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The Soviet Union under Brezhnev (Seminar Studies In History) Paperback – 28 Apr 2003


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Product details

  • Paperback: 200 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge; 1 edition (28 April 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0582327199
  • ISBN-13: 978-0582327191
  • Product Dimensions: 15.5 x 1.3 x 23.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 414,528 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From the Back Cover

The Soviet Union Under Brezhnev

provides an accessible post-Soviet perspective on the history of the USSR from the mid-1960’s to the mid-1980’s. It challenges both the ‘evil empire’ image of the USSR that was widespread in the early 1980’s and the ‘stagnation’ label attached to the period by Soviet reformers under Gorbachev.

The book makes use of a range of memoirs, interviews, archival documents and other sources not available before 1990 to place Brezhnev and his epoch in a broader historical context. The author:

  • examines high politics, foreign policy and policy making
  • explores broader social, cultural and demographic trends
  • presents a picture of Soviet society in the crucial decades prior to the upheavals and crises of the late 1980’s

While stopping well short of a full-scale rehabilitation of Brezhnev, Tompson rejects the prevailing image of the Soviet leader as a colourless non-entity, drawing attention to Brezhnev’s real political skills, as well as his faults, and to the systemic roots of many of the problems he faced.

 

William Tompson is Reader in Politics at Birkbeck College, University of London.

About the Author

William Tompson is Reader in Politics at Birkbeck College, University of London.

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By DAVID DOWNEY on 22 Oct. 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I very much enjoyed this book as it brought back memories of news bulletins of the "bad old" 1980s. I was in my 20s and only knew of the Soviet Union as the "evil empire". Whilst this book does not attempt to portray the USSR as a victim of western propaganda it does shed light on the workings of the system e.g. how unwilling the politburo was to engage in Afghanistan, why the Soviet Union was bound to fail in a world of increasing technology etc. A very compelling introduction.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Ralph Blumenau TOP 500 REVIEWER on 1 Jun. 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Leonid Brezhnev ruled the Soviet Union for eighteen years, from 1964 to 1982; but, while there are excellent biographies of Khrushchev and of Gorbachev, as far as I can see, there has, astonishingly, been none in English of Brezhnev, except for one that was published about half way through his period in office. So we have to make do with Tompson’s rather spare, dry and colourless account of that period - just 118 pages long (excluding 25 pages of extracts from documents of the time). What he brings out is that Brezhnev did rather well in the first part of the period, providing some longed-for stability after the erratic rule of Khrushchev, achieving some détente with the West, and providing a modest improvement in the standard of living of Soviet citizens.

Then it all went wrong in the second half: the détente petered out in 1975 and was well and truly over when the Soviet troops invaded Afghanistan in 1979. The economy stagnated and even declined. Brezhnev’s health had begun to deteriorate in 1973, and neither he nor the other old men in the Politbureau were prepared to make any changes in policy, in structures, or in personnel.

The regime managed to prevent Czechoslovakia in 1968 and Poland in 1981 from escaping from their satellite status (although, strangely, it tolerated the independent foreign policy of Romania). And throughout, it was repressive of opposition at home; but, because it was not as ruthless as Stalin had been, the opposition was not crushed. Courageous human rights activists dared to challenge the regime, and often paid for it with imprisonment, exile, or detention in psychiatric hospitals.

In retrospect we can see that the conditions were ripe for the break-up of the Soviet system; but Tompson concludes that a vigorous successor committed to retaining it could have kept it going for a good deal longer. The men who elected Gorbachev thought, mistakenly, that he would be such a man.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 1 review
Still waiting for a good biography of Brezhnev 1 Jun. 2014
By Ralph Blumenau - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Leonid Brezhnev ruled the Soviet Union for eighteen years, from 1964 to 1982; but, while there are excellent biographies of Khrushchev and of Gorbachev, as far as I can see, there has, astonishingly, been none in English of Brezhnev, except for one that was published about half way through his period in office. So we have to make do with Tompson’s rather spare, dry and colourless account of that period - just 118 pages long (excluding 25 pages of extracts from documents of the time). What he brings out is that Brezhnev did rather well in the first part of the period, providing some longed-for stability after the erratic rule of Khrushchev, achieving some détente with the West, and providing a modest improvement in the standard of living of Soviet citizens.

Then it all went wrong in the second half: the détente petered out in 1975 and was well and truly over when the Soviet troops invaded Afghanistan in 1979. The economy stagnated and even declined. Brezhnev’s health had begun to deteriorate in 1973, and neither he nor the other old men in the Politbureau were prepared to make any changes in policy, in structures, or in personnel.

The regime managed to prevent Czechoslovakia in 1968 and Poland in 1981 from escaping from their satellite status (although, strangely, it tolerated the independent foreign policy of Romania). And throughout, it was repressive of opposition at home; but, because it was not as ruthless as Stalin had been, the opposition was not crushed. Courageous human rights activists dared to challenge the regime, and often paid for it with imprisonment, exile, or detention in psychiatric hospitals.

In retrospect we can see that the conditions were ripe for the break-up of the Soviet system; but Tompson concludes that a vigorous successor committed to retaining it could have kept it going for a good deal longer. The men who elected Gorbachev thought, mistakenly, that he would be such a man.
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