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Caught in the Revolution

Petrograd, Russia, 1917 - A World on the Edge

by Helen Rappaport

Caught in the Revolution by Helen Rappaport X
Caught in the Revolution by Helen Rappaport
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  • First Published:
    Feb 2017, 448 pages
    Apr 2018, 544 pages


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Jill S. (Eagle, ID)

Caught in a revolution
This well researched book provides a different perspective of the Russian revolution. Rappaport's account depicts the mayhem, chaos and murder that takes place in the early 1900's. Rappaport provides a different perspective of the Russian revolution, and history buffs will enjoy this book.
Charlene M. (Murrells Inlet, SC)

Caught in the Revolution
Helen Rappaport has captured the beauty of Petrograd, the exquisite lifestyle of the foreign ambassador's and the opulence of the Russian aristocracy, and the anguish of the working class in "Caught in the Revolution" through her masterful use of diaries and letters of people living in Petrograd, Russia in 1917.
I have a Russian neighbor whom I was able to talk to about the Revolution. Helen Rappaport's Caught in the Revolution is a book everyone should read. I anxiously await her next book.
Todd E. (Atlanta, GA)

When Leadership Fails
This was not an easy book for me to read. Rappaport's many sources trace in particular and sometimes horrific detail the hunger, the cold, the loss of civic order in Petrograd in 1917, and ultimately, the random and intentional violence on a city-wide scale as the Russian revolution gathers momentum. So quickly did stability crumble. So incredulous were the country's leaders about the underlying tensions growing out of decades of autocratic rule and the costs of staying in the First World War. And, of course, I wondered whether such unrest could happen here. I appreciated Rappaport following her sources lives after their assignments to Russia, sometimes into oblivion. She effectively expressed, for me her, compassion for them.
Marjorie H. (Woodstock, GA)

The World Pivots
As a history buff I've never understood how people could find history boring. Helen Rappaport is one of the best history authors I've read and "Caught in the Revolution" does not disappoint. Having read her two books "The Romanov Sisters" and "The Last Days of the Romanovs" - "Caught in the Revolution" is the other view of the days of the revolution of 1917. Diplomats, journalists, business owners, families - all from other countries witnessed and recorded the overthrow of the Russian monarchy. It is through their eyes that we see the mayhem, murder and destruction that took place.

The first revolution that took place in Feb. of '17 aimed at creating a fair government amidst the chaos of everyone fighting to organize a practically impossible amount of people. Hundreds of prisoners - many innocent - were released from prisons. The brutal police and army were slaughtered in the streets, along with citizens of every age. The populace was starving and desperate. Once the mayhem had produced no legitimate government, the Bolshiveks moved in and the violence and bloodshed only escalated.

This is not a pretty story, but one that speaks volumes in our time. Russia was forever changed. I highly recommend this book.
Sheryl M. (Marietta, GA)

Many Partied While Chaos Reigned All Around
Helen Rappaport has vast experience and knowledge about the era of the Russian Revolutions and the events that led to the ultimate breakdown and overthrow of the Czar and his government. She has used knowledge gained in preparation of a number of other books about this period plus new primary sources from foreign diplomats, journalists and curious observers who were serving or visiting in Petrograd in 1916-17, to write a fascinating and extremely readable book.

"Caught in the Revolution" provides an up close vision of almost unbelievable extremes in early 20th century Russian society: peasants from the countryside and factory workers standing in the city's soup lines and sleeping in whatever shack or lean-to might lend shelter during a brutal winter; Russian soldiers that avoided slaughter on the battlefields of World War I and made it back to the capital; an elite aristocracy and nobility as well as members of a diplomatic corps of European and the U.S. ambassadors and ministers who all led lives of lavish partying in palace homes and shopping in the most elegant shops on Nevsky Prospekt. The actions of the latter indicated a complete obliviousness to the desperate lives of the poor in less elegant, but nearby streets.

Wives of the diplomats prepared bandages and clothing for the Russian soldiers still in battle and tended the wounded and dying ones who managed to make it back to Petrograd. Hospital facilities tended to be ones set up by individuals from Europe and staffed by volunteer nurses who came from various war fronts. Observers from the West, including the well-known suffragette Emma Pankhurst and novelist and short story writer Somerset Maugham (among many others), arrived to add to the chaos and dissension in the overcrowded city.

Less apparent on the streets, but just as active behind the scenes were the various heads of factions which maneuvered among themselves to seize leadership of opposition to the status quo and determine the future direction and next government of Russia.

Finally, not to be over-looked, is Rasputin, the mystic-healer-spiritualist who was universally disliked by all but the Romanovs who sought his skills in treating their youngest child and only son (whose future was so closely tied to the survival of the Romanov dynasty) who was a hemophiliac.

Helen Rappaport sorts out the chaos and establishes vivid and memorable images of each of the players "Caught in the Revolution." Her non-fiction narrative has nothing in common with dry textbooks most readers of this review will remember and reads more like popular and compelling fiction. More people would love the study of history if more writers had Rappaport's skills that make this book such an engaging, but thoroughly documented read.
Power Reviewer
Lee M. (Creve Coeur, MO)

The Other Side
I finished this book last night and I'm still speechless. We have all read about the Russian Revolution of 1917, but not this way, from the non Russian observers. And you are not reading, your are there! Ms. Rappaport started collecting eyewitness and written accounts of this monumental period, many years ago. She somehow, phenomenally has gathered these in a book that gives you the impression you are actually watching and reacting to real events. Daily, sometimes hourly, you feel the emotions, be they horrific, amusing, sad, or surprising. Many kudos for amassing this information, for compiling it in a cohesive, and unbelievably enjoyable side of history seldom, if ever, seen or published. Bravo!
Jeff M. (Somerset, NJ)

Caught in The Revolution -- You Are There
Author Helen Rappaport has done a prodigious amount of research on the start of the Russian Revolution in Petrograd (later called Leningrad) in 1917. She has culled through letters, diaries and other documents of more than 80 foreign eyewitnesses and has over 60 pages of notes and bibliography. While gathering the material is one thing, she succeeds in creating a cohesive story that keeps the reader's interest. Most people know the basic story of the Russian Revolution and the end of the Romanov family and are likely familiar with the American socialist, John Reed and his wife, Louise Bryant (see Warren Beatty's "Reds"), but there were many other foreigners who were in Russia at the time and the book covers their observations and perspective. Many were aristocrats representing their respective governments and tended to have a life style in Petrograd similar to that of the Czar, while others were reporters, writers, nurses and teachers who saw the rebellion grow among the citizens where lack of food and other necessities were common. Their stories are all woven together in a detailed, but very readable narrative. Sometimes you will have to refer back to the glossary of the eyewitnesses or the detailed city maps, but if you are interested in the start of the Russian Revolution from the foreigner perspective, this is the book for you.
Power Reviewer
Joan P. (Owego, NY)

Caught in the Revolution
I found this book a pleasant surprise. It made clear a very confusing and complicated time in history. By culling the experiences of the Petrograd ex-patriot community, through old letters and diaries, we got a first hand account of the daily events during the months leading up to the October revolt and the actual takeover. It made clear the many factions opposing one another and how the Bolsheviks a well organized minority became the ultimate winners. The actual words of the people who were there made history come alive.

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