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Armageddon Averted: The Soviet Collapse, 1970-2000 Paperback – December 23, 2008

14 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0195368635 ISBN-10: 0195368630 Edition: Updated Edition

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Editorial Reviews

Review


"The clearest picture we have to date of the post-Soviet landscape."--The New Yorker


"A triumph of the art of contemporary history. In fewer than 200 pages, Kotkin elucidates the implosion of the Soviet empire--the most important and startling series of international events of the past fifty years--and clearly spells out why, thanks almost entirely to the 'principal restraint' of the Soviet leadership, that collapse didn't result in a cataclysmic war, as all experts had long forecasted."-The Atlantic Monthly


"Concise and persuasive The mystery, for Kotkin, is not so much why the Soviet Union collapsed as why it did so with so little collateral damage."--The New York Review of Books


About the Author


Stephen Kotkin is Professor of European and Asian History at Princeton University, where he also directs the Russian-Eurasian Studies Program. He is the author of nine books, including an acclaimed two-volume study of the rise and fall of Soviet socialism: Magnetic Mountain: Stalinism as a Civilization and Steeltown, USSR: Soviet Society in the Gorbachev Era.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 280 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; Updated Edition edition (December 23, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195368630
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195368635
  • Product Dimensions: 7.4 x 0.8 x 5.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #287,190 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By R. Albin TOP 500 REVIEWER on November 28, 2009
Format: Paperback
This relatively short book is a strong analysis of the collapse of the Soviet Union and its aftermath. Kotkin is particularly concerned with rebutting Western triumphalist accounts of the Soviet collapse and focuses on the people who really made the key decisions, the leading elites of the Soviet state. Kotkin points to 2 major structural features that undermined the Soviet Union. The first was the failure of the Soviet economy to keep pace with the burgeoning economies of the USA, Western Europe, and Japan. As early as the mid-1960s, intelligent Soviet economists were warning of economic stagnation. The second factor, greatly magnifying the effects of Soviet economic inefficiency, was the burden of Cold War competition with the USA and its allies. The Soviet state promised economic and social utopia, and despite real achievements in modernizing Russia and other parts of the Soviet state, delivered sluggish economic growth, massive corruption, an oligarchic party-state, and suppression of human rights.

Many Soviet leaders were aware of these problems, but the generational shift that occurred with the ascent of Gorbachev brought a real reformer to power. Unlike his predecessors, who were willing temporize and maintain power with very modest efforts at reform, Gorbachev was willing to take what were in the Soviet context truly radical steps. A pragmatic idealist, Gorbachev was motivated by a sincere desire to produce a humane form of socialism, but the ironic result of his efforts was to destroy the entity he wished to save from itself.

Kotkin lays out nicely how efforts at reform, notably the weakening of the Communist Party, undid some of the key bonds holding together the Soviet Union.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Christie Strub Biber on December 21, 2010
Format: Paperback
For most adults, the collapse of the Soviet Union is very recent history, so recent that it hasn't been analyzed much or put into perspective. The Berlin Wall fell when I was 20, and ever since then the new Russia has changed so rapidly it's hard to understand what's actually happening. Gorbachev is generally a hero, but since his time in office, the story is grim--filled with gangsters, skirmishes with breakaway republics, and wholesale environmental poison. All the heroic and unsavory characters are found in this book. It lays out the supersonic change that swept through the USSR, and continues to convulse that enigmatic place.

I gave this book 4 stars, but I thought about giving it 5. I kept one back because I think some important, subtle things would have helped with understanding. For instance, the author refers obliquely to Gorbachev's ego and vanity, but never really describes why he had those qualities. He also refers to him as a 'bumpkin,' a description that's at odds with a man of ego. Which is it? We're not given enough info to blend the differences into a full understanding.

Still, this is a fact-filled book, densely written. It's delicious and nutritious. Take a bite.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Kevin M Quigg VINE VOICE on May 29, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A good analysis of the failings of the Soviet Union. The author praises the Soviet leadership in controlling the fall of the nation without bringing serious bloodshed to the rest of the world and the suceeding 15 republics. Gorby and his group of reformers did not know the unreliability of this reforming socialism, and as a result did not know that his unwinding the repressive dictatorship unravelled the whole rotten system.

This is a great read about how the Soviet Union died a peaceful death. It is a true compliment to the Soviet leaders who let it die without bringing the world down with them.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Student on March 17, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is an outstanding title that explains the events leading up to the unexpected and unforeseen collapse of the communist regime. Forged in blood and pain many wondered why the meltdown did not lead to widespread, unrest turbulence,blood shed or even nuclear holocaust. It also examines how close Russia came to not actually shrugging of the yoke or a broken ideology. Interesting, insightful, and enjoyable read from and excellent and knowledgeable scholar.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Michael D. Markovitch on March 23, 2013
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Very interesting account of the long disintegration of the Soviet Union. The author has done a great deal of research to support his thesis that the collapse of the USSR was inevitable as early as the 1970's. Well worth reading.
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By Warbird on May 20, 2015
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I was disappointed by this, given how much I enjoyed Mr Kotkin's first volume of a massive Stalin biography. This I thought was cheap and easy, once he got past the Gorbachev regime--I thought that was astute. But he has the usual academic bias against Ronald Reagan, so instead of giving the president at least some credit for the way matters turned out, he smears the poor dunce with gratuitous insults. "Mr Gorbachev--tear down this wall" -- that was ARROGANT, according to Mr Kotkin. I thought it was refreshing at the time (as did most Berliners) and prescient as things turned out. And certainly he is (well: was) wildly wrong about Putin. At the time the book was published, Putin had more or less gracefully left the presidency to his handpicked successor, meanwhile take the prime ministry for himself--and making it quite clear who was the real boss. Since then, of course, he has resumed the presidency, and we hear no more about Mr Medvedev. I suspect Putin will be president the way Stalin was chairman: until he's carried off to the mortuary.
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