finally listening to mike duncan's series on the russian revolution (part 10 of his Revolutions podcast) and so far i think its about as good as it gets for a liberal historian. it starts with a perfectly serviceable review of marxist theory & the history of the first international and then goes into an exhaustive history of russia leading up to the revolution

duncan doesn't try to hide his sympathy for the various liberal factions and he loves psychoanalyzing the romanovs so ymmv but his approach is at least in dialogue with marxist historiography. if you want to have more background for your lenin idk if there's a more accessible source. will also give you context for marxist revisionism which is very useful to understanding the theoretical debates from that era

one thing that the series is highlighting for me is how in retrospect the regime was barely holding together its sovereignty. i mean an incoherent anarchist vanguard cell (narodnaya volya) assassinated alexander II and yeah sure some of them were executed, but most of them just got sent to siberia and then came back and... formed another terror cell (combat) and kept killing officials!


then the new cell was taken over by a double agent police spy (yevno azef) who... wait for it... organized the assassination of his own boss in the ministry of the interior 😂

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