The Shortest History of the Soviet Union
by Sheila Fitzpatrick
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Pub Date 21 Jun 2022 | Archive Date 28 Sep 2022
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.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Sheila Fitzpatrick is Distinguished Service Professor Emerita of Russian History at the University of Chicago, honorary professor at the University of Sydney, and a professor in the Institute for Humanities and Social Sciences at the Australian Catholic University. Her many books include Everyday Stalinism: Ordinary Life in Extraordinary Times: Soviet Russia in the 1930s (1999), The Russian Revolution (third edition, 2007), and On Stalin’s Team: The Years of Living Dangerously in Soviet Politics (2015), and she is a regular contributor to the London Review of Books.
"Sheila Fitzpatrick does the seemingly impossible by telling the entire history of the Soviet Union (and even some post-Soviet history) in a single sitting. A clear and engaging account of Soviet history, this book is extremely readable, mind-bogglingly brief, and relentlessly insightful."
--Alexis Peri, author of The War Within: Diaries from the Siege of Leningrad
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