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Lenin on the Train

Lenin on the Train

Catherine Merridale

Metropolitan Books

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One of The Economist's Best Books of the Year

A gripping, meticulously researched account of Lenin’s fateful 1917 rail journey from Zurich to Petrograd, where he ignited the Russian Revolution and forever changed the world

In April 1917, as the Russian Tsar Nicholas II’s abdication sent shockwaves across war-torn Europe, the future leader of the Bolshevik revolution Vladimir Lenin was far away, exiled in Zurich. When the news reached him, Lenin immediately resolved to return to Petrograd and lead the revolt. But to get there, he would have to cross Germany, which meant accepting help from the deadliest of Russia’s adversaries. Millions of Russians at home were suffering as a result of German aggression, and to accept German aid—or even safe passage—would be to betray his homeland. Germany, for its part, saw an opportunity to further destabilize Russia by allowing Lenin and his small group of revolutionaries to return.

Now, in Lenin on the Train, drawing on a dazzling array of sources and never-before-seen archival material, renowned historian Catherine Merridale provides a riveting, nuanced account of this enormously consequential journey—the train ride that changed the world—as well as the underground conspiracy and subterfuge that went into making it happen. Writing with the same insight and formidable intelligence that distinguished her earlier works, she brings to life a world of counter-espionage and intrigue, wartime desperation, illicit finance, and misguided utopianism.… More…

One of The Economist's Best Books of the Year

A gripping, meticulously researched account of Lenin’s fateful 1917 rail journey from Zurich to Petrograd, where he ignited the Russian Revolution and forever changed the world

In April 1917, as the Russian Tsar Nicholas II’s abdication sent shockwaves across war-torn Europe, the future leader of the Bolshevik revolution Vladimir Lenin was far away, exiled in Zurich. When the news reached him, Lenin immediately resolved to return to Petrograd and lead the revolt. But to get there, he would have to cross Germany, which meant accepting help from the deadliest of Russia’s adversaries. Millions of Russians at home were suffering as a result of German aggression, and to accept German aid—or even safe passage—would be to betray his homeland. Germany, for its part, saw an opportunity to further destabilize Russia by allowing Lenin and his small group of revolutionaries to return.

Now, in Lenin on the Train, drawing on a dazzling array of sources and never-before-seen archival material, renowned historian Catherine Merridale provides a riveting, nuanced account of this enormously consequential journey—the train ride that changed the world—as well as the underground conspiracy and subterfuge that went into making it happen. Writing with the same insight and formidable intelligence that distinguished her earlier works, she brings to life a world of counter-espionage and intrigue, wartime desperation, illicit finance, and misguided utopianism.

When Lenin arrived in Petrograd’s now-famous Finland Station, he delivered an explosive address to the impassioned crowds. Simple and extreme, the text of this speech has been compared to such momentous documents as Constantine’s edict of Milan and Martin Luther’s ninety-five theses. It was the moment when the Russian revolution became Soviet, the genesis of a system of tyranny and faith that changed the course of Russia’s history forever and transformed the international political climate.

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The Economist Magazine Books of the Year

Introduction

The masses must always be told the whole truth, the unvarnished truth, without fearing that the truth will frighten them away.
N. K. Krupskaya

It was Thomas Cook who said it. There are three places in the world...

Praise for Lenin on the Train

“Absorbing.”
Washington Post

“Catherine Merridale is one ofthe foremost foreign historians of Russia, combining wry insights with deepsympathy for the human beings suffering the tragedies she writes about . . . Leninon the Train combines diplomatic intrigue, spycraft, toweringpersonalities, bureaucratic bungling, military history and ideology.”
The Economist

“Merridale’s account benefits from her thorough research . . . andvividly reminds us of how the fateful events of 1917 depended on a seeminglysmall episode.”
The New York Times Book Review

“Catherine Merridale, a distinguished historian of Russia and the SovietUnion . . . uses [Lenin’s] journey as the centerpiece of a broader account ofthe fall of czarism and the mounting Bolshevik pressure on the government thatreplaced it.”
Wall Street Journal

“Merridale’s excellent book . . . does an exemplary job of covering thecomplex history of the denials, evasions and cover-ups perpetrated by the Bolshevikleader and his successors.”
Dallas Morning News

“Memorable . . . a richly detailed book that turns familiar materialinto an intense adventure.”
Minneapolis Star Tribune

“Merridale tells the extraordinary story of Lenin’s history-makingjourney. Drenched in atmosphere, [her] account has all the stuff of a spythriller.”
Newsday

“In vivid prose, [Merridale]recounts the whole engine of revolution . . . A superbly written narrativehistory that draws together and makes sense of scattered data, anecdotes, and… More…

“Absorbing.”
Washington Post

“Catherine Merridale is one ofthe foremost foreign historians of Russia, combining wry insights with deepsympathy for the human beings suffering the tragedies she writes about . . . Leninon the Train combines diplomatic intrigue, spycraft, toweringpersonalities, bureaucratic bungling, military history and ideology.”
The Economist

“Merridale’s account benefits from her thorough research . . . andvividly reminds us of how the fateful events of 1917 depended on a seeminglysmall episode.”
The New York Times Book Review

“Catherine Merridale, a distinguished historian of Russia and the SovietUnion . . . uses [Lenin’s] journey as the centerpiece of a broader account ofthe fall of czarism and the mounting Bolshevik pressure on the government thatreplaced it.”
Wall Street Journal

“Merridale’s excellent book . . . does an exemplary job of covering thecomplex history of the denials, evasions and cover-ups perpetrated by the Bolshevikleader and his successors.”
Dallas Morning News

“Memorable . . . a richly detailed book that turns familiar materialinto an intense adventure.”
Minneapolis Star Tribune

“Merridale tells the extraordinary story of Lenin’s history-makingjourney. Drenched in atmosphere, [her] account has all the stuff of a spythriller.”
Newsday

“In vivid prose, [Merridale]recounts the whole engine of revolution . . . A superbly written narrativehistory that draws together and makes sense of scattered data, anecdotes, andminor episodes, affording us a bigger picture of events that we now understandto be transformative.”
Kirkus Reviews

“History recovered as livingdrama . . . Merridale smuggles readers onto a train leaving Zurich in April1917 that is carrying explosive freight: Vladimir Lenin, the firebrand who willkindle a revolutionary conflagration in Russia.”
Booklist

“A colorful, suspenseful, andwell-documented narrative.”
Publishers Weekly

“The suberb, funny, fascinatingstory of Lenin’s trans-European rail journey to power and how it shook theworld”
—Simon Sebag Montefiore, Evening Standard (Best Books of 2016)

“Twice I missed my stop on the Tube reading this book . . . this is ajewel among histories, taking a single episode from the penultimate year of theGreat War, illuminating a continent, a revolution and a series of psychologiesin a moment of cataclysm and doing it with wit, judgment and an eye for tellingdetail. . . . Catherine Merridale is one of those historians whose work allowsyou to understand something more about the world we inhabit now.”
—David Aaronovitch, The Times

“Catherine Merridale, an experienced and enthusiastic historian ofRussia, has chosen the pivotal moment of Lenin’s slow and halting odyssey tohang her history of how this ruthless fanatic hijacked a revolution.”
The Observer

“A sharply written, authoritative account of Lenin’s train journey”
Financial Times


“Merridale brings to her subject a scholar’s deep knowledge and alively narrative style. It is a work that enlightens as well as it entertains.”
Literary Review

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Reviews from Goodreads

Catherine Merridale

Catherine Merridale is the author of Red Fortress, which won the Wolfson History Prize; and the critically acclaimed books, Ivan’s War and Night of Stone. A celebrated scholar of Russian history, she has also written for The Guardian, the Literary Review, and the London Review of Books, and contributes regularly to broadcasts on BBC radio. She lives in Oxfordshire, England.

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