The Soviet Union: A Very Short Introduction

The Soviet Union: A Very Short Introduction

Stephen Lovell

Language: English

Pages: 144

ISBN: 0199238480

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


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.

About the Series: Combining authority with wit, accessibility, and style, Very Short Introductions offer an introduction to some of life's most interesting topics. Written by experts for the newcomer, they demonstrate the finest contemporary thinking about the central problems and issues in hundreds of key topics, from philosophy to Freud, quantum theory to Islam.

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regime sought to shake itself out of the vice of 71 Poverty and wealth The Soviet Union was entering a new phase of its existence: basic subsistence was no longer quite such an urgent matter, and consumer welfare was less a matter of myth-making and more a question of practicalities. One of the main political battlegrounds in the power struggle that followed the death of Stalin was the balance to be struck between ‘Group A’ (heavy-industry) and ‘Group B’ (light-industry) goods. Nikita

leadership was hit by a wave of strikes in the textile industry of the Ivanovo region. For these workers – who included large numbers of women and labour ‘veterans’ of long standing – class identity still mattered and provided a foundation for collective action against a metropolitan regime that accorded them a far lower priority than the heavy industry workers in Moscow and Leningrad. Yet there were also signs that the Soviet regime was carrying at least a section of the working class along with

pair of contrasting principles. I start, in Chapter 1, with the Soviet Union’s own sense of its historical trajectory: how did its uniquely forward-looking ideology come to make sense of the Soviet past? Chapter 2 moves from the realm of ideas and imagination to matters of implementation and political practice: it shows how the notorious terrorist proclivities of the Soviet state were modulated by an ideology of grass-roots social mobilization and collectivism. The next two chapters draw

accentuate certain social differences: this was a period when the upper levels of the intelligentsia were extremely well rewarded relative to the rest of the workforce. The mass wartime recruitment posed a familiar problem for the Soviet leadership in peacetime: how was the party to retain its identity as a disciplined upholder of ideological orthodoxy when it was full of so many new arrivals with such a sense of empowerment and entitlement? In January 1946, only one-third of members had been in

employer. By the end of the Khrushchev era, almost two-thirds of students in higher education had work experience. Inequalities were further reduced by a series of welfare measures. A new minimum wage narrowed the gap between white- and bluecollar work. Through a mass housing campaign the Khrushchev 89 The Soviet Union government proclaimed its ambition to ensure equality of outcomes in this most fraught of social policy areas. Besides staggering rises in output, the aim was to simplify the

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