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The System: An Insider's Life in Soviet Politics Paperback – October 5, 1993

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Arbatov, who has headed the Institute for the Study of the U.S.A. and Canada (a major Moscow think tank) since its founding in 1967, claims that he is as controversial at home as he is in this country. And this account of Soviet governance going back to 1953 provides plenty of fodder for his partisans and foes alike. Although Arbatov acknowledges his own conformity in pre- perestroika Russia, expresses shame "for living according to the rules of the day" and stresses that survival required submission, the book is no apologia. Rather, in it this ingenious unreconstructed Socialist bears witness to the apparat's follies, cronyism, corruption and blatant abuses of power. which quashed undercurrents of liberalist impulse. From his vantage as adviser to every Soviet leader from Khrushchev to Yeltsin, he reviews the conflicts accruing to Khrushchev's exposure of Stalin's criminality at the 20th Party Congress in 1956, the tentative reforms and persecutions, the subsequent attempts at re-Stalinization, the Cold War, then detente and Brezhnev-era stagnation. He condemns military power as an instrument of politics, yet skirts certain sensitive matters, as when he writes, "What was actually going on as far as the so-called Jewish problem was concerned, I do not know." Arbatov is well versed in the language of politics, practiced at saying both more and less than he appears to, and this affects one's reading of his memoir. But read it one must. Author tour.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Library Journal

The Kremlin's top specialist on U.S. affairs since the 1960s looks back on his career as an adviser to the Soviet leadership and director of Moscow's respected Institute for the Study of the United States and Canada. Political scientists and highly informed readers will value Arbatov's detailed description of the Soviet decision-making process and of the decision makers themselves--especially Khrushchev, Brezhnev, and Andropov--who emerge here as much more complex figures than is usually assumed. While Arbatov takes pains to distinguish himself from the more courageous dissidents as an "anti-Stalinist insider," his professional struggles are compelling enough and serve to further illuminate the Soviet tragedy. Highly recommended. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 3/15/92.
- Robert Decker, Palo Alto, Cal.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 380 pages
  • Publisher: Three Rivers Press (October 5, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812922743
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812922745
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 5.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,123,331 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Gregory Canellis on July 26, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As the subtitle of Georgi Arbatov's memoir states, he was an insider of the Soviet political system from the Khrushchev through Gorbachev eras. Arbatov believes this is perhaps the most important period in Soviet history and dubs the years following the death of Joseph Stalin through the 1980's as a period leading up to the Second Russian Revolution. Arbatov tells us a gap exists in the present scholarship and that historians need to concentrate on this important chapter in Soviet history. Written with a great deal of hindsight and sprinkled with digressions and personal regrets, this work nonetheless offers the insightful recollections of a top political advisor to the pinnacle of Soviet leadership. Born in 1923, Arbatov's mother came from a peasant background, while his father, a Civil War veteran, worked in a factory in Odessa. During the purges of the 1930's, Arbatov's father was jailed for a period, but later released due to lack of concrete evidence that he was an enemy of the people. This incident began what Arbatov believed was a passive disillusionment with the Stalin regime that his father silently harbored. Arbatov regrets not fully communicating to his father about his disenchantment before he died in 1954. At eighteen years of age, Arbatov enrolled at the First Moscow Artillery College one day before the Nazi invasion of 21 June 1941. As a result, the usual two-year tenure period was reduced to a six-month crash course. As a young captain, Arbatov commanded a Katyusha rocket battery before being invalided out with a severe case of tuberculosis.Read more ›
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By Towelclerk on October 30, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
My memories of Arbatov from his many appearances on American television in the second half of the last century are buoyed and sustained by what one finds in this book: a clear and reasoned view of the Soviet political system post Stalin. And, I might add, an unapologetic agreement with the socialist core of communism as an economic system. I admit that my own sympathy with the latter opinion (i.e., the attractiveness of socialism) may taint to a degree my conclusion that Arbatov's memoir is essentially honest in both detail and overall intent.

Four particular comment areas: 1) This is not really a book of human-interest details about significant Soviet persons, yet one easily imagines Mr. Arbatov's intellect of observation and person-to-person experience are such that additional gossipy tidbits would truly be welcome. I refer here not only to comments about Soviet leaders, but also sharing with us their candid opinions about American, Western, and indeed, international counterparts. We'd love to have more fly-on-the-wall stuff like what, for example, did Brezhnev think personally about Nixon and Kissinger? 2) Speaking of Brezhnev, he especially receives, in my opinion, fair, even, and well-rounded judgement from Arbatov. Almost ditto regarding Yuri Andropov. 3) If possible, I would love to have had Arbatov comment somewhere about Dimitri Shepilov, whose own memoir contains a beautiful picture of the aging Stalin as a human, intellectual mentor in using Shepilov's assistance to write a textbook about Marxist-Leninist principles. 4) I think the average reader would greatly appreciate a bolder or more distinct typography than the one Times Books-Random House chose for the U.S. edition of this book. My old eyes squint hard to pick up parentheses, footnote indicators, and even end-of-sentence punctuation.
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By Sergei I. Zhuk on September 21, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It is the unique source in the history of Soviet political elite, and simultaneously in the rise of American studies in the Soviet Union during late socialism
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Jessie Abraham on July 7, 2012
Format: Paperback
A peculiar book from one standpont, a serious lack of modesty in the author. There are many photos in the book, and EVERY SINGLE ONE is there to show Arbatov in the company of one or another famous personage. The captions each call attention to Arbatov and only incidentally mention the world leaders who are in some of the photos.
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