- 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: 6 x 1.2 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 43 customer reviews
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#143,436 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- #121 in Books > Textbooks > Social Sciences > Political Science > Political Ideologies
- #181 in Books > Politics & Social Sciences > Politics & Government > International & World Politics > Russian & Former Soviet Union
- #249 in Books > Politics & Social Sciences > Politics & Government > Ideologies & Doctrines > Communism & Socialism
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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
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[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
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 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
Impressive. . . . A standard work.--Osteuropa
This challenging account is perhaps the most complete and compelling yet written of the Soviet side of the Cold War.--Virginia Quarterly Review
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
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
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
Fluently and authoritatively told.--International History Review
"A significant contribution to a field that has long been dominated by West-centric analyses. . . . Highly recommended.--CHOICE
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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The author is of Russian descent and brings up the history of how the USSR conducted themselves during post WWII. Mr. Zubok brings to us many interesting perspectives from the time of Stalin's strategies during and after the Potsdam conference unto his untimely death in 1953 to the reign of the unabashed brinksmanship of Khrushchev which in hindsight brought us closest to a nuclear disaster both in Berlin and Cuba. Onward Zubok goes into the days of endless detente where Brezhnev tries to control the tempo of not trying to conduct any type of nuclear confrontation.
Zubok goes into all the intrigues of Stalin who tried to gain as much territory in Central Europe and countered the Marshall Plan with the Berlin Blockade and later instigated China to persuade North Korea to attack South Korea. Stalin used these ruses to distract the USA while he consolidated power in Eastern and Central Europe.
Later Zubok explains the actions of the brinksmanship of Khrushchev which brought the Cold War to the edge of nuclear disaster. Later we learn of the grand détente strategies that became the trademark of the old line Communist that was Brezhnev. During of the post Stalin era Zubok explains the tactics, fears and insecurities that the USSR were dealing with during this crucial Cold War era.
Through this time period Zubok also explains the counter-strategies and mistakes made by the USA. All though this relatively long time span of 43 years, we see the USSR struggling financially trying to keep up their Socialist empire while competing with the free enterprise that the USA conducted.
With the old guard of the USSR dying off we have a young reform minded leader in Gobachev leading the USSR into the final stages of Soviet Communism. Gobachev realized that the old strategies and way of conducting a socialist economy would never continue to work. The USSR was economically dying along with all of her satellites of Eastern Europe. Dealing with Reagan and then Bush we see not only the death of Communism in Europe but the death of the government of the USSR. How and why it happened so fast is why you must read this fascinating book done from a Russian historian. This is an eye-opening and an original concept of why and what had happened from inside the USSR from their own perspective.
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. While true that Josef Stalin was a murderous tyrant, he also acted with pragmatism and bargained effectively with his former Western allies following World War II. In accordance with his security concerns for spheres of influence and his self-perception of being a "realist", Stalin gained the admiration of his contemporaries, and expanded the cause of his constituents. Unfortunately, Stalin pushed his effectiveness too far, because his efforts to solidify the communist hold on Eastern Europe and push for eventual change elsewhere forced the US to counter his moves with a concrete policy of containment and to heavily fund the rest of Europe through the Marshall plan. After a period of collective leadership following the death of Stalin, the author notes that the De-Stalinization efforts that followed under Nikita Khrushchev actually helped to undermine the overall conception of the benevolence of communism within Soviet Society amongst its most educated population, a group that would eventually assume power in the person of Mikhail Gorbachev and likeminded "new thinkers". As Zubok then moves through the period of Khrushchev's successor and investigates that era through the prism of détente, the Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev is shown to be an effective leader in his own right, because he espoused a relaxation of terms between the two superpowers, one that would provide hope in spite of the growing military might on the Soviet side. The idea that Brezhnev was a good leader who wished for peace is not one that has been made so effectively in the wider view of history, and makes for a convincing new angle in contemporary history. With regard to the end of the Cold War, the support by its final Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, of a transformation of the USSR into a socialist bloc that could coexist with the West and integrate itself into the capitalist world without violence, is offered by Zubok to be a naive and ill-defined experiment who was unable to harness his ideas into effective action.
Though these positions are fresh and add greatly to the ideas of how the Cold War occurred, the reading is not without problems. When the author discusses détente in 1972 between Nixon and Brezhnev and the first SALT agreement, he barely mentions one of its primary causes, which was the rapprochement between China and the US, a version of triangulation that sought to play Russia and China against one another. Similarly, the fact that the US was greatly weakened by the loss in Vietnam should have been presented as a primary concern by the Americans for engagement with Brezhnev, instead of just crediting the Soviet leader's leadership primarily. Finally, when discussing the end of the Cold War and attributing the chaotic breakup of the USSR to Gorbachev's inept guidance, and in turn stepping into the hypothetical of wondering if the Soviet Union could have performed instead in the way that China did in emerging from a statist economy, Zubok has made the mistake of pining for a an equivalence that did not exist. The truth was that the Soviet Union and China had huge differences in composition and geographic necessities, and further, it may seem a miracle of sorts to the unbiased eye that such a construction as the USSR was able to break apart as quickly as it did with limited bloodshed. In short, what actually did occur was far from a failure for humanity.
It is apparent, however, that whatever the small quibbles that one may have with this book, its information is in fact brilliantly presented and convincingly conveyed, with all of its contentions seeming to be historically sound. Whether one is a novice to Cold War history or an experienced researcher of its various facets, they can do no better than to investigate its breadth and conclusions.
Vladislav Zubok has written this account of the Cold War from the Russian point of view with the benefit of access to Russian and Soviet archives, as evidenced by the extensive notes and bibliography at the conclusion of the account.This work throws new light onto many of the events of the era as other modern historians have not had the access to these Russian resources to study.
I heartily commend this work to all those with an interest in the Cold War, which hung over Europe and the West like a Sword of Damocles, that could have seen the Cold War morph into a catastrophe for mankind.
Most recent customer reviews
First, Zubok is a Russian, born and educated in Moscow, so the book is clearly written,...Read more