This is, unfortunately, a rather poor study on the history of the Soviet Union. There are two principal reasons for this: First, it was originally published in 1985 and sought to offer a narrative on the ongoing history of the USSR - highlighting the rise to power of Mikhail Gorbachev. Then, with the fall of the Soviet Union in late 1991, the author quickly put together this new "Final Edition" of the book. Yet it was never intended as a systematic analysis of Soviet society in its entirety. And to try and cover everything - the whole history of a social formation - in a single, rush-released book amounts to absurdity. When this "Final Edition" was published - in 1992 - the vast archives of the USSR had not been fully accessed. Huge amounts of evidence became available throughout the 1990's ... and none of it is utilised here! As such, the author is too brash - claiming to offer something which he simply was unable to deliver. It required time and patience - to access and process the many archived historical records - before it became possible to present any sort of "final" history of the USSR.
And this brings me to the second reason: this author is a staunch anti-Soviet. He develops an ideologically inspired critique of Marxism, Communism, Leninism, and Stalinism. Indeed, for this author all such "ism's" are interchangeable! He views the USSR as a natural consequence of Marx's theory. And yet this theory is noticeably absent from the book. Indeed, this book lacks any sort of engagement with both theory and historical analysis. Instead, a right-wing approach - one especially inspired by the neo-liberal agenda prevailing at the time this book was written - can be found throughout the narrative offered here. As such, there's no sense of objectivity ... rather, the USSR is - in its entirety - written off as a failure due to it being essentially wrong and evil. A standpoint of this sort is not balanced, and I very much doubt that this author was capable of writing a neutral history.
For the reasons stated, this cannot be anything but a poor work of history. It also happens to be badly structured. The era of Lenin (1917-24) receives 4 chapters; the period of Stalin is dedicated 6 chapters; Khrushchev - who was in office for more than a decade (during which time immense reforms and advancements occurred, e.g. the first human in space) - gets only 1 chapter; and the years of Brezhnev through to Gorbachev, from 1964 to 1991, receive just 3 chapters! Put simply, there's a major imbalance in the work. The period 1917 to 1953 (some 35 years) is dealt with over 10 chapters. And the years 1954-91 (37 years) is covered in only 4 chapters. As such, the latter half of the history of the USSR is far too insufficiently dealt with. And the reason is simple - the author possessed no expertise on this period.
Given the flaws and limitations of this book, I cannot recommend it.
Geoffrey Hosking is a major writer on Soviet History and this book shows his knowledge on his chosen subject is enormous. Within the 570 pages of this book he deals with the entire history of the Soviet Union in a comprehensive manner. However Hosking, like many other authors of Soviet history, was possibly too eager to re-issue his history after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Like many books covering the entire history of the Soviet Union the text deals predominantly with the leadership of Lenin and Stalin. Although the early years of the Soviet Union affected the entire history of the country the latter years should not be overlooked so easily. Like many others Hosking has not searched for new sources or waited for them to become available before writing an entire history - sadly historians are often motivated by book sales as well as the search for the 'truth'. Despite this criticism this book is an enjoyable read - if you ignore the sections on religion. Hosking knows his subject well and writes in an accessible style. Soviet history is a complex and evolving subject, the wealth of books available makes it difficult to identify a suitable overview to the subject. This book provides a suitable option for any reader.