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Three Days in March, 1917

By Jeff Bursey.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, March 1917: The Red Wheel, Node III, Book 2, Trans. Marian Schwartz (University of Notre Dame Press, 2019)

Over the last few fertile years many commemorative works on the Russian Revolution came out (although that tumultuous event was not celebrated overmuch in Russia) including, to name a handful of works: in 2014, The Baron’s Cloak: A History of the Russian Empire in War and Revolution by Willard Sunderland; in 2017 alone, Crime and Punishment in the Russian Revolution: Mob Justice and Police in Petrograd by Tsuyoshi Hasegawa, Russia in Revolution: An Empire in Crisis, 1890 to 1928 by S. A. Smith, China Miéville’s October: The Story of the Russian Revolution, and The House of Government: A Saga of the Russian Revolution by Yuri Slezkine; and in 2018, Laura Engelstein’s Russia in Flames: War, Revolution, Civil War 1914-1921 and the less substantial The Imperial Tea Party: Family, politics, and betrayal: The ill-fated British and Russian royal alliance. Each has been an exploration, in greater and lesser detail, of what Russia and Russians (and other ethnic members of the soon-to-be USSR) were participating in, or subjected to, from the ground up.

Those and other historical books to some extent lag behind what Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (1918-2008) started working on and, eventually, publishing decades ago (in European languages) in the sequence of novels collectively titled The Red Wheel. The first two books appeared, in English, in the early 1970s and the late 1990s respectively, and the remaining volumes are slowly being brought out in translation by University of Notre Dame Press. In this sequence Solzhenitsyn has rescued, at times literally, history from those who did not want records of the early and chaotic years made available to just anyone. August 1914 (1972; but a more authoritative translation came out in 1989) and November 1916 (1999) were the first two books (at first called “knots,” a term Solzhenitsyn later changed to “nodes”). It wasn’t until three years ago that the next in line, March 1917, Node III, Book 1, appeared. There are four novels under the March 1917 heading; The Red Wheel will be concluded by the two volumes of April 1917. In November 2019 March 1917, Node III, Book 2 (hereafter simply Book 2) came out, and it is as thoroughly readable and remarkable as its predecessors.

To declare that these books are engrossing and worthwhile is to go against the contemporary flow. Whenever anyone hears I’m reading Solzhenitsyn there are three standard responses. “Who?” comes mostly from people who don’t read much non-fiction or from people below a certain age. “Ivan Denisovich?” say readers above a certain age who stopped reading him when volume one of The Gulag Archipelago (1973-1975) proved to be a struggle. The third response, “Why?,” often is accompanied by a look mingling surprise and disdain for someone who is now seen, when seen at all, as an Orthodox Christian and a favorite of the National Review and other conservative outlets. If the person I’m speaking with is Russian, they sometimes pre-empt further discussion by saying they don’t care for him or Dostoevsky because they don’t want to hear any more about the soul.

In a piece occasioned by Solzhenitsyn’s death, the respected translator and publisher, Donald Rayfield, while praising his subject’s moral courage, brings up that “why” response. He says:

A literary assessment of Solzhenitsyn’s life work will be selective and sometimes harsh. The short stories and novellas of the 1960s are written very powerfully, combining personal witness with forthright clarity. Their bias is as much against the intellectuals who collaborated (even if they too paid for it) with the system, as against totalitarianism itself, and an underlying Christian asceticism informs them. They will last as examples of the most courageous prose ever published in the USSR.

Certainly, the volumes of The Gulag Archipelago will stand out as a unique and badly needed monument to Stalinism, compiled from thousands of accounts of how victims (but not their relatives) perished and survived over more than 30 years of horrific oppression. The stories of Varlam Shalamov, based on decades in the Kolyma camps, may be more honest (and depressing) still because they lack Solzhenitsyn’s insistence on Christian hope and the work ethic. But Gulag Archipelago remains a towering achievement, and its composition a Herculean task that no other single person could have undertaken.

Readers familiar with Solzhenitsyn will find the praise here is standard, as is the criticism, including the comparison to Shalamov (whose work Rayfield translated in 2018). When commentators or critics mention this it’s as though they’re saying that Solzhenitsyn is the reason Shalamov isn’t read more. What’s more intriguing are two casual-sounding remarks. First, there’s the notion that the “more honest” approach about the camps is in Shalamov’s possession. That teeters on proclaiming, in good authoritarian style, that there is one truth. Second, when Rayfield says that Solzhenitsyn’s “insistence on Christian hope and the work ethic” get in the way of the real nature of life in the gulag it comes across, likely unwittingly, as condescending. I wonder what I could ask you, reader, to change, especially if you’re a writer, so that you would have traits I prefer to the ones you possess. As to The Red Wheel: “Abroad, Solzhenitsyn appeared to stop developing, or even observing. The historical cycle Red Wheel is, even to admirers [sic] almost unreadable in its mass of detail and its tendency to rant, not narrate.” Then there is this final paragraph:

Solzhenitsyn’s influence will lie exclusively in his moral courage, which inspired younger dissidents to carry on the struggle, both in literature and in the defence of human rights. As a writer, Solzhenitsyn was wholly locked into 19th century traditions, particularly the forthright, lapidary, moralising style of Lev Tolstoy. He also used the Russian classical tradition of testing among modern characters in a closed space the tenets of philosophy, and finding them wanting. His mix of fiction and history in The Red Wheel is derived from Tolstoy’s War and Peace. Even his Gulag Archipelago has its literary roots not in 20th century prison literature, but in Dostoevsky’s Notes from the House of the Dead. In purely literary terms, then, Solzhenitsyn is a teacher without disciples.[1]

Though writers have large and, often, fragile egos, most don’t aspire to be Jesus or, unless you’re someone like Gordon Lish, teachers of schools. Literary posterity is long, and the dicey assertion that Solzhenitsyn might not have influenced others can’t be proved yet.

Of course, moral courage is a wonderful thing, and there’s always too little of it. But most fiction readers don’t return to this or that writer for that. It’s the style, the story, the characters, the form, the way with words, the invention, the humor, the ideas, and the attitude the work contains that appeal, plus such things as escapism, confirmation of beliefs, upending of positions, expression of inchoate feelings, and the desire to be astonished and informed.

Rayfield’s charges remain serious, though. Why, then, purchase this latest “unreadable… mass of details…”? Why spend time with someone, as William Gass put it in “The Writer and Politics: A Litany,” who “is a victim of runaway megalomania” because he’s been put “upon a pedestal” and whose “opinions are those of someone still in the pay of the czar”[2]?


We know how the historical story of the Revolution ends. Nikolai II Aleksandrovich is killed with his family and the Bolsheviks take over, and quickly, from a hastily formed Provisional Government. The Red Wheel is not a parallel world where Nikolai continues ruling, along with other distant family members who are heads of other empires, and where the First World War carries on, nor does he escape with only one of his children, and his wife, the Empress Aleksandra, bleeding in a carriage, across the fastness of the steppes to form a government-in-exile or by rail and vessel to become a tea merchant in Paris.

From the early pages of Book 2 through to the last we are invited to contemplate the Tsar in action—or more precisely, in inaction, except for writing letters to or reading letters from his wife—after receiving reports that there is great unrest in Petrograd. He refuses to believe them, and many in his command are too frightened to tell him the gravity of what is happening—the riots, the seizure of power by civilians—or else can’t believe it themselves.

Right then Nikolai finally received the evening telegram from Khabalov [Petrograd military commander], who was somehow very much panicked and said he could not restore order in the capital, and most of the units had betrayed their duty, fraternizing with the rebels and even turning their weapons against loyal troops. And now a large part of the capital was in the rebels’ hands.

Could such a thing really be? This was unthinkable rubbish.

Nikolai Iudovich thought the same and was not the least bit discouraged.

We have access to Iudovich’s thoughts the next day as he dithers over what course of action to take:

Iudovich could not directly renounce his position before the Emperor, could not shake the Emperor’s merciful trust in him, could not open up in the simplest way and say, Let me go, Your Majesty, I’m weak, I’m unable, I’m not the hero you see in me. He couldn’t bear to see the disappointment in the Emperor’s eyes or shake his own honorable status as an adjutant general. How could he go on living without it? Perhaps he might be appointed to a higher post?

And here he had been appointed—dictator.

Not accept this assignment, not go to Petrograd and save the homeland—Nikolai Iudovich simply could not do that. But he could still delay.

The day of March 15 brings the revelation that, one by one, the Tsar’s officers are abandoning him, couching their words in appeals to his love of Russia and his lineage: “There were no resources whatsoever for stopping the revolution in the capitals. Finding no other solution and limitlessly devoted to Your Majesty, [General Evert] implored him in the name of saving the homeland and dynasty to accept the suggestion of the commanders-in-chief […]”By that night we see the Tsar’s new mood after he has signed the abdication manifesto:

For the first time today it occurred to him that he had chosen the wrong officers as commanders-in-chief. In any event, he had not chosen the best.

It was a long time since Nikolai had been bitter about being hated by the revolutionaries, Kadets, Zemgor, and high society—because he had not set a high value on them in return.

But that the closest, highest officers, the very ones who were supposed to have defended him… this was the blow that had felled him.

And once again his throat was squeezed by tears. And they welled up in his eyes.

He remembered about his diary. No matter what happened… he couldn’t deviate, couldn’t fail to record the day.

That afternoon he had already begun his entry, still Emperor, still not knowing his evening future. Now he had to finish it.

… But he felt once again this sponge full of gall from the commanders-in-chief—so unexpected and so unmerited!—and once again he opened the notebook and added one more line:

“Surrounded by treason and cowardice.”

And again he finished. But he hadn’t finished. The most important thing:

“… and deceit!”

This is not very different from the thoughts of two officers who only want to fight the German army but, instead, see their lives threatened by a mob accusing them of being “bloodsuckers”: “How complex life is but how simple all fatal decisions: Here. And now. But more than anything, astonishment: We fought and died for this country. Why does it hate us?”

As in the preceding volumes, much evidence is given for why the people of Russia would despise its rulers: the surprise defeat of their country in the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905) resulted in the loss of world prestige and territory, and it deepened and encouraged civil disquiet; the Bloody Sunday massacre by troops of demonstrators on January 9, 1905 “shocked the country and turned into the first eruption of what became the 1905 Revolution”[3] (Sunderland, The Baron’s Cloak); Rasputin’s influence on the royal family, considered malignant in many quarters, resulted in his assassination in December 1916, but his killing did not erase people’s memories; the ongoing war with Germany and its allies; rumours that there would be food shortages in Petrograd; and disgruntlement in the armed forces.

The Tsar’s passivity, his tendency to blame others for his mistakes, and his lack of common sense were also factors. The disparagement of him throughout The Red Wheel completely rebuts Gass’ cavalier remark that Solzhenitsyn was in his pay. (This is not to single Gass out, for the past century contains many examples of philosophers voicing opinions on politics that rebounded against them and called into question their ethical basis and analytical abilities.) Nikolai II emerges as a weak-willed, superstitious, unimaginative, and feckless tyrant who one will not be displeased to see gunned down.

The many events depicted in Book 2, from the most domestic to the political to the movement of troops, all revolve around one thing: chaos. That can be contextualized by this quotation from Engelstein’s book:

In undermining its own authority, the monarchy opened the door to defiance of authority across the board—mutiny, industrial strikes, the burning and pillaging of rural estates. When the revolution erupted in February 1917 [according to the Julian calendar used in Russia until 1918; the Gregorian calendar makes it March], however, it was more than a revolt of the masses against the power of their superiors and the demands of the war. The men who took matters into their own hands and turned against the monarchy were the notables of the State Duma [the Russian parliament], backed by critical figures in the military High Command. Duma deputies representing the propertied and privileged classes then created what they called a Provisional Government. Meanwhile, Duma deputies from the moderate socialist parties formed a leadership organ for the popular movement that had flooded the streets of Petrograd and forced the Duma’s hand. They used the model pioneered in the 1905 Revolution to establish the Petrograd Soviet.[4]

Hasegawa adds this: “During the revolution, Petrograd was overwhelmed by crime and other sources of social breakdown. The failure of the state was both manifest and reinforced by its inability to establish law and order. Amid insecurity and deprivation, and inspired by revolutionary zeal for an entirely new cultural and political order celebrating pure freedom, people turned to vigilantism and self-help.”[5] The Petrograd Soviet in Book 2 welcomes the uprising, the strikes, and the attacks against all forms of authority in the first few days, but quickly realize that these volatile feelings have to be controlled so that, first, they won’t endanger them, and second, so that the mobs can be turned against whoever the Soviets deem an enemy. (Whenever a red rag appears it indicates sympathy with the revolution. Those not wearing something red are often attacked.) One of Solzhenitsyn’s characters notes of a crowd a “cruelty evident in so many faces, and not in a particular moment of arousal, but in their ordinary, half-cheerful standing on a sunny day… As if they had ripped the outer film off a well-known anthropological, psychological, national, and class type—and their ruthlessness had shown through right away.”

What Solzhenitsyn describes, carefully and in detail, is the hodgepodge of leaders and potential leaders of parties (Bolsheviks, Mensheviks, socialists of different stripes, Kadets, Octobrists, and so on), the citizens (of all classes), the military, and the imperial family, and how they have competing interests. The struggle for control occurs largely in the absence of reliable information, and often is interrupted by bulletins filled with conflicting information from several quarters. There is no appetite for a united approach to restore civility. Anyone interested in how power politics is conducted will find Book 2 (and The Red Wheel in its entirety) fascinating, horrible, and depressing. One minor scene captures some of this:

In one spacious room [in Tauride Palace where the Duma meets] with velvet-covered tables he [Kutepov, a colonel] found what looked like a session, but it was disorderly, without rules, and the discussion was general—about forty well-dressed men, without their overcoats, wearing frock coats and ties, perhaps Duma deputies, perhaps public figures, and among them a few officers. They were sitting in armchairs and side chairs, also pretty much facing different directions, and discussing disjointedly… but discussing what? They ignored Kutepov and [another soldier], who stood there for a while and listened.

This is Petrograd in real time, with its mix of people (and therefore interests) looking at multiple paths and incapable of speaking to each other on the same plane. “And also,” goes the thinking behind one group’s manifesto, “confiscate all food supplies. Very simple! When we confiscate everything, then we can distribute it. Otherwise, what’s there to distribute?” The genius lies in organizing disparate material in such a way that we are immersed in the precarious lives of individual figures, as well as larger groups, and experience with them a palsied state of being, the constant threat of violence, and a complete blindness as to what may happen next. Everything is disrupted. (Something like a pandemic that renders the future opaque.)

Structurally, Book 2 is set out in chapters that cover the mornings, days, evenings, and nights of 13-15 March revealing, bit by bit, how this action, that response, chance conversations, and opportunistic or clumsy political maneuvering come together to form the larger picture of which we know the smallest portion. This “limited segment of measured time,” in Edward J. Brown’s words,[6] recurs throughout Solzhenitsyn’s fiction. One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich (1963) is an obvious example of that; so is In the First Circle (2009; The First Circle, an earlier English translation of a shortened version, appeared in 1968) where the action takes part over three days. (Both also occur primarily in one place or, as Brown puts it, “a severely constricted area” [253], as does Cancer Ward [1968].) This constraint allows for a tight focus on what happens in the city of Petrograd (and, in a few chapters, Moscow), and on troop movement, train rides, and the Tsar as he makes his way to Tsarskoye Selo, where Tsaritsa Aleksandra and their children are. The chapters present the thoughts of people who existed and, fewer in number, fictional characters. (There is also a screenplay approach that starts with a closeup of a “painstaking red boutonniere, the silk kind made by patient, deft fingers, even during these insane days” that widens slowly to reveal “a two-pointed red bow” and then “this large, torn red scrap snatched from somewhere, as shaggy as fire…”

Leavened throughout are reportorial fragments of Petrograd life that are sobering to read:

… On the Neva, the Franco-Russian Company had its cruiser Aurora under repair. In the morning, workers broke in and the cruiser joined the revolution. They seized rifles, revolvers, and machine guns. The cruiser’s commander, Captain First Rank Nikolsky, and two senior officers were dragged out onshore and killed. First Lieutenant Agranovich was wounded in the neck by a bayonet.

… A tied-up policeman was being dragged through the snow by his feet. Someone ran up and shot him dead.

Whatever police stations hadn’t been burned down yesterday—were burning now…. Some in the crowd were gawking, some getting warm, little boys were dancing around, flapping the empty sleeves of their mothers’ jackets, a merry romp.

In apartments, the samovar was kept going surrounded by food to eat—for the friends and acquaintances who came. The conversations were sweet: an overthrow, the most respectable kind, the State Duma had given it its name. Now, evidently, we would have a monarchy on the English model. Since the Duma had taken power, everything would proceed smoothly and the war would soon end.

A handful of armed men burst into the Putilov Factory’s head office: “Hand over the cash box!” Refusal… The generals were taken out at the Narva gate: “No point driving bloodsuckers around!” They drove them with bayonets as far as the Baltic Station, beating them—and drowned them under the ice of the Obvodny Canal.

On Haymarket Square, armored vehicles were smashing up grocers’ stores. They tied a policeman to two vehicles and tore him asunder.

Toward evening, more and more private apartments were raided. A knock and what seemed like the entire street burst in.

Men had been firing on a tall building from the street and had wounded the building’s owner. The bullet had passed through his chin, drilled through his face, and exited above his eyes. “Did you fire?” “No!” A soldier wanted to shoot him dead, but a civilian in a black coat said: “Why waste a bullet on a brute like that?” He grabbed a log from a stove and cracked him over the head. They dragged the dead man downstairs to show the people and dropped him by the gate. And the civilian recounted to the crowd how he’d killed him, his eyes rolling wildly.

The man’s wife ran up, weeping: “An innocent man is dead!”

An exultant crowd! Unbridled joy!… A general state of ecstasy, everyone hoping, for no apparent reason, only for good.

The fury, unpredictability, viciousness, and temporary insanity of the streets parallels currents and conflicts in the political world.

One might reasonably question how a novelist would know what Nikolai II, Vladimir Lenin, and President of the Duma Mikhail Rodzyanko think. Edward E. Ericson and Alexis Klimoff, in The Soul and Barbed Wire: An Introduction to Solzhenitsyn, state that such figures appear “in terms of what might be designated as dramatized history,” and that these “sections, moreover, have no fictive intent whatever, with the actions, words, and thoughts of each of the depicted individuals being grounded in the research that had occupied Solzhenitsyn for decades”.[7] He had envisioned this project “back in 1937” (Ericson and Klimoff, 150), and “collected materials and made substantial notes throughout the years” (Ericson and Klimoff, 151). This is the “archive”[8] repeatedly referred to in Solzhenitsyn’s autobiographical work Between Two Millstones: Book 1: Sketches of Exile. 1974-1978 (2018 English translation) that could not be brought out by Solzhenitsyn due to his sudden exile but eventually emerged from the USSR thanks to diplomatic channels. Through complicated means, “The Red Wheel had been saved”; the archive was “about two suitcases” in size.

In November 1916 Solzhenitsyn used “condensed” (Ericson and Klimoff, 153) debates that took place in the State Duma. In Book 2 he uses pronouncements issued in the Izvestia of the Soviet of Workers’ Deputies—“There is no going back to the old regime—and anyone who tries to reach a compromise with it is committing a crime against the people”; “Wrap the unorganized masses in a dense net of organized cells!”; “[…] the Okhrana’s [the tsar’s secret police] papers have burned up; the people have dealt with these ulcers. Destroy everything that might help the stooges of the old regime!”—bulletins from Petrograd journalists, Duma announcements, folk sayings—“YOU CAN’T KNEAD DOUGH AND KEEP YOUR HANDS CLEAN”—military dispatches, and telegrams: “Be so kind as to immediately send… two freight trains, which should occupy the siding and physically block the movement of any trains whatsoever. For failure to carry this out or for insufficiently swift implementation of the present instruction you will answer as for treason against the fatherland.” These multiple ways of imparting information are presented in multiple fonts and font sizes that augment the dynamic nature of the text (and recall John Dos Passos’ U.S.A. trilogy).

At the end of the book are maps and an Index of Names with biographical material. Some of the historical figures moved to other parts of Europe or North America to live out their days. Colonel Kutepov, mentioned above, fought with the Whites against the Reds in the Civil War, and in emigration “led the Russian All-Military Union, an anti-Soviet veterans’ organization; was kidnapped by Soviet agents and killed [in 1930]”. Nikolai Bazili, who devised the “abdication manifesto of Nikolai II,” later authored “books about the Soviet economy and posthumous memoirs…” He died in 1963 in the United States. Fyodor Kokoshkin, part of the Kadet Party and a Duma member, was “arrested, murdered together with Shingarev at the Mariinsky Hospital [in 1918].” Maxim Gorky’s entry ends: “…became an apologist for Stalinism and the head of the Writers’ Union established in 1932. Died mysteriously.” And lastly, Vladimir Dmitrievich Nabokov, “Secretary general of the Provisional Government. Emigrated, assassinated by a Russian right-wing extremist. Father of the writer Vladimir Nabokov.” Predictably, many lives end in the years 1917 to 1920. These are, for most people I expect, the forgotten actors in the Revolution.

A number of those who survived by escaping Russia wrote memoirs. Under one entry in Book 2 there is this for Iosof Gessen: “In the 1920s and 1930s, in France, published 22-volume Archive of the Russian Revolution.” In his review of The House of Government Stephen Lovell mentions a salient point that chimes with Solzhenitsyn’s labours and research:

Another important distinctive feature of the Bolsheviks as sectarians was that their large-scale attempt at a reformation took place in a post-Romantic age. This meant that the individual self required an exceptionally high degree of maintenance: even after they were converted and incorporated, Bolsheviks continued to ask themselves, and each other, a great many questions about the revolutionary’s conduct and motives. As they did so, the written word was their greatest friend. They wrote voluminously: The House of Government would be unthinkable without the corpus of letters and diaries that this group of people managed to leave behind, despite the depredations of the late 1930s.

…The intense bookishness of the upper echelons of Bolshevism permeates Slezkine’s work, which draws to great effect not only on first-person documents of the time but also on fictional distillations or sublimations of the revolutionary cause.[9]

Again, Solzhenitsyn anticipated in time and interest that historians would go through the remaining documents of the Russian Revolution.


In Between Two Millstones, Solzhenitsyn writes of The Red Wheel that it “encompasses all of Russia—Russia in flux. And to write in briefer, more general, terms would not have been a presentation of the Revolution itself, but rather just a summary of it.” This lengthy work sets out to do what general histories mostly do not, and that is to relate the thousand influences on how something turned out. It is here, pace Rayfield, that Solzhenitsyn’s granular approach and reliance on historical documents deepen our knowledge and broaden our awareness of the minor and major manipulations the extraordinary number of personages attempted or managed to carry out as they sought to control, navigate or survive the Revolution. Some did things to avoid being killed; some did things to gain power; some did things out of reflex; some wanted stability, at whatever price, as long as troops were supplied with everything necessary to continue to defend Russia against Germany. The sheer immensity of the Revolution calls for, as the history titles above suggest, and contrary, once more, to Rayfield, narratives that strive to present forgotten details and people so that we may have a better, yet never complete, understanding of what occurred.

Despite his more conservative inclinations, yet, I venture, not totally unconsciously, Solzhenitsyn has written a work that has features we attribute, sometimes retroactively, to Modernist writing: The Red Wheel is hyper-maximalist, encyclopedic, formally varied, and replete with unpredictability. Ericson and Klimoff argue that with the profusion of voices a “case could be made for comparing the effect produced with that of the chorus in Greek tragedy.” That is an opinion contrary to Tatyana Tolstoya, who categorized Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s novels as “essentially Soviet in style even if they’re anti-Soviet in content.”[10] (Pause to take in that “if”. Why not though? His books are pro-Russia or Slavophile, most will agree, but they aren’t wishy-washy in being anti-Soviet. Opening up doubts of this kind on Solzhenitsyn’s stance, against all the evidence available, is peculiar.) Perhaps the editors of  A History of Russian Literature perhaps put it best: “Even in Solzhenitsyn’s and [Vasily] Grossman’s novels, inversions of Socialist Realist plots appear, and their representation of historical catastrophes shares much with the works of modernist writers such as [Boris] Pasternak, [Andrei] Platonov, Shalamov, and [Yuri] Dombrovsky.”[11] Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s The Red Wheel is open to all manner of interpretation, and readers interested in Book 2 need not know the rest of the sequence to determine for themselves its value.


[1] https://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2008/aug/04/solzhenitsynsliterarylegacy

[2] Gass, William. Tests of Time: Essays (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2002), p. 156.

[3] Sunderland, Willard. The Baron’s Cloak: A History of the Russian Empire in War and Revolution (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2014), p. 49.

[4] Engelstein, Laura. Russia in Flames: War, Revolution, Civil War 1914-1921 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018), p. xx.

[5] Hasegawa, Tsuyoshi. Crime and Punishment in the Russian Revolution: Mob Justice and Police in Petrograd (Cambridge, Mass.: The Belknap Press, 2017), pp. 14-15

[6] Brown, Edward J. Russian Literature Since the Revolution (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1982), p. 253.

[7] Ericson, Edward E., and Alexis Klimoff. The Soul and Barbed Wire: An Introduction to Solzhenitsyn (Wilmington, Delaware: ISI Books, 2008), p. 153.

[8] Solzhenitsyn, Aleksandr. Between Two Millstones: Book 1: Sketches of Exile. 1974-1978, trans. Peter Constantine (Notre Dame, Indiana: Notre Dame University Press, 2018), p. 62.

[9] Lovell, Stephen. “The great error,” Times Literary Supplement, No. 5986/5987, December 22 and 29, 2017, p. 3.

[10] Laird, Sally. Voices of Russian Literature: Interviews with Contemporary Writers (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), p. 107.

[11] Kahn, Andrew et al. A History of Russian Literature (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2028), p. 767.


Jeff Bursey is a Canadian novelist, short-story writer, literary critic, and playwright. His books include the novels Verbatim: A Novel (2010; paperback 2016) and Mirrors on which dust has fallen (2016), and Centring the Margins: Essays and Reviews (2016).

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Monday, June 29th, 2020.