The Last Years of the Soviet Empire: Snapshots from 1985-1991

By Vladimir Shlapentokh; Neil F. O'Donnell | Go to book overview

Preface

The social scientist has a great advantage over many professionals such as managers, doctors and even babysitters because his past record for analysis of current developments and forecasts of future events are never scrutinized. In this book I waive this advantage, and expose myself and my record as an analyst of developments in Russia since 1985. I would like to evaluate myself somewhat benignly because I'm too much the contemporary of one of the most turbulent periods in Russian history.

I can credit myself with a few good insights into Soviet developments. I realized, it seems to me very early on, in December 1986, the significance of ethnic conflicts in the Soviet Union. I predicted that these conflicts would play a crucial role in future developments and would ultimately present a threat to the Soviet empire.

I was also correct when I suggested in 1987 that Gorbachev's reforms would lead not only to the destruction of the Soviet totalitarian state but to the state as an institution as well, and that this would have countless negative consequences for Russia. I was also right when I wrote since 1987 about the growing polarization of the Russian people as well as about the emergence of an ideological and moral vacuum with the disintegration of official ideology.

Now to my mistakes. It will become obvious from reading this book that I overestimated the ability of the Soviet dominant class--the nomenclature--to defend its social position and its privileges. I overestimated its ability to organize resistance to the party leader who decided to reform the society. I, along with many other Sovietologists, was influenced by the October coup of 1964 that led to the demotion of Khrushchev--another great Russian reformer. It seemed to me that the fate of Khrushchev

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