Cover image for A history of the Soviet Union from the beginning to the end
A history of the Soviet Union from the beginning to the end
Kenez, Peter.
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Publication Information:
New York : Cambridge University Press, 1999.
Physical Description:
ix, 317 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Introduction -- The revolution, 1917-1921 -- New economic policies, 1921-1929 -- The first five-year plan -- High Stalinism -- A great and patriotic war -- The nadir: 1945-1953 -- The age of Khrushchev -- Real, existing socialism -- Failed reforms -- Afterthoughts.
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Material Type
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Central Library DK266 .K43 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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Peter Kenez's History of the Soviet Union 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, 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 traces the development of the Soviet Union from the Revolution, through the 1920s, the years of the New Economic Policies - which he sees as crucial to any interpretation of the history of the Soviet Union - and into the Stalinist order. He shows how post-Stalin Soviet leaders struggled to find ways to rule the country without using Stalin's methods but also without openly repudiating the past, and to negotiate a peaceful but antipathetic coexistence with the capitalist West.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

With the benefit of hindsight, many historians view the failure and collapse of the Soviet Union as a historical inevitability: it had to fail because of its absurd economic foundations and the impossibility of building a multinational state upon the ruins of the czarist structure. Kenez, currently professor of history at the University of California at Santa Cruz, suggests an alternative to the "inevitability" school. He asserts that Soviet failure was the result of many practical but flawed men making a succession of critical errors as they tried to build and then modify aspects of the Soviet system. For example, he feels that a less ambivalent and more committed attitude by officials toward the NEP (New Economic Policy) in the early 1920s could have created a viable, mixed economy, and perhaps avoided Stalin and Stalinism! This is a compact and easily digested work that certainly provides food for thought; it should suggest to scholars of Soviet history the value of a more comprehensive analysis of Kenez's thesis. --Jay Freeman

Library Journal Review

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.ÄMarcia L. Sprules, Council on Foreign Relations Lib., New York (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

1 Introduction
2 The Revolution, 1917+1921
3 New economic policies, 1921+1929
4 The first Five-Year Plan
5 High Stalinism
6 A great and patriotic war
7 The nadir: 1945+1953
8 The age of Khrushchev
9 Real, existing socialism
10 Failed reforms
11 Leap into the unknown
12 Afterthoughts; Chronology

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