If I haven’t mentioned before, I’m a huge lover of history. Learning about the past everywhere in the world is something I enjoy. I especially love researching my own family past. I decided to start a series of posts focusing on specific days and what happened in history. I’d also like to find different books that focus on that specific historical event. Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres, so doing posts like this should be a lot of fun for me! Feel free to join in the discussion and recommend relevant books!
On This Day in History: November 7, 1917
Russia. November 7, 1917. The Bolsheviks officially revolt against the Provisional Government that took over after the abdication of Tsar Nicholas II and his son, Tsarevich Alexei. 1917 was a tumultuous year in Russia. Nicholas II was never seen as a great leader to both his people and fellow aristocrats. He spent most of his time involved with his family and making difficult but unlikable decisions regarding Russia and its role in World War I. His family’s obsession with the seedy Grigory Rasputin put a bad taste in everyone’s mouth. This led to his official abdication on March 15, 1917. After that, the Russian Provisional Government took control of Russia.
During his life, Vladimir Lenin’s dissent during the reign of Nicholas II and previous Tsars was no secret. His own brother was executed by Nicholas’s father, Tsar Alexander III. This led Lenin to join the growing Revolution during the late 1800s, and continued during Nicholas’s failing reign. Lenin spent many years in exile due to his revolutionary activities, but finally came back to Russia permanently in October 1917, calling for the overturning of the weak Provisional Government and giving Russia back to its people.
This was successfully accomplished on November 6 – 8, 1917. Lenin led the Bolshevik party to occupy various government buildings in Petrograd (modern-day St. Petersburg), and managed to take hold of Russia, essentially leading it to become the first Marxist state in the world. Russia was renamed the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR).
Aftermath: The Romanov Family
During the reign of the Provisional Government, which overthrew the Russian Tsar, the Romanov family’s future was uncertain. Forced to live in Tobolsk in relative luxury while the White army fought against the Red army (the Bolsheviks), they were then moved once again to their final location, the Ipatiev House in Yekaterinburg. There they lived under the disgusting eye of the Bolsheviks and may have been subjected to extreme abuse. This was a family of seven: Nicholas, his wife Alexandra, and their five children; Olga (22), Tatiana (21), Maria (19), Anastasia (17), and Alexei (13).
What happened following this isolation was absolutely heinous. In the early morning hours of July 17, 1918 they were gathered in the basement and were all shot to death. The Bolsheviks believed there were plots to help the family flee the country. Their bodies were dumped in a shallow grave and were discovered only during the later half of the 20th century. There is still some debate as to whether or not one or more of the royal children survived, but at this point, all hope is lost.
This year marks 100 years since the Revolution, or as it became known, the October Revolution. In recent years, Putin has refused to mark the occasion for any reason, choosing to forget and ignore the past rather than reflect on it. But, that’s typical Putin for you. Here’s a link to an article from The New Yorker on that debacle.
Books That Focus on the Russian Revolution
I don’t read a lot of nonfiction as I prefer novels of literature and fiction, but this was such a riveting read about a period of history that interested me. This book is different from most nonfiction: it features letters and diary entries from each of the four daughters. It explores their privileged lives and what it was like to be photographed and loved by all. They were the darlings of the Russian royal family. This book also explores the events leading to the Russian Revolution and Nicholas’s eventual abdication, what kinds of decisions he made that led to his dislike among his people. Definitely a must read if Russia’s history interests you.
It’s been years since I last read this book, so I’m adding it to my TBR again. It focuses on the effects of the Russian Revolution on the physician, Yury Zhivago, and how his life was turned upside down by the Bolsheviks. This novel wasn’t published in Russia until 1987, a solid 30 years after its initial publication. Pasternak was completely shunned by his compatriots and even turned down the Nobel Peace Prize for this novel because of this. Not only does the novel explore the Bolsheviks and their effects on Russia, but the story behind this novel does as well.
If you’re a classics fan, then you’ve heard of and/or read Animal Farm. The premise is simple: The pigs on a farm plan a revolt against their human master. They plan on giving the farm to all of the animals under the guise that “All animals are created equal.” Until the pigs want all the power for themselves. They believe they’re the smartest and know what’s best for everyone. This is basically what it was like to live in Soviet Russia. The Bolsheviks claimed power by telling the people Russia would belong to them. Communism raged throughout the country, where everyone believed that no one had more than anyone else. The government got greedy and wanted more, so they took from the people. This book is basically one giant metaphor against Communism.
I have yet to read this book because the waiting list is apparently HUGE at the library. I’m hoping that means it’s a fantastic novel! What I know about it is from the Goodreads synopsis: Count Alexander Rostov is found guilty by a Bolshevik tribunal of being an aristocrat and is sentenced to house arrest in a Moscow hotel. He is forced to see Russia change from the window of his attic room.
I have yet to read this book, although it’s been on my radar for years. What’s interesting to me is the title itself: the Ipatiev House that held the Romanov family until their deaths was always referred to as “The House of Special Purpose.” The main character, Georgy Jachmenev, steps in front of a bullet intended for a Romanov royal in 1915. From then on, he is swept into the life of luxury usually only reserved for the royal family as the bodyguard for Tsarevich Alexei Romanov. Starting just before the Russian Revolution and traveling across Europe into the 1980s, it’s a story about love and our own roles in history, and how you can’t really ever forget your past.
Happy Release Day to The Revolution of Marina M. by Janet Fitch! I’m wondering if this release day is just a coincidence or done purposely. Either way, I added this book to my November TBR because Janet Fitch is amazing and I love anything to do with the Russian Revolution era. So I thought I would add this to my list here since it’s relevant. It follows an aristocratic young woman as comes of age against the backdrop of the Russian Revolution and the upheaval of her country as she knows it. Can’t wait!
I hope you managed to learn something! Let me know in the comments if you enjoyed this post! I would love to do some more as I find some more interesting history tidbits. Have you read any of these books? Do you recommend any other books that involve the Russian Revolution? Comment below!