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Christopher Read

Professor in Twentieth-Century European History, University of Warwick

My research activity has followed two closely related themes. The main one is the intellectual history of the Russian intelligentsia in the crucial years between 1900 and 1925. In association with this I have also pursued an interest in the social history of the Russian Revolution.

The bulk of my original archival and primary research has been on the former topic. In connection with it I have produced two monographs and a number of articles.

My first monograph was published in 1979 and was a detailed account of the political, social and religious thought of the Russian intelligentsia on the eve of the First World War. The main argument of my second monograph, which took the history of the intelligentsia in a broader socio-political as well as intellectual context, was that the 1920s in the Soviet Union was not so much a period of toleration of intellectual dissent - as proposed by a whole range of 'revisionist' historians - but was really a period of steadily growing intellectual repression. I have also produced an article of 4000 words on 'Bolshevik Cultural Policy' which was published in 1997 in Edward Acton and William Rosenberg (eds) A Critical Dictionary of the Russian Revolution.

The second theme of my research, the social history of the Russian Revolution, has been the subject of several articles and papers and, pre-eminently, of my third book, published in early 1996. The main argument here has been that the struggle between the Bolsheviks and the self-generating popular revolution of peasants, workers and, above all, soldiers and sailors in 1917 and after has been overlooked and was more decisive in shaping the institutions and attitudes of the Soviet government than the more widely studied struggle against the remnants of the former élite gathered in and around the White armies. My interpretation balances the power of the popular movement against the strongly prescriptive assumptions of the Bolsheviks, arguing that the tragedy of the Russian Revolution arose from the fact that the Bolsheviks were driven above all by their 'culture' - especially ideology - into destroying the 'real' revolution conducted by the population. From this arose many of the characteristics of 'Stalinism' which finally brought the system down seventy years later. This theme, the general social and political evolution of Soviet Russia, is at the heart of a volume that takes my argument into the period of the thirties and the Second World War. It involves mainly re-assessing Stalin in the light of new archival evidence and the raging debate about him of the last ten years. In addition, the breakdown and collapse of the system is considered. This volume was published at the beginning of June 2001


  • –present
    Professor in Twentieth-Century European History, University of Warwick