Witnesses to the Revolution

The most famous Western account of the revolution is the US journalist John Reed’s Ten days that shook the world, written in 1919.  Louise Bryant’s Six red months in Russia is sometimes passed over in favour of Reed’s, her husband’s, book, but she also writes a compelling account, as a foreigner but also as an insider.  “She knew Kerensky, Lenin, Trotzky … she was in the Winter Palace on the afternoon when it fell … there were few things going on in that period of incredibly rapid events which Louise Bryant did not take part in.”  The quotation comes from the book’s dust jacket which, quite uncommonly for the University Library but happily for us, was preserved and stuck in to the back of the copy we see here.

Facing Bryant’s title page is a portrait of “Katherine Breshkovsky, Grandmother of the Revolution” to whom one of the book’s chapters is devoted.  Breshkovsky was a committed socialist who endured decades of exile and prison under the tsars.  A founding member of the Socialist-Revolutionary Party, Breshkovsky finally enjoyed freedom and the chance to serve in government after the February Revolution.  The October Revolution, however, saw her leave Russia; she died in exile in 1934.

Reed’s title page faces a portrait of Lenin, who would go on to provide a preface to future editions, to Reed’s delight.

Six red months in Russia : an observer’s account of Russia before and during the proletarian dictatorship / by Louise Bryant (New York, George H. Doran Company [c1918]).  9537.d.568 ; Ten days that shook the world / by J. Reed. (New York : Boni & Liveright, 1919).  S586.d.91.8