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Old 03-02-2004, 09:59   #1
Martin
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CCCP/USSR books

Do you have any suggestions for books regarding USSR history, specifically for the european continent and mainland Russia?
Anything worth reading is appreciated, but it would be appreciated if some sort of priority is mentioned.

Preferbly in english, since my russian isn't particularly good yet. But I'm learning, so if you know some must-have's, please list them too.

The Archipelago is on the list already.
Thanks in advance.
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Old 03-02-2004, 12:07   #2
Roguish Lawyer
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What kind of history are you interested in? I spent a fair amount of time studying the Revolution and the power struggles through Stalin's ascent and can make recommendations in that area if it interests you.
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Old 03-02-2004, 13:20   #3
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If you can give me a direction I can recommend a few books as well
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Old 03-02-2004, 15:59   #4
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Great!

I was thinking primarily about history forming the countries and the people within. What kind of situation they're in, to understand how they got there, relationships with surrounding countries, if there are any insurgencies (e.g. Chechnya). That sort of stuff. Feel free to give pointers to related areas that you think are interesting.
I've got a feeling that military history is directly bound to this.

Yes, I know I'm not far from ground zero, but you have to start somewhere and I intend to dig into it. Guidance into books explaining important aspects for understanding the situation is welcome.

Btw, I'm heading to St Petersburg in may, so I can pick up material there too.
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Old 03-02-2004, 16:10   #5
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I took a class on the Soviet Secret Police system

When I get home I'll shoot you off the names of the books that I read for the class

They provide good insight into at least one side of the Soviet system
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Old 03-04-2004, 11:31   #6
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I'd love to have a look at that, thank you!

I should mention that material concerning current and recent movements/events/etc is appreciated too. I.e., the war in chechnya, the maffiya (currently reading The Merger), FSB, russian society.

It's hard to pinpoint since I am rather green except for the normal historical layout of Russia, and therefore unable to name specific things outside of the obvious ones that is important when trying to get a good picture. But since I am trying to get an overall view, almost anything will do.

Please, pass along what you know.
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Old 03-07-2004, 20:14   #7
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If you don't want to read all the primary sources on Marx and Lenin, I like The Marx-Engels Reader and The Lenin Anthology by Robert Tucker. Tucker is one of my favorite Soviet history writers -- Stalin in Power is good, for example.

Others I think are quite good:

Bukharin and the Bolshevik Revolution by Stephen Cohen
Russian Peasants and Soviet Power by Moshe Lewin

For the primary sources, I would start with The Communist Manifesto by Marx and What is to be Done? by Lenin.
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Old 03-07-2004, 20:23   #8
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RL:

I like your reading list, but think he will find them a bit dry.

TR
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Old 03-08-2004, 08:42   #9
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Here's my brief list -

Stalin and the Bomb: The Soviet Union and Atomic Energy 1939-1956
by David Holloway




Special Tasks
by Pavel Sudoplatov - According to KGB archives, Pavel Sudoplatov directed the secretive Administration for Special Tasks. This department was responsible for kidnapping, assassination, sabotage, and guerrilla warfare during World War II, it also set up illegal networks in the United States and Western Europe, and, most crucially, carried out atomic espionage in the United States, Great Britain, and Canada. Sudoplatov served the KGB for over fifty years, at one point controlling more than twenty thousand guerrillas, moles, and spies.
But his involvement with the most nefarious Soviet activities-- and the rulers who ordered them-- made Sudoplatov an unwanted witness, and he was arrested in 1953 after Beria's fall. Despite torture and solitary confinement he refused to "confess", disavowing any criminal actions. He spent fifteen years in prison, then struggled two decades more for rehabilitation.

"Special Tasks" is an astonishing memoir and a singular historical document of a man who knew and did too much for the Soviet empire.


Accusatory Practices: Denunciation in Modern European History, 1789-1989 (Studies in European History from the Journal of Modern History)
by Sheila Fitzpatrick (Editor), Robert Gellately (Editor), Shelia Fitzpatrick - The opening of the Stasi archives in 1989 revealed the existence of denunciation and informing in police states, but such practices have long been known. This is an exploration of denunciation and informing in Europe in the two centuries between the French Revolution and the fall of the Berlin Wall. The contributors to this study offer a comparative treatment which has particular relevance to the historical anthropology of everyday practices and debates on totalitarianism.


KGB: The Inside Story
Christopher Andrew & Oleg Gordievsky
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Last edited by DunbarFC; 03-08-2004 at 15:31.
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Old 03-09-2004, 07:55   #10
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Thank you! I will definitely heed your advise!
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Old 03-14-2006, 11:39   #11
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I know this is an old thread, but I thought maybe I could be helpful.

To really understand Russian history one needs to read about the people and the culture. Many novels written throughout Russia's history provide insight into what was going on at the time in a way that a history book can't. Furthermore, many history books may be biased either in an anti-Soviet or pro-Communist direction.

For the period of the 1860s -- the emancipation of the Serfs -- I would recommend Turgenev's Fathers and Sons. I recommend it first because it isn't long and, though it's set almost 150 years ago, really provides an excellent window on the Russian outlook on life. Yes, it's still as pessimistic and hopeless as ever.

If you're willing to do more reading, there are the old well-known classics by Dostoevsky and Tolstoy which I don't think even need mentioning here. Great books but long and sometimes stray from the history too much.

In the 20th century there is the famous writer Solzhenitsyn. All of his work since Perestroika is pretty much garbage but in the Soviet years he provided inspiration to many people like my parents who were looking for someone to tell them the truth about their government. One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovitch and Gulag Archipelago (is that the one you already bought?) are both excellent works and also easy reads.

I remember there was also a book written by Nikita Khruschyov's son which my father read and recommended highly. And Robert Conquest wrote some great material about the Soviet period like Reflections on a Ravaged Century and The Harvest of Sorrow : Soviet Collectivization and the Terror-Famine which bares the truly murderous nature of the USSR.

I'll try to dig up the text I used for a Russian Imperial History class I took at Boston Univ. ages ago and see if it was any good. If anyone wants more literary suggestions and I'm not being too presumptuous in offering them, please ask and I'll be more than happy to provide.

Last edited by Danila; 03-14-2006 at 11:49.
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Old 03-14-2006, 11:49   #12
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The more the merrier!

Although I personally won't have time to add anything to my reading list for a while, I'm sure it will come in use for someone.

Martin
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Old 03-14-2006, 12:05   #13
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I also forgot the comical novel by Victor Pelevin, Omon Ra. Set in the USSR, it's about a man raised by a fiercely nationalist father who joins the Soviet space program. It's a great read, quite short, and another insight into the hypocrisy and culture of lies of the Soviet Union.

And, perhaps most importantly, I forgot Bulgakov's The Heart of a Dog and The White Guard. The latter deals with the Ukraine during the Revolution which, as you may know, was actually fought over by three factions -- the Bolsheviks, the Royalists, and the Ukrainian "nationalists" (actually a bunch of brigands). Inexplicably, the dramatical version of this work was Stalin's favorite play and the reason why Bulgakov was never liquidated by the KGB. The former is a satire on the attempt to make intellectual Communists out of peasants and was made into a two-part TV movie around 1990 in Russia. I don't believe there's a version available with subtitles, unfortunately, and the version I saw was a bootlegged copy out of Russia. It's probably my favorite movie.

Anything you can read by Bulgakov is worth the time and effort, even in translation (though his prose in Russian is amazing). Many biased people like myself ( ) consider him the best novelist of the 20th century. His chef d'oeuvre was The Master and Margerita which is a surreal work including excerpts from the book the character "The Master" wrote about Pontius Pilate. Long and involved, but unparalleled.

Last edited by Danila; 03-14-2006 at 12:09.
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Old 03-14-2006, 13:17   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Danila
Anything you can read by Bulgakov is worth the time and effort, even in translation (though his prose in Russian is amazing). Many biased people like myself ( ) consider him the best novelist of the 20th century. His chef d'oeuvre was The Master and Margerita which is a surreal work including excerpts from the book the character "The Master" wrote about Pontius Pilate. Long and involved, but unparalleled.
I studied Russian with immigrants and The Master was one of the works they read! (on their classes I was more of an observer)

Maybe I should check it out later...

Martin
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Old 03-14-2006, 13:54   #15
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The Master and Margerita is a great book with a great story, but it definitely isn't a light read. If you do get to it at some point when you have time, though, I'm confident you'll enjoy it.

Dan
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