enormously consequential journey as well as the underground conspiracy and subterfuge that went into making it happen. Writing with insight and formidable intelligence, she brings to life a world of counterespionage and intrigue, wartime desperation, illicit finance, and misguided utopianism. When Lenin arrived at Petrograd's now-famous Finland Station, he delivered an explosive address to the impassioned crowds. It was the moment when the Russian revolution became Soviet--and a system of tyranny and faith was born that would transform the international political climate.--From jacket.

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Subjects
Published
New York, New York : Metropolitan Books/Henry Holt and Company 2017.
Edition
First U.S. edition
Language
English
Item Description
"Published simultaneously in the UK by Allen Lane, London"--Title page verso.
Physical Description
xi, 353 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations (some color), maps ; 25 cm
Bibliography
Includes bibliographical references (pages 293-334) and index.
ISBN
9781627793018
1627793011
Main Author
Catherine Merridale, 1959- (author)
  • Dark forces
  • Black markets
  • Red lake
  • Scarlet ribbons
  • Maps and plans
  • The sealed train
  • Leaderless
  • Lenin in Lapland
  • From the Finland Station
  • Gold
  • Fellow travellers.
Review by Booklist Reviews

Merridale smuggles readers onto a train leaving Zurich in April 1917 that is carrying explosive freight: Vladimir Lenin, the firebrand who will kindle a revolutionary conflagration in Russia. To be sure, this epoch-making train has attracted other chroniclers—Edmund Wilson, Alan Moorehead, Michael Pearson, and Marcel Liebman. But Merridale corrects factual errors made by predecessors and opens a fresh interpretive perspective. Personal reenactment of Lenin's eight-day train-and-ferry journey gives force to materials uncovered through assiduous research in newly opened archives as Merridale resolves perplexities long surrounding the political gambles, devious espionage, and shadowy financing that transport Lenin through Germany on a sealed train bound for a land tempestuously shedding its czarist past and desperate for a leader to guide it into an uncharted future. Merridale acknowledges that Lenin's journey now prompts a shudder of horror because it subsequently exposes innocent millions to Stalin's ruthless tyranny. But Merridale also glimpses the forgotten moment when an oppressed people ecstatically welcome Lenin as a political savior offering peace, freedom, and hope. History recovered as living drama. Copyright 2017 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

A Wolfson History Prize winner for Red Fortress, Merridale here tracks Vladimir Lenin's April 1917 journey by rail from Zurich, where he was exiled, to stirred-up Petrograd and the revolution to come. Traveling across Germany was dangerous on all counts—Russians might see his acceptance of safe passage from the enemy as traitorous, and the Germans were indeed anticipating that Lenin's return might further destabilize Russia.. Copyright 2016 Library Journal.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

In her new book, Merridale (Red Fortress) has delicately woven the complex tale of the exiled Vladimir Lenin's trip from Zurich, Switzerland, back to Petrograd, Russia, in 1917, to a nation both part of World War I and the revolution taking place there. Merridale re-creates the difficult journey and vividly takes readers through the history and locales. The result is a gripping narrative with first-hand accounts and sources of Russian history that make the rich, intricate story of the Bolsheviks' journey feel close at hand. The author details the indirect and complex negotiations between the Bolsheviks and Germany, looking to find a revolutionary group to support who could remove Russia from the war. Next, she chronicles Lenin's travels via train, taking readers to Petrograd (Saint Petersburg) to understand the political actions of the British and the French during the critical prerevolutionary period of 1917. The maps and illustrations in this book are to be mentioned, as they aid in understanding the travels of Lenin's "sealed train" through Russia and war-torn Germany. VERDICT This book should be read by anyone interested in war-time history or the history of Russia and the Soviet Union; there is much to be learned here. [See Prepub Alert, 11/16/16.]—Amy Lewontin, Northeastern Univ. Lib., Boston Copyright 2017 Library Journal.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

British journalist Merridale (Red Fortress) recounts the background of what may have been the most consequential train ride in history, as Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov (aka Lenin) traveled in a sealed German car that slowly made its way from Switzerland to Petrograd's Finland Station in April 1917 and began fomenting what would become the Bolshevik Revolution later that year. Tracing the trip's progression and its immediate consequences, Merridale looks closely at German efforts to knock Russia out of WWI as well as Bolshevik agitation in Russia and Western Europe. She also mostly debunks the notion that Lenin received large amounts of gold from the Germans, showing that he accepted only modest German subsidies. Merridale examines the machinations of such lesser-known figures as Parvus (Alexander Helphand), Lenin's occasional ally and rival, and how Alexander Kerensky's provisional government sank itself by continuing to fight the Germans in WWI, which strengthened Lenin's hand in resolutely opposing the many Bolsheviks who favored forming a government with the more moderate, prowar Mensheviks. Unfortunately, Merridale's account of the immediate postrevolution period peters out in her discussion of Lenin's "death-cult," as embodied in the Moscow mausoleum that contained his embalmed corpse, and brief address of Stalin's crimes and their aftermath. Merridale's rushed and weak ending detracts from what is otherwise a colorful, suspenseful, and well-documented narrative. (Apr.) Copyright 2017 Publisher Weekly.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

"A gripping, meticulously researched account of Lenin's fateful rail journey from Zurich to Petrograd, where he ignited the Russian Revolution and forever changed the world. In April 1917, as the Russian Tsar Nicholas II's abdication sent shockwaves across war-torn Europe, the future leader of the Bolshevik revolution Vladimir Lenin was far away, exiled in Zurich. When the news reached him, Lenin immediately resolved to return to Petrograd and lead the revolt. But to get there, he would have to cross Germany, which meant accepting help from the deadliest of Russia's adversaries. Germany saw an opportunity to further destabilize Russia by allowing Lenin and his small group of revolutionaries to return. Now, drawing on a dazzling array of sources and never-before-seen archival material, renowned historian Catherine Merridale provides a riveting, nuanced account of this enormously consequential journey--the train ride that changed the world--as well as the underground conspiracy and subterfuge that went into making it happen. Writing with the same insight and formidable intelligence that distinguished her earlier works, she brings to life a world of counter-espionage and intrigue, wartime desperation, illicit finance, and misguided utopianism. This was the moment when the Russian Revolution became Soviet, the genesis of a system of tyranny and faith that changed the course of Russia's history forever and transformed the international political climate"--

Review by Publisher Summary 2

Presents a meticulously researched account of Lenin's fateful 1917 rail journey from Zurich to Petrograd, where he ignited the Russian Revolution and forever changed the world.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

The author of Red Fortress presents a gripping, meticulously researched account of Lenin’s fateful 1917 rail journey from Zurich to Petrograd, where he ignited the Russian Revolution and forever changed the world.

Review by Publisher Summary 4

One of The Economist's Best Books of the YearA gripping, meticulously researched account of Lenin’s fateful 1917 rail journey from Zurich to Petrograd, where he ignited the Russian Revolution and forever changed the worldIn April 1917, as the Russian Tsar Nicholas II’s abdication sent shockwaves across war-torn Europe, the future leader of the Bolshevik revolution Vladimir Lenin was far away, exiled in Zurich. When the news reached him, Lenin immediately resolved to return to Petrograd and lead the revolt. But to get there, he would have to cross Germany, which meant accepting help from the deadliest of Russia’s adversaries. Millions of Russians at home were suffering as a result of German aggression, and to accept German aid—or even safe passage—would be to betray his homeland. Germany, for its part, saw an opportunity to further destabilize Russia by allowing Lenin and his small group of revolutionaries to return. Now, in Lenin on the Train, drawing on a dazzling array of sources and never-before-seen archival material, renowned historian Catherine Merridale provides a riveting, nuanced account of this enormously consequential journey—the train ride that changed the world—as well as the underground conspiracy and subterfuge that went into making it happen. Writing with the same insight and formidable intelligence that distinguished her earlier works, she brings to life a world of counter-espionage and intrigue, wartime desperation, illicit finance, and misguided utopianism. When Lenin arrived in Petrograd’s now-famous Finland Station, he delivered an explosive address to the impassioned crowds. Simple and extreme, the text of this speech has been compared to such momentous documents as Constantine’s edict of Milan and Martin Luther’s ninety-five theses. It was the moment when the Russian revolution became Soviet, the genesis of a system of tyranny and faith that changed the course of Russia’s history forever and transformed the international political climate.