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It is a source of frustration to me that the final part of The Red Wheel - April 1914 vol 2 - has not yet been published in a French translation. The first volume of April 1917 appeared in 2009 so I have been waiting seven years. I'm told it will appear in the next year or so. Then we will see if the ending in April makes sense in terms of a rounded work of art. Solzhenitsyn's original idea had been to take the story through to 1922 and just as August 1914 has a number of shortened 'knots' giving the prehistory of the events he describes, notably the assassination of Stolypin, so I understand that April 1917 vol 2 will have a number of summary 'knots' telling the subsequent story. The logic of the novel as it stands could almost be the logic Svechin must have (may have? will he appear in April 1917 vol 2?) followed. Somewhere, but I can't put my hand on the quotation, Solzhenitsyn says that in 1917 power was thrown like a flaming ball from hand to hand until it reached hands tough enough to hold it. The hands of course were Lenin's.

Without saying that Solzhenitsyn would have approved of Svechin's logic I think he would have understood it. He knew what became of Svechin but he portrays him sympathetically. Russia in 1917 stood on the brink of total collapse - like the collapse suffered by the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman Empires, and in our own time by Iraq and Libya. The Bolsheviks created a state. At that particular moment none of the other forces in Russian society proved capable of establishing a state.

The logic is reminiscent of the great counter-revolutionary tract Considérations sur la France by Joseph de Maistre. [5] For the most part the Considérations is a defence of the monarchy and of the Church, capable as they are, unlike the Republic, of inspiring love. His essay De la souveraineté du peuple - un anti-contrat social begins with this masterly sentence: 'The people is sovereign. Over whom is the people sovereign? Over the people. So the people is subject.'n[6] But the Considérations, published in 1797, includes a defence of the Jacobin terror: 

'If one thinks about it carefully one will see that once the revolutionary movement was established, France and the monarchy could only be saved by Jacobinism.'

[5]  Joseph de Maistre: Considérations sur la France, Brussels, Éditions Complexe, 1988.

[6]  Joseph de Maistre: De la souveraineté du peuple - un anti-contrat social, Vendôme, Presses Universitaires de France, 1992.

Revolutionary France was faced by a coalition of hostile powers which purported to want to re-establish the monarchy but which clearly had no interest in the wellbeing of the French state: 

'The King never had any allies; and that is a fact so obvious that we can say in perfect confidence that the coalition was aimed against the integrity of France. So how could the coalition be resisted? By what supernatural means could the efforts of the whole of Europe gathered together be broken? Only the infernal genius of Robespierre could achieve this prodigy. The revolutionary government hardened the soul of France, by soaking it in blood; it enraged the minds of its soldiers and doubled their strength through a fierce despair and scorn for life which bordered on madness. The horror of the scaffolds pushed the citizens to the limit, fed their physical force to the extent that it broke down all internal resistance. All life, all wealth, all power was in the hands of the revolutionaries; and this monster of power, drunk from blood and success, a terrible phenomenon the world had never seen before and doubtless will never see again [! - PB] was at once a horrific punishment imposed on the French people and the only means by which France could be saved.' (pp.31-32)

And de Maistre yields nothing to Solzhenitsyn in the contempt he expresses for the pre-Revolutionary élite.

Solzhenitsyn expresses sympathy for the Whites and the peasants and later Vlasovites who resisted Bolshevik rule but he must have known that the overthrow of the Bolsheviks could only have meant collapse and that, under the circumstances he describes so powerfully created by the February Revolution, the state could only be reconstructed through terror. He criticises Stalin's lack of preparation for war in 1941, but the Soviet Union could not have won the war without a strong industrial base, posing the question whether such an industrial base could have been developed sufficiently rapidly by means other than the terrible means employed by Stalin. The one member of the Provisional Government for whom Solzhenitsyn expresses real respect in the Reflections (and he has a lot to say about him in The Red Wheel) is Andrei Ivanovich Shingarev, the Minister of Agriculture. He says:

'All the acts of this government measured according to the needs of the time could almost be regarded as jokes. Only the reforms envisaged by Shingarev to the food supply, more radical than those of Rittich which he himself had attacked, showed any degree of ambition and through them we already begin with horror to see the requisitions imposed by the Bolsheviks.'

The image of a flaming wheel occurs throughout The Red Wheel (especially in the early pages when the poet and novelist hasn't been quite overcome by the historian). It is of course an image of the approaching Evil but it is also an image of the inevitability of the course of events. As he says, however, in the interview quoted at the beginning of this article, it wasn't entirely inevitable. There was nothing inevitable in the appearance in the midst of it all of a man, or two men, or three men, of political genius. And there was an alternative. Following the logic of Solzhenitsyn's own argument that alternative was total collapse. Libya in 2011.