The Soviet System: From Crisis to Collapse

By Alexander Dallin; Gail W. Lapidus | Go to book overview

PREFACE TO THE
REVISED EDITION

The dissolution of the Soviet Union in December 1991 and the emergence of fifteen independent states in its territory brought to a dramatic conclusion the historical era that began with the Bolshevik Revolution of October 1917. When Mikhail Gorbachev came to power in 1985, few observers—either here or there— anticipated that in the space of six or seven years what began as a modest attempt to reform the Soviet system would result in its total collapse.

This new edition of The Soviet System in Crisis, now retitled The Soviet System: From Crisis to Collapse, is intended to cover the entire Gorbachev era and to include some of the postmortems on the causes of the collapse. To provide a more extensive treatment of the coup of August 1991 and its aftermath, we included a number of new documents; it was therefore necessary to delete or shorten some of the selections included in the first edition.

Given the pace of events, their variety across the Soviet Union, and the obstacles to comprehending them, it has been difficult for specialists as well as students and casual observers to keep up. Many of our standard accounts of the Soviet system and of contemporary history have inevitably become obsolete. Those teaching courses on the Soviet Union have been frustrated by the lack of up-to-date readings. Moreover, the events of the last several years have raised fascinating new problems of analysis and interpretation that have divided Soviet as well as Western observers and commentators.

This collection is intended to remedy some of these problems by providing both source materials on and scholarly interpretations of key issues and developments during the Gorbachev years. We selected the most insightful analyses and the most interesting documents and sought to capture something of the diversity of points of view. It is our hope that, within the limits of what can be placed between two covers, the selections in this volume help to convey the substance and flavor both of the events and of the arguments surrounding them.

We considered it essential to preserve something of the uncertainty and tentativeness of the times during which the commentaries were written, when the outcomes were still uncertain, and to avoid insofar as possible imposing on the material the kind of judgment that could come only from hindsight. By the same token, we sought to bring together both documentary materials and contending

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