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A History of Modern Russia: From Nicholas II to Vladimir Putin, Revised Edition Paperback – March 1, 2005

ISBN-13: 978-0674018013 ISBN-10: 067401801X Edition: Revised Edition
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From the Bolshevik revolution in 1917 to the collapse of communism in 1991, from Lenin to Yeltsin, the history of Russia in the 20th century is a complex, tumultuous story of social, geographic, and political upheaval. Robert Service, a professor at the University of London's School of Slavonic and Eastern European studies, closely looks at this period in A History of Twentieth-Century Russia. Starting with the armed revolution between 1918 and 1921, Service examines the influence of Leninist philosophy on the Bolshevik movement, while at the same time analyzing the complex social dynamics taking place in the background. His intention is to understand the ingredients of "The Soviet Compound"--the synthesis of social and political Leninist techniques--and how it perpetuated the Soviet state for more than half a century.

Service is also keen to debunk the theory that it was merely fear and intimidation that explains the endurance of the state. He cites welfare reforms, education, and significant economic progress as a unifying force that brought a share of betterment into Russian society. Students of Russian history will find this book informative and surprisingly powerful, in particular, Service's narrative on the causes of the Soviet collapse, which he believes Gorbachev's radical social reforms brought about by inadvertently opening the door for dramatic change to take place. --Jeremy Storey --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Politics and political leaders are the main characters of this detailed, balanced trip through Russia's tumultuous century because, as Service says in his introduction, "[t]he economic, social and cultural order in Russia in the twentieth century is quite incomprehensive without sustained attention to political developments." Service covers his topic comprehensively, beginning with the final years of the tsarist regime and continuing through the rise of the Bolsheviks, the terror of the Stalinist years and the slow, uneven disintegration that culminated with the reforms initiated by Mikhail Gorbachev and the dismemberment of the Soviet Union. He also includes an afterword that assesses the future of post-Communist Russia. A professor of Russian history and politics at the University of London and the author of a trilogy on Lenin, Service avoids the politicization that has plagued Soviet history of recent years. Indeed, one of his main triumphs lies in his ability to depict the totalitarian nature of the regime, while simultaneously illuminating the unwieldy, chaotic society that co-existed with that regime. At times, the author's attention to detail becomes excessive, and he pays only glancing attention to cultural trends that would have deepened his study. Nevertheless, this book, which is written cleanly and with a bit of humor, is sure to become a reference work that few libraries and students of 20th-century Russian politics will want to be without.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 659 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press; Revised Edition edition (March 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 067401801X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674018013
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,048,646 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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57 of 58 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on January 25, 2006
Format: Paperback
First of all, it is important to note that I am not an expert in either Russian or 20th century history. Though I have spent a great deal of time reading about Russia and the Soviet Union over the last couple years, I would still consider myself a novice. Thus, this review is obviously written from the perspective of someone relatively new to the field.

Service's History of Modern Russia covers the entire 20th century, though it is relatively sparse post-1994. His handling of the material seems fair; he strives to cover material from a variety of viewpoints, showing both the positive and negative aspects of his subject matter. He covers Lenin, Stalin, WWII, and Khrushchev - along with all their policies, political maneuvers, and so on - in depth (at least as much as can be expected for 555 pages on 100 years!), and covers the Tsarist period, WWI, Brezhnev, and the early 1980s in the USSR in sufficient detail to easily follow the plot. The mild disparity in the treatment of various events and figures is not a flaw in his work; rather, his writing is directed to the more significant developments, of which there seem to be relatively few in the period of Brezhnev and the early 1980s (pre-Gorbachev); his ~40 pages on Brezhnev supply plenty of detail into the USSR from Khrushchev to the early `80s. In fact, I have found it difficult in general to find material on Brezhnev. For example, there are many biographies of Lenin, Stalin, and Khrushchev, but Amazon.com does not appear to carry even one on Brezhnev!

As a newcomer to the field of Russian history, culture, and language, I found Service's work to be readable, informative, and straightforward in its presentation, even when the narrative bogs down in groups of names doing this or that.
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30 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Seth J. Frantzman HALL OF FAME on May 26, 2005
Format: Paperback
Russia is the ultimate story, a story of grandeur of false hopes and shattered dreams. Churchill gave Russia that interesting title of the enigma inside the mystery inside the riddle. However this book does better by truly telling us the grand story of Russia, without the weakness of similar books on the subject. Many important subjects are covered, from the traditional tale of revolution, Stalin, stagnation, collapse.

Here the reader is treated to nuanced stories, such as Krushchevs suppression of the church which left only 7500 Churches ion Russia, whereas 12000 Mosques were left standing. Also evident is the population upheavals of the 1920s and 1930s. Equally important is a very good rendition of the complications of the Civil war and the creation of War communism. All the characters are given a fair portrait from Derzinsky, to Sverlov, to the obvious, such as Zinoviev and Stalin.

The successive chapters on the `mystery years' of Brezhnev is enlightening, to view a nation in stagnation. Although not as insightful as Volkoganov's expose on soviet leadership this book brings to light many tales and is a fascinating, easy digestion, that brings the reader up to date, with Vladimir Putin.

Seth J. Frantzman
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Holff on December 26, 2006
Format: Paperback
Overview of Russia during the 20th Century with stops at the Revolutions, Lenin, Stalin Gorbachev and Yeltsin. Provides a historical basis for event occurring today by allowing historians and political scientists to hypothesize about what is yet to come. Well written by one of the prominent Russian historians today.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Virgil on June 29, 2002
Format: Hardcover
There's no question that the Soviet regime was an indiscriminately ruthless entity. What is often overlooked is the fact that throughout it's existence it had the support of a large percentage of the population. This is often a bit shocking to Americans like myself who've spent time in Russia (even today many of the older generation still praise Krushchev for providing housing and dachas to the general populace).
In "A History of Twentieth Century Russia" Robert Service brings a well written general history that in many ways addresses this. Service identifies the origins of the great terror in the Bolshevik regimes early years and the ascension of Stalin to power. He also identifies many of the educational, medical and other services much of the population recieved. This doesn't mean that Service ignores the genocide that occurred under the Bolsheviks. Not at all. Service, as a historian, merely attempts a general history- the good, the bad and the ugly. Service correctly attempts to show why some elements of the population where willing to put up with certain measures beyond just the terror they were exposed to.
This is a good general history, more balanced and lacking the political bent that many American scholars often approach modern Russian history with. Service shows the brutality of the regime up front and as well as the constuctive changes that took place. And, as Service shows, these changes came at a very high price.
Very readable and highly recommended.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By "rebelunion" on January 8, 2000
Format: Paperback
Robert Service does an excellent job his history of 20th Century Russia. His book is extremely detailed, yet it is so well written that the reader absorbs almost everything. Service ties in agriculture, economics, Russians, and most importantly Soviet leadership, to create a vivid story about why the Soviet Union became such a major power, and how it lasted seven decades on such a precarious pedestal. Everyone who wants to learn about Russia should have the History of Twentieth-Century Russia on their bookshelf.
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