- Paperback: 144 pages
- Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1st edition (September 1, 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0199238480
- ISBN-13: 978-0199238484
- Product Dimensions: 6.8 x 0.3 x 4.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 16 customer reviews
Amazon Best Sellers Rank:
#628,974 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- #607 in Books > Politics & Social Sciences > Politics & Government > International & World Politics > Russian & Former Soviet Union
- #716 in Books > Textbooks > Social Sciences > Political Science > Political Ideologies
- #1024 in Books > Politics & Social Sciences > Politics & Government > Ideologies & Doctrines > Communism & Socialism
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The Soviet Union: A Very Short Introduction 1st Edition
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About the Author
Stephen Lovell is a Reader in Modern European History at King's College London.
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Lovell examines the USSR (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics) through paradoxes in each chapter which include “Future and Past”, “Coercion and participation”, “Poverty and wealth”, “Elite and masses”, “Patriotism and multinationalism”, and “West and East”. Each chapter covers how the paradox was present within the USSR from its early years to its ending years. The paradoxes given provide a starting point for a fresh analysis of the Soviet Union. To help a possible reader understand Lovell’s book, I will briefly focus on two paradoxes that make this book a must read for anyone wanting to begin studying the USSR.
One paradox that demonstrates the significance of Lovell’s work is the chapter “Wealth and poverty”. This chapter hones in on the struggles the Soviet Union had in terms of poverty, including food shortages which was a major issue at certain points in Soviet history. Despite poverty issues, Lovell also provides analysis into where citizens within the USSR gained a higher level of living during certain periods. Lovell makes it understood that while USSR did not achieve the economic statues it desired, it did make improvements throughout its existence. Lovell provides evidence such as steady increase of food consumption from 1964 to 1973 (72). This statistic as well as others used within the chapter provide a picture of the USSR that includes its failures with creating wealth, but also mentions its successes. This paradox provides a deeper insight into the distribution of wealth for people living in the Soviet Union period.
The other important paradox to look at is “West and East”. What Lovell does best for readers wanting to engage in the study of Soviet Union perceptions is to display relationship between the USSR and the world. When analyzing international relations between the USSR and the Western world, the perspective often comes from the viewpoint of Western countries like the United States and Britain. However, Lovell chose to stare at the world from the Soviet’s perspective when writing about the USSR and the West, and found that the feelings of the Soviet Union were more complex than what appears on the surface. Lovell best explains the paradox when he wrote “the USSR always had an imagined West as its key point of reference: as bugbear, as bogeyman, sometimes as exemplar” (139). The paradox pushes past many Westerners perception that the Soviet Union detested anything that had ties to the West. While true in many cases, this outstanding chapter by Lovell provokes a much more complex understanding of USSR thinking internationally.
Lovell’s The Soviet History gives a history of the Soviet Union that focuses throughout the history of the USSR instead of honing in on specific periods and leaders. Lovell may have an unconventional organization style, but his using different chapters to view different paradoxes is a strategy that allows readers to swiftly understand the Soviet Union. Analyzing those six paradoxes demonstrates how the Soviet Union struggle at times, but also excelled in certain goals that are often overshadowed in mainstream thought. Because of this analysis, anyone wanting to start learning Soviet history should read Stephen Lovell’s The Soviet Union: A Very Short Introduction.