In 1917, Bolshevik revolutionaries came to power in the war-torn Russian Empire in a way that defied all predictions, including their own. Scarcely a lifespan later, in 1991, the Soviet Union collapsed as accidentally as it arose. The decades between witnessed drama on an epic scale – the chaos and hope of revolution, famines and purges, hard-won victory in history’s most destructive war, and worldwide geopolitical conflict, all entwined around the dream of building a better society.
This book is a lively and authoritative distillation of this complex history, told with vivid details, a grand sweep, and wry wit. The acclaimed historian Sheila Fitzpatrick chronicles the Soviet Age – its rise, reign, and unexpected fall, as well as its afterlife in today’s Russia. She underscores the many ironies of the Soviet experience: an ideology that claimed to offer humanity the reins of history wrangled with contingency. An avowedly internationalist and anti-imperialist state birthed an array of nationalisms. And a vision of transcending economic and social inequality and injustice gave rise to a country that was, in its way, surprisingly normal.
Moving seamlessly from Lenin to Stalin to Gorbachev to Putin, The Shortest History of the Soviet Union provides an indispensable guide to one of the twentieth century’s great powers and the enduring fascination it still exerts.