In This Review

Steeltown, Ussr: Soviet Society In The Gorbachev Era
Steeltown, Ussr: Soviet Society In The Gorbachev Era
By Stephen Kotkin
University of California Press, 1991, 269 pp

A half century ago Western readers were introduced to Magnitogorsk, the Soviet Pittsburgh and showpiece of Stalin's industrialization program, in John Scott's Behind the Urals. Now an enterprising and keenly observant American scholar gives a graphic picture of the city and its people in the era of perestroika, when the huge steel plant has become an industrial dinosaur, a symbol of the decomposition of the system that created it. Kotkin, who lived in Magnitogorsk in 1987 and again in 1989, finds sources of information everywhere: the daily press (especially letters to the editor), the theater, a hotly contested election campaign and in hundreds of conversations with ordinary and extraordinary Russians. The result is a rare and striking picture of how (badly) perestroika is working in one provincial city with a special place in Soviet history.