History and Historiography

‘The Global Legacy of the Russian Revolution: A Comparative Perspective’

By Steven G. Marks

This article examines the global legacy of the Russian Revolution by making comparisons with revolutions dating back to the sixteenth century. It finds similarities in how communications, counterrevolutions, and national liberation movements formed the legacies of both the Russian Revolution and its antecedents in both Europe and the wider world. While the Revolution was vital in shaping the political contours of the twentieth century, the article argues that the Russian Revolution no longer resonates in the world today, as illustrated by lack of reference to the latter in the Arab Spring and the limp celebration of its centennial on the part of the Left.
The subject of this article is not the Russian Revolution itself, but its global impact. That impact derived not just from one moment in 1917, but from the entire Russian revolutionary process, which in the eyes of the world encompassed the Bolshevik seizure of power, the workings of the Communist government, and some of the refinements Stalin made to the Soviet system. Along with certain features of anti-colonial movements and post-colonial states, the most consequential legacies of the Russian revolution were the one-party dictatorship and the stimulation of an international counterrevolution that was hostile to Bolshevism yet in different ways its mirror image.

Leave a Reply