The Soviet Experiment: Russia, the U.S.S.R., and the Successor States

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The Soviet Experiment: Russia, the U.S.S.R., and the Successor States

By Ronald Grigor Suny
Oxford University Press, 1997
540 pp. $35.00
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Experiment is Suny's ultimate characterization of the Soviet story -- a 74-year effort to make Marx's socialism work in a country that may have been among the world's least suited for it. Against this backdrop he sets out to "recover the complexities and contradictions of the seventy years of Soviet power, its real achievements as well as its grotesque failings." When he says "complexities," he means it. Into a single history he weaves not only an account of the regime and the turning points shaping it, but of society and culture at every stage and the country's interaction with the outside world. He does all this with great clarity and simplicity, making the book particularly useful to the general reader. But for two reasons a more specialized audience will also benefit. Suny has spent much of his career studying Soviet policy toward internal nationalities, and he incorporates this fateful dimension with particular skill. Second, by making full use of the best of the social history now available on the Soviet Union's first two decades of existence, he provides a more subtle and complete analysis than contained in earlier histories.