ABOUT THIS BOOK
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.
In his fresh and lively survey of recent Russian history, Robert Service spans the whole era from the rise of communism in the first decade of this century to the aftermath of its collapse in 1991. It is far more than a comprehensive summary of the established facts, and provides an introduction to the results of western and Russian research.
-- The Economist
[A History of Twentieth-Century Russia] is without doubt one of the most satisfactory treatments of the Soviet story that we possess. And it should be emphasized that Mr. Service's subject is the Soviet experience rather than the Russian one as such...Moreover, his focus is on the policies and practices of the regime; society is brought into the story only episodically, and as a function of the Party-state's actions. But this is precisely what we need...Under communism the prime mover was not the people; it was the Party. Accordingly, those historians who gave causal primacy to social processes distorted what transpired. Mr. Service's regime-centered account thus cuts directly against the grain of established Sovietological fantasies.
-- Martin Malia Wall Street Journal
Russia in the 20th century, Service tells us, was an entity with changing borders and a population only weakly and intermittently interested in being 'Russian', incorporated within multinational states whose leaders' attitudes to Russianness changed over time...Service's forte is political history in the tradition established by E. H. Carr in his multi-volume History of Soviet Russia, where politics means process rather than ideology, served up with generous portions of economic and international context and some garnishes of society and culture.
-- Sheila Fitzpatrick London Review of Books
Robert Service's hefty volume has a great deal to commend it. He brings to the task his expertise in the inner workings of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and as a biographer of its founder, [Lenin]...Service's history will be widely appreciated, in and out of the classroom. The story is brought up to 1996, and not the least of its merits is the equivocal verdict passed in the Yeltsin years: Russia has yet to achieve stability and its social structure is not really so different form what it was in Soviet times.
-- John Keep Slavic Review
[An] excellent book...Service has consulted a myriad of sources...[and] convincingly demonstrates the limitations of Soviet leaders, nearly all them conceptually inept at everything other than organizing committees and inventing institutions assigned to deal with various problems or advance theoretical programs.
-- Meir Ronnen Jerusalem Post
Service covers his topic comprehensively, beginning with the final years of the tsarist regime and continuing through the rise of the Bolsheviks, the terror of the Stalinist years and the slow, uneven disintegration that culminated with the reforms initiated by Mikhail Gorbachev and the dismemberment of the Soviet Union. He also includes an afterword that assesses the future of post-Communist Russia...This book, which is written cleanly and with a bit of humor, is sure to become a reference work that few libraries and students of 20th-century Russian politics will want to be without.
-- Publishers Weekly
This is a story that moves--fast, dramatically, and brutally--as when Service narrates the unlikely events by which the Bolsheviks seized power or the grim ideological instigation of collectivization and purges in the 1930s, compounded by Stalin's colossal diplomatic and military blunders in the run-up to World War II...A perceptive, judicious appraisal, this matches favorably with Richard Pipes' Concise History of the Russian Revolution as a cornerstone in any library collection.
-- Gilbert Taylor Booklist
Service treats the Russian Revolution as part of a whole history of the 20th century, not an isolated event...He clearly explains competing revolutionary parties, shows the origins of Stalin's paranoia, and continues with a coherent story line through the implosion of the Soviet Empire.
-- Harry V. Willems Library Journal
A balanced and thoughtful...history of Russia in this century, concentrating on the Soviet era...A straightforward and able analysis, in a text agreeably free of academic jargon.
-- Kirkus Reviews
Robert Service's synthesis of Western and Russian historical writings provides a balanced assessment of the political leadership's interaction with Russian society from the last tsar to Boris Yeltsin…Service's comprehensive and well-written book serves as a solid reference tool for the general public and historians alike.
-- Isabel A. Tirado American Historical Review