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Between the first revolution in February 1917 and Lenin’s Bolshevik coup in October, Petrograd (the former St Petersburg) was in turmoil – felt nowhere more keenly than on the fashionable Nevsky Prospekt where the foreign visitors and diplomats who filled hotels, clubs, bars and embassies were acutely aware of the chaos breaking out on their doorsteps and beneath their win Between the first revolution in February 1917 and Lenin’s Bolshevik coup in October, Petrograd (the former St Petersburg) was in turmoil – felt nowhere more keenly than on the fashionable Nevsky Prospekt where the foreign visitors and diplomats who filled hotels, clubs, bars and embassies were acutely aware of the chaos breaking out on their doorsteps and beneath their windows. Among this disparate group were journalists, businessmen, bankers, governesses, volunteer nurses and expatriate socialites. Many kept diaries and wrote letters home: from an English nurse who had already survived the sinking of the Titanic; to the black valet of the US Ambassador, far from his native Deep South; to suffragette leader Emmeline Pankhurst, who had come to Petrograd to inspect the indomitable Women’s Death Battalion led by Maria Bochkareva. Helen Rappaport draws upon this rich trove of material, much of it previously unpublished, to carry us right up to the action – to see, feel and hear the Revolution as it happened to a diverse group of individuals who suddenly felt themselves trapped in a ‘red madhouse.’


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Between the first revolution in February 1917 and Lenin’s Bolshevik coup in October, Petrograd (the former St Petersburg) was in turmoil – felt nowhere more keenly than on the fashionable Nevsky Prospekt where the foreign visitors and diplomats who filled hotels, clubs, bars and embassies were acutely aware of the chaos breaking out on their doorsteps and beneath their win Between the first revolution in February 1917 and Lenin’s Bolshevik coup in October, Petrograd (the former St Petersburg) was in turmoil – felt nowhere more keenly than on the fashionable Nevsky Prospekt where the foreign visitors and diplomats who filled hotels, clubs, bars and embassies were acutely aware of the chaos breaking out on their doorsteps and beneath their windows. Among this disparate group were journalists, businessmen, bankers, governesses, volunteer nurses and expatriate socialites. Many kept diaries and wrote letters home: from an English nurse who had already survived the sinking of the Titanic; to the black valet of the US Ambassador, far from his native Deep South; to suffragette leader Emmeline Pankhurst, who had come to Petrograd to inspect the indomitable Women’s Death Battalion led by Maria Bochkareva. Helen Rappaport draws upon this rich trove of material, much of it previously unpublished, to carry us right up to the action – to see, feel and hear the Revolution as it happened to a diverse group of individuals who suddenly felt themselves trapped in a ‘red madhouse.’

30 review for Caught in the Revolution: Petrograd, Russia, 1917 – A World on the Edge

  1. 4 out of 5

    Ian

    A relatively unusual angle on the Russian Revolution(s), through this narrative history of Petrograd in 1917, as seen through the eyes of foreign residents in the then Russian capital. The book consists of extracts from contemporary first-hand accounts, with the author providing the background to connect them into a coherent narrative. I imagine it was published for the centenary a couple of years ago and as usual I’m behind the curve in reading it. For me the book started rather slowly but beco A relatively unusual angle on the Russian Revolution(s), through this narrative history of Petrograd in 1917, as seen through the eyes of foreign residents in the then Russian capital. The book consists of extracts from contemporary first-hand accounts, with the author providing the background to connect them into a coherent narrative. I imagine it was published for the centenary a couple of years ago and as usual I’m behind the curve in reading it. For me the book started rather slowly but become much more compelling towards the end. The accounts are all from either British, American or French residents. Many are from wealthy people and most are hostile to the Bolsheviks. This is partly on class grounds but also because the Bolsheviks wanted to take Russia out of the war, which is something the British and French, and later the Americans, wanted to prevent. Overall the picture painted is one of near anarchy, a story of looting, assaults and brutal killings. It’s striking how different the revolutions were. The February one seems to have been largely spontaneous, an unplanned and unorganised rising by ordinary people who’d had enough of utter misery. It was characterised by extreme violence on both sides. By contrast, many of the quotes in the book reveal that the October Revolution was widely expected, and when it came it encountered almost no resistance. Of course, once the Bolsheviks gained power they rapidly began visiting violence on their opponents. The number of sources used makes it impossible to discuss them in detail, but there is one worth singling out, that which the author describes as “the utterly truthful, ingenuous voice of an obscure African American, Phil Jordan…” Jordan grew up in Hog Alley, described as a slum district of Jefferson City, Missouri, and he was employed as the valet/chauffeur (and effective minder) of the US ambassador, David Rowland Francis, a former Governor of Missouri. Jordan was clearly a most resourceful man. He was uneducated and his letters to his family are written in his local vernacular, but I would agree with the author in describing them as the liveliest of all the accounts in the book. The Tsar’s regime was of course indefensible, and I am not going to defend it. In the end though, the October Revolution was an illustration of how getting rid of an indefensible regime doesn’t necessarily lead to it being replaced by something better.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Max

    Rappaport describes being in the Russian capital, Petrograd (St. Petersburg), in 1917 through the eyes of the foreign residents primarily British, American, Canadian or French. These were diplomats, reporters, business people, nurses, and political activists. Rappaport’s text is filled with direct quotes as they observe and we follow the buildup to and culmination of both the February and October revolutions. This unique presentation is particularly interesting because we share the observers’ un Rappaport describes being in the Russian capital, Petrograd (St. Petersburg), in 1917 through the eyes of the foreign residents primarily British, American, Canadian or French. These were diplomats, reporters, business people, nurses, and political activists. Rappaport’s text is filled with direct quotes as they observe and we follow the buildup to and culmination of both the February and October revolutions. This unique presentation is particularly interesting because we share the observers’ uncertainty about what is happening and what will come next. They cope with endless violence and volatility. We feel their tension creating an ever-present aura of foreboding that might not come through in a more conventional historical account. Rappaport begins by laying the groundwork for the 1917 revolutions describing the incompetence of the Tsar, the inept interference in government affairs of his wife, the repressive policies of the Tsar’s administrators, the brutality of the police, the abysmal economy. There are the long bread lines filled with frustrated angry women suffering in the bitter winter to get something to put in the empty bellies of their children. There is deep dissatisfaction and desperation, disgust with the war, disaffected soldiers returning from the front, striking workers, riots and the rise of radical opposition from socialist to Bolshevik. During the days of the February Revolution we witness the massive demonstrations, the violent protests, the breakdown of all order giving way to vandalism, looting, gunfights that break out all across the city, streets full of thugs including freed prisoners and disenfranchised soldiers, brutal reprisals by the police, angry mobs who in turn hunt down and kill the police. Everyone is armed even children, the Tsar quickly capitulates, destruction is everywhere and many die. After the February revolution joy quickly gives way to the realization that everyone is still hungry and life is still harsh. Deliverance turns to disappointment and disappointment to disillusionment and disillusionment to despair paving the way for the Bolsheviks and the October Revolution. Conditions are dismal, the army is disintegrating, the Provisional Government is failing, its leader Kerensky is flailing, radicals offer the only solution, and the Bolsheviks are the only well-organized force. While our observers were terrified to walk on the streets during the February Revolution, many missed the October Revolution simply waking up to find a new government in power. Few died in limited action as no one aside from a handful of women and children was interested in defending the Provisional Government. Rappaport takes us through all this by giving us quotes and opinions from scores of first hand observers. Some of the more prominent included the diplomats: British Ambassador Sir George Buchanan, French Ambassador Paleologue, American Ambassador David Francis and his black valet Philip Jordan who chauffeured Francis around town in a model T Ford. This must have been a sight given the rarity of both the model T and a black man in Petrograd in 1917. All the way from Greenwich Village came the American left wing activist John Reed, author of Ten Days That Shook the World whose life was played by Warren Beatty in the 1981 film Reds, and his socialist journalist wife Louise Bryant who was played by Diane Keaton in the film. Somerset Maugham, working for SIS (forerunner to MI6), was also there feeding information back to British intelligence and to provisional government leader Kerensky. Rappaport uses the notes and correspondence of many journalists such as American New York World reporter Arno Dosch-Fleurot who arrived in Petrograd in November 1916 fresh from covering the battle of Verdun. An old hand soon advised him “get it down on paper … you will not know enough about Russia to explain anything until you have been here so long you are half-Russian yourself and then you won’t be able to tell anybody anything at all about it.” Women journalists unafraid to work in a dangerous city followed the action such as Americans Bessie Beatty who worked for the San Francisco Bulletin and New York Evening Mail correspondent Rheta Dorr. Canadian reporter Florence Harper and American photographer and cinematographer Donald Thompson worked as a team coming to Petrograd in December 1916 for the illustrated magazine Leslie’s Weekly. Many women came volunteering as nurses. They came to take care of the war wounded, but ended up treating civilians maimed in street violence. English suffragette Jessie Kenney accompanied suffragette leader and British political activist Emmeline Pankhurst to Petrograd. Pankhurst wanted to teach Russian women to stand up for their rights. Her English concept of women’s rights didn’t connect with women in a country where finding food was a primary occupation, where no one had rights and the penalty for standing up was being shot down. Among the many business people who found themselves in the thick of it was Leighton Rogers who clerked at the Petrograd branch of National City Bank of New York. He was a prolific witness to the chaos, often hiding out and finding himself a person of special interest to a Bolshevik squad. Rappaport relays the experiences of these people and many more. Through her prose we see what these observers saw and thought as events unfold. This book does not provide exciting new revelations or a balanced view. It flits from one scene to the next, one context to another. Rappaport does fill in the blanks to tie individual experiences to the bigger picture but mostly this is a collection of short first-hand accounts witnessing the violence and confusion that prevailed over Petrograd that year. We do not get deep into the political strategies and machinations of the various leaders. For example, Lenin’s behind the scenes organizing activity is lightly covered. Few of Rappaport’s observers saw Lenin who mostly hid until the October revolution was underway. Trotsky was the face of the Bolsheviks Petrograders saw and heard. We just see what our witnesses see. Through them we experience the decay, the disarray, the despair, the danger that was Petrograd in 1917. We learn what it was like to be Caught in the Revolution.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    I have enjoyed many of Helen Rappaport’s previous books, such as, “A Magnificent Obsession,” and “The Romanov Sisters,” so I was eager to read her latest work. “Caught in the Revolution,” gives us the first-hand, eye-witness, accounts of foreign nationals in Petrograd during the outbreak of the Russian Revolution. Even before the revolution began, the city was in turmoil. We begin in 1917, with Russia at war and overflowing with refugees. Despite the first world war, and all of Russia’s internal I have enjoyed many of Helen Rappaport’s previous books, such as, “A Magnificent Obsession,” and “The Romanov Sisters,” so I was eager to read her latest work. “Caught in the Revolution,” gives us the first-hand, eye-witness, accounts of foreign nationals in Petrograd during the outbreak of the Russian Revolution. Even before the revolution began, the city was in turmoil. We begin in 1917, with Russia at war and overflowing with refugees. Despite the first world war, and all of Russia’s internal problems, Petrograd was a city which sheltered a large, foreign community, as well as international industry. There was a large community of privileged expatriates; dominated by the highly insular and ultra conservative British Colony, led by British ambassador, Sir George Buchanan. The war also saw this community joined by a number of American engineers and entrepreneurs and, in 1916, a new American ambassador; David Rowland Francis and his enterprising valet, Philip Jordan. There was also the flamboyant French ambassador, Maurice Paleologue. These three headed the expatriate community and their stories are told throughout this book. However, this book is not simply told from the point of view of the great and the good. The unfolding political situation attracted journalists and photographers. Revolution brought unlikely visitors, such as Emmeline Pankhurst, who wanted to encourage Russia to stay in the war, as well as visit women’s groups – including the Petrograd Women’s Death Battalion. Names you will recognise include author, Arthur Ransome; then a journalist. Also, another author, then a spy, was W. Somerset Maugham; sent by the Secret Intelligence Service and given the rather daunting task, “to prevent the Bolshevik Revolution and to keep Russia in the war.” For anyone who was not already aware of Maugham’s experiences as a spy, I direct you to his wonderful book, “Ashenden.” Many in this privileged, expatriate society, were blind to the gathering resentment and hunger in the streets, but others realised the danger. The over-riding belief was that revolution, if it came, would come after the war. Revolution, though, obliterated any thought of war and, when revolution erupted, many foreign nationals in the city were there as witnesses. From nurses to governesses, to bank workers and industrialists, they were all caught up in events. Violence erupted on the streets, food shortages affected everyone and, although many were, justifiably terrified, others admitted that they found it rather thrilling. The initial revolution seemed to result in many Russian workers assuming that ‘Freedom’ was equated with no work. Hotel rooms were no longer serviced; requests in the restaurants met with shrugs and the city dissolved into disarray. Eventually, the violence unleashed in the streets directly affected the foreign nationals, with the Hotel Astoria, where many were staying, being attacked. Those who ventured out faced abuse, or worse. Even something as seemingly innocent as wearing a hat, or gloves, could have you accused of being a bourgeois and justice could be swift. For example, one woman swore a man stole her purse, seeing him shot. When she discovered the missing purse in the folds of her dress, the mob decided that the only possible solution to the mistake was to carry out the same sentence on her… This really is a wonderful read, full of larger than life characters. One of my personal favourites was Sir George Buchanan, who stoutly walked outside amidst the fighting – being caught putting on his coat like a ‘naughty schoolboy’ as he refused to listen to advice. So respected was he, that fighting came to a halt as he walked down the street and erupted again as soon as he had passed by. Still, the perpetual state of uncertainty and disorder affected everyone, as did a city being both slowly frozen and starved. Arthur Ransome was desperate to escape the chaos and futility, stating that, if he did make it back to England his sole interest would be, “gluttony,” while photographer and filmmaker, Donald Thompson, thought that Russia was, ‘going to hell.’ This book will really put you in the very centre of the Russian Revolution, with those viewing events being largely impartial and so able to comment on the situation less emotionally. It is also clear that many of those in this book attempted to help the disastrous political situation in Russia before the revolution and, of course, were involved in the finally fruitless attempt to keep Russia in the war after it happened. There were those who refused to be intimidated by events, others who stayed behind voluntarily and others who were stranded by circumstances. Rappaport has done an excellent job of allowing them to tell their story and concludes by telling us what happened to all of the main characters we meet throughout this book.

  4. 4 out of 5

    'Aussie Rick'

    Just by chance I picked up a copy of Helen Rappaport’s book; "Caught in the Revolution: Petrograd, Russia, 1917 – A World on the Edge”. It was on special at the local bookshop and after a quick browse I figured I'd take a chance that it was worth some of my hard earned cash. My gamble paid off, this was a great read, easy to digest, full of interesting information, almost light and breezy but in a good way. The book is an account of the 1917 Russian Revolution in Petrograd as seen by numerous for Just by chance I picked up a copy of Helen Rappaport’s book; "Caught in the Revolution: Petrograd, Russia, 1917 – A World on the Edge”. It was on special at the local bookshop and after a quick browse I figured I'd take a chance that it was worth some of my hard earned cash. My gamble paid off, this was a great read, easy to digest, full of interesting information, almost light and breezy but in a good way. The book is an account of the 1917 Russian Revolution in Petrograd as seen by numerous foreign observers based in the city at the time. We hear from diplomats and attaches, aid workers, reporters, and a host of other folks caught up in this turbulent period of Russian history, including Julia Grant (married into Russian aristocracy as Princess Cantacuzene-Speransky), a granddaughter of Ulysses S. Grant, and Enid Stoker (a nurse with the Voluntary Aid Detachment - VAD), a niece of Bram Stoker. What I liked about the book was its ‘seen at the time’ reporting, those involved not really knowing where and how this was going to end. Issues like the long tiresome queues for bread and other staples during the war, leading to public disquiet and then disgust: "Official mismanagement, corruption and wastage of supplies were prodigious, made worse by a crippled rail network that was unable to transport food efficiently from the provinces - where it was still plentiful - to the cities that most needed it. People were incensed to discover that, due to the hikes in the price of oats and hay, much of the black bread - the staple diet of the poor - was being fed to the capital's 80,000 horses to keep them alive: 'every horse was eating up the black bread allowance of ten men'." You knew as you were reading the book where this was all heading but those involved in this vortex of uncertainty had no idea what was going to happen next. Many people had hopes and dreams of a new freedom when the Revolution final hit and took over the city, liberation from misery at last. However things didn't always go to plan in regards to the Revolution in Petrograd: "People acted as self-appointed vigilantes, those who committed crimes, as Keeling witnessed soon after the revolution: A lady in a crowded tramcar in Petrograd … cried out suddenly that she had had her purse stolen. She said that it contained fifty roubles and accused a well-dressed young man who happened to be standing behind her of the theft. The latter most earnestly protested his innocence and declared that rather than be called a thief he would give the woman fifty roubles out of his own pocket. Nothing availed him; perhaps they thought he protested too much. He was taken outside and promptly shot. The body of the poor fellow was searched, but no purse was found. The upholders of the integrity of the Russian Republic returned to the tramcar and told the woman that she had better make a more careful search. She did so and discovered that the missing purse had slipped down through a hole in the pocket into the lining. Nothing could be done for the unfortunate victim of 'justice' so they took the only course which seemed to them to meet the case and leading the woman out, shot her also." Then we read of the return of that arch agitator, Lenin. The French ambassador to Petrograd, Maurice Paleologue had a very good take on the sort of man Lenin was as did the American war photographer, Donald Thompson: "In his view, the Bolshevik leader was a combination of 'utopian dreamer and fanatic, prophet and metaphysician, blind to any idea of the impossible or the absurd, a stranger to all feelings of justice or mercy, violent, Machiavellian and crazy with vanity'. Paleologue thought him 'all the more dangerous because his is said to be pure-minded, temperate and ascetic. Such as I see him in my mind's eye, he is a compound of Savanorola and Marat, Blanqui and Bakunin'. Donald Thompson shared this alarmist view of Lenin and saw only one logical solution. 'The best thing for Russia to do,' he wrote to his wife 'is to kill Lenine' or at least 'arrest him and put him in prison'. 'If they don't I expect to write you a letter, some day, that this cur is in control of things here'." Things could only get worse by the sounds of it, and of course it did, as highlighted by these observations of the Revolution progressing in Petrograd by two foreign diplomats stationed in the city: "Winter 1917-18 inaugurated what Willem Oudendijk called a 'bayonetocracy' - 'a soldiers' dictatorship', in the words of Louis de Robien - and with it the widespread imposition of summary justice. The rifle and the bayonet ruled in a city swollen with idle soldiers returned from the front, who were noted for their unpredictable, anarchic behaviour. 'Our own bourgeois Revolution of 1789 lapsed into the excesses of the Terror, and ended with Bonaparte and his wars,' noted de Robien. 'But that was not enough to cure us.' He held out little hope for the Russians, having lately witnessed a typical example of the ugly face of mindless, arbitrary violence when he saw 'two soldiers bargaining for apples with an old woman street vendor': Deciding the price was too high, one of them shot her in the head while the other ran her through with his bayonet. Naturally, nobody dared to do anything to the two soldier murderers, who went quietly on their way watched by an indifferent crowd and munching their apples which they had acquired so cheaply, without giving a thought to the poor old woman whose body lay in the snow for part of the day, near her little stall of green apples." I really enjoyed this book. It’s a great story that gives you a human perspective of the events that took place in Petrograd during the Russian Revolution and is a book that I am sure will lead many readers to seek further books on the subject.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Chrissie

    I just realized, reading this at the end of February 2017, that I am reading this exactly one century after the event. After five chapters: Just a word of warning, this is not an easy read. In the prologue we are introduced to a number of prominent figures that will in the following be eye-witnesses of the February and October Revolutions in Petrograd (St. Petersburg) 1917. This gives you a background so you know who is speaking. Americans, British and French among others. Ambassadors, newspaper I just realized, reading this at the end of February 2017, that I am reading this exactly one century after the event. After five chapters: Just a word of warning, this is not an easy read. In the prologue we are introduced to a number of prominent figures that will in the following be eye-witnesses of the February and October Revolutions in Petrograd (St. Petersburg) 1917. This gives you a background so you know who is speaking. Americans, British and French among others. Ambassadors, newspaper correspondents, photographers, businessmen - a wide expat community. This part is a bit difficult because so many people are thrown at you at one time. (These turn out to be only a small portion of the many foreigners who witnessed the events and who are quoted in the remaining pages.) Then follow five chapters that in minute detail describe the five days of the February Revolution. By Tuesday February 28, 1917 the February Revolution was over. Of course that is not to say that all was solved, far from it! Five chapters for five days and four hours of audiobook listening that describe in minute detail pandemonium, mutilations and killings. We are seeing the February Revolution based on what the expat community saw and recorded. We look at the actions of the expats, the masses, the army and the police. Looting, burglary, sexual assaults and violence mount. Some say the mob was amicable, well it didn't sound so amicable to me! Random shootings and physical assaults and killings. Burning buildings, prisoners released from prison, horrific decapitations and mutilation of bodies. Just know what you are getting yourself into when you pick up this book. We are served a multitude of eye-witness accounts, but that doesn't make each individual statement necessarily correct. Some accounts are actually contradictory. The author presents them all. At times I ask myself if I really needed to know that! I do acknowledge though that all that is depicted does draw a very good picture of the built up hatred and desperation of the starving masses and the subsequent pandemonium that ensued during the five days of the February Revolution. Ahead lies the October Revolution. (It is much less violent.) I continue.......even if this is no easy read. ******************** Having now completed the entire book, my skepticism toward the many, many quotes that form the basis for this book remains. I do not regret having reading the book, but I think the author has used an excessive number of quotes. While these quotes do reflect the sentiments of the expat community and do conjure the atmosphere of the place, there are just too many. I would have preferred that the author had made a thorough study of source material, synthesized and evaluated the material, drawn conclusions and then presented the conclusions with just a number of the quotes on which this book is based. The quotes are predominantly from American and British expats. The views of those from other nations and from the Russians themselves should have been included to a larger extent. Similarly, more information on what was going on outside of Petrograd would have widened the scope of the book. The book ends with a postscript which tells what happens to the many expat individuals cited, in the years after 1917 and until their death. This fills them out, and I appreciated the added information. I would have preferred more of a focus on a few central characters. I would have liked more about Lenin and more about Alexander Kerensky; I am a person interested in biographical details. There is a bit about Emmeline Pankhurst and Maria Bochkareva, but I wanted more here too. The latter particularly drew my attention. She was a Russian peasant woman who led Petrograd's Women's Death Battalion. Books work better for me when I get close to a few individuals; here we meet many, many people and learn just a bit about each. The audiobook narrator (Mark Meadows) dramatizes a lot! Many like this. I don't! Americans sound very American. British sound very British. With all the quotes, the narration flips back and forth between numerous dialects. But tell me, why should a French person's quote, when it has been translated into English, be spoken with a faulty English accent? No, I did not like the narration, but that doesn't mean others will dislike it too. The narration was nevertheless clear, and that is most important. The book is interesting and I appreciated learning about how the two Russian revolutions of 1917 brought Lenin to power. ************************ I have before read by Rappaport these: 1. No Place for Ladies: The Untold Story of Women in the Crimean War 2. The Romanov Sisters: The Lost Lives of the Daughters of Nicholas and Alexandra Both I gave four stars. Caught in the Revolution: Petrograd, Russia, 1917 – A World on the Edge I am giving three.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Patricia

    I learned a good bit about Russia through reading this quite interesting book. Did you know Russia had the first women's battalion? The book is told by comments, diaries and letters from non-Russians who were there at the time. I felt badly for the hungry population, but it never got any better. I'm glad photos are included. It ends with Lenin in power surrounded by the Bolsheviks.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Beata

    The author succeeded in portraying the moments of the revolution from a perspective of foreigners who happened to to witness the events that were about to change the lives of millions of people for many, many years.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Laurie

    This is a hard book to review since I do not like reading non-fiction. The four star rating is for the exceptional research by Helen Rappaport and her attention to details in the writing. There were so many times I felt that I was in Petrograd. I could hear the gun fire, see the women in the long bread lines and enjoy the architecture of the city. The hardships the people went through amazed me. The wealthy, the poor and the foreigners all suffered extremely. Of course war is horrifying; but bei This is a hard book to review since I do not like reading non-fiction. The four star rating is for the exceptional research by Helen Rappaport and her attention to details in the writing. There were so many times I felt that I was in Petrograd. I could hear the gun fire, see the women in the long bread lines and enjoy the architecture of the city. The hardships the people went through amazed me. The wealthy, the poor and the foreigners all suffered extremely. Of course war is horrifying; but being invited to stand and watch at such a close distance is shocking. A few things jumped out at me as I was reading. I was unaware of the British helping the Russians during the war. (Before the revolution) They held benefits to purchase warm clothes for the Russian soldiers. The first women’s battalion in the world was formed during the Revolution by Maria Bochkareva. I questioned why foreign citizens and diplomats did not leave Russia earlier than they did. I wished many times that photograph’s had been included in the book. From February to December, 2017, the city of Petrograd fell. It does not take long for a revolution to destroy the way of life for so many. I received an Advanced Reader Copy of this book from Book Browse and St. Martin’s Press for an honest review.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Gill

    'Caught in the Revolution' by Helen Rappaport 4 stars/ 8 out of 10 In 'Caught in the Revolution', Helen Rappaport provides a detailed account of the 1917 Russian Revolution, as seen through foreign eyewitness accounts. Many years ago, I read 'Ten Days that Shook the World' by John Reed, and hence was interested to see whether this account based on many eyewitnesses would provide a more rounded picture. I was especially interested in reading the sections relating to the journalists, Donald Thompson 'Caught in the Revolution' by Helen Rappaport 4 stars/ 8 out of 10 In 'Caught in the Revolution', Helen Rappaport provides a detailed account of the 1917 Russian Revolution, as seen through foreign eyewitness accounts. Many years ago, I read 'Ten Days that Shook the World' by John Reed, and hence was interested to see whether this account based on many eyewitnesses would provide a more rounded picture. I was especially interested in reading the sections relating to the journalists, Donald Thompson and Florence Harper. This is a very detailed book, with much that I found interesting. The first thing that struck me was the affluent lifestyle of the diplomatic community, compared to that of the majority of the Russian people. I was very moved reading about the release of political prisoners. Other sections that were of great interest to me related to the role of the Cossacks, the storming of the Astoria Hotel, the events of 23rd March, the return of Lenin, and the women of Petrograd. The most fascinating section for me was that relating to the visit made by Mrs Pankhurst, which I knew nothing about. I found this an informative and gripping read. At no stage was I bored by it. Thank you to St Martin's Press and to NetGalley for an ARC.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Liina Bachmann

    A very accessible account of the period between the February Revolution and October Revolution as seen through the eyes of the foreigners who were in Petrograd at that time - diplomats, journalists, nurses, businessmen and so on. Rappaport has used an impressive amount of materials - letters, articles, diaries - to tell the story. Therefore the book covers daily life in a great matter. What people ate (or mainly, didn’t), how they spent their time, how the foreigners were saved from all the viol A very accessible account of the period between the February Revolution and October Revolution as seen through the eyes of the foreigners who were in Petrograd at that time - diplomats, journalists, nurses, businessmen and so on. Rappaport has used an impressive amount of materials - letters, articles, diaries - to tell the story. Therefore the book covers daily life in a great matter. What people ate (or mainly, didn’t), how they spent their time, how the foreigners were saved from all the violent acts (until it became too dangerous for them as well) - the overall mood and atmosphere of the city and ordinary folk. This, entwined with the political machinations and Rappaport’s simply good and clear writing results in a highly readable yet clear and emotional account of what happened in Russia during those tumultuous months. I dare to say that Rappaport has even, to some extent, pinpointed down the Russian spirit in her writing. Despite the horrifying violence, the book is not deadly grim. People still wanted to drink, go to the theatre and live their lives. If there is anything negative to say at all then maybe that it was not as in-depth on political matters as some other books probably are. Although I found it to be sufficiently so to gather a full understanding of the events that took place. I very much recommend Caught in the Revolution to anyone who is even slightly interested in Russian history.

  11. 4 out of 5

    David

    A aged apple-seller is shot in the head and left to die on the street after she tries to bargain with revolutionary “soldiers”. People huddle in their darkened freezing rooms as chaos reigns outside, praying that a stray bullet will not find them. All the knucklehead trolls, left and right, who are currently baying for revolution, should be forced to read this book and get a load of what revolution is really like. You can bet your bottom dollar that they are the ones who will be whining the loude A aged apple-seller is shot in the head and left to die on the street after she tries to bargain with revolutionary “soldiers”. People huddle in their darkened freezing rooms as chaos reigns outside, praying that a stray bullet will not find them. All the knucklehead trolls, left and right, who are currently baying for revolution, should be forced to read this book and get a load of what revolution is really like. You can bet your bottom dollar that they are the ones who will be whining the loudest when they start missing meals, that is, if they can avoid getting senselessly slaughtered by roving bands of inebriated thugs. The senseless slaughter and the missed meals are all in evidence in this fine book. It is simply an exciting read and a great evocation of an important time and place. I hope that 2017's 100th anniversary of the events portrayed will drive some people to look into this book and consider what happens if you insist to the point of violence, and beyond, that the world be re-organized exactly to your liking. I received an free unfinished galley of the ebook for review. Thank you to Netgalley and St. Martin's Press for their generosity. There is an obvious error of fact in the galley copy at Kindle location 5499, in footnote 12 of chapter 13. The footnote says American diplomat and historian George F. Kennan “was a friend” of John Reed, author of Ten Days that Shook the World, “and was interviewed for Warren Beatty's 1981 film Reds.” At the time Reed died in 1920, Kennan was 16 years old and studying at a military academy in Wisconsin. There is no evidence, as far as I know, that they ever met, and they certainly were not friends. In addition, the claim that Kennan was interviewed for Beatty's movie implies that he was one of the film's on-screen “Witnesses” (i.e., non-actors who appeared in interviews). He was not. However, it is possible, even likely, that Beatty talked to Kennan while making the movie. Speaking of Hollywood, this book also contains a real-life African-American character who is just yelling out for a script treatment. He is Phil Jordan, who rose from the hardscrabble streets of St. Louis to personal servant of the good-hearted but somewhat clueless US Ambassador to Russia. The final words of this book's main narrative are: “His glorious letters, written in his vivid vernacular style, and reflecting an enduring sense of being 'a stranger in a strange land', remain the only known published account of the revolution by an African American. They provide us with an unforgettable sense of exactly what it was like to be caught, in Petrograd, in the Russian Revolution of 1917” (Kindle location 4956).

  12. 4 out of 5

    Cheryl

    Helen Rappaport studied Russian history at Leeds University and is now recognized as a specialist in that area of study. During the 1990’s she began delving into accounts of the Russian Revolution. She found many accounts written by Russians. But little had been written from the perspective of foreigners who were living in Russia during that time period. She began researching and collecting the accounts of these people. The publication of her book coincides with the centenary of the Russian Revo Helen Rappaport studied Russian history at Leeds University and is now recognized as a specialist in that area of study. During the 1990’s she began delving into accounts of the Russian Revolution. She found many accounts written by Russians. But little had been written from the perspective of foreigners who were living in Russia during that time period. She began researching and collecting the accounts of these people. The publication of her book coincides with the centenary of the Russian Revolution. A large number of foreigners had been living in Petrograd, Russia (the capitol city formerly known as St. Petersburg) for many years, and in some cases, decades before the revolution in 1917. Of course there were diplomats and their support staff, but there were also many businessmen, bankers, doctors and nurses, governesses, teachers, aid workers, journalists, and spouses. After extensive research using eyewitness information gathered from archives, letters, diaries, diplomatic papers, newspaper and journal articles, books, and telegrams, Ms. Rappaport has complied an exhaustive account of the events as seen through the eyes of these witnesses living in Petrograd. At first, most accounts were hopeful after the tsar’s abdication. However, with each passing day, the situation turned more chaotic as the country’s economic and social structure disintegrated and no one seemed to be in control. The once beautiful, cultured and cosmopolitan city became “dingy and sordid and dilapidated” according to Somerset Maugham. The new Belgian ambassador arrived and was shocked at what he saw: “Petrograd is a revolting cesspool….I’ve never seen anything as horrible…” The Provisional Government, the Socialist Revolutionaries, the Mensheviks, and the Bolsheviks all fought for control. The Bolsheviks were actually a minority group but were determined to wrest control of the government by any means possible. One observer wrote that the Bolsheviks would have people believe that they were in control when actually the city was under “mob rule”. Ms. Rappaport’s well written, comprehensive and well documented account will appeal to serious students and readers of Russian history. This insightful and informative book presents a sad and disturbing narration of events that will leave the reader with many thoughts of “what if” and “if only”.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Meg - A Bookish Affair

    In 1917, 100 years ago this year, revolution broke out across Russia. In "Caught in the Revolution," Helen Rappaport looks at the effects of the revolution on one city: Petrograd (a.k.a. St. Petersburg). It was amazing to see how quickly things changed as well as to have a reminder of the course of events that took Russia from the fall of the Tsar to the new government. Sure, there are a lot of history books that cover Russia during this time period. What makes this book really a great history is In 1917, 100 years ago this year, revolution broke out across Russia. In "Caught in the Revolution," Helen Rappaport looks at the effects of the revolution on one city: Petrograd (a.k.a. St. Petersburg). It was amazing to see how quickly things changed as well as to have a reminder of the course of events that took Russia from the fall of the Tsar to the new government. Sure, there are a lot of history books that cover Russia during this time period. What makes this book really a great history is the first hand narratives that Rappaport draws from to write the book. By drawing on letters, diaries, and a variety of other narratives, Rappaport is able to not only pinpoint exactly where people were when they witnessed this shift in history but what they were witnessing and what they were feeling. It really made the history feel more personal while still being incredibly informative. You get such a good sense of place and can really picture what is happening throughout the book. I love history books even if it just a run down of events but having the first hand narratives make the history so much more real. This book would be great for those that don't have a familiarity with the history of this revolution as well as those that already have a familiarity with the Russian Revolution but are looking for a different and more intimate look at the events that changed the world.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Amy Yingling

    Russian history has always been a favorite subject of mine and many of the non-fiction books that I read are either about Russia or WWII so I was excited to spot this title on my local libraries shelves. The last book I read by Helen Rappaport was The Romanov Sisters in 2016 and I found it dreadfully boring, I think I gave it 2 stars, but anyway so I didn't go into this book with too much expectation. I was relieved though when I realized that this book was so much better in every sense of the w Russian history has always been a favorite subject of mine and many of the non-fiction books that I read are either about Russia or WWII so I was excited to spot this title on my local libraries shelves. The last book I read by Helen Rappaport was The Romanov Sisters in 2016 and I found it dreadfully boring, I think I gave it 2 stars, but anyway so I didn't go into this book with too much expectation. I was relieved though when I realized that this book was so much better in every sense of the word. I think the different point of views expressed by the many in the diplomatic corps along with the other foreigners living in Petrograd (St. Petersburg, was changed during WWI, because it was deemed to be too German sounding) as they lived through the Revolution along with the flashbacks to how it was in Tsarist Russia compared to the Revolution and the setting up of a new government was a wonderful way to present all these experiences and in their very own words pulled from diaries and correspondences. The subject matter held my attention, so it was an informative and entertaining read. If you love Russian history and would like to read a different perspective of the Russian Revolution instead of through the eyes of the Russians I would highly recommend this book to you!

  15. 4 out of 5

    Steve

    Helen Rappaport's Caught in the Revolution unusual approach to the first days of the Russian Revolution is to tell the story, almost exclusively, through the eyes of foreigners (via diaries, letters, etc.). Given the sea of books on the topic, you would think such a thing has been done before, but I'm not aware of any such book. In my experience, such accounts are usually sprinkled throughout larger histories of those tumultuous days. Rappaport herself says the various eye-witness accounts by no Helen Rappaport's Caught in the Revolution unusual approach to the first days of the Russian Revolution is to tell the story, almost exclusively, through the eyes of foreigners (via diaries, letters, etc.). Given the sea of books on the topic, you would think such a thing has been done before, but I'm not aware of any such book. In my experience, such accounts are usually sprinkled throughout larger histories of those tumultuous days. Rappaport herself says the various eye-witness accounts by non-Russians have been largely ignored, and that her own book only scratches the surface of what is available. Maybe, but given the virtual shut-down of Russian society to the outside world after the Revolution, I question just how much of value is really there. But, that said, what Rappaport has unearthed related to the Revolution in Petrograd (St. Petersburg) is gold. There were several large foreign communities and businesses within Petrograd at the time of the Revolution. Her primary sources are varied, ranging from the British and American ambassadors, to nurses, journalists, bank clerks, suffragettes, valets, etc. All in all, Rappaport has a list of close to a hundred witnesses to front the book, though I found as the book went on that Rappaport returned to the usual 20 (or less) witnesses to tell the story. That's not a complaint, since Rappaport is very skillful in stitching these accounts together, while keeping an eye on the larger events that are unfolding. And it is a far bloodier story than I had read previously. Shootings, beheadings, burnings, hangings, beatings, and more came quickly when the rotten center no longer held. The street battles between competing factions are often confusing, but the power of the witnesses' observations are undeniable. Due to the compressed area of Petrograd where much of the street fighting occurred, the reader is probably left with a magnified impression of the violence (though violent days for the entire country were coming). No one knows how many died in Petrograd (especially in the February Revolution), but the numbers range from two to ten thousand, with five thousand being the most agreed upon number. This is a disturbing book, not so much for the sad history it recounts, but for the cautionary message imparted regarding the fragility of the day to day things all societies take for granted. One incident in particular sticks with me, involving an old woman selling apples, trying to haggle over the price with two Bolshevik soldiers. They ended the bargaining by shooting and bayonetting her, and walked away munching apples.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jerome

    A colorful, well-researched and very readable look at how foreign nationals in Petrograd experienced the 1917 revolution. Rappaport doesn’t dwell much on the more well-known experience of the revolutionaries (and their “bayonetocracy,” as the Dutch ambassador put it), the government, or the Romanovs, and instead covers the experience of the city’s communities of foreign diplomats, intelligence officers, journalists, celebrities, expatriates, and entrepreneurs. Many these were not fluent in Russi A colorful, well-researched and very readable look at how foreign nationals in Petrograd experienced the 1917 revolution. Rappaport doesn’t dwell much on the more well-known experience of the revolutionaries (and their “bayonetocracy,” as the Dutch ambassador put it), the government, or the Romanovs, and instead covers the experience of the city’s communities of foreign diplomats, intelligence officers, journalists, celebrities, expatriates, and entrepreneurs. Many these were not fluent in Russian since Russian officials were already fluent in their languages, and some were fairly ignorant of the country; the US ambassador “did not know a Left Social Revolutionary from a potato,” according to Bruce Lockhart. Rappaport also describes the refugee influx into the city, the violence and chaos that broke out, how many Russians initially quit their jobs, how some diplomats were harassed, how clueless some of them were about the revolutionaries, and how the inhabitants struggled with losses in food, electricity, peace and order. She also covers the Russian soldiers' fear of being sent to the front and the Russian workers disaffected about their conditions. She also speculates that alcohol prohibitions prevented the Revolution from being more violent than it was. The narrative is engaging, fast-paced and well-written. However, there is little analysis or context. The accounts she uses are vivid, but the perspective can shift abruptly, the people she follows are a bit hard to differentiate at times, and the Russians come off as a bit faceless. At one point the Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolaevich is called the tsar’s “uncle.” Also, the occasional use of people’s first names is annoying. A clear, riveting and well-written work.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Christine

    Disclaimer: ARC via Netgalley. Helen Rappaport’s most recent book is about the Russian Revolution. Now, I think I know what you are saying to yourself. Why do we need another one? Well, Rappaport presents the Revolution in Petrograd from the viewpoint of foreigners, of those we didn’t so much have a dog in the fight as it where, but who saw it all unfold. It’s this perspective that makes the book engrossing and well worth the time it takes to read. The majority of people that Rappaport follows a Disclaimer: ARC via Netgalley. Helen Rappaport’s most recent book is about the Russian Revolution. Now, I think I know what you are saying to yourself. Why do we need another one? Well, Rappaport presents the Revolution in Petrograd from the viewpoint of foreigners, of those we didn’t so much have a dog in the fight as it where, but who saw it all unfold. It’s this perspective that makes the book engrossing and well worth the time it takes to read. The majority of people that Rappaport follows are British and American, but they come from all social classes. There are ambassadors and their man servants, there are actresses, and communists. There are, of course, the news people. When she can, and this is pretty of times, Rappaport lets her first hand sources speak for themselves. In many ways, this is more powerful writing, in particular when she deals with the last stand of the cadets. While every so often she interjects. For instance, when Thompson, a reporter from Kansas writes his wife about Lenin, Rappaport notes “the ‘innocent boy’ boy from Kansas had it in one” but even these asides do not disrupt the flow of the book. While a basic understanding of Russian during WWI would be helpful, it is not fully required. Rappaport does give the reader enough background, not only of the Russian politics, but also of the foreigners in Russia, that it is impossible to get lost.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Ren

    Helen Rappaport, author of 2014’s popular history The Romanov Sisters, among other titles on history and royals both Russian and otherwise, explains in her acknowledgments for Caught in the Revolution that while working as a historian she was struck by “…how much seemed to have been written about the revolution by Russians, but how relatively little I had come across that was said by those many non-Russians who, for various reasons, were stranded in the city that year. I knew there had to be mor Helen Rappaport, author of 2014’s popular history The Romanov Sisters, among other titles on history and royals both Russian and otherwise, explains in her acknowledgments for Caught in the Revolution that while working as a historian she was struck by “…how much seemed to have been written about the revolution by Russians, but how relatively little I had come across that was said by those many non-Russians who, for various reasons, were stranded in the city that year. I knew there had to be more to the story than just the over-hyped account of the one man, John Reed, who had always seemed to dominate, with his Ten Days that Shook the World.” In order to give a platform to other accounts, she’s written a compelling, engaging history of the 1917 Russian Revolution from the point of view of these outsider perspectives, letting those who lived through the events contribute their own words and writings to enliven what’s already known from history’s narrative. This period of time requires a good deal of context to thoroughly understand it, and sometimes with so much political background, the reading can be somewhat dry or plodding. That’s not the case here, as Rappaport changes up the topics and perspectives frequently, although several of the same figures reappear across chapters. They tell the stories in their own words, imbuing opinions and feeling into Rappaport’s weaving of the historical context around the events. This is what any student wishes a boring history text would be – life breathed into the words of the past. A significant number of the eyewitnesses are diplomats stationed in so-called Petrograd, then the capital city of Tsarist Russia, from countries including United States, Great Britain, and France. Their understanding of the culture and climate of pre-Revolutionary Russia coupled with diplomatic perspective from their own lands makes for enlightening reading. Other eyewitnesses include authors, journalists, and foreign revolutionaries and activists drawn to this epicenter of action, like the aging Emmeline Pankhurst and her assistant Jessie Kenney, who were in Petrograd attempting to work with Kerensky and other Provisional Government leaders on the country’s involvement in the ongoing war. Some background and understanding of Russian Revolutionary history is certainly helpful in enjoying the book but not necessary. Rappaport fills in most of the details, mainly those relating to its underlying issue of Tsar Nicholas II being considered weak and ineffective as a ruler. His inaction and inadequate response to the people’s needs created an opening that charismatic revolutionaries like Vladimir Lenin and Leon Trotsky were all too eager to fill. As Grand Duchess Vladimir tells French diplomat Maurice Paleologue regarding Nicholas, it was a now-or-never moment and as we know, he didn’t make a move in time: “If salvation does not come from above, there will be revolution from below.” The trouble with sudden revolution was what the people were actually supposed to do with this new relative freedom, once they actually threw off the oppressive Tsarist yoke. They were faced with the dangerous combination of being both victorious and directionless. As James Stinton Jones, a South African engineer working on the electrification of the Petrograd tramways describes it, “There is no cohesion, no common ideal to inspire her people. She is conscious of having killed a dragon; that is all.” This often results in outbursts of unimaginable, senseless violence, shocking to foreigners trying to navigate day by day in the uncertain, constantly changing atmosphere of the capital. The book’s greatest strength is this picture of daily life in the midst of unease, revolution, and the aftermath; violence and all. Throughout the narrative is a sense of the shift and development of the national identity, as it begins to emerge under the provisional government. There are hints at how this historical uncertainty became a legacy, contributing to Russia’s still-shaky identity even today. “There are two things that people only appreciate when they have lost them, and these are their health and their country.” Those are the words of the ailing Georgiy Plekhanov, a former colleague of Lenin’s returned to Tsarskoe Selo after decades in Swiss exile, spoken to Pankhurst and Kenney. They have an echoing impact among these powerful vignettes. If you read only one of the many books coming out in time to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution in 2017, let it be this one. I received an advance copy courtesy of the publisher for review.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Titus Hjelm

    It is hard to find a fresh angle to a topic as thoroughly plowed by serious research as the Russian Revolution. The eyewitness accounts of foreigners living in St Petersburg/Petrograd in 1917 have been used before, of course, but a book focusing on them seems like a genuinely novel approach. Too bad it was a disappointment. First, the author is so enamoured of the voices of her historical 'informants' that the book consists almost exclusively of narratives of particular events and assessments of It is hard to find a fresh angle to a topic as thoroughly plowed by serious research as the Russian Revolution. The eyewitness accounts of foreigners living in St Petersburg/Petrograd in 1917 have been used before, of course, but a book focusing on them seems like a genuinely novel approach. Too bad it was a disappointment. First, the author is so enamoured of the voices of her historical 'informants' that the book consists almost exclusively of narratives of particular events and assessments of the situation by the eyewitnesses. There is hardly any analysis, context, or evaluation. Consequently, the text becomes rather boring rather quickly. Second, although for some reason I thought Rappaport was not one of the cold war warrior historians of Russia, I'm not so sure anymore. Yes, the Bolsheviks ended up doing bad things, no-one is denying that, but to say that the description of the October events is one-sided is an understatement. This is of course the function of the first problem: we only get the views of people opposed to socialism. But it's not just that: the author snickers with her informants at the illiterate mob. Finally, coming back to the original question of fresh angles, perhaps I shouldn't be surprised that accounts of upper-class foreigners are hostile, but I at least found it hard to sympathise with their shortage of cakes. The world is full of horror stories and denunciations of the Soviets that whatever novelty I thought the book might have becomes lost by the time it gets to the October Revolution. Sadly.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Anna

    absolutely riveting! **Read by Xe Sands app. 10.5 hrs.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Becky

    From the prologue: Petrograd was a brooding, beleaguered city that last desperate winter before the revolution broke; a snowbound city of ice-locked canals and looming squares. Premise/plot: Caught in the Revolution by Helen Rappaport uses primary sources--first-hand accounts of men and women who were witnesses--to piece together the events of the 1917 Russian Revolution. The prologue, I believe, gives a background focusing on the December and January leading up to the February Revolution. It in From the prologue: Petrograd was a brooding, beleaguered city that last desperate winter before the revolution broke; a snowbound city of ice-locked canals and looming squares. Premise/plot: Caught in the Revolution by Helen Rappaport uses primary sources--first-hand accounts of men and women who were witnesses--to piece together the events of the 1917 Russian Revolution. The prologue, I believe, gives a background focusing on the December and January leading up to the February Revolution. It introduces readers to the key witnesses as well: the English Ambassador (Sir George Buchanan), the American Ambassador (David Rowland Francis), the French Ambassador (Maurice Paléologue), newspaper reporters and photographers from various countries, women nurses working at a war hospital, etc. What was the city like BEFORE the revolution? How had two years of war changed the city? Were there indicators of trouble ahead? What was the general mood of the city? And how much of that mood related directly to class? Chapter one begins in February and recounts the days leading up to the Revolution. Most of the book focuses on 1917, concentrating on the two revolutions--February and October. In between there is an interim government of sorts. But essentially the entire year is a MESS politically, economically. No law. No order. No justice. Most people starving AND freezing. A collision of strong ideas, horrible weather, and desperation. The last chapter is Postscript. It serves as a conclusion. Readers learn what happened next...in Russia...and what happened next to all the many, many key witnesses we've spent time getting to know. In some cases, Rappaport was simply unable to find out what happened to various reporters after the war, after they returned home. But she also lists what books were written and published about the Revolution by these witnesses. My thoughts: This book is fascinating. Also intense and compelling. It describes nearly every level of society. Sometimes the book is very graphic in terms of violence. What including ALL those primary accounts does is give modern readers a sense of being there, of experiencing what it was like day by day, night by night. Sights. Sounds. Smells. One thing that struck me was how different people reacted. For example, for some people the early days were a mere inconvenience. The 'revolution' to them meant a longer detour to their party destination. They were still having parties and balls and get-togethers. They were still attending ballets and operas. They were still carrying on as if nothing at all of importance was happening. Of course, that wasn't the typical reaction. This book is a treat for readers. Quotes: From the grandest mansion to the shivering bread queues, one topic of conversation prevailed: the Empress’s relationship with Grigory Rasputin. Against all the objections of the imperial family, Nicholas and Alexandra had stubbornly refused to remove him from his favoured position, and had made matters worse by appointing a series of increasingly reactionary ministers. With Nicholas away at army HQ, Alexandra was left alone, alienated from the Russian court and most of her relatives, and relying ever more heavily on their ‘friend’. By February the daily consignment of flour to Petrograd had dropped to just twenty-one wagonloads, instead of the normal 120 needed.What white bread there was ‘had become greyer and greyer until it was uneatable’, due to excessive adulteration. Official mismanagement, corruption and wastage of supplies were prodigious, made worse by a crippled rail network that was unable to transport food efficiently from the provinces –where it was still plentiful –to the cities that most needed it. People were incensed to discover that, due to the hikes in the price of oats and hay, much of the black bread –the staple diet of the poor –was being fed to the capital’s 80,000 horses to keep them alive: ‘every horse was eating up the black bread allowance of ten men’ For fully three weeks the average daily temperature had been -13.44 degrees Centigrade and there had been heavy falls of snow. Walking on the Liteiny Prospekt on the morning of 22 February, Paléologue was struck by ‘the sinister expression on the faces of the poor folk’ who had been standing wearily all night waiting for bread.The public mood was shifting from stoicism to anger; many women were spending forty hours or more a week like this and, in indignation, some of them had thrown stones at the bakers’ windows that day. Hundreds of them –peasants, factory workers, students, nurses, teachers, wives whose husbands were at the front, and even a few ladies from the upper classes –came out onto the streets. Although some carried banners with traditional suffrage slogans, such as ‘Hail, women fighters for freedom’ and ‘A place for women in the Constituent Assembly’, others bore improvised placards referring to the food crisis: ‘Increase rations for soldiers’ families’, or even more openly revolutionary calls for an end to the war –and the monarchy. But food was, fundamentally, what they all called out for that day: ‘There is no bread,’ they shouted as they marched, ‘our husbands have no work.’ A few of the women began singing the Marseillaise. ‘It was a queer Russian version that one couldn’t quite recognize at first,’ recalled Harper. ‘I have heard the “Marseillaise” sung many times, but that day for the first time I heard it sung as it should be.’ This was because, she asserted, ‘the people there were of the same classes and were singing it for the same reason as the French who first sang it over a hundred years ago.’14 As the crowd moved off, heading for the Nevsky, ‘a tram came swinging round the corner’. They forced it to stop, took the control handle and ‘threw it away in a snowbank’. The same happened to a second, third and fourth tram, ‘until the blocked cars extended all the way along the Sadovaya to the Nevsky Prospekt’.15 One tram full of wounded soldiers in the care of nurses even joined in, as the crowd, now numbering about five hundred, surged forward, still singing the Marseillaise, the women holding boldly to the centre of the Nevsky as the men took to the pavements. So long as they only asked for bread, the Cossacks told the marchers, they would not be on the receiving end of gunfire. There were, inevitably, many agents provocateurs in their midst, eager to turn the protest into a violent one, but for the most part the crowd remained ‘good tempered’, as Arthur Ransome noted in that day’s despatch to the Daily News. He hoped there would be no serious conflict.‘The general character of excitement,’ he concluded was, for now, ‘vague and artificial’ and without political focus. Throughout the night of the 24th there were occasional volleys of firing; and yet, astonishingly, the social life of the city continued. The Alexandrinsky Theatre was packed that evening for a performance of Gogol’s The Government Inspector. Indeed, the audience had been ‘in a lively humour at this satire on the political weaknesses of the mid-nineteenth century’. Few seemed willing to believe that a ‘greater drama was at that moment unfolding in real life throughout the capital’. It seemed as though the whole city was out of doors that morning, and on foot –for there were no trams or cabs. People seemed determined to get to church as usual or simply enjoy the fine weather for a promenade along the Nevsky. Couples were pushing their babies in prams, just like any ordinary Sunday; children were skating on the ice rink in the Admiralty Gardens. Right in front of their eyes they had seen a little girl hit in the throat by gunfire, and a well-dressed woman standing near them had collapsed with a scream as her knee was shattered by a bullet. After crawling back out into the street, Thompson and Harper were once more thrown to the ground by rifle fire coming from the police on the Anichkov Bridge. All around people lay dead and dying in the snow –Thompson counted twelve dead soldiers, Harper noted far more women and children than men: thirty dead in all. The two reporters lay there in the snow for more than an hour, numb with cold, but too frightened to move. Harper ‘had a vague idea that I was freezing to death’; she wanted to cry. And then the ambulances appeared and started collecting the dead and wounded and they decided this was fortuitous: they could pretend they were wounded and be picked up and taken to safety. At the House of Preliminary Detention on Shpalernaya, 958 prisoners were set free; others from the Litovsky prison near the Mariinsky Theatre were liberated the following day. All of the political prisoners were cheered; those who had been imprisoned for a criminal offence in some cases ‘were thrashed and told they would forfeit their lives if they were caught again’. There were, however, some prisoners who could not be reached, as Bousfield Swan Lombard noted,‘because in many cases the inmates of prisons were locked in underground cells and in the confusion the keys were lost’; with the prisons then being set on fire, ‘most of them were roasted alive before it was possible to liberate them’. Those who did emerge had ‘hardly anything on, in the way of clothes’. The crowd took pity on these ‘wrecks of humanity’ and they were ‘accommodated with the most amazing assortment of garments. Little men were dressed up in very long trousers and an enormous man might be seen struggling into a coat and waistcoat much too small.’ It became a common sight to see policemen being attacked and finished off out of hand –shot, bayoneted, clubbed to death –on the street, their dead bodies left untouched. ‘Food for the dogs,’ some Russians called it. ‘There was no hope for them unless they surrendered,’ recalled Dr Joseph Clare, ‘and even then not much hope, for I know a place where thirty or forty policemen were pushed through a hole in the ice without as much as a stunning tap on the head –drowned like rats.’ Philip Chadbourn had become fearful for the safety of his wife and three-week-old baby son and had gratefully accepted an offer to stay with friends on the French Embankment.But there were no cabs to be had;Esther Chadbourn was still weak, and two friends had to assist her in walking into the city, with her husband leading the way with the baby in his arms. As they emerged into the street, his wife took one look at the crowds and the barricades and field artillery and her nerves totally gave way.‘Each time a shot rang out,’ Philip remembered, ‘she would call ahead to me, “Don’t let them kill my baby, my baby!”, while passers-by stopped and stared at her, their eyes full of tears.’ Once safely installed in their friends’ house, the couple ‘watched the progress of the revolution from the front windows’ commanding the quayside, as one continual procession of motor cars roared past, loudly tooting their horns. On the streets it was the same jubilant crowds as the previous day, trashing the police stations and ‘throwing armfuls of records out of windows onto blazing street bonfires’ with a ‘righteous zest’. Luckily the cold had preserved the many un-coffined bodies she saw, but it had also left them in grotesque, contorted positions. Along three sides of the shack, Harper saw piles of rigid, muddy and blood-soaked bodies that had been thrown in ‘as they had been picked up’, some doubled up, others outstretched –men, women and children. Next to that shack was another, and then another with even more. In a big shed opposite she found another 150 bodies piled up. People were pulling at them, searching for loved ones, trying to identify them. ‘One in the uniform of the police was beyond recognition,’ she noted, ‘he had literally been beaten to a pulp.’ Very few of the corpses had any boots on –for these were a valuable commodity in wartime and were the first things to be stolen from the dead. With so many to be buried, coffins were scarce and so, once people identified their dead, they would pin a note on them, giving the name and asking for money to help bury them. People visiting these makeshift morgues would throw a few kopeks on the corpses. It was only later, visiting another hospital morgue where the bodies had been properly washed and laid out like wax figures, that Harper finally took in the grim horror of so many deaths. Throughout the ‘July Days’, as they became known, Donald Thompson had been out with his camera and tripod, sometimes on foot, but often racing up and down the streets in a hired car with the ‘camera sticking up in the tonneau’, looking ‘not unlike a new kind of gun’, as Florence Harper recalled.‘In fact it looked so dangerous that it gave us a clear passage up the Nevsky.’ With reckless abandon, Thompson had set up his camera at every opportunity ‘and proceeded to crank’. But late that afternoon he had witnessed a final, sickening demonstration of mob savagery reminiscent of the February days, which he did not record on film. Out at the Tauride Palace he had seen three revolutionists dressed as sailors fire from a motor car on a group of officers on the steps of the building, after which they had driven away at speed, only to be stopped soon afterwards by a motor truck that blocked the road. The men had been dragged from the car and promptly lynched by the crowd that had gathered. It was a new kind of savagery that he hadn’t seen before: ‘they stretched them up to the cross arm of a telegraph pole, and didn’t tie their hands. Then they drew them off the ground about three feet. All three of them as they were hanging tried to hold on to each other, but the mob knocked their hands away and they slowly strangled to death.’ Hardly the most comforting story with which to conclude a letter to his wife Dot, back home in Kansas.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Holly

    Going to bail out at the halfway point. I was listening to the audiobook, and though there were a lot of fascinating storylines, I struggled to stay focused on the disparate threads and personages, and found myself zoning out a lot. Xe Sands's narration of the American edition of the audiobook is great (and I'd like to hear her read more nonfiction), but I may need to just read Orlando Figes on the Russian Revolution.

  23. 5 out of 5

    The Irregular Reader

    Caught in the Revolution is a meticulously researched account of the months surrounding the 1917 Russian Revolution. The book focuses on the experiences of foreign nationals in Petrograd (St. Petersburg) who were caught up in the violence of the revolution. Rappaport carries the reader from the first conflict of February 1917, through to the final revolutionary spasm in October of 1917. Rappaport has delved into the diaries and correspondence of ambassadors, nurses, reporters, bankers, anarchists Caught in the Revolution is a meticulously researched account of the months surrounding the 1917 Russian Revolution. The book focuses on the experiences of foreign nationals in Petrograd (St. Petersburg) who were caught up in the violence of the revolution. Rappaport carries the reader from the first conflict of February 1917, through to the final revolutionary spasm in October of 1917. Rappaport has delved into the diaries and correspondence of ambassadors, nurses, reporters, bankers, anarchists, and expats. Her long fascination with the topic shines through in the breadth of detail she brings to bear. Rappaport also provides a detailed history of the Revolution itself, so even those who have never studied the October Revolution will be able to follow the book. Coming out for the centennial anniversary of the event, and considering the state of current affairs, the release of this book is exquisitely well-timed. The book is intended more for the serious history reader/scholar. My major complaint with the book is that Rappaport has provided almost too much information. The book would have made a wonderful narrative (in the vein of Erik Larson’s In the Garden of Beasts) if she had chosen to focus on the experiences of a few key players. As it stands, we are able to learn a little bit about quite a number of foreign expats, to the point where it is hard to remember who everyone is. The lack of background for the same people also makes it difficult to connect with them as real people, rather than just words in a diary. In all though, Russian scholars and lovers of history will likely find this book informative and intriguing. And, with everything else that is going on in the world right now, the more casual reader might be interested in picking up this book for a valuable perspective on revolution. An advance copy of this book was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Caught in the Revolution will be available for purchase on February 7th, 2017.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Michael DeBusk

    If you only read one book on the October Revolution, this is not the one to read. Helen Rappaport offers a supplemental account of the revolution chronicling the perspectives of Western expatriates caught up in the events in Petrograd. While interesting for what it is, Rappaort’s narrative reads like it might have been written by one of her journalist subjects. That is, she focuses almost exclusively on the facts of her subjects’ experiences with very little attention to setting the scene with c If you only read one book on the October Revolution, this is not the one to read. Helen Rappaport offers a supplemental account of the revolution chronicling the perspectives of Western expatriates caught up in the events in Petrograd. While interesting for what it is, Rappaort’s narrative reads like it might have been written by one of her journalist subjects. That is, she focuses almost exclusively on the facts of her subjects’ experiences with very little attention to setting the scene with commentary or context.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Tracy Rowan

    I decided to read this because it promised a wealth of information about what Petrograd was like during the revolution, and that's all grist for the mill of a novel I've been working on forever.  But I got so caught up in the narrative that I kept reading well past the point where there was anything pertinent to my research, and I found myself thinking "What if I set the story a bit later? A month? Six months?" There's so much going on, and Rappaport gives such extensive detail about the expatri I decided to read this because it promised a wealth of information about what Petrograd was like during the revolution, and that's all grist for the mill of a novel I've been working on forever.  But I got so caught up in the narrative that I kept reading well past the point where there was anything pertinent to my research, and I found myself thinking "What if I set the story a bit later? A month? Six months?" There's so much going on, and Rappaport gives such extensive detail about the expatriate and diplomatic community in Petrograd at the time that it opened up a whole lot more possibilities to me. It taught me that life there was both less and more fraught in the early days of the February revolution. No one was quite certain what was going on, so there were spontaneous marches, and actions. There would be a fight between demonstrators and cossacks on one street, and on the next, people would be quietly shoveling snow. Rappaport details how the mood changed as Lenin and the Bolsheviks took hold of both the city and the country by challenging and ultimately tearing power away from Kerensky and the Duma. While the February revolution was short, and though not bloodless, it nevertheless allowed much of life in the city to go on as before. But as time passed, simmering anger boiled over, and the real purges began. Foreign residents of Petrograd, who had thought to remain there after February of 1917, found themselves fleeing the country a year later. This is a view of the several revolutions in Russia which made up one great change, as seen through the eyes of foreign diplomats, journalists, and business people. It's enlightening, fascinating, and ultimately does keep us somewhat at arm's length from the Russian people, and those among them who were jockeying for power and position in the gaps created by the fall, first of the Tsar and then of the Duma.  Rappaport has produced a number of books about the revolution and each seems to have a quite specific focus. If you're looking for a good overview, this isn't the place to begin. It's a good resource if you're already a student of that history, but not as a broad history of the events of those years.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Nick

    This was on my local library shelf as a new Book arrival. I bought it to skim into and see if it worth reading. Glad I did, it was so interesting, most Americans have little knowledge of the Russian revolution. Helen Rappaport gives her reader's a great view from the mostly American, British expat's own words what is was like to see the Russian empire fall apart, and fall apart quickly. They share their experiences from their own contemporary "outsider's" point of view. Their views given are not This was on my local library shelf as a new Book arrival. I bought it to skim into and see if it worth reading. Glad I did, it was so interesting, most Americans have little knowledge of the Russian revolution. Helen Rappaport gives her reader's a great view from the mostly American, British expat's own words what is was like to see the Russian empire fall apart, and fall apart quickly. They share their experiences from their own contemporary "outsider's" point of view. Their views given are not post revolution, but views and reactions shared in then very moments of their happening, and as such, it gave the telling of it an immediacy as if were reading it in 1918. But, So as immediate as narratives are presented, the stories told still are still told in the participants understood yankee or angle/saxon points of view. So, they are honest only from their point of view, not necessarily honest to history. Also, interesting to me was the extraordinary courage and openness these expats had to leave their comfort zone to then quite stark world of Russia. Finally the book sparked an interest in me to read more about Lenin, (whom mostly in this book's narrativesis is thought very poorly of). Also I think I would like to find books that would give me more perspectives of the Russian experience from the years of Lenin, through Stalin, Kruschev, all the way to Putin. Reason being, what I currently know about them was given to me in slanted, prejudiced and sometimes outright propagandized doses from my living and growing in the Cold War era.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Ted

    This book tells the story of the fall of the Russian government in 1917 as gleaned from personal accounts (letters, diaries, and the like) of expats who were in Petrograd (previously, St Petersburg; subsequently, Leningrad and again St. Petersburg) at the time. It opens in late 1916 and runs to early 1918. At first, I felt like “wow, this is a lot of detail” with events of the day described from multiple angles, by multiple people. I thought it might be way too much and that I would be looking at This book tells the story of the fall of the Russian government in 1917 as gleaned from personal accounts (letters, diaries, and the like) of expats who were in Petrograd (previously, St Petersburg; subsequently, Leningrad and again St. Petersburg) at the time. It opens in late 1916 and runs to early 1918. At first, I felt like “wow, this is a lot of detail” with events of the day described from multiple angles, by multiple people. I thought it might be way too much and that I would be looking at this book for months trying to struggle through. Not the case. I read every detail and got sucked right into the story, with the overthrow of the Tsar in February, the return (and fresh expulsion) of Lenin in July, and the eventual Bolshevik takeover in October. The book tells of the deteriorating conditions as food and other goods dry up, of the release of pent up violence and anarchy from the working class as the Tsar is removed. It also tells about the American, British, and other expatriate communities that had thrived under the tsarist government and who then cried for the demise of the Russia they had loved. I found the book to be interesting and educational. Some might find the detail too dry, but I liked the person-of-the-day accounts — it brought the history to life for me.

  28. 4 out of 5

    William

    I quite enjoyed this tale about Petercity in the time before it became Lenincity on its way to becoming Petercity once again. Lots of blood, and Trotsky await the reader who really enjoys those two things together. Not much sex though. Some references to prostitutes but don't expect to get any juicy details. I like pictures of burning government building and charred police records as much as the next guy, but also like the next guy I could have used more of them. It was nice to see what the Bols I quite enjoyed this tale about Petercity in the time before it became Lenincity on its way to becoming Petercity once again. Lots of blood, and Trotsky await the reader who really enjoys those two things together. Not much sex though. Some references to prostitutes but don't expect to get any juicy details. I like pictures of burning government building and charred police records as much as the next guy, but also like the next guy I could have used more of them. It was nice to see what the Bolshevik revolution was like through the eyes of people whose native language is English, I for one do not hear enough thoughts from people who speak these words of Shakespeare and Twain and Grisham. My only complaint is that I never found out what happened to this Lenin man. Last I read he was wearing a thick wool suit and his pants were too long. I know he later becomes hero of Lenincity but his pants? His suit? Did he ever find a tailor? I await the sequel to this book. Thank you Good reads for listening.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Iowa City Public Library

    From Anne: "Caught in the Revolution, tells the story of the Russian Revolution in Petrograd from the perspective of people who found themselves in absolutely the wrong place at absolutely the wrong time—foreigners. Embassy officials, journalists, tourists, businessmen, servants, and ex-pats from Great Britain, France, and the United States lend their memoirs, letters, diaries, and newspaper articles to tell their story as Tsarist Russia fell into what seems like complete chaos. National City Ba From Anne: "Caught in the Revolution, tells the story of the Russian Revolution in Petrograd from the perspective of people who found themselves in absolutely the wrong place at absolutely the wrong time—foreigners. Embassy officials, journalists, tourists, businessmen, servants, and ex-pats from Great Britain, France, and the United States lend their memoirs, letters, diaries, and newspaper articles to tell their story as Tsarist Russia fell into what seems like complete chaos. National City Bank of New York employees watched as the Petrograd branch was put under Bolshevik control. Patrons of the Hotel Astoria were lucky if they only had their belongings ransacked. Journalists found themselves in crowds targeted by police machine guns. Caught in the Revolution makes for a pretty intense read as the situation becomes more unpredictable to those living through it. However, it is also clear that although they were living through the events, they were not of the events. Many of the reporters, embassy officials, bankers, and socialites seem to not understand what they are experiencing and why. And they got to leave."

  30. 5 out of 5

    Savannah Pine

    This book utilizes the accounts of foreign nationals living in 1917 Petrograd (renamed at the beginning of World War I because St. Petersburg was too German-sounding). These accounts provide an interesting point of view because the authors are observers but also actors during the February Revolution, Kerensky's government, the October Revolution, and the beginning of Lenin's regime. Reading these accounts has greatly augmented my understanding of Russia in 1917. I highly recommend this book for This book utilizes the accounts of foreign nationals living in 1917 Petrograd (renamed at the beginning of World War I because St. Petersburg was too German-sounding). These accounts provide an interesting point of view because the authors are observers but also actors during the February Revolution, Kerensky's government, the October Revolution, and the beginning of Lenin's regime. Reading these accounts has greatly augmented my understanding of Russia in 1917. I highly recommend this book for anyone who enjoys studying the Russian Revolution.

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