TIMES LITERARY SUPPLEMENT
The Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, Moscow, being demolished, December 5, 1931
© ITAR-TASS Photo Agency/Alamy
The great error
What more fitting monument to a millenarian movement could there be than a thousand-page “saga”? Yuri Slezkine’s guiding argument in this remarkable, many-layered account of the men (rarely women) who shaped the October Revolution is that the Bolsheviks were not a party but an apocalyptic sect. In an extended essay on comparative religion that constitutes just one of his thirty-three chapters, he puts Russia’s victorious revolutionaries in a long line of millenarians extending back to the ancient Israelites; in their “totalitarian” demands on the individual believer, he suggests, the Bolsheviks are cut from the same cloth as the sixteenth-century Münster Anabaptists and the original “radical fundamentalist”, Jesus Christ.