History Teaches: The Frontiers of Political Imagination

  • Teodor Shanin


To hammer home a point, the originality claimed for the strategies of those political leaders of Russia whom we are now to discuss was not a matter of some abstract ‘newness’, full of coherence or finality. Elements of views already expressed and borrowed were integrated with new ideas, as well as with pragmatic devices and tactical compromises. The result was very often contradictory and ever in flux. What united them, made them particular and provided for their political impact was their analytical vitality — their ability to leave behind the reigning assumptions of the past and to move into uncharted waters while reacting to the unexpected Russia which came to light in its revolution. On a personal level, this ability was underpinned by the capacity to be merciless enough towards (or distanced enough from) one’s own social and intellectual origins and to ‘think big’, that is, to be able to go beyond intellectual tinkerings toward grand designs of social reconstruction. The outcome depended on the general social context but also on the ability of the leaders to pursue effective political tactics and in particular to tie together a coalition of allies and lead them in the harsh political confrontations which inevitably resulted from challenging holy cows and their loyal cowmen.


Central Committee Electoral College Agrarian Reform Administrative Reform National Problem 
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Notes and References

6A Stolypin and Revolution from Above

  1. 1.
    G. Kryzhanovskii, vospominaniya (Berlin, 1925);Google Scholar
  2. S. Dubrovskii, Stolypinskaya zemel’naya reforma (Moscow, 1963) chap. 2;Google Scholar
  3. V. Dyakin, Samoderzhavie: Burzhuyaziya i dvoryanastvo (Leningrad, 1978);Google Scholar
  4. A. Avrekh, Tsarism i treteyunskaya sistema (Moscow, 1966);Google Scholar
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    E. V. Predsedatel’ soveta ministrov p.a. stolypin (St Petersburg, 1909) p. 77Google Scholar
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    A. Zen’kovskii, Pravda o Stolypine (New York, 1956) especially pp. 21–113Google Scholar
  10. 27.
    For example, M. S. Conroy, Peter Arkad’evich Stolypin (Boulder, 1976) pp. 73–5Google Scholar

6B Trotsky and the Permanent Revolution

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    L. Trotsky, The Permanent Revolution and Results and Prospects (New York, 1965) p. 168. The book offered the first summary of Trotsky’s position concerning the issue of ‘permanent revolution’Google Scholar

6C Zhordaniya and the National Front

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    K. Kautsky, Georgia (London, 1921) p. 18Google Scholar
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    J. Stalin, Marxism and the National Problem (written in 1912)Google Scholar
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    For discussion of the period 1917–21 see S. F. Kazemzadeh, The Struggle for Transcaucasia (Oxford, 1915);Google Scholar
  4. Z. Avalishvili, The Independence of Georgia in International Policies (Westport, 1940);Google Scholar
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  7. Particularly important is N. Zhordaniya, Za dva goda (Tiflis, 1919)Google Scholar
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    M. Lewin, Lenin’s Last Struggle (London, 1973)Google Scholar

6D Lenin: Revolutions and the Post-revolutionary State

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    E. Kingston-Mann, Lenin and the Problem of Marxist Peasant Revolution (New York, 1983) p. 42Google Scholar
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    L. Trotsky, On Lenin (London, 1971) pp. 59, 62Google Scholar
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    A. Ulam, Lenin and the Bolsheviks (Glasgow, 1975) p. 394Google Scholar
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    M. Lewin, Lenin’s Last Struggle (London, 1975)Google Scholar
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    M. Gefter, ‘Stranitsa uz istorii marksizma nachala XX veka’, Istoricheskaya nauke i nekotorye problemy sovremennosti (Moscow, 1969) p. 22. The author who lives in Moscow, has been ‘silent in print’ for quite a timeGoogle Scholar
  6. 33.
    For evidence and discussion see T. Shanin, Late Marx and the Russian Road (London, 1984)Google Scholar
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    For discussion see P. Sweezy, The Post-Revolutionary State (New York, 1980)Google Scholar

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© Teodor Shanin 1986

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  • Teodor Shanin

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