The Structure of Soviet History: Essays and Documents

By Ronald Grigor Suny | Go to book overview

CHAPTER TEN
SUMMING UP

The premise of this collection of articles and documents is that there is no definitive history of the Soviet Union. Rather, there are and will be different narratives with different emphases and evaluations that will flow from the particular experiences, outlooks, and historical contexts of historians. But that does not mean that history is infinitely malleable or that a fair-minded interpretation is not constrained by evidence. The more we learn from archives and “neutral” analyses, the more we allow dispassionate judgment, the more powerful and convincing will be the narratives and interpretations.

This “summing up” is preliminary and provisional. The three essays were all written within seven years, in the same decade during which the Soviet system collapsed and the Soviet Union disintegrated. Martin Malia, a distinguished emeritus professor of Russian history at the University of California, Berkeley, chose to sign his article with the pseudonym “Z,” and when his attack on Western Sovietology was published, it stimulated an impassioned debate. Perhaps the most telling critique came from Alexander Dallin, an emeritus political scientist and historian at Stanford University, who challenged the fatalism implied in Malia's analysis. Our concluding essay, by Stephen Holmes, a political philosopher at New York University, locates the mainspring of Russia's post-Soviet problems in the weakness of the state. His claim that freedom requires “a legitimate political authority that enables and sustains it” echoes through the whole history of Russia, the Soviet Union, and their successor states in the twentieth century.


TO THE STALIN MAUSOLEUM

“Z” [Martin Malia]

The most dangerous time for a bad government is when it starts to re-
form itself.

—ALEXIS DE TOCQUEVILLE, ANENT
TURGOT AND LOUIS XVI

-533-

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