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The Soviet Experiment: Russia, the USSR, and the Successor States Paperback – 12 May 2010


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Product details

  • Paperback: 588 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA; 2 edition (12 May 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195340558
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195340556
  • Product Dimensions: 22.9 x 3.3 x 15.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 693,893 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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About the Author

About the Author: Ronald Grigor Suny is currently Professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago. He was previously Alex Manoogian Professor of Modern Armenian History at the University of Michigan. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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The first impression of the traveler moving across Russia at the turn of the twentieth century was the vast size of the country. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
(This review is of the revised and updated 2010 edition, not the 1998 edition)

This is a good, solid if middle-of-the-road one volume survey of Soviet history. It also purports to deal with the Soviet successor states althought in actual fact the only post-Soviet state it deals with in any detail is Russia. The other 15 republics are overlooked.

It offers a narrative summary of key social, political, economic and cultural developments of the Soviet experiment itself, plus a useful introductory chapter on the country's pre-1917 antecedents. It is well organised and well written and covers all the essentials. What limits its value as a text book for me is its failure to offer comprehensive summaries of various schools of historical thought, and how our understanding of the Soviet Union has shifted with time (especially after the opening of the archives in the early 90s). For example, was Stain's crash industrialisation of the Soviet Union in the 30s necessary? Or was there another way? He mentions briefly that that historians think a gradualist approach might have worked but gives no names and does not expond on the issues at any length. Other key issues like the continuities and differences between Leninism and Stalinism are hardly discussed. The suggestions for further reading are very useful but again some attempt to offer summary of the key arguments of the literature of the Soviet Union would have been useful. Some statistical tables and additional maps would also have come in handy, as well.

Nonetheles, for teachers and students of Soviet history, this is still a very useful lodestar text with which to navigate Soviet history. For readers with a general interest, or already have a background knowledge of Soviet history, the price of the book is too high. Read a library copy or get it second hand, as I did.
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Format: Paperback
Great book overall. Immersive narrative while keeping scientific rigor, good balance of historiographic debates and first person accounts. Specially valuable for the Stalinist period.
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8 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Roude_Leiw on 17 Mar. 2003
Format: Paperback
Suny's overview over Russian and Soviet history makes it a very ambitious project. Not only does he, as a native Armenian, have a personal connection to the Soviet Union, but he also writes from the perspective of an emigre, someone who has found a new home in the USA. Thus, Suny is to be met with a certain criticism to start with.
Suny does not dive right into the (hi)story of the Soviet Union, but also goes to great lengths to explain its origins. He goes back to the beginnings of Nicolas II's reign to analyse how and why Communism found such a broad base of support in tsarist Russia. After a short overview of the general Russian history, he provides a short analysis of Russian social and plitical structures, brushing over the 1905 peasant revolt before finally coming up to Russia's invovement in the First World War, which would cost Nicolas II his life and create the Soviet Union. The only criticism one might bring in here is that Lenin's personal background, which contributed largely to his determination in setting up the Soviet Union, is widely left alone.
However, Suny's detailed analysis of the events in 1917 makes up for this. From that point on, SUny takes the reader by the hand and guides him/her through the maze that Soviet history is for a lot of people. From the 1920 Civil War to the 1930s purges up to Gorbachev's Glasnost and Perstroika reforms and his ultimate downfall, Suny documents everything with an eye for the detail. I would however advise beginners in the subject to keep a critical distance. Suny is very much engaged in the topic, and he does not leave much room for debate. He advertises to be dealing "dispassionately" with the topic, and his style mirrors this claim.
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1 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Roude_Leiw on 17 Mar. 2003
Format: Hardcover
Suny's overview over Russian and Soviet history makes it a very ambitious project. Not only does he, as a native Armenian, have a personal connection to the Soviet Union, but he also writes from the perspective of an emigre, someone who has found a new home in the USA. Thus, Suny is to be met with a certain criticism to start with.Good overview over Russian history in the Twentieth Century
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 16 reviews
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
A good read 12 Feb. 2005
A Kid's Review - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This is a good book for people just trying to get a grasp on what's going on. There are some "generalizations" as someone mentioned in an earlier review, but they are less unsubstantiated than they are just not always elaborated upon. I think it's a blessing, since Suny's other book on Soviet Essays & Documents is a lot more precise and, consequently, hard to get through. It's good information though, and especially in the Soviet Experiment his style of writing makes for an easy, fair-minded, fascinating read.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Fine Survey; 4.5 Stars 1 Feb. 2009
By R. Albin - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This is a very fine survey of Soviet history from the Russian Revolution to the collapse of the Soviet state. While this is a chronologically arranged account, Suny divides Soviet history into a set of sensibly selected periods. These are the Russian Revolution and establishment of the Soviet state in the Civil War, the period of modest relaxation of state efforts at control that was the New Economic Policy (NEP), the Stalinist revolution from above and WWII, the efforts at reform after Stalin, the stagnation of the Brezhnev decades, and the final effort at reform that led to the fall of the Soviet state. Major political, social, economic, and to a lesser extent, intellectual developments are discussed for each period. Suny makes a very successful effort to balance narrative and analysis. Controversial issues are described as such and references given to appropriate further reading. The balance between sufficient detail and maintaining a good narrative flow within the limits of a moderate sized survey is excellent. Consistent themes are the discrepancies between Marxist doctrine and the social realities of Imperial Russia and the Soviet Union, the enormous transformation of Soviet society that took place under the leadership of the Communist party, the brutality of Stalin, and the consistent Soviet suppression of civil society and democratic impulses. The bibliography is excellent. This book is an excellent entry into the complicated literature on the Soviet Union and recommended strongly.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Excellent 11 Sept. 2012
By Kelly Anne - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It offers a rather impartial view of the history of the Soviet state. It is a very nice text. The only complaint I have about the text is the lack of maps to help readers get a better visual for the Soviet Union at different times.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Eye Opening 6 Oct. 2010
By Jeremy - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The Soviet Experiment gives an insight into the heart of the Soviet Union unlike any other work on the subject that I've ever encountered. The book covers the major players in the revolutions and their attitudes and manipulations toward the formation of the perfect state. The writing style is factual and enjoyable as it moves back and forth between time periods in order to explain in more detail the topic at hand. I recommend this book for anyone who is interested in understanding what the Soviet Union was, how it became, and how it came to an end.
Great Russian History Book 7 July 2014
By Dr. Lamb - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I'm personally not a fan of Suny's writing style, but this book was packed with information. The thing I disliked about this book was the pure volume of required readings I had to do out of it every night.
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