In the space of mere months in 1991, the Soviet Union saw an attempted coup fail, Gorbachev leave office, the Baltic states acquire independence, Leningrad vote to rename itself St Petersburg, the Communist Party disband, and the Russian flag fly over the Kremlin. One of the world's great powersa country of some 200 nationalities stretching across a dozen time zoneshad simply disintegrated, ending an epoch in world history. Now, for the first time, we are able to look back and assess the complete 75 year experiment with communism.
Based on extensive research and a first-hand knowledge of the Soviet system, Soviet Politics: 1917-1991 offers an authoritative and lively history of the entire spectrum of Soviet politics, from the October Revolution and the rise of Lenin to the emergence of the Commonwealth of Independent States. McAuley ranges from the Revolution to the unprecedented crash industrialization and social mobility, to dictatorship and mass terror under Stalin, to conservative state control under Krushchev, Kosygin, and Brezhnev, and finally to the swift collapse of the state. The author offers a particularly stimulating analysis of the developments that brought an end to communist party rule and the breakup of the Soviet Union. She describes, for instance, how the 1989 elections undermined the Communist Party's assumption of unqualified popular support (Yeltsin, the bete noire of the Moscow party, was swept in, and Soloviev, a deputy member of the Politburo, who ran unopposed in Leningrad, failed to garner 50% of the vote). She shows how the Congress of that year, televised nationally, revealed to a wrapt nation a Party no longer solidly united behind one stand, where deputies openly criticized the government, the KGB, and the Afghan war. And she paints a striking portrait of Gorbachev trying to reconcile irreconcilable interests, to heal the rift between Democrats and Party conservatives, as the center began to unravel.
By the end of 1991, the USSR was gone forever, with momentous and unpredictable consequences not only for the peoples of the former Soviet Union, but for the world as a whole. Soviet Politics helps readers make sense of the developments since 1985, showing how and why the system fell apart. It will interest anyone wanting a full understanding of current world events.