The papers gathered here were originally presented at a conference “What Was the Soviet Union? Looking back at the Brezhnev years,” held at Wesleyan University on 20–21 October 2011. In the West, the Soviet Union is most often viewed through the Cold War lens of capitalist triumph over socialist decline and failure. Rather than take seriously the communist challenge to capitalist modernity, the Soviet project is presented as a historical dead-end, a doomed experiment that collapsed under the weight of its own contradictions. The Soviet Union – the story goes – was ruled by a stultified bureaucracy under which citizens enjoyed limited personal freedom and dissidents were ruthlessly persecuted. The attempt to build a centrally-planned economy on principles antithetical to the market led to colossal inefficiency and stagnant growth. Moscow’s competition with the United States for global hegemony brought the world to the brink of nuclear war and fueled bitter conflicts from Afghanistan to Angola. The system’s survival depended on stringent controls on communication with the outside world. Russians, of course, have a more complicated relationship to their own past. Even as the historical legacies of Lenin and Stalin, Khrushchev and Gorbachev, remain contentious, the Soviet Union of
Russian History – Brill
Published: Jul 21, 2014
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