The Dream That Failed: Reflections on the Soviet Union

By Walter Laqueur | Go to book overview

10
Conclusion

Accident played a considerable role in the beginning and the end of Soviet history; accident will play a similar role in the future. But for Lenin the Bolsheviks might never have come to power. What would have happened in this case? A return to autocratic tsarism and a constitutional monarchy seem not very probable in retrospect. Some kind of authoritarian regime seems far more probable, perhaps a military dictatorship, which, with luck, might have eventually given way to a democratic regime as it did in Turkey and Spain.

Could there have been a development worse than Leninism, which ultimately turned into Stalinism, followed by the Khrushchev and Brezhnev era? Nothing is a priori impossible, but such a scenario puts a strain on one's imagination. A Russian kind of fascism seems improbable in retrospect and not just in the absence of a charismatic führer or duce. In contrast to Germany or Italy, Russia was not ethnically a homogeneous country. A purely nationalist-racialist ideological appeal would not have sufficed to generate patriotic enthusiasm, and in any case, mass communications were not sufficiently developed in Russia in 1917 and 1918 for the establishment of an effective fascist regime. For these reasons, there was a greater likelihood of the emergence of either an old-fashioned autocratic regime, with some modern elements, or a very imperfect democracy. There is the possibility that the Russian empire might have disintegrated in 1917 as the result of the weakness of the center. But this seems not very likely in retrospect. After the secession of Poland, the Baltic countries, and Finland, the demographic predominance of the Russians was strong; there existed nationalist movements in the Caucasus, but in the Ukraine, nationalism was weak and in Central Asia it did not have a powerful appeal either.

-183-

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The Dream That Failed: Reflections on the Soviet Union
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface v
  • Contents *
  • 1 - The Age of Enthusiasm 3
  • 2 - 1917: The Russia We Lost? 28
  • 3 - The Fall of the Soviet Union 50
  • 4 - Totalitarianism 77
  • 5 - Sovietology: An Epitaph (I) 96
  • 6 - Sovietology: An Epitaph (II) 110
  • 7 - How Many Victims? 131
  • 8 - The Nationalist Revival 147
  • 9 - East Germany: A Case Study 163
  • 10 - Conclusion 183
  • Notes 195
  • Index 227
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