Why Did the Soviet Union Collapse? Understanding Historical Change

Why Did the Soviet Union Collapse? Understanding Historical Change

Why Did the Soviet Union Collapse? Understanding Historical Change

Why Did the Soviet Union Collapse? Understanding Historical Change

Synopsis

Taking the Soviet collapse -- the most cataclysmic event of the recent past -- as a case study, this text engages students in the exercise of historical analysis, interpretation, and explanation.

Excerpt

Endings are endlessly fascinating, perhaps because they call to mind the fragility and passing quality of so much that we encounter in our brief journeys, including of course our own lives. So it is no surprise that metaphors of ending--death, fall, collapse--frequently punctuate historical analysis. This book explores one of the most significant of twentieth-century ending--the demise of the Soviet Union--placing this enormous event in the perspective of Russian, Soviet, and occasionally world history. And it uses the collapse of the Soviet Union to illustrate how historians seek to understand and explain that largest and most general question of their profession: How does change occur in human societies?

Accordingly, the Introduction sketches a set of historical and comparative contexts for thinking about the terminal phase of the Soviet experience and examines why it has occasioned so much controversy and debate. Then Chapter 1 highlights the major legacies of the more distant Russian and Soviet past that continued to echo in the late Soviet period, and Chapter 2 outlines the social processes and historical conditions of the post-Stalin era that provide the immediate background to the Gorbachev experiment. Those three decades now assume great importance, for they disclose, at least retrospectively, those cracks in the Soviet foundation that later widened and deepened to bring down the entire communist edifice.

Chapters 3, 4, and 5 chronicle the Soviet Union's final six years--

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