The Soviet Union: A Very Short Introduction

The Soviet Union: A Very Short Introduction

Stephen Lovell

Language: English

Pages: 144

ISBN: 0199238480

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


The Soviet Union at its height occupied one sixth of the world's land mass, encompassed fifteen republics, and stretched across eleven different time zones. More than twice the size of the United States, it was the great threat of the Cold War until it suddenly collapsed in 1991. Now, almost twenty years after the dissolution of this vast empire, what are we to make of its existence? Was it a heroic experiment, an unmitigated disaster, or a viable if flawed response to the modern world? Taking a fresh approach to the study of the Soviet Union, this Very Short Introduction blends political history with an investigation into Soviet society and culture from 1917 to 1991. Stephen Lovell examines aspects of patriotism, political violence, poverty, and ideology, and provides answers to some of the big questions about the Soviet experience. Throughout, the book takes a refreshing thematic approach to the history of the Soviet Union and it provides an up-to-date consideration of the Soviet Union's impact and what we have learnt since its end.

About the Series: Combining authority with wit, accessibility, and style, Very Short Introductions offer an introduction to some of life's most interesting topics. Written by experts for the newcomer, they demonstrate the finest contemporary thinking about the central problems and issues in hundreds of key topics, from philosophy to Freud, quantum theory to Islam.

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was often hard to say who ‘we’ were and who ‘they’ might be. The Soviet Union enough what characteristics placed such people at risk: foreign travel or acquaintance with foreigners, previous brushes with ‘Trotskyism’ or other ideological deviations, or the patronage of those exposed as ‘enemies of the people’. More recent, archivally based studies have broadened the social portrait of the Terror, drawing attention to the fact that the violence of 1937–8 came as the culmination of an extended

colossal concealed inflation caused by fixed pricing was laid bare on the black market. Chapter 4 Elite and masses Back in 1902, Lenin wrote What Is to Be Done?, the first ever Marxist tract on the organization of political parties. From a study of historical precedent, he concluded that ‘the working class exclusively by its own effort is able to develop only trade-union consciousness’. In other words, the proletariat might express particular grievances and protest on particular issues, but on

productivity and acts of selfsacrifice for the common good, but the grey areas of everyday life and emotional problems. Soviet society was not a lumpy monolith to be chivvied into motion but rather a compound of variously selfinterested individuals and groups. Thus, when Gorbachev unleashed on the Soviet Union partially free elections and limited forms of free enterprise, the results were troubling. The masses stubbornly refused to act with a single mind. More disastrous for the future of the

1941, the Germans invaded, and the Soviet regime once again had to take friends where it could find them. The result was the unlikely triumvirate of Stalin, Churchill, and Roosevelt. As a gesture of goodwill to his capitalist allies, Stalin was even willing to disband Comintern in 1943. 127 West and East The Munich agreement of September 1938, whereby Britain acquiesced in the German annexation of Czechoslovakia, forced yet another radical readjustment. The evidence was clear: the collective

that analogy, we can expect investigation of the Soviet experience to remain intense until 2050 or so. For those who have the stomach for it, there is much to look forward to. The truism that each place and each era makes its own history is abundantly exemplified by the Soviet case. Western observers, even those relatively favourable to the Soviet Union, have often chosen to focus on phenomena a long way from the cultural mainstream of Soviet Russia – witness the fascination with the more

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