Leninism and Stalinism: General and Opposite in the Assessments of Anglo-American Classical Sovietology

Michal Šmigeľ, Viachaslau Menkouski


Introduction. One of the most debated issues in the Anglo-American academic community was the question of the implementation of the October Revolution’s ideas, the real embodiment of declared principles, compliance (or no compliance) of Soviet practice and revolutionary theory, on the general and opposite features of Lenin’s and Stalin’s periods of Soviet history.

Purpose. Consider the process of transition to a comprehensive description of the revolutionary events of 1917 and the multilateral analysis of the relationship of the Leninist and Stalinist periods of Soviet history in the classical Anglo-American historiography.

Methods. In classical Western Sovietology 1950s – 1980s. there were two basic concepts of Soviet history, preserving influence in the world historiography until today – totalitarian, in which Lenin’s and Stalin’s periods were considered as part of one continuous revolutionary process, and revisionist, opposes Stalin's "revolution from above" to Lenin's "October" (in the Western tradition called "November") revolution.

Results. The debate of Anglo-American researchers the 1917 revolution and Soviet history continues to this day. The main issues are the social base of the revolution and of Bolshevism, both objective and subjective components of the revolutionary process. "The theory of continuity" regarded Stalinism as a logical continuation of the revolution and the Leninist stage of Soviet history. "Revisionists" attempted to redefine the totalitarian concept and the idea of linear development from Bolshevism to Stalinism.

Originality. First of all we would like to draw attention to the tendency of historians to get away from the simplistic answers to the really tough questions.

Conclusion. For a long time Soviet historians have attributed the success of the October Revolution as the historical inevitability based on the existence of united revolutionary party led by Lenin. Western scholars have considered this event as either a historical accident or as the result of a well-prepared coup, did not have a significant support of the masses. Determining the balance between the general and the opposite in the history of the Revolution is one of the most difficult challenges faced by researchers of Soviet history.


1917 Revolution, Leninism, Stalinism, Bolshevism, Anglo-American Sovietology, Methodology of Historical Research, Historiography



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