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A Failed Empire: The Soviet Union in the…

A Failed Empire: The Soviet Union in the Cold War from Stalin to Gorbachev (2007)

by Vladislav M. Zubok

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    America's Cold War: The Politics of Insecurity by Campbell Craig (Jestak)
    Jestak: These books focus on opposite sides of the Cold War: Craig and Logevall tell the story of US policymaking while Zubok does the same for the Soviet side.

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While not quite as groundbreaking as I had hoped (it might have helped if I had read it closer to the date of publication) this is still a very good survey of how the Soviet Union's leadership saw their place in the world post-1945 and the stresses induced by retaining a commitment to Communist ideology while at the same time embracing the mentality "...that the Soviet Union should and could be a global empire." Perhaps the single biggest problem in all this is that Stalin's purges reduced the Soviet elite to a collection of men that had been trained to be assistants to the "boss," not supple strategists capable of adaptability. With a little more flexibility over time perhaps by the time you got those sorts of thinkers (Gorbachev and the people around him) there might still be a Soviet Union, instead of a debased Russia with no mission beyond disruption of the international system on the cheap. I personally found the sections involving Brezhnev to be most interesting, as even if he remained mostly locked in the confines of the Soviet official conventional wisdom you can legitimately call him a statesman. ( )
  Shrike58 | Aug 20, 2016 |
Zukor is professor of international relations at LSE. I enjoyed learning some more about the Soviet Union and Russia, although I guess much, though not all, of the material is well known for people who are knowledgeable about the subject. Zubok writes about the general secretaries of the post WWII period, and claims that the Soviet leaders were often less scheming and more influenced by both ideology and domestic concerns than Western observers often assumed.

The first secretary-general of NATO, Lord Ismay, said in 1949 that the purpose of NATO was "to keep the Russians out, the Americans in, and the Germans down." I would not bet on the incoming secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg making similar remarks.

I found the last part, about the Gorbachev period, most interesting because I found it easier to relate to this newer material. Zubok writes sees Gorbachev as inconsistent, without a plan and no big statesman, but that he was nevertheless profoundly important. He writes of Gorbachev that: "His first priority [...] was the construction of a global world order on the basis of cooperation and nonviolence. This places Gorbachev, at least in his image of himself, in the ranks of such figures of the twentieth century as Woodrow Wilson, Mahatma Gandhi, and other prophets of universal principles (p. 315)." The way these somewhat idiosyncratic beliefs influenced the general secretary made him have profound historical importance. ( )
  ohernaes | Jun 29, 2014 |
This contemporary Russian perspective on Cold War history includes at least a few scenes that are BEGGING for a dramatic depiction on television.
ESPECIALLY: A drunken, sedative-drugged Brezhnev insisted on taking Kissinger on a bat-out-of-hell high-speed car ride in the USSR. Later, Brezhnev did the same thing with Nixon on a trip to California.
Read this book after watching the movie, "Planes, Trains & Automobiles". ( )
  Eagleduck86 | Aug 21, 2011 |
Decent survey, a bit disappointing considering the author had access to hidden archival documents. Interestingly, Brezhnev comes across very well as an architect and deeply devoted adherent of detente. This is a top down history of the Soviet side with major personalities dominating the decision making. ( )
  mensheviklibrarian | Nov 4, 2007 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0807830984, Hardcover)

Western interpretations of the Cold War--both realist and neoconservative--have erred by exaggerating either the Kremlin's pragmatism or its aggressiveness, argues Vladislav Zubok. Explaining the interests, aspirations, illusions, fears, and misperceptions of the Kremlin leaders and Soviet elites, Zubok offers a Soviet perspective on the greatest standoff of the twentieth century.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:07:28 -0400)

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"In this widely praised book, Vladislav Zubok argues that Western interpretations of the Cold War have erred by exaggerating either the Kremlin's pragmatism or its aggressiveness. Explaining the interests, aspirations, illusions, fears, and misperceptions of the Kremlin leaders and Soviet elites, Zubok offers a Soviet perspective on the greatest standoff of the twentieth century. Using recently declassified Politburo records, ciphered telegrams, diaries, and taped conversations, among other sources, Zubok offers the first work in English to cover the entire Cold War from the Soviet side. A Failed Empire provides a history quite different from those written by the Western victors. In a new preface for this edition, the author adds to our understanding of today's events in Russia, including who the new players are and how their policies will affect the state of the world in the twenty-first century."--Book cover.… (more)

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