Stephen Lovell is a Reader in Modern European History at King's College London. He is the author of the prize-winning Summerfolk: A History of the Dacha, 1710-2000, and has written widely on Russian social and cultural history.
The Soviet Union: A Very Short Introductionby Stephen Lovell
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Almost twenty years after the Soviet Unions' end, what are we to make of its existence? Was it a heroic experiment, an unmitigated disaster, or a viable if flawed response to the modern world? Taking a fresh approach to the study of the Soviet Union, this Very Short Introduction blends political history with an investigation into the society and culture at the time. Stephen Lovell examines aspects of patriotism, political violence, poverty, and ideology; and provides answers to some of the big questions about the Soviet experience. ABOUT THE SERIES: The Very Short Introductions series from Oxford University Press contains hundreds of titles in almost every subject area. These pocket-sized books are the perfect way to get ahead in a new subject quickly. Our expert authors combine facts, analysis, perspective, new ideas, and enthusiasm to make interesting and challenging topics highly readable.
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There are few countries that loomed as large over the history of twentieth century as did Soviet Union, and none had done more to maintain a sustained threat to the Western countries and institutions. However, during most of its history, Soviet Union was largely a mystery for all those who wanted to know more about this vast country. This was due mostly to its own system of secrecy and disinformation, with tight control over the information that it permitted to get out to the public. Now, almost two decades after its collapse, we are finally starting to get a much more detailed and nuanced picture of this state. Thanks to this, scholars like Stephen Lovell have been able to produce very frank and detailed accounts, and this very short introduction is certainly one of the best on the subject. The chapters of this book are grouped thematically rather historically, along dichotomous topic. The author is very frank about the brutality of the Soviet regime, and almost every page mentions some of the more outrageous aspects of the Soviet life. This, however, is not the product of any anti-communist ideological bias - Lovell merely reports the facts as they are. In fact, there is hardly any mention and explanation of the communism and Lovell certainly doesn't try to make an apology for the Soviet regime along the lines that Marxism was a good theory that had been poorly implemented in practice. No single book on such a vast subject can ever hope to do it full justice, and certainly not one that purports to be a very short introduction. However, as far as introductions go, this one is as good as they come. It will keep readers interest and provide a well-flowing narrative. It can also serve as a guide to further study on the topic, thanks to the well organized bibliography at the end.