The best books on the February Revolution in Russia 📚

Browse the best books on the February Revolution as recommended by authors, experts, and creators. Along with notes on why they recommend those books.

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Book cover of A Diary of the Russian Revolution

A Diary of the Russian Revolution

By James L. Houghteling

Why this book?

Houghteling was a young Commerce Department official who was assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Petrograd. He arrived in January 1917, by sleigh across the border into Russian Finland, seemingly full of American self-confidence. Traveling back and forth from Petrograd to Moscow, he was surprised at how openly Russians were talking about impending revolution, and maybe a little surprised at himself for being so taken by the country and its people. Over just weeks, from the run-up to the revolution to the collapse of the regime, his writing became less arch and more penetrating, his jokes less inane, and his…

From the list:

The best books by witnesses to Russia’s February Revolution

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Book cover of Donald Thompson in Russia

Donald Thompson in Russia

By Donald C. Thompson

Why this book?

Thompson was a photographer from Kansas who went to Europe to cover the First World War and found himself in Russia as 1917 dawned. His book is drawn from letters he wrote home to his wife Dot, and his eyewitness reporting is better than his analysis. His account of the day police opened fire on protesters in Petrograd with machine guns is chilling. Thompson believed that the Germans were behind the revolution, which wasn’t the case, but his photos of soldiers and barricades and protesters amount to a great visual document of the moment. Read this in conjunction with Runaway…

From the list:

The best books by witnesses to Russia’s February Revolution

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Book cover of Forty Years of Diplomacy; Volume 2

Forty Years of Diplomacy; Volume 2

By Roman Romanovich Rosen

Why this book?

Rosen, who turned 70 just weeks before the revolution, was a veteran diplomat who for many years had been Russian ambassador to the United States. Deeply conservative and deeply insightful, he had been thrust aside by Nicholas’ court. He thought that Russia’s declaration of war in 1914 was lunacy and that its conduct and diplomacy during the war was staggeringly self-defeating. The memoir covers decades, but the section on February 1917 is by far the most trenchant. His self-effacing account of dealing with a group of revolutionary soldiers who came to his club one dark night gives a vivid look…

From the list:

The best books by witnesses to Russia’s February Revolution

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Book cover of The Fall of Tsarism: Untold Stories of the February 1917 Revolution

The Fall of Tsarism: Untold Stories of the February 1917 Revolution

By Semion Lyandres

Why this book?

Amazingly, in the spring of 1917 an Interview Commission was formed in Russia to obtain oral histories of the revolution that led to the abdication of Czar Nicholas II. Thirteen key players were interviewed about their role in the sweeping and often violent events that had occurred just two months earlier. You can sense the ambivalence that they were struggling with. Of special note is Alexander Kerensky, who would become the leader of the Provisional Government, describing how he called Nicholas’ brother Michael in the middle of the night, waking him up, and persuading him to renounce the throne.

From the list:

The best books by witnesses to Russia’s February Revolution

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Book cover of Untimely Thoughts: Essays on Revolution, Culture, and the Bolsheviks, 1917-1918

Untimely Thoughts: Essays on Revolution, Culture, and the Bolsheviks, 1917-1918

By Maxim Gorky, Herman Ermolaev

Why this book?

Gorky, the author of The Lower Depths, was appalled by czarism and by Russia’s conduct in the First World War, yet this series of essays communicates a profound disillusionment with revolution. Russia, he wrote, was “splitting all along its seams and falling apart like an old barge in a flood.” He lamented “our stupidity, our cruelty, and all that chaos of dark, anarchistic feelings, that chaos which has been cultivated in our souls by the monarchy’s shameless oppression, by its cynical cruelty.” The old regime, he wrote, had successfully suppressed the human spirit in its subjects, and now that…

From the list:

The best books by witnesses to Russia’s February Revolution

When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

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