Publisher: McGraw-Hill Humanities, Social Sciences & World Languages
From the capricious reign of Catherine the Great and Alexander I to the provocative leadership of Mikhail Gorbachev, the author concentrates on the interplay between interests and ideologies in the relationship between the United States and the Soviet Union, in an even-handed, non-ideological narrative.
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On Christmas Day, 1991, President George H. W. Bush addressed the nation to declare an American victory in the Cold War: earlier that day Mikhail Gorbachev had resigned as the first and last Soviet president. The enshrining of that narrative, one in which the end of the Cold War was linked to the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the triumph of democratic values over communism, took center stage in American public discourse immediately after Bush's speech and has persisted for decades -- with disastrous consequences for American standing in the world. As prize-winning historian Serhii Plokhy reveals in The Last Empire, the collapse of the Soviet Union was anything but the handiwork of the United States. On the contrary, American leaders dreaded the possibility that the Soviet Union -- weakened by infighting and economic turmoil -- might suddenly crumble, throwing all of Eurasia into chaos. Bush was firmly committed to supporting his ally and personal friend Gorbachev, and remained wary of nationalist or radical leaders such as recently elected Russian President Boris Yeltsin. Fearing what might happen to the large Soviet nuclear arsenal in the event of the union's collapse, Bush stood by Gorbachev as he resisted the growing independence movements in Ukraine, Moldova, and the Caucasus. Plokhy's detailed, authoritative account shows that it was only after the movement for independence of the republics had gained undeniable momentum on the eve of the Ukrainian vote for independence that fall that Bush finally abandoned Gorbachev to his fate. Drawing on recently declassified documents and original interviews with key participants, Plokhy presents a bold new interpretation of the Soviet Union's final months and argues that the key to the Soviet collapse was the inability of the two largest Soviet republics, Russia and Ukraine, to agree on the continuing existence of a unified state. By attributing the Soviet collapse to the impact of American actions, US policy makers overrated their own capacities in toppling and rebuilding foreign regimes. Not only was the key American role in the demise of the Soviet Union a myth, but this misplaced belief has guided -- and haunted -- American foreign policy ever since.
Combining narrative commentary with over 270 contemporary documents, this title provides an entree to debate over humanity's most momentous and tragic experiment. It is suitable for students at all levels.
Political change in the Soviet Union never seemed more likely than in the period of glasnost and perestroika. The Soviet Union: 1917-1991 examines some of the less well explored areas of Soviet political and economic life to develop a feasible set of alternatives for future Soviet development and to establish which ones the system is predisposed to select. Katsenelinboigen takes on these difficult questions. Is it wise to develop glasnost in ways that allow masses to participate in the solution of strategic national problems? Can Soviet military expenses be reduced only to direct ones or is the whole Soviet economy military oriented? What explains widespread corruption among Soviet officials? Can market institutions be introduced into the Soviet economy, and if so, how is this best accomplished? Rather than focusing on a single dimension, such as authoritarianism versus democracy, his analysis incorporates multidimensional perspectives (among them, pluralism, division of powers and openness participation of competent and responsible people in decision making) which permit a more precise understanding of the limits of present options and allow him to develop new policy prospects. Although this book is about the Soviet Union, the approaches Katsenelinboigen uses have application in other contexts. His discussion of inflation for example and why it is found in planned as well as market economies has important implications for many developing countries. It will be of interest to those who seek a new perspective on events in the Soviet Union, as well as specialists in international relations, political science, and economics.