The Soviet Experiment: Russia, the USSR, and the Successor States

The Soviet Experiment: Russia, the USSR, and the Successor States

The Soviet Experiment: Russia, the USSR, and the Successor States

The Soviet Experiment: Russia, the USSR, and the Successor States

Synopsis

The West has always had difficulty understanding the Soviet Union. For decades, analyses of America's Cold War foe were clouded by ideological passions and a shear dearth of information. Then came the flood of dramatic revelations under glasnost, followed by the sudden, shocking collapse of the Communist empire. Today, with the stunning secrets of newly opened archives and the excitement of political revolution still fresh in our minds, and we can look back at this remarkable nation and see it whole, see Soviet history as a story with a beginning, a middle, and an end. In The Soviet Experiment, Ronald Grigor Suny does just that, in a landmark work that gives us the fullest account yet of the most remarkable story of our century. With a clear-eyed mastery of the historical issues and literature, Suny combines gripping detail with insightful analysis in a narrative that propels the reader from the last tsar of the Russian empire to the first president of the Russian republic. He focuses in particular on four revolutions, each identified with a single individual: the tumultuous year of 1917, when Vladimir Lenin led the Bolshevik takeover of the tsarist empire; the 1930s, when Joseph Stalin refashioned the economy, the society, and the state; Mikhail Gorbachev's ambitious, and catastrophic, attempt at sweeping reform and revitalization; and the breakup of the Soviet Union led by Boris Yeltsin. Never have we had a more complete, nuanced, and crystal-clear examination of the complex themes running through Soviet history. Suny confidently moves from party debates and personal rivalries, to centuries-old ethnic tensions, to vast economic and social developments. He unravels tangled issues with ease, explaining "deeply contradictory" policies toward the various Soviet nationalities; Moscow's ambivalence over its own New Economic Policy of the 1920s; and the attempts at reform that followed Stalin's death. Suny's treatment of the Soviet break-up warrants particular attention, as he details precisely how Gorbachev's program unleashed forces that had built up during the previous decades--particularly the nationalism that had been shaped, ironically, by the Soviet structure of ethnically defined republics. Along the way, he offers a fresh telling of familiar as well as little-known events--capturing, for example, the movement of the crowds on the streets of St. Petersburg in the February revolution; Stalin's collapse into a near-catatonic state after Hitler's much-predicted invasion; or Yeltsin's political maneuvering and public grandstanding as he pushed the disintegration of the Soviet Union, and then faced down his rivals. The Soviet Experiment provides a rich, multilayered, seamlessly woven account of one of the great forces of modern history. With dispassionate insight and human detail, Suny has constructed a masterful work.
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