Does anyone have any tips for books about this period in Russian history? I'm trying to find good books about the Revolution, the Civil War, the internal Bolshevik power struggles of the 1920s and 1930s, as well as the Great Purge.
russian revolution and civil war from white perspective, bonus: occultism, asia and ungern-sternberg
The Great Purge Revisited and The Harvest of Sorrows (about the famine in the Ukraine) both by Robert Conquest. Also The Gulag Archepeligo. There are other historians, but these will get you started.
I recommend this bibliography.
Anne Applebaum has some pretty great books on that period of Russian history. "Gulag" (about the Gulags naturally) won a Pulitzer and is one of the best history texts I've ever read. Iron Curtain deals more with Russia in general and is also great.
Trotsky's military writings offer an interesting perspective to Civil War, showing his reckless fatalism and dramatic nature as opposed to the almost distant and cold man portrayed in Histories of the War.
The best general work on the civil war - or the one that I keep returning to whenever I want to check the broad details - is Ewan Mawdsley's Russian Civil War. It is a short, clear book with good annotations and unparalled expertise on the miltary affairs of the conflict. Focusing on Bolshevik/White conflict, its scope could be wider - narrative of foreign intervention, separatism and anarchist hijinks is missed here, but the military analysis he provides of White loss is unparalled here.
Of the anarchist histories and historians, stick to Volin. Makhno and Arshinov are good storytellers - they portray the spirit of anarchist movements well, but they are extremely political and openly hateful towards non-anarchists, which invalidates them as proper histories.
I don't know how much knowledge of the progress of RCW you have, but I recommend you to study it very well - the war was chaotic and bizarre, and various histories show it very differently, some saying that Bolsheviks had won already in 1918, some focusing on the latter years, some ignoring things like Czechoslovak rebellion etc. Understand the overall progress of war, and then start to dig into to the small details and fronts later.
If you have any questions about Makhno or Makhnovist movement, I'd be happy to help, having read all the available histories in English of the movement last summer. I haven't read primary evidence (I don't know Russian/Ukrainian), or the Bolshevik histories (which have not been translated), but I believe I have a fair grasp of them.
Darkness at Noon, whilst fictional, does a great job of explaining the great purge, and how Stalin was able to bring himself into power. Can't recommend it strongly enough, one of my favourite books of all time
This is precisely the type of people you SHOULD read. Someone who has personal connection to an event and movement, inner knowledge, understanding of its mechanics and theoretical layers.
The least thing you should do is follow the "ideological and personal detachment = objectivity!" mentality that anglo-americans historians like to use because it protects their careers and gives them a belief that their work is honest and groundbreaking and no one ever did this. They are not devoid of biases and political philosophies, these just happen to be orthodox and internalized in their cases. It's like wanting the church version of everything that happened during the middle ages.
These historians will read the revolutionaries, and the only difference is that they will use their writings to come to their own conclusions that happen to be in line with mainstream politics, modern values, the audience's sensibilities and the publisher's demands. No reason why you shouldn't start with the "insiders" and work your way backwards to modern historians.
Grover is pushing a very strong Stalinist line up hill using attacks on other people's sources and overstatements. He does not advance either a seriously scholarly or historically materialist line, but rather a set of apologia. Read him to see where other people have fucked up, but do not believe his narrative without secondary and tertiary confirmation.