The Empire Must Die: Russia’s Revolutionary Collapse, 1900-1917

Written by Mikhail Zygar Thomas Hudson (trans.)
Review by Jeanne Greene

This is not a traditional history that attempts to explain why the 300-year-old Russia Empire was overthrown by Communism in 1917. Acknowledging that the Empire was crippled after World War I, the author turns to Russians living at that time to ask why its downfall was inevitable. The result—drawn from the published work of “shapers of public opinion,” that is, politicians, journalists, and other “luminaries,” as well as personal diaries, memoirs, and letters—is a portrait of a changing society from above. Contrast the Tsar’s dreams of glory in 1900 with Lenin’s pessimism in 1917. There is no way to tap the vein of discontent among illiterate Russians, except secondhand, but the evidence is there. A combination of unbiased narration and primary source material, The Empire Must Die is a valuable resource, and a readable, often exciting, introduction to modern Russian history.