(K. Brent Tomer),
Lenin on the Train. By Catherine Merridale. Allen Lane; 353 pages; £25. To be published in America by Metropolitan in March.
A BRITISH intelligence officer dismissed Vladimir Lenin and his fellow revolutionaries as “fanatical and narrow-minded”. That was an understatement. But by early 1917 power in Russia was there for the taking. That February, 300 years of Romanov autocracy had been ended in a few dizzying days, while nothing had been put in its place. Russia, exhausted and desperate from three years of disastrous war with Germany and its allies, was being run by ineffectual and well-meaning moderates. Lenin knew exactly what he wanted, and he would deploy extraordinary energy and ruthlessness to achieve it.
But first he had to get there. The future Soviet leader had spent the war in Switzerland, marooned on a neutral island in a sea of belligerents. As the news broke of the upheaval at home, he became increasingly desperate. He even considered trying to reach Russia on a false passport, as a Swedish deaf mute. His ever-practical wife reminded him that this was bound to fail because of his habit of…Continue reading