Historian: Richard Pipes

Name: Richard Edgar Pipes

Lived: 1923-2018

Nationality: American of Polish-Jewish ethnicity.

Profession: Writer, academic, Cold War security advisor.

Books: Russia under the Old Regime, Russia under the Bolshevik Regime, The Russian Revolution, The Three Whys of the Russian Revolution

Perspectives: Western liberal-conservative.


One of the world’s best-known historians of the Russian Revolution, Pipes’ negativity towards communism, the October Revolution, Lenin and the Bolsheviks has become something of a historiographical cliche. Pipes was so opposed to communism and the Soviet regime that he was hand-picked by the US government in the 1970s, to lead an independent committee examining Soviet weapons levels. The Pipes committee, called Team B, claimed all kinds of Soviet military expansion and advancement, most of which were later proved false. Despite this, Pipes was later appointed as National Security Council advisor on Soviet affairs, to president Ronald Reagan in 1981. His vehement opposition to all things communist is reflected in Pipes’ books. He depicts Lenin as a usurper, a political thief who waited until the Provisional Government was at its weakest point then snatched power illegitimately and without a broad supporter base. Pipes argues that violence and terror were inevitable in post-1917 Russia because of the unworkability of socialism and the nature of Lenin and his followers. The Bolsheviks, who had been raised on a┬ádiet of violence and oppression, simply ruled the only way they knew how.


“It becomes apparent that the Marxist notion that revolution always results from social (“class”) discontent cannot be sustained … the decisive factors were overwhelmingly political.”

“Lenin owes his historical prominence not to his statesmanship, which was very inferior, but to his generalship. He was one of history’s great conquerors.”

“The ease with which the Bolsheviks toppled the Provisional Government has persuaded many historians that the October coup was “inevitable”. But it can appear as such only in retrospect. Lenin himself thought it an extremely chancy undertaking.”

“Marxism and Bolshevism … were products of an era in European intellectual life that was obsessed with violence. No-one embraced this philosophy more enthusiastically than the Bolsheviks: “merciless” violence, violence that strove for the destruction of every actual and potential opponent, was … the only way of dealing with problems.”

“The Cheka and its successors assimilated the practices of the tsarist secret police to such an extent that as late as the 1980s, the KGB distributed to its staff manuals prepared by the Okhrana nearly a century earlier.”

“Stalin was a true Leninist in that he faithfully followed his patron’s political philosophy and practices. Every ingredient of what has come to be known as Stalinism save one – murdering fellow Communists – he had learned from Lenin.”