The Russian Revolution and Modernization Traps

The Russian Revolution and Modernization Traps

Grinin L.Ye.,

Dr. Sci. (Philos.), Principal Researcher, Centre for Stability and Risk Analysis, National Research University Higher School of Economics; Leading Researcher, Institute of Oriental Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences,

elibrary_id: 250272 | ORCID: 0000-0003-0278-2619 | RESEARCHER_ID: D-8842-2012

DOI: 10.17976/jpps/2017.04.10

For citation:

Grinin L.Ye. The Russian Revolution and Modernization Traps. – Polis. Political Studies. 2017. No. 4. P. 138-155. (In Russ.).


The Russian Revolution dramatically changed the history of our country and of the whole world. The search for its causes generated many theories and views. On the one hand, we can hardly perceive it beyond the peculiar socio-historical development of the Russian society and specific historical situation. On the other hand, starting from the Modern Era, many countries were ‘taken ill’ with revolutions. In the present article the author analyzes the Russian Revolution in connection with the world historical process, defines some common causes of revolutions and shows in what way these causes have manifested in our history, he also reveals the similarity of the Russian Revolution with other significant revolutions as well as distinguishes its peculiarities. This gives an opportunity to answer the questions whether the Russian Revolution was inevitable and whether the drastic social transformations that took place in the first period of the Soviet history were inevitable either. The focus of the present article lies on the correlation between revolution and modernization, on the interconnections, threats and traps that result from an accelerated development of a society and can lead to revolutions. Starting from the Modern era the revolutions are underpinned in most cases by considerable disproportions in the societal development resulting from an accelerated modernization. These disproportions are aggravated by a fast population growth and by an extremely sharp increase of the share of urban population in the structure of society. The article demonstrates how and why the revolutions occur during the periods after some (sometimes long) increase in the living standards of population and growing expectations, as well as why the revolutions are possible just in the societies successful in economic terms as it was with the pre-revolutionary Russia. The conclusion is made that the revolution at a certain stage of modernization is more probably a predicted pattern than a random event. The article reveals the mechanism that brings a society into a peculiar-type trap – the modernization one. While the Malthusian trap is believed to be connected with a lag of productive forces from population growth rates and the generally insufficient transformational dynamics, the modernization trap, on the contrary, is associated with extremely rapid changes which leave behind some most important societal relations and institutions. In Russia there originated a peculiar type of modernization trap – the Malthusian-Marxian one. 

modernization; revolution; the Russian revolution; political regime; democracy; crisis; elevated expectations; deprivation; the youth bulge; the Malthusian trap; modernization trap; the Malthusian-Marxian trap; historical process.


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Content No. 4, 2017

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