If you’ve been following recent events, you may have seen that Russia has invaded Ukraine. Last week, Russia launched a large-scale invasion of Ukraine, one of its neighbors to the southwest. It marked a major escalation between the countries, which had been in a state of conflict since 2014. Russia and Ukraine were also two of the largest republics responsible for founding the now dissolved Soviet Union. The recommended reading list below will give you some insight into the history between Russia and the former Soviet Union.
If you’re interested in making donations to help those in Ukraine, visit the links below for more details:
BY CHRIS MILLER
When Vladimir Putin first took power in 1999, he was a little-known figure ruling a country that was reeling from a decade and a half of crisis. In the years since, he has reestablished Russia as a great power. How did he do it? What principles have guided Putin’s economic policies? What patterns can be discerned? In this new analysis of Putin’s Russia, Chris Miller examines its economic policy and the tools Russia’s elite have used to achieve its goals. Miller argues that despite Russia’s corruption, cronyism, and overdependence on oil as an economic driver, Putin’s economic strategy has been surprisingly successful.
Explaining the economic policies that underwrote Putin’s two-decades-long rule, Miller shows how, at every juncture, Putinomics has served Putin’s needs by guaranteeing economic stability and supporting his accumulation of power. Even in the face of Western financial sanctions and low oil prices, Putin has never been more relevant on the world stage.
BY VLADISLAV M. ZUBOK
In this widely praised book, Vladislav Zubok argues that Western interpretations of the Cold War have erred by exaggerating either the Kremlin’s pragmatism or its aggressiveness. Explaining the interests, aspirations, illusions, fears, and misperceptions of the Kremlin leaders and Soviet elites, Zubok offers a Soviet perspective on the greatest standoff of the twentieth century. Using recently declassified Politburo records, ciphered telegrams, diaries, and taped conversations, among other sources, Zubok offers the first work in English to cover the entire Cold War from the Soviet side. A Failed Empire provides a history quite different from those written by the Western victors. In a new preface for this edition, the author adds to our understanding of today’s events in Russia, including who the new players are and how their policies will affect the state of the world in the twenty-first century.
BY EDWARD M. GEIST
The dangerous, decades-long arms race between the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War begged a fundamental question: how did these superpowers actually plan to survive a nuclear strike? In Armageddon Insurance, the first historical account of Soviet civil defense and a pioneering reappraisal of its American counterpart, Edward M. Geist compares how the two superpowers tried, and mostly failed, to reinforce their societies to withstand the ultimate catastrophe.
Drawing on previously unexamined documents from archives in America, Russia, and Ukraine, Geist places these civil defense programs in their political and cultural contexts, demonstrating how each country’s efforts reflected its cultural preoccupations and blind spots and revealing how American and Soviet civil defense related to profound issues of nuclear strategy and national values. This work challenges prevailing historical assumptions and unearths the ways Moscow and Washington developed nuclear weapons policies based not on rational strategic or technical considerations but in power struggles between different institutions pursuing their own narrow self-interests.
BY JEREMY FRIEDMAN
The conflict between the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War has long been understood in a global context, but Jeremy Friedman’s Shadow Cold War delves deeper into the era to examine the competition between the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China for the leadership of the world revolution. When a world of newly independent states emerged from decolonization desperately poor and politically disorganized, Moscow and Beijing turned their focus to attracting these new entities, setting the stage for Sino-Soviet competition.
Based on archival research from ten countries, including new materials from Russia and China, many no longer accessible to researchers, this book examines how China sought to mobilize Asia, Africa, and Latin America to seize the revolutionary mantle from the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union adapted to win it back, transforming the nature of socialist revolution in the process. This groundbreaking book is the first to explore the significance of this second Cold War that China and the Soviet Union fought in the shadow of the capitalist-communist clash.
BY CHRIS MILLER
For half a century the Soviet economy was inefficient but stable. In the late 1980s, to the surprise of nearly everyone, it suddenly collapsed. Why did this happen? And what role did Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev’s economic reforms play in the country’s dissolution? In this groundbreaking study, Chris Miller shows that Gorbachev and his allies tried to learn from the great success story of transitions from socialism to capitalism, Deng Xiaoping’s China. Why, then, were efforts to revitalize Soviet socialism so much less successful than in China?
Making use of never-before-studied documents from the Soviet politburo and other archives, Miller argues that the difference between the Soviet Union and China–and the ultimate cause of the Soviet collapse–was not economics but politics. The Soviet government was divided by bitter conflict, and Gorbachev, the ostensible Soviet autocrat, was unable to outmaneuver the interest groups that were threatened by his economic reforms. Miller’s analysis settles long-standing debates about the politics and economics of perestroika, transforming our understanding of the causes of the Soviet Union’s rapid demise.
BY WENDY LOWER
On 16 July 1941, Adolf Hitler convened top Nazi leaders at his headquarters in East Prussia to dictate how they would rule the newly occupied eastern territories. Ukraine, the “jewel” in the Nazi empire, would become a German colony administered by Heinrich Himmler’s SS and police, Hermann Göring’s economic plunderers, and a host of other satraps. Focusing on the Zhytomyr region and weaving together official German wartime records, diaries, memoirs, and personal interviews, Wendy Lower provides the most complete assessment available of German colonization and the Holocaust in Ukraine.
Midlevel “managers,” Lower demonstrates, played major roles in mass murder, and locals willingly participated in violence and theft. Lower puts names and faces to local perpetrators, bystanders, beneficiaries, as well as resisters. She argues that Nazi actions in the region evolved from imperial arrogance and ambition; hatred of Jews, Slavs, and Communists; careerism and pragmatism; greed and fear. In her analysis of the murderous implementation of Nazi “race” and population policy in Zhytomyr, Lower shifts scholarly attention from Germany itself to the eastern outposts of the Reich, where the regime truly revealed its core beliefs, aims, and practices.