The West has always had difficulty understanding the Soviet Union. For decades, analyses of America's Cold War foe were clouded by ideological passions and a shear dearth of information. Then came the flood of dramatic revelations under glasnost
, followed by the sudden, shocking collapse of the Communist empire. Today, with the stunning secrets of newly opened archives and the excitement of political revolution still fresh in our minds, and we can look back at this remarkable nation and see it whole, see Soviet history as a story with a beginning, a middle, and an end. In The Soviet Experiment
, Ronald Grigor Suny does just that, in a landmark work that gives us the fullest account yet of the most remarkable story of our century.
With a clear-eyed mastery of the historical issues and literature, Suny combines gripping detail with insightful analysis in a narrative that propels the reader from the last tsar of the Russian empire to the first president of the Russian republic. He focuses in particular on four revolutions, each identified with a single individual: the tumultuous year of 1917, when Vladimir Lenin led the Bolshevik takeover of the tsarist empire; the 1930s, when Joseph Stalin refashioned the economy, the society, and the state; Mikhail Gorbachev's ambitious, and catastrophic, attempt at sweeping reform and revitalization; and the breakup of the Soviet Union led by Boris Yeltsin. Never have we had a more complete, nuanced, and crystal-clear examination of the complex themes running through Soviet history. Suny confidently moves from party debates and personal rivalries, to centuries-old ethnic tensions, to vast economic and social developments. He unravels tangled issues with ease, explaining "deeply contradictory" policies toward the various Soviet nationalities; Moscow's ambivalence over its own New Economic Policy of the 1920s; and the attempts at reform that followed Stalin's death. Suny's treatment of the Soviet break-up warrants particular attention, as he details precisely how Gorbachev's program unleashed forces that had built up during the previous decades--particularly the nationalism that had been shaped, ironically, by the Soviet structure of ethnically defined republics. Along the way, he offers a fresh telling of familiar as well as little-known events--capturing, for example, the movement of the crowds on the streets of St. Petersburg in the February revolution; Stalin's collapse into a near-catatonic state after Hitler's much-predicted invasion; or Yeltsin's political maneuvering and public grandstanding as he pushed the disintegration of the Soviet Union, and then faced down his rivals.
The Soviet Experiment provides a rich, multilayered, seamlessly woven account of one of the great forces of modern history. With dispassionate insight and human detail, Suny has constructed a masterful work.
Introduction: Utopia and Its Discontents
Part I. Crisis and Revolution
1. The Imperial Legacy
Land and People.
Autocracy, Nobility, Bureaucracy, and the Church.
The Coming of Capitalism.
The Russian Intelligentsia.
Marx, Lenin, and the Case of Russia.
The Final Crisis of Tsarism.
The Tsar's Last War.
2. The Double Revolution
The February Revolution and the End of Romanov Rule.
Overlapping Revolutions, Dual Power.
The Revolution Deepens.
On the Road to October.
The October Insurrection.
3. Socialism and Civil War
On the Road from Democracy to Dictatorship.
Socialism, What's in a Name?.
Building State Capitalism.
Founding the New State: War, Peace, and Terror.
Intervention and the Civil War in the South.
Civil War in Siberia and the Volga.
Russia on its Own.
Waiting for the International Revolution.
Where Have All the Workers Gone?.
The Peasant Revolution.
Why the Bolsheviks Won the Civil War.
4. Nationalism and Revolution
Ukrainians and Belorussians.
Poland and the Russo-Polish War.
The Balitc Peoples.
Islam and the Peoples of the East.
Nationalist and Class Struggles.
Part II: Retreat and Rebuilding
5. The Evolution of the Dictatorship
Five Easy Steps.
The Weakening of the Soviets.
Opposition within the Party.
Resistence, Rebellion, and Mutiny.
A Retreat to State Capitalism.
6. Socialism in One Country
The Nationality Question.
The General Secretary.
Early Crisis of the NEP Economy.
Socialism in One Country.
The Final Crisis of NEP.
Retreat and Retrenchment.
The Soviet Union Isolated.
Continuing Revolution in Asia.
The War Scare of 1927.
Stalin and the Comintern.
Balance and Power.
Stalin's Path to Power.
7. NEP Society
Cultures and Classes.
Workers under State Capitalism.
The Red Army.
The New Soviet Man and Woman.
Building Legitimate Authority.
8. Culture Wars
Intelligentsia and Revolution.
Fellow-Travelers and Proletarian Writers.
Film and Popular Culture.
Soviet School Days.
Part III. Stalinism
9. The Stalin Revolution
Revolution from Above.
War on the Peasants and the Final Opposition.
Collectivization and Dekulakization.
Famine in Ukraine.
The Countryside After the Storm.
10. Stalin's Industrial Revolution
Class War on the "Specialists".
Extension and Centralization.
Stalin's Working Class.
The New Class of Bosses.
The Second Five-Year Plan and Stakhanovism.
Making the Socialist City.
11. Building Stalinism
Politics and the Party.
The Great Purges.
12. Culture and Society in the Socialist Motherland
Going to the Movies with Stalin.
Disciplining the Intelligentsia.
Women and the Family.
Mind, Body, and Soul.
13. Collective Security and the Coming of World War II
The Fascist Menace.
The Popular Front and Collective Security.
Communism versus Fascism.
War in Europe.
14. The Great Fatherland War
From Blitzkrieg to War of Attrition.
The Supreme Commander and the Road to Stalingrad.
War and Diplomacy, at Home and Abroad.
15. The Big Chill: The Cold War Begins
Historians Look at the Cold War.
Diplomacy and the War Effort.
Yalta and its Aftermath.
A New World Order.
The Left in Europe.
The Soviets in Eastern Europe.
Perceptions and Misperceptions.
The Division of Europe.
The Finnish Exception.
The German Question.
16. Late Stalinism at Home and Abroad
From under the Rubble.
Reconstructing Hearts and Minds.
Stalinizing Eastern Europe.
Cold War and Hot War.
High Politics in the Kremlin Court.
Part IV. Reform and Stagnation
17. From Autocracy to Oligarchy
The Several Deaths of Stalin.
The Soviets Enter the Nuclear Age.
Peaceful Coexistence and its Setbacks.
Khrushchev in Crisis.
18. Khrushchev and the Politics of Reform
The Thaw and Destalinization.
Farm, Factory, and School.
The Arms Race.
Rift with China.
Crises in the West.
Kennedy and Khrushchev.
Khrushchev's Gamble: The Cuban Missle Crisis.
The Fall of Krushchev.
19. The Paradoxes of Brezhnev's Long Reign
Meeting the American Challenge: Vietnam.
The Defeat of Reforms.
Crushing the Prague Spring.
Public Opinion and Dissent.
Social Changes in the Era of Stagnation.
Detente and the Arms Race.
Two Crises: Afghanistan and Poland.
Part V. Reform and Revolution
20. Interregnum and the Road to Revolution
The Brief Reign of Iurii Andropov.
The Briefer Reign of Konstantin Chernenko.
The Road to Radical Reform.
Glasnost and the Erosion of Authority.
The New Thinking and the End of the Cold War.
Politics in a New Idiom.
The Awakening of Nations.
From Reform to Revolution.
21. The End of the Soviet Union
The Unraveling of the Empire at Home.
Surrendering Stalin's Empire.
Power to the People.
The Final Crisis.
Coup and Collapse.
22. The Second Russian Republic and the Near Abroad
The Shock Therapy.
Russia, the Near Abroad, and Beyond.
The War in Chechnya.
All Chapters end with Suggestions for Further Readings