top of page

Russian history rhymes - from Soviet collapse to Putin's folly

Vladislav Zubok

Engelsberg Ideas

20 min


11 March 2022

Original Content 

Last spring, I was putting the final touches to my book, Collapse: The Fall of the Soviet Union. I argued that the Soviet world’s collapse had been neither inevitable nor predictable, much like most of the game changing events of history. I did not expect that my message would soon receive a thundering confirmation. A major theme in the book is one of human agency: reformist zeal, nationalist aspirations, illusions and delusions, anger, impatience, and sheer folly.

The Soviet Union, I thought, was a huge monstrosity held together by iron and blood. Yet this immense country also displayed surprising continuity and resilience. Its glue was the Communist Party, yet also the habits and convictions of millions of Soviet people who lived inside the bubble. Those who lived outside, as anthropologist Alexei Yurchak described, did not represent a threat to the status quo. Ironically, the decisive blow to the Soviet system was delivered by Soviet idealists and patriots, such as Mikhail Gorbachev, the educated and reform-minded head of the party. In 1987-88, Gorbachev convinced himself he should steer the Soviet Union from a unitary party-state to a voluntary federation of republics, without breaking it up. It is easy to say in retrospect that it was an impossible task.
Your collection is already set up for you with fields and content. Add your own content or import it from a CSV file. Add fields for any type of content you want to display, such as rich text, images, and videos. Be sure to click Sync after making changes in a collection, so visitors can see your newest content on your live site.

bottom of page