Rediscover: To the Finland Station

Few events have shaped the modern world as extensively as the Russian revolutions of 1917. The first of those upheavals dethroned the tsar; the second overthrew the resulting provisional government and, after a long and bloody civil war, led to the formation of the Soviet Union. By 1917, a war-weary Russia and a weak tsar created prime conditions for political change of some kind, but the Bolsheviks seizing power by force was a chain of improbable events that writers have tried to untangle for the past 100 years.

The recent centennial of the October Revolution has seen a slew of new books on the subject, from Marxist speculative fiction author China Miéville's October: The Story of the Russian Revolution (Verso) to history professor Sean McMeekin's The Russian Revolution: A New History (Basic Books). These modern works add valuable new sources available since the fall of the Soviet Union to contemporary histories, such as Ten Days That Shook the World by John Reed, an American journalist's firsthand account published in 1919, and Leon Trotsky's three-volume History of the Russian Revolution, published in the early 1930s. To the Finland Station: A Study in the Writing and Acting of History by Edmund Wilson (1940) traces the October Revolution back from Lenin's catalytic arrival at Petrograd's Finland Station in 1917 through Marx and the dawn of socialism around the French Revolution. It was last published in 2012 by Farrar, Straus & Giroux ($18, 9780374533458). --Tobias Mutter

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