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The Dream that Failed: Reflections on the Soviet Union Hardcover – December 8, 1994

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 248 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; First Edition edition (December 8, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195089782
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195089783
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.4 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,031,713 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In a devastating postmortem of Soviet history, Laqueur (Black Hundred) challenges much conventional thinking as he illuminates two central questions: why the U.S.S.R. lasted as long as it did, and why it collapsed. He notes that the Bolshevik takeover in 1917 resulted from fortuitous circumstances, including the chaos of WWI and the disunity of anti-Bolshevik factions in the ensuing civil war. Ignorance of the outside world, enforced through the early 1960s, contributed to Soviet citizens' passive acceptance of the regime, surmises this prolific historian. As for the Soviet Union's breakup, he opines that the dismal quality of life-repression of freedoms, rising crime, routine high-level corruption, poisoned air and water and substandard housing-was even more decisive than economic failure. The author scathingly criticizes fellow Western travelers who turned a blind eye to Soviet totalitarianism, and CIA economists and academics who greatly overestimated the Soviet gross national product while underestimating the crushing burden of Soviet military spending as factors in the demise of the U.S.S.R.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

The title of this collection of nine essays recalls Arthur Koestler's notorious 1949 volume, The God That Failed. The earlier study, written at the zenith of Soviet power, described the loss of faith in communism; Laqueur's book offers an informal inquest on the collapse of communism and the Soviet Union. More provocatively, it is also an inquest on the quasiscience of Sovietology. Why did so many professional analysts not only utterly fail to see what was coming but continue to insist until the end that the system remained strong? Laqueur's assessments are severe, and he does not hesitate to name names. An important, polemical work that is probably more useful and interesting in its treatment of Sovietology's record than of the Soviet collapse, this should (but probably won't) provoke overdue self-examination among observers of the ex-USSR. For Soviet studies collections.
Robert H. Johnston, McMaster Univ., Hamilton, Ontario
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By sid1gen on August 9, 2000
Format: Hardcover
It was a dream that almost from its humble start turned into a bloody nightmare, and it did fail, but it's too soon to declare that as if Communism were not poised for acomeback in the former Soviet Union or in Eastern Europe. If it does come back we may not get to see, at least for a while, its inevitable Stalinist face, with gulags, forced labor, terror, and wholesale murder of political and class enemies. But that will happen in time and with a former KGB man running things in Moscow and ex-Communists back in power in the "Near Abroad" and Eastern Europe, any epitaphs about Communism are in too early. Walter Laqueur says this much in his analysis, but the title of his book is a bit misleading. There are plenty of Communists out there and the ideology is attractive to a lot of people from very different backgrounds, so a resurgent Russia that swallows the Near Abroad and "protects" Eastern Europe is a very real possibility.
This is a good book, but you must be prepared to go to the Notes pages constantly. By far the best part is the author's exposure of the so-called "experts" from the West who got it so wrong regarding the Soviet Union, not only about its implosion (they are not clairvoyants, after all), but in their total analysis of the system. Laqueur presents most of these experts as what they are: ideologically-motivated men and women of the Left that could not bring themselves to see the rotten system they were supposedly studying. When they saw the truth, they camouflaged it or ignored it because they were attracted to such a system.
I was disappointed in the exclusion of Dmitri Volkogonov and the very brief mention of Roy Medvedev from among the Soviet scholars who seriously attempted to bring light to a very dark subject.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 11, 1999
Format: Hardcover
"The Dream That Failed" is an insightful book about what went wrong in the Soviet Union, or perhaps better, a wrong idea that was doomed to failure. Walter Laqueur deftly points out the political self-deception of the Soviet political system and the failure of the system to adapt to changing times or ever recognize the change before it was too late. The most interesting insight in the book is the analysis of Western "experts" on the Soviet Union. Most appeared to more caught up in the deceptions and failures, and still are, than the Soviet government. My only criticisms: the book is a little hard to read. The complexity of the sentence structure frequently requires breaking the sentences down into their components to keep from getting lost. The syntax also comes across as somewhat affected. Over all a very good book, well worth the effort.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Walter Laqueur is justifiably noted as an analyst on strategic studies. This thin volume shows that he can do a fine job of more specific discussion of the communist movement. His mocking of the liberal historians who desperately tried to salvage their reputations as the truth of the evil nature and incompetence of the socialist system came to light was particularly entertaining.
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