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.
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.