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Suny writes well --the book reads like a novel even though it is carefully researched.
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Suny describes how, especially under Lenin, the development of nationalism was encouraged the Soviet Union. It was this naïve trust in the institutionalization of previously non-existent nationalism within the Soviet Union which lead to inner conflict and desire for the new nations to break free from the Diets, from Russia's rule.
Suny points out that nationalism and nationality are not artificial by blending his moderately constructivst view on nationalism with the suggestion that nationalities might be rooted in "ethnies" (Anthony D. Smith's term). Suny also contributes war with the strengthening of the nation.
In the book he describes clearly the reasons to why regions in the Soviet Union became independent nations and why this process occured on different terms in these different areas. The nations he pedagogically discusses are Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Ukraine, Belarus, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan.
In part the author contributes the short-sightedness of the Russian policy of building nations to the failure of Marxists in the 19th and early 20th century to realize the importance of nationalism.
Ethnicity and class were not obliterated in the Soviet Union and it remained an empire open mostly for Russians and Slavs. In Caucasus the local peoples were constantly kicked around by the Soviet Union and surrounding empires. In Azerbaijanis' capital, Baku, the Azerbaijan's were marginalized by the influx of skilled-workers (mostly from Northern lands).
Eventually due to Stalin's strangle-hold; the following "thaw" under Chruschev, Breshnev, Chernko; due to Gorbachev's bumbling and the intiative of Russian satellite states; the aforementioned nine nations broke free from the retarding Russian rule and became independent nations.
This book provides an interesting perspective on the development of nations and nationlism and their seeming inevitability in a world ruled by such things such as democracy, capitalism, class and race. Suny has written this book in an orderly fashion and covered in detail the specific nations and the struggles within. However, this book is lacking many details in the effort to depict the downfall of the Soviet Union from a somewhat tenuous perspective that favors political ideology and momentum of specific classes as the sole firebrands of revolution.
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Books from the PROBLEMS IN EUROPEAN CIVILIZATION SERIES are designed for upper-level undergraduate and graduate level European history courses. That being said, this book is not an introductory text. The authors of the articles go directly into their subjects, without providing any significant background information. Therefore, you need to have an historical base level of knowledge to work from. Nonetheless, it is an excellent tool for students, scholars and general readers of modern European history.
The text is best used in class discussions and debate.
This edition has a wonderful chronology of events, which is helpful in preparing for exams.
An excellent representation on Russian historical scholarship
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