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The Gorbachev Phenomenon: A Historical Interpretation Expanded edition Moshe Lewin University of California Press Expanded edition


30th July 2011 History Books 4 Comments

“A broad historical analysis of Lewin’s kind makes the Gorbachev phenomenon far less an extraordinary event, by replacing it within the continuum of historical trends of which he is the expression and which are being achieved through him.” — Pierre Bourdieu, Times Literary Supplement

“Mr. Lewin’s book is a grand essay of wide historical and sociological sweep. . . . Perhaps the study’s most valuable contribution is the emphasis on the social changes Russia has undergone since 1917, symbolized by the shift of population from village to city and all the characteristic byproducts of urbanization, including the rise of the educated professionals with middle-class values and attitudes.” — Alexander Dallin, New York Times Book Review

“This slim volume, based on a lifetime’s scholarly research into social change since the revolution, is compulsory . . . reading for anyone who would or should understand the Gorbachev phenomenon.” — Edward Acton, London Observer

Moshe Lewin is Professor of History at the University of Pennsylvania and the author of several books on Soviet history.

The “Gorbachev phenomenon” is seen as the product of complex developments during the last seventy years–developments that changed the Soviet Union from a primarily agrarian society into an urban, industrial one. Here, for the first time, a noted authority on Soviet society identifies the crucial historical events and social forces that explain Glasnost and political and economic life in the Soviet Union today.

“A broad historical analysis of Lewin’s kind makes the Gorbachev phenomenon far less an extraordinary event, by replacing it within the continuum of historical trends of which he is the expression and which are being achieved through him.” — Pierre Bourdieu, Times Literary Supplement

“Mr. Lewin’s book is a grand essay of wide historical and sociological sweep. . . . Perhaps the study’s most valuable contribution is the emphasis on the social changes Russia has undergone since 1917, symbolized by the shift of population from village to city and all the characteristic byproducts of urbanization, including the rise of the educated professionals with middle-class values and attitudes.” — Alexander Dallin, New York Times Book Review

“This slim volume, based on a lifetime’s scholarly research into social change since the revolution, is compulsory . . . reading for anyone who would or should understand the Gorbachev phenomenon.” — Edward Acton, London Observer

The Gorbachev Phenomenon: A Historical Interpretation, Expanded edition

Khrushchev: The Years in Power

The Medvedev brothers . . . give us a deliberately sober and balanced picture of Khrushchev. As might be expected they are particularly good in dealing with his policies on science and agriculture. (Foreign Affairs )

A unique view of the Khrushchev period as seen by two prominent Soviet dissidents. This portrait by two noted Soviet authors and dissidents of Nikita Khrushchev’s years in power reveals the former leader of the Soviet Union as a decisive, even impetuous, innovator, a side of him little known before in the West. Khrushchev emerges as a man impatient to destroy Stalinism, to remedy defects in the Soviet system, and to solve the problems of Soviet agriculture. As no other book before it, Khrushchev brings into focus the many sides of the shrewd and complex Soviet leader and the interrelation between Soviet politics and agricultural policy that brought about his removal from power.

Khrushchev: The Years in Power (Norton Library)










  • 4 responses to "The Gorbachev Phenomenon: A Historical Interpretation Expanded edition Moshe Lewin University of California Press Expanded edition"

  • Reader Kevin
    14:24 on August 1st, 2011
    Reply to comment

    At one time in the seemingly distant pass the name Roy Medvedev was associated very closely with the left-wing elements of the opposition movements into the former Soviet Union at the time of Khrushchev’s leadership. One would hardly know from reading this biography that the two were, at least formally, political opponents. Mr. Medvedev has produce a biography that beyond acting as a moving travelogue of Mr. Khrushchev’s and activities as leader of the former Soviet Union is little more than a soft-core sell of an old Stalinist henchman. It may be due to the fact that it was published when the Soviet Union was in the early process of going to hell in a hand basket and so the Khrushchev period appeared to be a Golden Age of Stalinism-without Stalin. Nevertheless if one is looking for a more profound analysis of the immediate post-Stalin period one will have to look elsewhere.

    Mr. Medvedev cannot be faulted for the general factual presentation. He dutifully, if superficially, goes through Mr. Khrushchev’s rise to the top layer of the Stalin entourage, the struggle for power after Stalin’s death in 1953, the monumental revelations of the crimes of Stalin at 20th and later the 22nd Russian Communist Party Congresses, the various domestic crises particularly the continuing problems in agriculture that years later would contribute to the downfall of the Soviet Union, the international disputes within the world Communist movement and the at times very heated struggle with the West during various episodes of the Cold War and his eventual downfall from power in 1964.

    The reviewer grew up in American at the time of the rise and fall of the Khrushchev regime and it was interesting to be reminded of those events, their importance in the history of that period and a refreshing of my reaction to the events at the time. For those who have forgotten or do not know of the key events such as the various ill-fated attempts at nuclear disarmament, the crisis in Berlin resulting in the construction of the Berlin Wall and the Cuban Missile Crisis this book provide a competent review of those events.

    The stumbling block to any further credit to Mr. Medvedev’s book is his rather fawning over Mr. Khrushchev’s achievements in the post-Stalin period. Yes, Mr. Khrushchev performed an important, if not fully adequate service, to the international communist movement by his revelation of Stalin’s crimes. But any leftist critic of Stalinism has the right to ask- Mr. Khrushchev what were you doing at the time of all these acknowledged crimes as a henchman of Stalin? It is not enough to argue that there was little one could do. The history and fate of the Left Opposition in the Russian Communist Party and of other oppositionists in the wastes of Russian Siberia and elsewhere testify to other routes for those who considered themselves Bolsheviks. No it will not do.

    Mr. Khrushchev, Mr. Medvedev and I shared one thing in common. At one time we all stood for the defense of the Soviet Union against attack by world imperialism and internal counterrevolution. Beyond that we part ways. I note that all through this paean to the intrepid Mr. Khrushchev there is very little sense that in the Khrushchev era, despite some obvious thawing of the internal political environment, there is no sense that workers and farmers councils could have been more appropriate form of government that just playing musical chairs with the top levels of the Soviet bureaucracy. The gap between that Leninist understanding of the road to socialism and Mr. Khrushchev’ s top-down operation certainly did its part to weaken the Soviet Union and cause its ultimate collapse. And the world is a much more dangerous place because of that hard fact.

  • robotech
    4:03 on August 2nd, 2011
    Reply to comment

    Khrushchev may have been a crude peasant who ran Russia during part of the Cold War. He was also a reform politician who instituted serious political and economic reform in the Soviet Union. In the process, he brushed aside all the old Stalinists, including Beria. Medvedev makes it plan that even though Khrushchev made many mistakes, overall his rule benefited the people of the Soviet Union. If one of the old guard Stalinists or Beria himself were to rule, the human tragedy would have been immense.

    This is a political biography of Khrushchev’s rule in power. The book is divided into easy to read short chapters of various political and economic reforms during the Khrushchev’s years in power. A nice consise read.

  • Joshua D B
    15:10 on August 3rd, 2011
    Reply to comment

    At one time in the seemingly distant pass the name Roy Medvedev was associated very closely with the left-wing elements of the opposition movements into the former Soviet Union at the time of Khrushchev’s leadership. One would hardly know from reading this biography that the two were, at least formally, political opponents. Mr. Medvedev has produce a biography that beyond acting as a moving travelogue of Mr. Khrushchev’s and activities as leader of the former Soviet Union is little more than a soft-core sell of an old Stalinist henchman. It may be due to the fact that it was published in 1978 when the Soviet Union was in the early process of going to hell in a hand basket and so the Khrushchev period appeared to be a Golden Age of Stalinism-without Stalin. Nevertheless if one is looking for a more profound analysis of the immediate post-Stalin period one will have to look elsewhere.

    Mr. Medvedev cannot be faulted for the general factual presentation. He dutifully, if superficially goes through Mr. Khrushchev’s rise to the top layer of the Stalin entourage, the struggle for power after Stalin’s death in 1953, the monumental revelations of the crimes of Stalin at 20th and later the 22nd Russian Communist Party Congresses, the various domestic crises particularly the continuing problems in agriculture that years later would contribute to the downfall of the Soviet Union, the international disputes within the world Communist movement and the at times very heated struggle with the West during various episodes of the Cold War and his eventual downfall from power in 1964. The reviewer grew up in American at the time of the rise and fall of the Khrushchev regime and it was interesting to be reminded of those events, their importance in the history of that period and a refreshing of my reaction to the events at the time. For those who have forgotten or do not know of the key events such as the attempts at nuclear disarmament, the crisis in Berlin and the Cuban Missile Crisis this book provide a competent review of those events.

    The stumbling block to any further credit to Mr. Medvedev’s book is his rather fawning over Mr. Khrushchev’s achievements in the post-Stalin period. Yes, Mr. Khrushchev performed an important if not fully adequate service to the international communist movement by his revelation of Stalin’s crimes. But any leftist critic of Stalinism has the right to ask- Mr. Khrushchev what were you doing at the time of all these acknowledged crimes as a henchman of Stalin? It is not enough to argue that there was little one could do. The history and fate of the Left Opposition in the Russian Communists Party and of other oppositionists in the wastes of Russian testify to other routes for those who considered themselves Bolsheviks. No it will not do. Mr. Khrushchev, Mr. Medvedev and I shared one thing in common. At one time we all stood for the defense of the Soviet Union against attack by world imperialism and internal counterrevolution. Beyond that we part ways. I note that all through this paean to the intrepid Mr. Khrushchev there is very little sense that in the Khrushchev era despite some obvious thawing of the internal political environment these is no sense that workers and farmers councils could have been more e appropriate that just playing musical chairs with the top levels of the Soviet bureaucracy. The gap between that Leninist understanding of the road to socialism and Mr. Khrushchev’ s top-down operation certainly did its part to weaken the Soviet Union and cause its ultimate collapse.

  • jorge robert
    22:13 on August 3rd, 2011
    Reply to comment

    A more appropriate title for this book would have been “Khrushchev: The Economic and Agricultural Decisions”. I bought this book hoping to get insight into Nikita Khrushchev’s years in power. Unfortunately, the book focuses too much on Khrushchev’s agricultural decisions.

    Little mention is made of Khrushchev’s foreign policy. His visit to America is briefly mentioned. The deteriorating relationship between the Soviet Union and China is only discussed at a slightly greater length. Perhaps the best chapters are the ones that show Khrsuhchev’s rise to power. From the position he held prior to Stalin’s death, he seemed to be an unlikely leader. However, he quickly gained control and popularity attaining the leadership status. Much of the support Khrushchev gained was due the agricultural success he initiated under Stalin and his condemnation of Stalin’s brutal leadership after Stalin’s death. While Khrushchev did many positive things for the Soviet Union, the economic and specifically agricultural failures he experienced as a leader haunt his reputation.

    I would only suggest this book if you are interested it the economic and agricultural policy of the Soviet Union during this period. Aside from these points, the book has little else to offer.

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