The Soviet Union: A Very Short Introduction
The Soviet Union at its height occupied one sixth of the world's land mass, encompassed fifteen republics, and stretched across eleven different time zones. More than twice the size of the United States, it was the great threat of the Cold War until it suddenly collapsed in 1991. Now, almost twenty years after the dissolution of this vast empire, what are we to make of its existence? Was it a heroic experiment, an unmitigated disaster, or a viable if flawed response to the modern world? Taking a fresh approach to the study of the Soviet Union, this Very Short Introduction blends political history with an investigation into Soviet society and culture from 1917 to 1991. Stephen Lovell examines aspects of patriotism, political violence, poverty, and ideology, and provides answers to some of the big questions about the Soviet experience. Throughout, the book takes a refreshing thematic approach to the history of the Soviet Union and it provides an up-to-date consideration of the Soviet Union's impact and what we have learnt since its end.
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shaded into out-and-out corruption. But, to explain adequately the explosion of violence in the Soviet 1930s, we need to probe more deeply the political culture of Bolshevism. The military ethos of the Civil War period lived on in the Bolshevik elite of the 1930s. This was truly a party that felt itself 41 Coercion and participation A structural answer to the question of the origins of the Terror would draw attention to the workings of the Soviet state. The USSR had a formidable institutional
regime. In the Civil War period, the dominant criterion was class. One critical distinction was between ‘poor’ and ‘rich’ peasants (though before long the Bolsheviks would reﬁne this by introducing a ‘middle’ category). The rationing system introduced in the capitals in autumn 1918 was likewise designed according to class principles. In Petrograd, manual workers were entitled to eight times as much as artisans and traders. Classorientated measures continued throughout the Civil War period. These
if, given the overall growth of enrolments, there was an increase in absolute terms). Working-class representation increased from one-quarter to a half over the four years to 1931–2. The Soviet Union Hierarchy and egalitarianism: from Stalin to Khrushchev Here, ﬁnally, were signs of the upward mobility that the Revolution was supposed to have made possible. But the immediate political motivation for cultural revolution was less a commitment to social justice than the pressing need to create a
slogan ‘socialism in one country’. For the medium term, Soviet Russia would have to secure its position in a hostile international environment. The scarring experience of foreign intervention during the civil war in Siberia, Murmansk and Arkhangelsk, and the south was still vivid in the Bolshevik mind. The period 1917–20 had seen non-stop diplomatic conﬂict. The ﬁrst 120 Soviet representative in London, Maxim Litvinov, had been arrested and held hostage by the British in 1918. In 1919,
visits Moscow and brings along a Wild West cowboy as a bodyguard. Their acute suspicion of all things Bolshevik does not prevent them becoming easy prey for the NEP demi-monde. The emergence of Soviet chauvinism The Soviet Union From 1927 onwards, however, Bolshevik toleration of foreign cultural inﬂuence tailed off steeply. During the period of cultural revolution, the number of foreign ﬁlms shown in the Soviet Union declined from 68 in 1929 to 43 in 1930 to nought in 1932. Thereafter,