A History of Twentieth-Century Russia by Robert Service

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Russia has had an extraordinary history in the twentieth century. As the first Communist society, the USSR was both an admired model and an object of fear and hatred to the rest of the world.

How are we to make sense of this history? A History of Twentieth-Century Russia treats the years from 1917 to 1991 as a single period and analyzes the peculiar mixture of political, economic, and social ingredients that made up the Soviet formula. Under a succession of leaders from Lenin to Gorbachev, various methods were used to conserve and strengthen this compound. At times the emphasis was upon shaking up the ingredients, at others upon stabilization. All this occurred against a background of dictatorship, civil war, forcible industrialization, terror, world war, and the postwar arms race. Communist ideas and practices never fully pervaded the society of the USSR. Yet an impact was made and, as this book expertly documents, Russia since 1991 has encountered difficulties in completely eradicating the legacy of Communism.

A History of Twentieth-Century Russia is the first work to use the mass of material that has become available in the documentary collections, memoirs, and archives over the past decade. It is an extraordinarily lucid, masterful account of the most complex and turbulent period in Russia's long history.


About Robert Service

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Robert W. Service was born in London about 1874. He had a convoluted life that involved much moving around, from Scotland, to England, to Canada, to California. He worked in banks, was a war correspondent for the Toronto Star and an ambulance driver for the American Red Cross, and he served as an intelligence officer in the Canadian Army in World War I. In 1907, he published his first book of poetry, The Spell of the Yukon, and Other Verses This book included the well-known poem "The Shooting of Dan McGrew" and this first brought him public recognition. In 1909, he left his banker's job and began writing his first novel, The Trail of the '98. He married in 1913 and the couple had a daughter. In 1921, Service went to Hollywood to work on a film version of Dan McGrew. In later life, he devoted himself to writing and traveling and he died in Brittany, France, in 1958.
Published January 1, 1997 by ALLEN LANE. 688 pages
Genres: History, Education & Reference, Political & Social Sciences, Travel. Non-fiction

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Such was the concentration of power that the Politburo routinely discussed whether writers should be given exit visas or special medical facilities—it was, he notes, as if the postwar British Cabinet had debated “whether George Orwell could visit France or Evelyn Waugh have a gall-bladder operati...

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In this incisive study, Service (A History of Modern Russia ) surveys the varieties of communist ideologies (from Marx to Marcuse) and regimes (the Soviet Union getting the lion's share of attention) and finds a coherent pattern, which he forthrightly labels totalitarianism.

Mar 19 2007 | Read Full Review of A History of Twentieth-Centur...

Publishers Weekly

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Politics and political leaders are the main characters of this detailed, balanced trip through Russia's tumultuous century because, as Service says in his introduction, ""[t]he economic, social and cultural order in Russia in the twentieth century is quite incomprehensive without sustained attent...

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While being obviously aware of the heroism of dissenters – who, as Service points out, were described by the regime as 'other thinkers' in their preferred Russian term – it is to legal 'dissidents' such as the writer Soloukhin and 'bards' such as Vysotsky and ...

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