Armageddon Averted: The Soviet Collapse, 1970-2000

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9780192802453: Armageddon Averted: The Soviet Collapse, 1970-2000

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 also provides vivid portraits of key personalities. Using recently released archive materials, for example, he paints a new picture of Gorbachev's rise to General Secretary. Further, we see Gorbachev, the virtuoso tactician and resolutely committed reformer, "flabbergasted by the fact that his socialist renewal was leading to the system's liquidation"--and more or less going along with it. Here, too, is Boris Yeltsin, full of the theatrics and "ham-handed populism" that especially aggravated Gorbachev. 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.
At once authoritative and provocative, Armageddon Averted illuminates the collapse of the Soviet Union, revealing how "principled restraint and scheming self-interest brought a deadly system to meek dissolution."

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About the Author:


Stephen Kotkin 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.

From Library Journal:

The director of Russian studies at Princeton and a published scholar in the field of Soviet studies, Kotkin has written a lively and provocative work on a subject that has already attracted much scholarly attention. His central question is, however, his own: why didn't Soviet elites defend their Union, using their vast military arsenal to bring about a cataclysmic super-Yugoslavia in the dying USSR? How could such a massive police state have died so quietly? He points in response to those same elites who, for over 30 years, constituted themselves as vast "loot chains," preferring to plunder their country of its wealth than risk losing everything in large-scale war. Through the medium of the Union republics, local elites led the charge for their own aggrandizement, thus "cashier[ing] the Union." As he delivers telling jabs, Kotkin spares no one neither Soviet politician-gangsters nor arrogant U.S. administrators and academics. This is a much more readable and lively monograph on the Soviet collapse than others, such as Michael McFaul's Russia's Unfinished Revolution (Cornell Univ., 2001), which has a more purely academic appeal. Kotkin's book should attract both the academic and the informed general reader. Robert Johnston, McMaster Univ., Hamilton, Ont. The director of Russian studies at Princeton and a published scholar in the field of Soviet studies, Kotkin has written a lively and provocative work on a subject that has already attracted much scholarly attention. His central question is, however, his own: why didn't Soviet elites defend their Union, using their vast military arsenal to bring about a cataclysmic super-Yugoslavia in the dying U.S.S.R.? How could such a massive police state have died so quietly? He points in response to those same elites who, for over 30 years, constituted themselves as vast "loot chains," preferring to plunder their country of its wealth than risk losing everything in large-scale war. Through the medium of the Union republics, local elites led the charge for their own aggrandizement, thus "cashier[ing] the Union." As he delivers telling jabs, Kotkin spares no one neither Soviet politician-gangsters nor arrogant U.S. administrators and academics. This is a much more readable and lively monograph on the Soviet collapse than others, such as Michael McFaul's Russia's Unfinished Revolution (Cornell Univ., 2001), which has a more purely academic appeal. Kotkin's book should attract both the academic and the informed general reader. Robert Johnston, McMaster Univ., Hamilton, Ont.
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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