Synopses & Reviews
In the Cold War era that dominated the second half of the twentieth century, nobody envisaged that the collapse of the Soviet Union would come from within, still less that it would happen meekly, without global conflagration.
In this brilliantly compact, original, engaging book, Stephen Kotkin shows that the Soviet collapse resulted not from military competition but, ironically, from the dynamism of Communist ideology, the long-held dream for "socialism with a human face." The neo-liberal reforms in post-Soviet Russia never took place, nor could they have, given the Soviet-era inheritance in the social, political, and economic landscape. Kotkin takes us deep into post-Stalin Soviet society and institutions, into the everyday hopes and secret political intrigues that affected 285 million people, before and after 1991. He conveys the high drama of a superpower falling apart while armed to the teeth with millions of loyal troops and tens of thousands of weapons of mass destruction. Armageddon Averted vividly demonstrates the overriding importance of history, individual ambition, geopolitics, and institutions, and deftly draws out contemporary Russia's contradictory predicament.
"The clearest picture we have to date of the post-Soviet landscape. Kotkin effectively describes how what was called 'reform' was actually a continuing freefall collapse; he also expertly depicts the lingering networks and habits of the Soviet era, and how they have formed a post-imperial world in all its corrupt splendor. "--The New Yorker
"This briskly written, elegantly argued book is a triumph of the art of contemporary history.... Eschewing the fashionable academic focus on social movements, and the related notion that the Soviet downfall was owing to an uncontrollable wave of popular support for democracy--and also countering the self-congratulatory idea that unrelenting ideological and military pressure from the West led to the USSR's demise, Kotkin concentrates instead on Soviet elites, persuasively arguing that the collapse was the outcome of Mikhail Gorbachev's 'pursuit of a romantic dream' of socialist reform."--Benjamin Schwarz, The Atlantic Monthly
"Among the quantities of chaff produced about Russia over the past decade, there was after all some wheat, especially memoir literature, and Kotkin has gathered it together in what is now our most comprehensive analysis of the Leninist endgame."--Martin Malia, The Washington Post Book World
"Concise and persuasive.... The mystery, for Kotkin, is not so much why the Soviet Union collapsed as why it did so with so little collateral damage."--Robert Cottrell, The New York Review of Books
In 1991, the world looked in amazement at the collapse of the Soviet Union. But as Stephen Kotkin asserts in his concise, uncompromising history, this downfall was neither sudden nor unexpected but rather inevitable. Combining historical and geopolitical analysis with an absorbing narrative, Kotkin draws upon extensive research, including memoirs of dozens of insiders and senior figures. He illuminates the factors that led to the demise of Communism and the USSR, putting the collapse in the context of the global economic changes from the 1970s to the present day, examining for example why the advent of Siberian oil had profound effects on the Soviet Union's raison d'etre. Kotkin provides vivid portraits of key personalities like Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin. Finally, Kotkin creates a compelling profile of the "stable mess" that is post-Soviet Russia and he reminds us, with chilling immediacy, of what could not have been predicted--that the world's largest police state, with several million troops, a doomsday arsenal, and an appalling record of violence, would liquidate itself with barely a whimper.
A brief, vibrant history explores the most momentous event of the late 20th century: the collapse of the Soviet Union. Maps & halftones.
About the Author
is Director of Russian Studies at Princeton University has written an acclaimed two-volume case study on the rise and fall of Soviet socialism: Magnetic Mountain: Stalinism as a Civilization
and Steeltown, USSR: Soviet Society in the Gorbachev Era.