A History of the Soviet Union from the Beginning to the End

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Overview

Peter Kenez's A History of the Soviet Union from the Beginning to the End examines not only political change but also social and cultural developments. The book identifies the social tensions and political inconsistencies that spurred radical change in the government of Russia, beginning at the turn of the century and culminating in the revolution of 1917. Kenez envisions that revolution as a crisis of authority that posed the question, "Who shall govern Russia?" This question was resolved with the creation of the Soviet Union. Kenez sees the 1920s, the years of the New Economic Policies, as crucial to any interpretation of the history of the Soviet Union. He points out the seeds of totalitarianism in the mixed economic and political system of those years, then traces the disintegration of that system, brought on by the confused policies enacted by officials who were ambivalent about the NEP. He shows that the crisis ended only when the system was completely dismantled and replaced by a new experiment: the Stalinist order. The leaders of the post-Stalin era attempted to determine a new direction for the Soviet Union. The 1960s to the 1980s were marked by a turn away from the dynamic "cult of personality" that characterized the earlier decades of the Soviet Union, toward collective leadership, conservatism, and corruption. The complacency and demoralization of those decades presage the disintegration of the Soviet Union under the leadership of Mikhail Gorbachev.
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Kenez (history, Univ. of California, Santa Cruz) has distilled the voluminous literature on the Soviet Union's 75-year history to a succinct and factual summary. Throughout, Kenez emphasizes economics, creating an image of a hollow superpower that could neither feed its population nor produce a reasonable supply of consumer goods owing to its concentration on the defense industry. A secondary emphasis is on the cultural life of the era, discussing the films and literature of different periods. There is little on the 1917 revolution and only a short analysis of why the Soviet Union ultimately failed to thrive. Sources in the bibliography are primarily in English. Still, this is a valuable reading assignment for undergraduate survey courses that academic libraries should consider.--Marcia L. Sprules, Council on Foreign Relations Lib., New York
From the Publisher
'Few historians are as well qualified to write such a volume as Professor Kenez. A solid and conscientious scholar, author of several books on the early l920s and on the Soviet cinema, Kenez's work has always inspired confidence and the new book is no exception. It is lucid, amply documented, well organized, and occasionally brightened by flashes of quiet humour ... Above all, the book is thumpingly sensible.' Times Literary Supplement

'Kenez has written an excellent book, and it is deserving of special attention by all who are interested in the rise and fall of the Soviet Union.' Mediterranean Quarterly

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521311984
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 3/28/1999
  • Series: Royal Historical Society Transactions SE
  • Edition description: Older Edition
  • Pages: 317
  • Product dimensions: 5.98 (w) x 8.98 (h) x 0.79 (d)

Meet the Author

Peter Kenez received his B.A. from Princeton University and his Ph.D. from Harvard University. He is the author of many articles and books, including Cinema and Soviet Society, 1917-1953, and Varieties of Fear. He is currently Professor of History at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

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Table of Contents

1 Introduction 1
2 The revolution, 1917-1921 14
3 New economic policies, 1921-1929 41
4 The first five-year plan 80
5 High Stalinism 103
6 A great and patriotic war 132
7 The nadir : 1945-1953 160
8 The age of Khrushchev 184
9 Real, existing socialism 214
10 Failed reforms 243
11 Leap into the unknown 278
12 Afterthoughts, 2005 303
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