The Bolshevik Partys overthrow of Russias fledgling provisional government left indelible footprints on the twentieth century, some of them still not fully recognized. The Russian Revolution and its aftermath illustrate the truth that horrendous things occur when amoral leaders seize power and treat people as pawns to sacrifice for their masters ideologies.
Growing up in suburban Washington, D.C., I learned that my neighbors and I
were living with a target on our backsthat the nations capital was the
bulls-eye for enough Soviet missiles to end everything in an instant. I had the
sense that the Iron Curtain was permanent and that once a nation was wrapped in the
tentacles of communism, escape was virtually out of the question. Like so many others, I
was floored by the swift collapse of communism in the Soviet bloc in the late 1980s
and early 1990s (and equally surprised by Chinas rapid turn toward markets). Now
communism lurks and lingers in only a few odd places.
The fall of 2017 marks the one hundredth anniversary of the event that put the
Communists in powerthe October Revolution of the Bolsheviks in Russia. This event
shaped the twentieth century like few others. Mercifully, the Soviet Union has come and
gone. Why did the Bolsheviks gain control of Russia? How did communism affect
Russias long-run economic development? How did it affect the Russian people? How
did it affect the rest of the world? What, ultimately, are the legacies and lessons of this
revolution a century later? Before the grass grows too thick over the graves of communism
and its victims, these questions and others deserve to be answered. Thankfully,
the authors in this symposium provide very illuminating responses.
My own sense is that the chief lesson of the Russian Revolution and its aftermath
isnt a lesson at allbecause it is something almost everyone already knew: that
devastation and misery will ensue whenever power is seized by amoral leaders who see
people not as precious and capable of self-rule but as a collective of soulless pawns
worthy only of sacrifice to the will of their masters and their masters warped