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Great Urals: Regionalism and the Evolution of the Soviet System
     

Great Urals: Regionalism and the Evolution of the Soviet System

by James R. Harris
 
Political histories of the Soviet Union have portrayed a powerful Kremlin leadership whose will was passively implemented by regional Party officials and institutions. Drawing on his research in recently opened archives in Moscow and the Urals—a vast territory that is a vital center of the Russian mining and metallurgy industries—James R. Harris overturns

Overview

Political histories of the Soviet Union have portrayed a powerful Kremlin leadership whose will was passively implemented by regional Party officials and institutions. Drawing on his research in recently opened archives in Moscow and the Urals—a vast territory that is a vital center of the Russian mining and metallurgy industries—James R. Harris overturns this view. He argues here that the regions have for centuries had strong identities and interests and that they cumulatively exerted a significant influence on Soviet policy-making and on the evolution of the Soviet system.After tracing the development of local interests prior to the Revolution, Harris demonstrates that a desperate need for capital investment caused the Urals and other Soviet regions to press Moscow to increase the investment and production targets of the first five year plan. He provides conclusive evidence that local leaders established the pace for carrying out such radical policies as breakneck industrialization and the construction of forced labor camps. When the production targets could not be met, regional officials falsified data and blamed "saboteurs" for their shortfalls. Harris argues that such deception contributed to the personal and suspicious nature of Stalin's rule and to the beginning of his onslaught on the Party apparatus.Most of the region's communist leaders were executed during the Great Terror of 1936–38. In his conclusion, Harris measures the impact of their interests on the collapse of the communist system, and the fate of reform under Gorbachev and Yeltsin.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This book makes an important contribution to the literature about the interwar development of the Societ political and economic system. . . . This book has been thoroughly researched and well crafted. The author and publisher should also be commended for including some good photographs of Urals leaders and industrial plants, which helpfully support the text. . . . In sum, this book will be essential for anyone concerned with the development of the Soviet political and economic system during the interwar period."—Anthony Heywood, American Historical Review

"Harris makes a powerful case for redefining the sense of center-periphery relationships and for taking Stalinist regional and interregional politics seriously."—Choice

"This study of the great Urals region by James Harris is a major contribution to the renaissance of regional studies in Soviet history. The work is based on extensive use of central and regional archives and a careful reinterpretation of long extant sources such as stenograms of party conferences and congresses."—James Hughes, Slavic Review

"His study sets a high standard for those to follow in the regionalist tendency of current historiography. . . . The book demonstrates a strength that is not indicated by the title. It is more than a history of the Urals: it explores the mighty and dynamic shape of power among the players in the center-periphery relationship Ukraine-Moscow-Urals-Western Siberia. . . . Harris's study is a pathbreaking foray into Soviet regional history. It provides us with the new insight that the dynamic policy making of the regional elites like that of the Urals lets us rethink the character of autocratic and centralist Russian history."—Eva Maria Stolbery, H-Net Reviews

"The Great Urals is an innovative and important book that no student of Soviet history will be able to ignore. James Harris's study has implications for the whole period of modern Russian history, even to the present day. One of the major discoveries in this book is that the origins of today's regionalism in the former Soviet Union can be traced to the Stalin era."—J. Arch Getty, University of California, Riverside

"In this tightly argued, well-documented examination of the role of regionalism in Soviet governance, Harris challenges prevailing notions of the unyielding power of the central state in governing the Russian periphery. He directs our attention to the ways in which regional leaders influenced policy at the top of the Soviet system. As a result, with the benefit of new and only recently available archival information, this book serves to further revise our understanding of how the Soviet system operated."—Kathryn Stoner-Weiss, Princeton University

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780801434785
Publisher:
Cornell University Press
Publication date:
07/28/1999
Pages:
256
Product dimensions:
6.13(w) x 9.25(h) x (d)

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