Armageddon Averted: The Soviet Collapse, 1970-2000

Armageddon Averted: The Soviet Collapse, 1970-2000

Armageddon Averted: The Soviet Collapse, 1970-2000

Armageddon Averted: The Soviet Collapse, 1970-2000

Synopsis

In the Cold War era that dominated the second half of the twentieth century, nobody envisaged that the collapse of the Soviet Union would come from within, still less that it would happen meekly, without global conflagration.
In this brilliantly compact, original, engaging book, Stephen Kotkin shows that the Soviet collapse resulted not from military competition but, ironically, from the dynamism of Communist ideology, the long-held dream for "socialism with a human face." The neo-liberal reforms in post-Soviet Russia never took place, nor could they have, given the Soviet-era inheritance in the social, political, and economic landscape. Kotkin takes us deep into post-Stalin Soviet society and institutions, into the everyday hopes and secret political intrigues that affected 285 million people, before and after 1991. He conveys the high drama of a superpower falling apart while armed to the teeth with millions of loyal troops and tens of thousands of weapons of mass destruction. Armageddon Avertedvividly demonstrates the overriding importance of history, individual ambition, geopolitics, and institutions, and deftly draws out contemporary Russia's contradictory predicament.

Excerpt

Never will I forget coming back evenings to the Vyborg Hotel in Leningrad, in 1984, and seeing a hat or article of clothing afloat in the nearby Black Gulch (Chernaia rechka), indicating that another drunk had fallen in and drowned. Even today, some academics continue to debate whether the Soviet system could reform, but the substantive question was whether it could reform and be stabilized in the face of a capitalist West utterly transformed after World War II. In those specific circumstances, socialist reform (liberalization) entailed collapse. Perversely, it was the Communist fable of a Lenin supposedly gentler than Stalin—the myth of socialism with a human face— that triggered the benign demise of Lenin's police state. The Black Gulch swallowed itself, but it left an immense residue. After 1991, the myths of 'reform'and of Western 'aid'helped deflect a full reckoning with the Communist era.

In the two years since this book was published (three since it was written), Russia has continued to offer encouragement, with undercurrents of disquiet. Besides an appreciable learning curve, the overriding influences on further development (or lack thereof) remain the Soviet inheritance: the oil and resource-dominated economy, the world context, and the growing urge to compete more . . .

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