Service, R. (2003). A History of Modern Russia.

Robert Service provides a history of Russia from the Romanov Dynasty to Russia under the leadership of Vladimir Putin. The account is from a centre right perspective. The books is a long read with limited recall of facts and figures to accurately document the economic, political, and social development of Russia – as a single entity and as part of the USSR.

A large section of the book adopts the ‘tabloid format’ of speculation and gossip. The lack of developmental reasoning also brings into question the validity of the assertions made by Service. There are also some factual inaccuracies.

The book, however, does contain a small number of interesting quotes about the history of Russia. As noted here.


Anti-Bolshevik Socialist such as Yuli Martov and Fedor Dan asserted that Leninism, being based on dictatorship and bureaucracy, was a fundamental distortion of socialism. Xxii

… The USSR, far from moving towards a classless condition, had administrative elites capable of passing on their privileges from generation to generation. Xxv

In September 1905 the St Petersburg Marxists founded a Soviet (or Council) of Workers Deputies. 14

In 1906 a diplomatic dispute between Germany and France over Morocco resulted in French triumph that was acquired with Russian assistance. In the Balkans, the Russians themselves looked for France’s help. The snag was that neither Paris nor St Petersburg relished a war with Austria-Hungary and Germany. Consequently, the Russian Government, despite much huffing and puffing, did not go to war when the Austrians annexed Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1908. 24

[A Serbian nationalist in 1914 murdered, in the recently annexed Bosnia, Archduke Franz Ferdinand. Ferdinand was the heir to the Hapsburg throne of Austria-Hungary.]  Austria demanded humiliating concession from the Serbian government, which it blamed for the Archdukes death. 25

The calculation in Russian rulings circles was that a short, victorious war would bind Imperial society more closely together.25

[Russian] Peasant were affected by the rapid depreciation of the currency and by the shortage of industrial good available during the war: they therefore had little incentive to sell grain to the towns. 28

About four fifth of industrial capital was investment was directed towards [producing armament and military supplies], and the production of good for the agricultural sector practically ceased. 28

Most other Socialist in Russia and elsewhere, including Marxist, forecast that Lenin’s ideas would lead would lead not to a self-terminating dictatorship but to an extremally oppressive, perpetual dictatorship. They were furious with Lenin not only out of the horror of his ideas but also because he had brought them into disrepute in their own countries. 64

‘Bolshevism’ was a useful stick of propaganda with which to beat the socialist movements in their own countries. 64

The Horror of Sverdlov, who had dissuaded Lenin from banning elections, the Bolsheviks gained only a quarter of the vote’s casts while the Socialist-Revolutionaries obtained thirty-seven percent. The Sovnarkom coalition reacted ruthlessly: if the people failed to perceive their best interest lay, then they too had to be protected against themselves. 75

The right to vote was withdrawn from all citizens who hired labour in pursuit of profit, who hired labour in pursuit of profits, who derived their income from financial investments or who were engaged in private business. 88

Lenin suggested that Russian industry was so backward that its small and medium-size enterprises should be exempted from nationalisation and aggregated into large capitalist syndicates responsible for each great sector of the industry, syndicates which would introduced up to date technology and operational efficiency. 96

Lenin’s term for this type particular capitalism was ‘state capitalism’, and in April 1918 he encouraged the iron and steel magnate V. P. Meshcherski to submit a project for joint ownership between the government and Meshcherskis fellow entrepreneurs. 97

Lenin hated the bourgeoise, depriving it of civil rights after the October Revolution. When it looked as if the Germans were going to overrun Petrograd in January, he had recommended the shooting on the spot of the party’s class enemies. 96

[The survival of the Bolsheviks would] have been impossible if they had not operated in a society so little capable of resisting them. The collapse of the urban sector of the economy; the breakdown of administration, communication and transport; the preoccupation of organisations, groups and individuals with local concerns; the widespread physical exhaustion after years of war; the division among the opposition; all such phenomenon gave the Bolsheviks their chance – and the Bolsheviks had the guile and the harshness to know how to seize it. 100

Trotsky real name was Lev Davydovich Bronshtein. 104

[Lenin apparently advocated for terror in the Proletarian Revolution]. 108

Stalin bridled at having to take instructions from Trotsky as Peoples Commissar for Military Affairs. They hated each other, but there was also a political edge to their clash. Stalin disliked the policy of employing Imperial Army officers, and he encouraged other Bolsheviks to complain about it. 112

[Trotsky] attached a political commissar to each officer; he also took the families of many officers hostages to ensure loyalty. 112

[Trotsky wrote a book called Terrorism and Communism]. 112

The reds frequently committed butchery against religious leaders. Twenty-eight bishops and thousands of priests of the Russian Orthodox Church were killed; and the other Christian sects as well as Islam and Judaism were also subject to a campaign of terror. Lenin’s policy was to introduce atheism by persuasion; but he, too, instigated the mass murder of clerics.


A survey of Russian peasants in the mid 1930s suggested that fifty-five percent were active Christian supporters. 135

In 1922 Lenin arranged for the execution of several bishops on the pretext that they refused to sell their treasure to help famine relief in the Volga region. 135

‘The idiocy of religion’ as nowhere near as easy to eradicate as the communists had imagined. 136

Communal kitchens and factory cafeterias were established so that domestic chores might not get in the way of fulfilment of public duties. Divorce and abortion were available on demand. 143

Bukharin, Dzierzynski, Kamanev, Perobrazhenski, Stalin, Trotsky, and Zinoviev had each clashed with [Lenin] in the past. None of them were merely his cipher. 153

[By 1924] The Labour Party had won the British election and gave de jure recognition to the Soviet government. 159

[Russia had been defeated or destroyed in multiple was and that was one of the leading cause behind the drive to industrialise and gain parity with neighbour states. Economic power would transfer to military power and provide security.] 177

Stalin hardly needed to be nudged towards allying with Western fears about Soviet international intentions. Under the NEP he had made a name for himself with the slogan of ‘Socialism in One Country’. 177

Under a certain amount of pressure from the German Communist leadership, the Comintern at the Sixth Comintern at the Sixth Comintern Congress in 1928 laid down that an instruction was given that the German Social Democrats and the British Labour Party should be treated as communism main political adversaries. 178

Between five and seven million people were treated as belonging to Kulak families. 180

A snag was that as they arrived in the villages, the ’25,000-ers’ saw for themselves that many hostile peasants were far from being rich themselves. 180

After collectivisation, it was the countryside, not the tows, which went hungry if the harvest were bad. 182

In the German elections in the 1932 the Communist were instructed to campaign mostly against the social democrats; Hitler Nazis were to be ignored. 187

Bolshevism stood for literacy, numeracy, internationalism, and atheism, and this commitment was among the reasons for the replacement of the NEP with the First Five-Year-Plan. 190

Only forty-percent of the population had between nine and forty-nine years had been able to read and write in 1897; this segment of the population had risen to ninety-four percent by 1939. 190

Stalin rivals in his own party would soon pay dearly for their condescension. For he was crude and brutal even by Bolshevik standards, and he was proud of the fact. 197

[Stalin] despised middle-class experts, believing that the regime could train up its own ‘specialist’ in short order. The ‘filth’ from the old days ought to be cleansed (or ‘purged’); social, economic, and political problems should not be allowed to await solutions. 197

The cult of Stalin was also a response to the underlying requirements of the regime. Russians and many other nations of the USSR were accustomed to their statehood being expressed through the persona of a supreme leader. 198

Stalin thought godlessness was the beginning of righteousness and had no compunction about mass slaughter of clerics. 203

Thousands of other Christian leaders, mullahs, both Shi’ite and Sunni, and rabbis were also butchered. The one-ideology state was imposed with a vengeance. 203

Stalin had a scarily odd personality. He was in his element amidst chaos and violence, and he learned how to create an environment of uncertainty wherein only he could remain a fixed dominant point of influence. 226

[Stalin said] ‘The deaths of the vanquished are necessary for the tranquillity of the victors.’ 226

In one of his last pleas to Stalin, Bukharin wrote asking what purpose would be served by his death. This question must have given profound satisfaction to Stalin, who kept the letter in his desk until his own death in 1953. 228

Trotsky, immured in his own armed compound in Coyoacan in Mexico, survived for a while. ; but even his defences were penetrated on 20th August 1940, when his killer, Ramon Mercader, plunged an ice pick into the back of his head. 231

[Under Stalin] Even the purgers of the purgers of the purgers had been arrested in some places. 232

The will to beat the German had an unifying effect. 189

President Truman resolved to contain any further expansion of Soviet political influence; he also decided in 1947, on the suggestion of his Secretary of State George Marshall, to offer loans for the economic reconstruction of Europe, East and West, on term that would provide the USA with access to their markets. Stalin was aghast as this prospect. As he saw things, the problem in Eastern Europe was that there was too little communism: a resurgent market economy was the last thing he wanted to see there. 308

Particularly annoying to [Stalin] was the admiration of many Soviet Jews for the Zionist movement which had founded the state of Israel in 1948. 317

Stalin repeated that the most acute danger of a Third World War occurring lay in rivalry between one capitalist coalition and another and not between communism and capitalism. 323

[After the fall of the Soviet Union] Tent-settlements of the homeless sprang up even in Moscow. Beggars held out their hands in the rain and snow. Most of them were frail pensioners, orphans and military invalids. 517

Worse for the Russian government was the refusal of NATO to disband itself after the dissolution of its main enemy, the Warsaw pact allies. Quite the contrary: NATO set about territorial expansion. Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary became members in 1999 and thereby placed themselves under military tutelage. NATO forces, indeed, were sent into Bosnia in 1993-1995 and Kosovo in 1999 as interethnic violence intensified. 537

[Russia] By the end of the 20th century about two-fifth of the population lived below the poverty level as defined by the UN. 539

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