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Historical Legacies of Communism in Russia and Eastern Europe

by Stephen Kotkin Mark R. Beissinger

This book takes stock of arguments about the historical legacies of communism that have become common within the study of Russia and East Europe more than two decades after communism's demise and elaborates an empirical approach to the study of historical legacies revolving around relationships and mechanisms rather than correlation and outward similarities. Eleven essays by a distinguished group of scholars assess whether post-communist developments in specific areas continue to be shaped by the experience of communism or, alternatively, by fundamental divergences produced before or after communism. Chapters deal with the variable impact of the communist experience on post-communist societies in such areas as regime trajectories and democratic political values; patterns of regional and sectoral economic development; property ownership within the energy sector; the functioning of the executive branch of government, the police, and courts; the relationship of religion to the state; government language policies; and informal relationships and practices.

Magnetic Mountain

by Stephen Kotkin

This study is the first of its kind: a street-level inside account of what Stalinism meant to the masses of ordinary people who lived it. Stephen Kotkin was the first American in 45 years to be allowed into Magnitogorsk, a city built in response to Stalin's decision to transform the predominantly agricultural nation into a "country of metal." With unique access to previously untapped archives and interviews, Kotkin forges a vivid and compelling account of the impact of industrialization on a single urban community. Kotkin argues that Stalinism offered itself as an opportunity for enlightenment. The utopia it proffered, socialism, would be a new civilization based on the repudiation of capitalism. The extent to which the citizenry participated in this scheme and the relationship of the state's ambitions to the dreams of ordinary people form the substance of this fascinating story. Kotkin tells it deftly, with a remarkable understanding of the social and political system, as well as a keen instinct for the details of everyday life. Kotkin depicts a whole range of life: from the blast furnace workers who labored in the enormous iron and steel plant, to the families who struggled with the shortage of housing and services. Thematically organized and closely focused, Magnetic Mountain signals the beginning of a new stage in the writing of Soviet social history.

Stalin

by Stephen Kotkin

A magnificent new biography that revolutionizes our understanding of Stalin and his worldIt has the quality of myth: a poor cobbler's son, a seminarian from an oppressed outer province of the Russian empire, reinvents himself as a top leader in a band of revolutionary zealots. When the band seizes control of the country in the aftermath of total world war, the former seminarian ruthlessly dominates the new regime until he stands as absolute ruler of a vast and terrible state apparatus, with dominion over Eurasia. While still building his power base within the Bolshevik dictatorship, he embarks upon the greatest gamble of his political life and the largest program of social reengineering ever attempted: the collectivization of all agriculture and industry across one sixth of the earth. Millions will die, and many more millions will suffer, but the man will push through to the end against all resistance and doubts.Where did such power come from? In Stalin, Stephen Kotkin offers a biography that, at long last, is equal to this shrewd, sociopathic, charismatic dictator in all his dimensions. The character of Stalin emerges as both astute and blinkered, cynical and true believing, people oriented and vicious, canny enough to see through people but prone to nonsensical beliefs. We see a man inclined to despotism who could be utterly charming, a pragmatic ideologue, a leader who obsessed over slights yet was a precocious geostrategic thinker--unique among Bolsheviks--and yet who made egregious strategic blunders. Through it all, we see Stalin's unflinching persistence, his sheer force of will--perhaps the ultimate key to understanding his indelible mark on history.Stalin gives an intimate view of the Bolshevik regime's inner geography of power, bringing to the fore fresh materials from Soviet military intelligence and the secret police. Kotkin rejects the inherited wisdom about Stalin's psychological makeup, showing us instead how Stalin's near paranoia was fundamentally political, and closely tracks the Bolshevik revolution's structural paranoia, the predicament of a Communist regime in an overwhelmingly capitalist world, surrounded and penetrated by enemies. At the same time, Kotkin demonstrates the impossibility of understanding Stalin's momentous decisions outside of the context of the tragic history of imperial Russia.The product of a decade of intrepid research, Stalin is a landmark achievement, a work that recasts the way we think about the Soviet Union, revolution, dictatorship, the twentieth century, and indeed the art of history itself.

Stalin

by Stephen Kotkin

A magnificent new biography that revolutionizes our understanding of Stalin and his worldIt has the quality of myth: a poor cobbler's son, a seminarian from an oppressed outer province of the Russian empire, reinvents himself as a top leader in a band of revolutionary zealots. When the band seizes control of the country in the aftermath of total world war, the former seminarian ruthlessly dominates the new regime until he stands as absolute ruler of a vast and terrible state apparatus, with dominion over Eurasia. While still building his power base within the Bolshevik dictatorship, he embarks upon the greatest gamble of his political life and the largest program of social reengineering ever attempted: the collectivization of all agriculture and industry across one sixth of the earth. Millions will die, and many more millions will suffer, but the man will push through to the end against all resistance and doubts.Where did such power come from? In Stalin, Stephen Kotkin offers a biography that, at long last, is equal to this shrewd, sociopathic, charismatic dictator in all his dimensions. The character of Stalin emerges as both astute and blinkered, cynical and true believing, people oriented and vicious, canny enough to see through people but prone to nonsensical beliefs. We see a man inclined to despotism who could be utterly charming, a pragmatic ideologue, a leader who obsessed over slights yet was a precocious geostrategic thinker--unique among Bolsheviks--and yet who made egregious strategic blunders. Through it all, we see Stalin's unflinching persistence, his sheer force of will--perhaps the ultimate key to understanding his indelible mark on history.Stalin gives an intimate view of the Bolshevik regime's inner geography of power, bringing to the fore fresh materials from Soviet military intelligence and the secret police. Kotkin rejects the inherited wisdom about Stalin's psychological makeup, showing us instead how Stalin's near paranoia was fundamentally political, and closely tracks the Bolshevik revolution's structural paranoia, the predicament of a Communist regime in an overwhelmingly capitalist world, surrounded and penetrated by enemies. At the same time, Kotkin demonstrates the impossibility of understanding Stalin's momentous decisions outside of the context of the tragic history of imperial Russia.The product of a decade of intrepid research, Stalin is a landmark achievement, a work that recasts the way we think about the Soviet Union, revolution, dictatorship, the twentieth century, and indeed the art of history itself.

Stalin

by Stephen Kotkin

A magnificent new biography that revolutionizes our understanding of Stalin and his worldIt has the quality of myth: a poor cobbler's son, a seminarian from an oppressed outer province of the Russian empire, reinvents himself as a top leader in a band of revolutionary zealots. When the band seizes control of the country in the aftermath of total world war, the former seminarian ruthlessly dominates the new regime until he stands as absolute ruler of a vast and terrible state apparatus, with dominion over Eurasia. While still building his power base within the Bolshevik dictatorship, he embarks upon the greatest gamble of his political life and the largest program of social reengineering ever attempted: the collectivization of all agriculture and industry across one sixth of the earth. Millions will die, and many more millions will suffer, but the man will push through to the end against all resistance and doubts.Where did such power come from? In Stalin, Stephen Kotkin offers a biography that, at long last, is equal to this shrewd, sociopathic, charismatic dictator in all his dimensions. The character of Stalin emerges as both astute and blinkered, cynical and true believing, people oriented and vicious, canny enough to see through people but prone to nonsensical beliefs. We see a man inclined to despotism who could be utterly charming, a pragmatic ideologue, a leader who obsessed over slights yet was a precocious geostrategic thinker--unique among Bolsheviks--and yet who made egregious strategic blunders. Through it all, we see Stalin's unflinching persistence, his sheer force of will--perhaps the ultimate key to understanding his indelible mark on history.Stalin gives an intimate view of the Bolshevik regime's inner geography of power, bringing to the fore fresh materials from Soviet military intelligence and the secret police. Kotkin rejects the inherited wisdom about Stalin's psychological makeup, showing us instead how Stalin's near paranoia was fundamentally political, and closely tracks the Bolshevik revolution's structural paranoia, the predicament of a Communist regime in an overwhelmingly capitalist world, surrounded and penetrated by enemies. At the same time, Kotkin demonstrates the impossibility of understanding Stalin's momentous decisions outside of the context of the tragic history of imperial Russia.The product of a decade of intrepid research, Stalin is a landmark achievement, a work that recasts the way we think about the Soviet Union, revolution, dictatorship, the twentieth century, and indeed the art of history itself.

Steeltown, USSR: Soviet Society in the Gorbachev Era

by Stephen Kotkin

No one, not even Mikhail Gorbachev, anticipated what was in store when the Soviet Union embarked in the 1980s on a radical course of long-overdue structural reform. The consequences of that momentous decision, which set in motion a transformation eventually affecting the entire postwar world order, are here chronicled from inside a previously forbidden Soviet city, Magnitogorsk. Built under Stalin and championed by him as a showcase of socialism, the city remained closed to Western scrutiny until four years ago, when Stephen Kotkin became the first American to live there in nearly half a century. An uncommonly perceptive observer, a gifted writer, and a first-rate social scientist, Kotkin offers the reader an unsurpassed portrait of daily life in the Gorbachev era. From the formation of "informal" political groups to the start-up of fledgling businesses in the new cooperative sector, from the no-holds-barred investigative reporting of a former Communist party mouthpiece to a freewheeling multi-candidate election campaign, the author conveys the texture of contemporary Soviet society in the throes of an upheaval not seen since the 1930s. Magnitogorsk, a planned "garden city" in the Ural Mountains, serves as Kotkin's laboratory for observing the revolutionary changes occurring in the Soviet Union today. Dominated by a self-perpetuating Communist party machine, choked by industrial pollution, and haunted by a suppressed past, this once-proud city now faces an uncertain future, as do the more than one thousand other industrial cities throughout the Soviet Union. Kotkin made his remarkable first visit in 1987 and returned in 1989. On both occasions, steelworkers and schoolteachers, bus drivers and housewives, intellectuals and former victims of oppression--all willingly stepped forward to voice long-suppressed grievances and aspirations. Their words animate this moving narrative, the first to examine the impact and contradictions of perestroika in a single community. Like no other Soviet city, Magnitogorsk provides a window onto the desperate struggle to overcome the heavy burden of Stalin's legacy.

Uncivil Society: 1989 and the Implosion of the Communist Establishment

by Stephen Kotkin Jan T. Gross

Twenty years ago, the Berlin Wall fell. In one of modern history's most miraculous occurrences, communism imploded--and not with a bang, but with a whimper. Now two of the foremost scholars of East European and Soviet affairs, Stephen Kotkin and Jan T. Gross, drawing upon two decades of reflection, revisit this crash. In a crisp, concise, unsentimental narrative, they employ three case studies--East Germany, Romania, and Poland--to illuminate what led Communist regimes to surrender, or to be swept away in political bank runs. This is less a story of dissidents, so-called civil society, than of the bankruptcy of a ruling class-communism's establishment, or "uncivil society." The Communists borrowed from the West like drunken sailors to buy mass consumer goods, then were unable to pay back the hard-currency debts and so borrowed even more. In Eastern Europe, communism came to resemble a Ponzi scheme, one whose implosion carries enduring lessons. From East Germany's pseudo-technocracy to Romania's megalomaniacal dystopia, from Communist Poland's cult of Mary to the Kremlin's surprise restraint, Kotkin and Gross pull back the curtain on the fraud and decadence that cashiered the would-be alternative to the market and democracy, an outcome that opened up to a deeper global integration that has proved destabilizing.

Worlds Together, Worlds Apart: A History Of The World From The Beginnings Of Humankind To The Present

by Peter Brown Stephen Kotkin Gyan Prakash Robert Tignor Jeremy Adelman Stephen Aron Benjamin Elman Xinru Liu Suzanne Marchand Holly Pittman Brent Shaw Michael Tsin

In this second edition, the book's non-Eurocentric approach continues with expansions of the original eleven world history "turning point" stories from the modern period to include ten more "turning point" stories from the earlier periods of world history. From the history of the world's first cities built on the great rivers of Afro-Eurasia, to the formation of the Silk Road, to the rise of nation-states, and the story of modern globalization, Worlds Together, Worlds Apart provides students with the stories that changed history and enables them to make the connections they need in order to better understand how the world came to be what it is today.

Worlds Together, Worlds Apart: A History of the World from the Beginnings of Humankind to the Present (Third Edition)

by Peter Brown Stephen Kotkin Gyan Prakash Robert Tignor Jeremy Adelman Stephen Aron Benjamin Elman Xinru Liu Suzanne Marchand Holly Pittman Brent Shaw Michael Tsin

With the Third Edition, Worlds Together, Worlds Apart continues to offer a highly coherent, cutting-edge survey of the field, while becoming more streamlined and accessible for a wider range of students. The Third Edition offers a number of improvements over the first two.

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