Imperial Ends: The Decay, Collapse, and Revival of Empires

In This Review

Imperial Ends: The Decay, Collapse, and Revival of Empires

By Alexander J. Motyl
Columbia University Press, 2001
128 pp. $35.00

The twentieth century was cruel to European empires. But the new century still bears their marks, especially in the case of the still-decaying Soviet empire. Here Motyl brings a fresh eye to the politics of imperial decay and collapse. Empires often follow a predictable course of rise and decline, but Motyl maintains that an organizational pathology inherent in these hierarchical systems makes decay inexorable. Motyl is especially intrigued by variations in historical trajectories and the sources of imperial resurgence. Focusing on the Habsburg, Ottoman, Romanov, Wilhelmine, and Soviet experiences, Motyl argues that postimperial revival is most likely when the core state remains strong and the peripheral territories remain weak and divided. In the Soviet case, eastern Europe has largely escaped the reach of Moscow, whereas the former Soviet republics remain precariously positioned between independence and informal empire. Motyl's concluding prediction is gloomy: the collapse of any revived Russian empire is likely, and instability and conflict in the former Soviet area

are virtually certain.

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