The consequences of the Russian Revolution of 1917 have been among the most dominant shaping forces of the twentieth century, eventually dividing almost the entire globe into a battleground between capitalism and communism. The reputations of the main leaders of Russia/the Soviet Union - Lenin, Stalin, Khrushchev, Brezhnev, Gorbachev and Yeltsin - have soared and plummeted. Great achievements such as victory over Nazi Germany; putting the first satellite and human in space; building a massive industrial base and advancing the living and educational standards of the population have been undermined by political repression and incalculable human cost.
In a cool, non-polemical manner, the author shows how the contradictory parts of the Soviet experience are linked. Using post-Soviet materials and perspectives he examines the reasons for the successes and failures of the Soviet system. In particular, the book argues that the underlying reasons for the system's collapse can be found in the contradictions of the revolution which gave birth to it. The consequences are traced through the Stalin Revolution, the Great Terror, the Second World War, the Cold War, the Khrushchev and Brezhnev years down to Gorbachev's doomed attempt to transform the Soviet system. Particular attention is given to the divergence between the aspirations of the leadership and the social evolution of the ordinary Russian people. The study concludes with a survey of the post-Soviet scene from Yeltsin to Putin. The result is a volume indispensible to anyone who needs a readily comprehensible guide to the Russia that lies beyond the stereotypes.
CHRISTOPHER READ is Reader in History at Warwick University.
Acknowledgements.- PART 1: THE MAKING OF THE SYSTEM.- Bolshevik Dreams.- The Soviet System Under Lenin.- The NEP Years: Economic Retreat, Cultural Assault.- Towards the Stalin System: The 'Great Turn' 1928-32.- Stalinism Triumphant.- From World War to Cold War.- PART 2: BREAKING THE SYSTEM.- Succeeding Stalin.- Destalinisation Halted.- Soviet Society since the Late Fifties.- Dissolution.- A New Time of Troubles.- Notes.- Bibliography.- Index.