The Magazine

Red Dawn

The best-laid plans of Lenin and Trotsky are thwarted

Jul 21, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 42 • By J. P. O’MALLEY
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The revolutionaries, fighting a Communist war masquerading as a nationalist one, would then be led through Afghanistan and across the frontier into British India. Yet it was a small network of enormously capable British spies, placed in the bleak, remote mountain ranges of Russian Central Asia, that prevented the plan from materializing into a reality.

Milton’s strength as a storyteller lies in his ability to whisk the reader along at the pace of a thriller. But it can be a dangerous game when the historian is on the outlook for drama. When Milton tells us that “there was no other option but to rest the fate of the Western world upon the shoulders of a small but highly trained group of secret agents,” the reader feels instantly patronized. Still, this is a valuable contribution to the history of the Russian revolution—and a welcome revival of interest in a largely forgotten episode.

J. P. O’Malley is a writer in London.