The Soviet Union: A Very Short Introduction
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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.
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few decades of its existence. ‘Ordinary’ Soviet people have traditionally been seen as its helpless victims. Yet this notion overlooks another notable aspect of the Soviet system: the fact that it demanded – and received – an unprecedented level of participation from its citizens. Soviet people cast votes, read newspapers, served in the army and the KGB, took part in meetings, and denounced each other. How sustainable, in this light, is the distinction between a small group of party-state
allotted. At the end of 1989, democratized legislative bodies were allowed at the level of individual republics, which gave a huge boost to separatist movements. Even more importantly, it provided a basis for political legitimacy in the Russian Republic (RSFSR) that was independent of Gorbachev’s power in the Soviet ‘centre’. The next two years saw constant conﬂict between Russian and Soviet institutions and political leaders – a conﬂict that was resolved in August 1991, when an unsuccessful coup
Union found itself signed out of existence. Timeline of Soviet history (Note: dates up to February 1918 were 13 days behind Western Europe.) February–March 1917: popular unrest and army mutiny bring abdication of Emperor Nicholas II; power shared by Provisional Government and Petrograd Soviet of Workers and Soldiers’ Deputies October 1917: Bolshevik Party under Vladimir Lenin seizes The Soviet Union power in Petrograd Summer 1918: Civil War starts in earnest 1921: end of Civil War; Bolsheviks
population of 1.25 billion. It is thus an oversimpliﬁcation to dismiss Soviet socialism because it did not trigger proletarian revolution in Europe. Where it did make a big impact was in Asia and Africa. Lenin turned out to be a theorist of the Third World, not of the bourgeois West. And Soviet Russia could plausibly be seen as the vanguard of the developing world, not the bedraggled rear of the West. The Soviet global mission was, however, compromised in two main ways. The ﬁrst was that Third
16–18, 31, 44, 51, 56, 78–81, 94 ethos 38, 41–3 membership policy 42–3, 80–1, 87–9 and memory of Revolution 27–8 147 First World War effects on Russia, 6, 58, 117–19 in Marxist interpretation 16 Fitzpatrick, S. 6 food 66–9 see also rationing Ford, H. 124 formalism 126, 130 ‘former people’ 19–20, 23 France 119, 121, 122 consumerism 66–7, 70–3, 135–7 corruption, 41, 74, 110 Crimean Tatars 105, 107, 112 criminal justice 50, 52–3 Cuban Missile Crisis 131 cultural revolution 82–3 culturedness 85–6,