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A Failed Empire: The Soviet Union in the Cold War from Stalin to Gorbachev (The New Cold War History) 2nd Edition

4.7 out of 5 stars 33 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0807859582
ISBN-10: 0807859583
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Editorial Reviews

Review

Zubok has been prominent amongst those reassessing Soviet foreign policy through the newly available primary sources. . . . [A Failed Empire] extends the story to the end of the Cold War and provides an excellent overview of the whole period.--International Journal



Make[s] use of significant new primary sources but also offer[s]a more inclusive approach with respect to the considerations shaping policy on both sides.--American Historical Review



Zubok's book has established an important marker by which future historical studies will be measured.--Tsuyoshi Hasegawa, H-Diplo Roundtable Reviews



"A significant contribution to a field that has long been dominated by West-centric analyses. . . . Highly recommended.--CHOICE



A fascinating and truly insightful study of the rise and fall of the Soviet Union. . . . A valuable resource in understanding not only the history of the Soviet Union but the 20th century as a whole.--WHRW News



Ranks as the new standard work on the Soviet Union's Cold War--for scholars and students alike. . . . An excellent combination of old and new, offering both a synthetic interpretation of Soviet foreign policy in the latter half of the twentieth century and fresh new material to reconceptualize the factors behind that policy. . . . An important book [and] a standout.--Journal of American History



This challenging account is perhaps the most complete and compelling yet written of the Soviet side of the Cold War.--Virginia Quarterly Review



The first work in English to cover the entire Cold War from the Soviet side . . . provides a history different from those written by the Western victors.--Ventunesimo Secolo



Fluently and authoritatively told.--International History Review



Impressive. . . . A standard work.--Osteuropa



[A Failed Empire] draw[s] on abundant new primary sources to refine our understanding of the Cold War, turning it from a melodrama into a nuanced tragedy. . . . Rich in new information and fresh interpretation. Zubok reveals the full extent of Stalin's brutal post-World War II suppression of the Soviet People.--Washington Post Book World



Zubok has taken on a huge challenge in attempting to narrate the entire evolution of the Cold War from the perspective of the apex of power in Moscow. He succeeds admirably. . . . This is a book that can be read by the specialist and generalist alike. . . . The book should reignite serious discussion about the causes of the disintegration of the Soviet Union, which is the subject of his interesting conclusion.--History Book Club



An excellent survey of Soviet foreign policy during the Cold War, one which draws on a wide range of memoirs, secondary literature, and the still-patchy archival record.--Russian Review

Review

An excellent overview of Soviet foreign policy and a forceful explanation of why Communism collapsed, centering on Gorbachev's mistakes and misjudgments.--O. A. Westad, author of The Global Cold War



This book is the best history we have of the Soviet side of the Cold War. Far more than a survey, Zubok's analysis is based on cutting-edge historical scholarship. He makes use of the most recently available sources and brings to their interpretation an unusually sharp mind.--William Taubman, Amherst College

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Product Details

  • Series: The New Cold War History
  • Paperback: 504 pages
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press; 2 edition (February 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807859583
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807859582
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #335,285 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Sergey Radchenko on October 11, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This is an excellent book - a coherent, persuasive and well-written overview of the Soviet side of the Cold War. Zubok resurrects the "revolutionary-imperial paradigm" of his (and Pleshakov's) earlier book and extends it to the 1980s. The Soviet leaders, he argues, were motivated both by dreams of imperial aggrandizement and messianic revolutionary zeal. The thesis is well-made. I think on the whole Zubok's book chips away at the "revolutionary" part of the paradigm: the Soviet policy makers come across as rather cynical political operators, who carefully or sometimes unconsciously used ideological platitudes in pursuit of realpolitik aims. But that's just my reading of Zubok's own evidence. The book stands on familiar ground with regard to Stalin and Khrushchev; it does offer a remarkably vivid account of the Brezhnev and Gorbachev years. Brezhnev, dismissed in anecdotes as a senile fool manipulated by grey cardinals in his entourage, comes across as a real statesman, a peacemaker. Zubok's portrait of Gorbachev penetrates beyond the facade of naive idealism, revealing some of the layered complexity of the Gorbachev phenomenon. This is a must-read for anyone interested in post-war Soviet history.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The collapse of the USSR is one of the most important events of the twentieth century. During its existence after 1917 until 1991, the USSR stood at the centre of world politics - especially after 1945. It embodied many of the important aspects of modern history including socialism (which it embodied in its Marxist-Leninist form), State-led industrialisation and development (which it pioneered), technologically driven change (the Soviets took an early lead in the space race) and the State as a provider of welfare (of which the USSR was an early practitioner). The end of the USSR also meant the end of a key defining feature of the twentieth century. This was the case not only for those in the Soviet sphere but also for those outside it who defined themselves as the opposite of the USSR, notably American capitalist democracy.

Zubok's book is a "must read" for any one interested why the Soviet Union came to its sudden end. The conventional Western view is that during the Reagan-Thatcher era, the US commenced an arms race in order to exhaust and bring down the USSR. This worked. Unable to keep up, the Soviets simply threw in the towel and gave up. While plausible on the surface, this explanation opens as many questions as it answers. After 1945 the USSR though a victor in the Second World War, lay exhausted and devastated. The difference in Soviet capabilities and those of the US at that time was much greater than at the point of the dissolution of the USSR. Nevertheless, the USSR stared down the Americans, within two decades had narrowed the gap and set itself up as a seemingly viable alternative superpower, forcing the US to deal with it as its equal.
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Format: Paperback
I was originally expecting a run of the mill history of the Soviet Union, but I, like most prospective readers, was pleasantly surprised. The detail in which Zubok elaborates on his research gives the reader a true insight into Stalin's moves on the diplomatic chessboard, Krushchev's brinkmanship, Brezhnev's indiscipline, Gorbachev's attempt to liberalize the USSR, which inadvertently and ultimately brought it down, as a system based on oppression cannot stand once the masses have their say. However, the inclusion of original research enriches the experience, which allows the reader to truly understand the symbiosis between the KGB and the Politburo, and understand how such a system lasted for so long. A must read for those not looking for a thousand page volume on Stalin, but for a brief but highly detailed history of the former Evil Empire.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If one desires to understand events as they transpired in any historical event, the necessity of reviewing both parties to a conflict becomes of particular import, and in the case of Vladislav Zubok's book A Failed Empire, the "other" side, the Soviet Union, is thoroughly analyzed from the inside in this pursuit. The result of Zubok's careful review of primary sources, from the memoirs and diaries of many participants, to the actual transcripts of meetings as they occurred in the halls of power, is a wide-ranging and informative description of Soviet perspectives and ideology, and how these positions informed the events of the Cold War.

The overriding theme that the author tackles in his careful analysis of the conflict between the USSR and the US is one that involves a "revolutionary-imperial paradigm", meaning that, whatever the ideology of revolutionary zeal that spawned and maintained the Soviets, they were also an empire that wished to bring other nationalities and regions under their control, either for the purpose of security--as was the case with the occupation of Eastern and Central Europe--or to pursue its goal of eventual communistic overthrow where it was deemed possible for the revolution to take root, as in Cuba or Ethiopia. This idea of a nation that saw itself as an antidote to the history of capitalistic imperialism, but ironically acted in the same way to translate its own ideology into power, is a clever and revealing point to be understood about the Soviets, because it casts them in a light of following the same self-interest as the enemy they so effectively denounced.

When viewing the different stages of the evolution of the USSR, Zubok makes some revealing points about each stage of its development.
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