RICHARD PIPES IS the finest hstorian of late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Russia, and his great trilogy on the closing decades of Imperial Russia, the Bolshevik Revolution, the Civil War and the triumph of Bolshevism will undoubtedly remain the most authoritative work on the period for many years to come. His unparalleled knowledge of the sources, astute capacity for weighing evidence, and lucid prose place him among the first rank of historians. When he writes about cruel and violent events and people, as his subject matter leaves hm no choice but to do, he shares Lord Acton's view that the historian has a responsibility to propound moral judgements. Yet he never falls into the trap of judging the past by the standards of the present, and his encyclopaedic grasp of the evidence enables him to steer serenely between the Scylla of dry hstoricism and the Charybdis of trite and inappropriate moralising.
Most of his work has covered historical events on a grand scale appropriate to the largest country in the world, and it is fascinating to find him switching to the microscopic examination of local and specific events of which many historians of nineteenth-century Russia will barely have heard.
The strange story