1) A People’s Tragedy: A History of the Russian Revolution – Orlando Figes
Penguin Books | 1998 | PDF
It is history on an epic yet human scale. Vast in scope, exhaustive in original research, written with passion, narrative skill, and human sympathy, A People’s Tragedy is a profound account of the Russian Revolution for a new generation. Many consider the Russian Revolution to be the most significant event of the twentieth century. Distinguished scholar Orlando Figes presents a panorama of Russian society on the eve of that revolution, and then narrates the story of how these social forces were violently erased. Within the broad stokes of war and revolution are miniature histories of individuals, in which Figes follows the main players’ fortunes as they saw their hopes die and their world crash into ruins. Unlike previous accounts that trace the origins of the revolution to overreaching political forces and ideals, Figes argues that the failure of democracy in 1917 was deeply rooted in Russian culture and social history and that what had started as a people’s revolution contained the seeds of its degeneration into violence and dictatorship. A People’s Tragedy is a masterful and original synthesis by a mature scholar, presented in a compelling and accessibly human narrative.
2) The Soviet Colossus: History and Aftermath (7E) – Michael G. Kort
Routledge | 2010 | EPUB
The twentieth century was not kind to Russia. Despite its great potential and remarkable achievements, the country also bore the weight of two world wars, a revolution and civil war, totalitarian tyranny, famine and ecological destruction, economic ruin, and imperial decline. Will Russia ever be prosperous, peaceful, and free? Seeking clues in the past, Michael Kort revisits earlier turning points in Russia’s history–from the fall of the old regime to the establishment of the Bolshevik dictatorship and Stalinist totalitarianism; from the reforms and counter-reforms of Khrushchev and Brezhnev to the tumultuous years of change under Gorbachev and Yeltsin. Which strands of Russia’s past is their successor, Vladimir Putin, weaving into the fabric of the present, and which are being allowed to fade, for better or worse? This new edition of The Soviet Colossus brings the story up through the first decade of the twenty-first century. Distinctively readable, judicious, and focused on critical events and questions, it integrates new revelations about the Soviet past and ongoing debates about the Soviet regime as well as its successor. It is the ideal text for as one semester history course or background for a political science course.
3) The Rise and Fall of the Soviet Union – Martin Mccauley
Routledge | 2007 | PDF
The birth of the Soviet Union surprised many; its demise amazed the whole world. How did imperial Russia give way to the Soviet Union in 1917, and why did the USSR collapse so quickly in 1991?
Marxism promised paradise on earth, but the Communist Party never had true power, instead allowing Lenin and Stalin to become dictators who ruled in its name. The failure of the planned economy to live up to expectations led to a boom in the unplanned economy, in particular the black market. In turn, this led to the growth of organised crime and corruption within the government.
The Rise and Fall of the Soviet Union examines the strengths, weaknesses, and contradictions of the first Marxist state, and reassesses the role of power, authority and legitimacy in Soviet politics. Including first-person accounts, anecdotes, illustrations and diagrams to illustrate key concepts, McCauley provides a seminal history of twentieth-century Russia.
4) Everything Was Forever, Until It Was No More: The Last Soviet Generation – Alexei Yurchak
Princeton University Press | 2005 | EPUB
Soviet socialism was based on paradoxes that were revealed by the peculiar experience of its collapse. To the people who lived in that system the collapse seemed both completely unexpected and completely unsurprising. At the moment of collapse it suddenly became obvious that Soviet life had always seemed simultaneously eternal and stagnating, vigorous and ailing, bleak and full of promise. Although these characteristics may appear mutually exclusive, in fact they were mutually constitutive. This book explores the paradoxes of Soviet life during the period of “late socialism” (1960s-1980s) through the eyes of the last Soviet generation.
Focusing on the major transformation of the 1950s at the level of discourse, ideology, language, and ritual, Alexei Yurchak traces the emergence of multiple unanticipated meanings, communities, relations, ideals, and pursuits that this transformation subsequently enabled. His historical, anthropological, and linguistic analysis draws on rich ethnographic material from Late Socialism and the post-Soviet period.
The model of Soviet socialism that emerges provides an alternative to binary accounts that describe that system as a dichotomy of official culture and unofficial culture, the state and the people, public self and private self, truth and lie–and ignore the crucial fact that, for many Soviet citizens, the fundamental values, ideals, and realities of socialism were genuinely important, although they routinely transgressed and reinterpreted the norms and rules of the socialist state.
5) Moscow, December 25, 1991: The Last Day of the Soviet Union – Conor O’Clery
PublicAffairs | 2012 | EPUB
The implosion of the Soviet Union was the culmination of a gripping game played out between two men who intensely disliked each other and had different concepts for the future. Mikhail Gorbachev, a sophisticated and urbane reformer, sought to modernize and preserve the USSR; Boris Yeltsin, a coarse and a hard drinking “bulldozer,” wished to destroy the union and create a capitalist Russia. The defeat of the August 1991 coup attempt, carried out by hardline communists, shook Gorbachev’s authority and was a triumph for Yeltsin. But it took four months of intrigue and double-dealing before the Soviet Union collapsed and the day arrived when Yeltsin could hustle Gorbachev out of the Kremlin, and move in as ruler of Russia.
Conor O’Clery has written a unique and truly suspenseful thriller of the day the Soviet Union died. The internal power plays, the shifting alliances, the betrayals, the mysterious three colonels carrying the briefcase with the nuclear codes, and the jockeying to exploit the future are worthy of John Le Carré or Alan Furst. The Cold War’s last act was a magnificent dark drama played out in the shadows of the Kremlin.