The Dream That Failed: Reflections on the Soviet Union

Walter Laqueur, Author Oxford University Press, USA $30 (248p) ISBN 978-0-19-508978-3
In a devastating postmortem of Soviet history, Laqueur (Black Hundred) challenges much conventional thinking as he illuminates two central questions: why the U.S.S.R. lasted as long as it did, and why it collapsed. He notes that the Bolshevik takeover in 1917 resulted from fortuitous circumstances, including the chaos of WWI and the disunity of anti-Bolshevik factions in the ensuing civil war. Ignorance of the outside world, enforced through the early 1960s, contributed to Soviet citizens' passive acceptance of the regime, surmises this prolific historian. As for the Soviet Union's breakup, he opines that the dismal quality of life-repression of freedoms, rising crime, routine high-level corruption, poisoned air and water and substandard housing-was even more decisive than economic failure. The author scathingly criticizes fellow Western travelers who turned a blind eye to Soviet totalitarianism, and CIA economists and academics who greatly overestimated the Soviet gross national product while underestimating the crushing burden of Soviet military spending as factors in the demise of the U.S.S.R. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 11/28/1994
Release date: 12/01/1994
Genre: Nonfiction
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