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Why Lenin? Why Stalin? Why Gorbachev?: The Rise and Fall of the Soviet System (3rd Edition) Paperback – January 17, 1997

ISBN-13: 978-0065011111 ISBN-10: 0065011112 Edition: 3rd

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Why Lenin? Why Stalin? Why Gorbachev?: The Rise and Fall of the Soviet System (3rd Edition) + Russia: A History + Behind the Urals: An American Worker in Russia's City of Steel
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 194 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers; 3rd edition (January 17, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0065011112
  • ISBN-13: 978-0065011111
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 6.3 x 8.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #330,005 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By J. Lewis VINE VOICE on March 13, 2008
Format: Paperback
Von Laue's short history and analysis of the USSR is an unusually insightful, critical and interesting commentary. Unlike many others, it's not distorted by either apologies for or propaganda against the Soviet system. Von Laue presents Marxism-Leninism as an especially crude form of 19th century positivism and is unflinching in looking at Stalinist brutality, the scale of which becomes clear here. Yet his analysis suggests an even worse likely alternative for the Russian people, Europe and the world had the Bolsheviks been defeated: the permanent dismemberment and subjugation of Russia by Imperial, then Nazi Germany; an insight that throws Soviet history in a rather different light. His discussion of why reform of the Soviet system failed is likewise detached, critical and forces the reader to rethink conventional notions about the bases and limits of Soviet society and power. Anyone even vaguely interested in Soviet history should read this wonderful little book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Eric Gartman on July 15, 2010
Format: Paperback
In his now-classic essay, Professor Theodore von Laue offers a highly original interpretation of the history of the Soviet Union and Communism. The Communist overthrow of the Tsar in 1917 has traditionally been seen as an angry reaction to incompetance of the old regime. But according to von Laue, it was more than that. The new leaders desperately needed to catch up with the West. For by now the industrial revolution had transformed Western Europe while Russia lagged far behind. Determined to catch up, the Communists forced industrialization and modernization on their peoples. But herein lay the crux of the problem: "How to infuse the creativity of Western urban-industrial civilization, evolved under highly favorable geographic and historical circumstances, into habits and institutions shaped by relentless adversity." (p. 3). The method the Soviets, and Stalin in particular, used to deal with this was coercion, a un-Western way to try and emulate the West. And it failed miserably. For according to von Laue, "Where political and economic unity has been traditionally imposed by force, it cannot be readily replaced, in face of profound geographical and historical obstacles, by voluntary cooperation." Thus despite the repression, the gulags, the forced resettlements, and forced labor, the Soviet peoples never developed the creativity, initiative or cooperation to modernize. The multi-ethnic facade finally crumbled under Gorbachev's liberalization policies.

Not only is von Laue's view of the Soviet project as more of an attempt to catch up with the West than class struggle novel, but his assertion that culture, rather than material factors, drives development is also provocative.
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0 of 20 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 11, 1999
Format: Paperback
In the tradition of Lewin, Jowitt and Lane Von Laue offers insight where others have failed
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