Americans are not very much acquainted with Russia’s Civil War. When we study communism we often think there was a clean break; Tzar Nicholas abdicates, Lenin takes over, USSR is born. Truth of the matter is the process was much longer and more violent than that. There was the February Revolution, the October Revolution, the Constituent Assembly, the Red and White Armies (and the Greens sniping at both); the great struggle for control of a dying empire about which much has been written and deserves to be read, especially these days. In point of fact the Russian Civil War did not end until 1922 (and in Central Asia until the 1930s) and was much more bloody than even our own.
As the war was prosecuted, the takeover of Russia by Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov (aka Lenin) was not at all sure, and the war could have gone either way. Both sides suffered advances and reverses; and outside forces (the Austrians, the Germans, the Czechs) also played a significant role in the outcomes.
Alexei Tolstoy’s three-part epic “Ordeal” is about the Russian Civil War; a historical fiction from the perspective of two sisters (introduced in part one of the saga “The Sisters”, and whose husbands come to fight for opposite sides of the conflict). “The Year 1918” is the second in the series, a “blow-by-blow” of that pivotal year when either outcome, Bolshevik Russia or a return of the Tzar (or something else entirely) were all equally possible. As in all good historical fiction, Tolstoy’s characters and their tales of love and woe are nestled neatly in the historical account of the epic struggles to control and shape the result of the shattering of empire.