Week 21

Week 21: Wednesday, March 30, 2022
The Demons

Week 21

The Demons sometimes also called The Possessed or The Devils is a novel by Fyodor Dostoevsky, first published in the journal The Russian Messenger in 1871–72. It is considered one of the four masterworks written by Dostoevsky after his return from Siberian exile, along with Crime and Punishment (1866), The Idiot (1869) and The Brothers Karamazov (1880). The Demons is a social and political satire, a psychological drama, and large-scale tragedy. Joyce Carol Oates has described it as "Dostoevsky's most confused and violent novel, and his most satisfactorily 'tragic' work." According to Ronald Hingley, it is Dostoevsky's "greatest onslaught on Nihilism", and "one of humanity's most impressive achievements—perhaps even its supreme achievement—in the art of prose fiction." Demons is a book of ideas, ideas that have potentially catastrophic consequences of the political and moral nihilism that had been becoming prevalent in Russia in the 1860s. A fictional town descends into chaos as it becomes the focal point of an attempted revolution, orchestrated by master conspirator Pyotr Verkhovensky. The mysterious aristocratic figure of Nikolai Stavrogin—Verkhovensky's counterpart in the moral sphere—dominates the book, exercising an extraordinary influence over the hearts and minds of almost all the other characters. The idealistic, Western-influenced generation of the 1840s, epitomized in the character of Stepan Verkhovensky (who is both Pyotr Verkhovensky's father and Nikolai Stavrogin's childhood teacher), are presented as the unconscious progenitors and helpless accomplices of the "demonic" forces that take possession of the town.

REQUIRED READING

Paul Bushkovitch,

A Concise History of Russia,

Cambridge University Press,

ISBN 0521543231

Fyodor Dostoevsky,

Demons: A Novel in Three Parts,

Vintage Books USA,

ISBN 0679734511

This is our novel for Spring Quarter and you have 10 weeks to read it. So a little bit each week and it will be great. It is the perfect introduction to 19th century Russian revolutionary politics.

RECOMMENDED READING

Steven Marks,

How Russia Shaped the Modern World: From Art to Anti-Semitism, Ballet to Bolshevism,

Princeton University Press,

ISBN 0691118450

22

Week 22: Wednesday, April 6, 2022
Tolstoy

Week 22

Count Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy, 1828 – 1910, usually referred to in English as Leo Tolstoy, was a Russian writer who is regarded as one of the greatest authors of all time. He received nominations for the Nobel Prize in Literature every year from 1902 to 1906 and for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1901, 1902, and 1909. That he never won is a major controversy. Born to an aristocratic Russian family in 1828, Tolstoy is best known for the novels War and Peace (1869) and Anna Karenina (1878), often cited as pinnacles of realist fiction. He first achieved literary acclaim in his twenties with his semi-autobiographical trilogy, Childhood, Boyhood, and Youth (1852–1856), and Sevastopol Sketches (1855), based upon his experiences in the Crimean War. His fiction includes dozens of short stories and several novellas such as The Death of Ivan Ilyich (1886), Family Happiness (1859), "After The Ball" (1911) and Hadji Murad (1912). He also wrote plays and numerous philosophical essays. In the 1870s, Tolstoy experienced a profound moral crisis, followed by what he regarded as an equally profound spiritual awakening, as outlined in his non-fiction work A Confession (1882). His literal interpretation of the ethical teachings of Jesus, centering on the Sermon on the Mount, caused him to become a fervent Christian anarchist and pacifist. His ideas on nonviolent resistance, expressed in such works as The Kingdom of God Is Within You (1894), had a profound impact on such pivotal 20th-century figures as Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. He also became a dedicated advocate of Georgism, the economic philosophy of Henry George, which he incorporated into his writing, particularly Resurrection (1899).(Wikipedia)

RECOMMENDED READING

Steven Marks,

How Russia Shaped the Modern World: From Art to Anti-Semitism, Ballet to Bolshevism,

Princeton University Press,

ISBN 0691118450

23

Week 23: Wednesday, April 13, 2022
World War I

Week 23

"According to the most recent and convincing scholarship, it was not the case, as the man in the street seems to have believed at the time, and as Englishmen and others were to write later, that the European world of June 1914 was a sort of Eden in which the outbreak of hostilities among major powers came as a surprise.  On the contrary, as its political and military elites recognized, Europe was in the grip of an unprecedented arms race; internally the powers were victims of violent social, industrial, and political strife; and general staffs chattered constantly, not about whether there would be war, but where and when."
—David Fromkin, Europe’s Last Summer: Who Started the Great War in 1914?

"Whatever the intentions which underlay it, German policy in the crisis of July 1914 must rank as one of the great disasters of world history. The leaders of arguably the most successful country in Europe, a country bursting with energy, boasting a young and dynamic population and an economy second to none, a country whose army, whose administration, whose scientific and artistic achievements were the envy of the world, took decisions which plunged it and the other powers into a ghastly war in which almost ten million men lost their lives, the old internal and international order was forever destroyed, and popular hatreds were released which were to poison public life for generations to come"
—John Röhl, "Germany," in Decisions for War, 1914, ed. Keith Wilson

RECOMMENDED BOOKS

This book on the origins of World War I is one of the best works of history I have ever read. It has been a huge success since its publication in 1962. It has sold millions of copies and was on the New York Times bestseller list for one whole year.

Barbara Tuchman,

The Guns of August,

Series: Modern Library 100 Best Nonfiction Books,

Random House Trade Paperbacks; Reprint edition (March 8, 1994),

ISBN 034538623X

David Fromkin,

Europe's Last Summer: Why the World Went to War in 1914,

Vintage Books USA,

ISBN 0099430843

The best overall study of rivalry between European powers during this time:

Alan J. P. Taylor,

The Struggle for Mastery in Europe: 1848-1918,

Oxford University Press,

ISBN 0198812701

A J Taylor,

The First World War: An Illustrated History,

Penguin UK,

ISBN 0140024816

24

Week 24: Wednesday, April 20, 2022
The Russian Revolution

Week 24

“Few historical events have been more profoundly distorted by myth than those of 25 October 1917. The popular image of the Bolshevik insurrection, as a bloody struggle by the tens of thousands with several thousand fallen heroes, owes more to October—Eisenstein’s brilliant but largely fictional propaganda film to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the event—than to historical fact. The Great October Socialist Revolution, as it came to be called in Soviet mythology, was in reality such a small-scale event, being in effect no more than a military coup, that it passed unnoticed by the vast majority of the inhabitants of Petrograd. Theaters, restaurants and tram cars functioned much as normal while the Bolsheviks came to power. The whole insurrection could have been completed in six hours, had it not been for the ludicrous incompetence of the insurgents themselves, which made it take an extra fifteen.”
—Orlando Figes, A People’s Tragedy: The Russian Revolution, 1891-1924

"Of all the Great Powers that went to war in 1914, Russia was the most backward and autocratic: here the gap between government and society was larger than it was anywhere else. The Tsar, Nicholas II, was committed to the principle of personal rule, keeping power at court, distrusting his own bureaucracy as a sort of “wall” between himself and his people. He preferred Moscow to St. Petersburg, a “Byzantine” and Eastern tradition of autocratic rule to the Westernizing tradition that descended from Peter the Great. It was Russia’s tragedy, Orlando Figes has suggested, that just as the country was entering the twentieth century its ruler was nostalgic for the seventeenth! He was not content to reign: he wanted to rule. Instead of delegating authority or making genuine concessions to liberal reformers and representative institutions he indulged in a fantasy of absolute power. There was no parliament in Russia until 1906, and by delaying so long in establishing one the regime split the conservative and liberal intelligentsia whose united support was essential for the monarchy’s survival. His empire covered nearly a sixth of the earth’s surface, but he had little of the practical knowledge necessary to govern it, and he distrusted those who did. Given his limitations of intelligence and experience, the Tsar could only play at the part of an autocrat, meddling in government without offering any real leadership. The Tsar’s own chief advisor, Pobedonostev, lamented: “He only understands the significance of some isolated fact, without connection with the rest, without appreciating the interrelation of all other pertinent facts, events, trends, occurrences. He sticks to his insignificant, petty point of view.” The agencies of government were never properly systematized, because it was in the Tsar’s best interest to keep them weak and dependent on his favor and patronage. And it did not help matters that his wife, Alexandra, combined the obstinacy of her grandmother, Britain’s Queen Victoria, with a mystical faith in the mad monk Rasputin, “a peasant visionary given to gargantuan excesses,” as one historian describes him. (She believed that this unsavory character was the only person who could help her son, who had been born with hemophilia.) Her meddling in political affairs—particularly when her husband was at the front during the war—further alienated the regime from its traditional bases of support in the court, the bureaucracy, the Church, and the army. "
Professor Bruce Thompson

RECOMMENDED READING

Richard Pipes,

The Russian Revolution,

Vintage Publishing,

ISBN 0679736603

"A monumental study...of absorbing interest [by] the distinguished historian of modern Russia.... Lucidly written, unsurpassed in detail and comprehensiveness." —Wall Street Journal

"Mr. Pipes writes trenchantly, and at times superbly.... No single volume known to me even begins to cater so adequately to those who want to discover what really happened to Russia." —The New York Times Book Review

Richard Edgar Pipes (July 11, 1923 – May 17, 2018) was an American academic who specialized in Russian and Soviet history. He published several books critical of communist regimes throughout his career. In 1976, he headed Team B, a team of analysts organized by the Central Intelligence Agency who analyzed the strategic capacities and goals of the Soviet military and political leadership. Pipes was the father of American historian Daniel Pipes. Pipes was born to a Jewish family in Cieszyn, Poland, which fled the country as refugees after it was invaded by Nazi Germany. Settling in the United States in 1940, he became a naturalized citizen in 1943 while serving in the United States Army Air Corps. From 1958 to 1996, Pipes worked at Harvard University. The book we recommend to you above is the best most balanced look at the Russian Revolution. There are hundreds of such books available, but we think Pipes does a good job of telling the story as truthfully as possible.

Robert Massie,

Nicholas and Alexandra: The Classic Account of the Fall of the Romanov Dynasty,

Random House Trade Paperbacks,

ISBN 0345438310

Institute Library Call Number: 947.08 Mas NIC

25

Week 25: Wednesday, April 27, 2022
Joseph Stalin

Week 25

The great historian and biographer Alan Bullock sums up the differences in the leadership and oratorical styles of Stalin and Hitler as follows: "There is a striking contrast in temperament and style between the two men: the flamboyant Hitler, displaying a lack of restraint and extravagance of speech which for long made it difficult for many to take him seriously, in contrast to the reserved Stalin, who owed his rise to power to his success, not in exploiting, but in concealing his personality, and was underestimated for the opposite reason—because many failed to recognize his ambition and ruthlessness."

Stalin had emerged from the civil war with little glory and much power; Trotsky finished with much glory and little power. Stalin, half-gangster, half-bureaucrat, would use power to trump glory: he offered the Bolsheviks non-charismatic leadership, although he continually invoked the sacred authority of the safely mummified Lenin in its support.

"Unlike Hitler, whose unique position as Führer was openly accepted by all the members of the Nazi Party as the linchpin which held them together, Stalin had to conceal his ambition and at the same time find means of defeating any rivals in an unremitting but covert struggle for power, from which, until his fiftieth birthday in December 1929, he could never be sure he would emerge the victor. The role he adopted was that of the plain man who spoke the same practical language as the party workers from the provinces and was accessible to them. Instead of disguising his exercise of power, he personalized it, leaving no doubt as to whose door to knock on. In the same role he represented the voice of common sense and moderation, opposing the exaggeration of the extremists on either side, stressing the need for unity" (Bullock).

RECOMMENDED READING

Oleg Khlevniuk,

Stalin: New Biography of a Dictator,

Nora Seligman Favorov,

Yale University Press,

ISBN 0300219784

Simon Montefiore,

Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar,

Vintage,

ISBN 1400076781

Institute Library Call Number: 947.084 Mon STA

Martin Malia,

The Soviet Tragedy: A History of Socialism in Russia, 1917-1991,

Free Press,

ISBN 0684823136

26

Week 26: Wednesday, May 4, 2022
The Second World War

Week 26

RUSSIA AT WAR
"Stalin was capable of learning from his mistakes. He began to trust his generals and to delegate operational authority, allowing them to present alternatives for him to adjudicate rather than micromanaging strategy as Hitler did. He appealed to Russian nationalism and even permitted the election of a new Orthodox patriarch and used the Church to bestow moral meaning on the war effort. He allowed army officers to wear the trappings of the old Tsarist army uniforms, the peasants to enlarge their individual plots at the expense of the collectives. He put great poets, censored for years, on the radio to recite patriotic verse, and evacuated one of the greatest of them, Anna Akhmatova, from besieged Leningrad. Stalin himself continued to address his people as "brothers and sisters" or "my friends" rather than "comrades" or "citizens," as he had in his first speech after the Barbarossa invasion. And he evacuated fifteen hundred factories, together with their workers, eastward, out of reach of German bombs. Ultimately ten million workers were relocated in this way, working under military discipline. "By 1943 this extraordinary industrial redeployment had put Russia's production of planes, tanks, and artillery far above Germany's. The Party's ability to mobilize and rapidly concentrate great masses of men and materiel at strategic points and under crisis conditions was clearly a major factor in the Soviet victory" (Martin Malia). In a war of attrition, the marshalling of resources, rather than brilliant leadership, was the key to victory. The Soviet command economy, for all its faults, was well suited to wartime conditions and total mobilization: in fact it was better at improvising than planning. The Americans and the British helped with supplies and motorized vehicles: 80,000 jeeps, 150,000 light trucks, 200,000 Studebaker army trucks, aviation fuel, explosives, copper, aluminum, rubber, rails, canned food, field telephones, boots. More and more the Red Army was able to achieve superiority in numbers, equipment, and even, as the Luftwaffe became depleted, air cover. And the Soviet T-34 tank actually had better armor and more speed and firepower than its German counterpart. Newly organized tank units proved the equal of the panzer divisions: in 1941, six or seven tanks were lost for every German one; by 1944 the ratio was one to one. Radio communications, radar, maintenance systems, and camouflage operations were reorganized as well."
Professor Bruce Thompson

RECOMMENDED READING

Alexander Werth,

Russia at War, 1941–1945: A History,

Skyhorse,

ISBN 1510716254

"Magnificent . . . . It fills a great void. . . . the best book we probably shall ever have in English on Russia at war." —William Shirer, author of The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich

"There is no book in any language with which to compare this monumental but exceedingly readable history of the Nazi-Soviet war . . . in savagery and hatred it was the biggest war in history . . . an engrossing and terrifying book." —Life

"Engrossing history . . . spellbinding narrative." —Newsweek

"Monumental and absorbing. . . . An epic work that will fascinate the ordinary reader." —Saturday Review

Martin Malia,

The Soviet Tragedy: A History of Socialism in Russia, 1917-1991,

Free Press,

ISBN 0684823136

27

Week 27: Wednesday, May 11, 2022
The Cold War

Week 27

THE COLD WAR: A DEFINITION The Cold War was a fierce competition between the Great Powers that proceeded by all means short of direct confrontation. Because there were only two Great Powers after the Second World War, international relations had a "bipolar" character: there were two great blocs, and the competition between them was a "zero-sum" game, which meant that a "victory" for either side anywhere was a "loss" for the other. In other words, the assumption was that the different parts of the international system were so tightly linked that a setback in one area would have destabilizing effects elsewhere. Actual war would be fought out by proxies, surrogates for the Great Powers, and confined for the most part to the "periphery" of the industrially developed part of the world.
Bruce Thompson

RECOMMENDED READING

John Gaddis,

The Cold War: A New History,

Penguin Books; 2nd edition,

ISBN 0143038273

Martin Malia,

The Soviet Tragedy: A History of Socialism in Russia, 1917-1991,

Free Press,

ISBN 0684823136

28

Week 28: Wednesday, May 18, 2022
Alexander Solzhenitsyn

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (1918 – 2008)was a Russian novelist, philosopher, historian, short story writer and political prisoner. One of the most famous Soviet dissidents, Solzhenitsyn was an outspoken critic of Communism and helped to raise global awareness of political repressions in the Soviet Union, in particular the Gulag concentration camp system. Solzhenitsyn was born into a family that defied the Soviet anti-religious campaign and remained devout members of the Russian Orthodox Church. While still young, however, Solzhenitsyn lost his faith in Christianity and became a firm believer in both atheism and Marxism–Leninism, in his later life, he gradually became a philosophically-minded Eastern Orthodox Christian as a result of his experience in prison and the camps. While serving as a captain in the Red Army during World War II, Solzhenitsyn was arrested by the SMERSH and sentenced to eight years in the Gulag and then internal exile for criticizing Soviet leader Joseph Stalin in a private letter. As a result of the Khrushchev Thaw, Solzhenitsyn was released and exonerated, and he returned to the Christian faith of his childhood and pursued writing novels about repressions in the Soviet Union and his experiences. He published his first novel, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich in 1962, with approval from Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, which was an account of Stalinist repressions. Solzhenitsyn's last work to be published in the Soviet Union was Matryona's Place in 1963. Following the removal of Khrushchev from power, the Soviet authorities attempted to discourage him from continuing to write. Solzhenitsyn continued to work on further novels and their publication in other countries including Cancer Ward in 1968, August 1914 in 1971, and The Gulag Archipelago in 1973 outraged the Soviet authorities, and Solzhenitsyn lost his Soviet citizenship in 1974 and was flown to West Germany. In 1976 he moved with his family to the United States, where he continued to write. In 1990, shortly before the dissolution of the Soviet Union, his citizenship was restored, and four years later he returned to Russia, where he remained until his death in 2008. He was awarded the 1970 Nobel Prize in Literature "for the ethical force with which he has pursued the indispensable traditions of Russian literature". His The Gulag Archipelago was a highly influential work that "amounted to a head-on challenge to the Soviet state" and sold tens of millions of copies. (Wikipedia)

RECOMMENDED READING

ALEKSANDR SOLZHENITSYN,

The Gulag Archipelago,

Vintage Publishing,

ISBN 1784871516

Joseph Pearce,

Solzhenitsyn: A Soul in Exile,

Baker Books,

ISBN 080101204X

29

Week 29: Wednesday, May 25, 2022
Reagan and Gorbachev

WASHINGTON, 2004 (Jun 13, 2004, 12:00am Robert G. Kaiser, Washington Post) In the throngs of mourners passing through the Capitol Thursday afternoon, one stood out — a vigorous senior citizen with a distinctive birthmark on his bald pate, whose tight gestures and bright eyes brought back memories of some of President Ronald Reagan's greatest moments. Mikhail Gorbachev had flown from Moscow to pay respects to Nancy Reagan and to the man with whom he changed the course of history. "I gave him a pat," Gorbachev said later, re-enacting the fond caress he had given Reagan's coffin. On Thursday evening, in an ornate conference room at the Russian Embassy, Gorbachev gave a kind of personal eulogy to his first and most important American friend. It combined emotion, rigorous historical analysis and an interesting appraisal of Reagan's place in American life and history. "Reagan," said Gorbachev, 73, was 'an extraordinary political leader' who decided 'to be a peacemaker' at just the right moment — the moment when Gorbachev had come to power in Moscow. He, too, wanted to be a peacemaker, so "our interests coincided." Reagan's second term began in January 1985; two months later, Gorbachev was elected general secretary of the Soviet Communist Party. But if he had warm, appreciative words for Reagan, Gorbachev brusquely dismissed the suggestion that Reagan had intimidated either him or the Soviet Union, or forced them to make concessions. Was it accurate to say that Reagan won the Cold War? "That's not serious," Gorbachev said, using the same words several times. "I think we all lost the Cold War, particularly the Soviet Union. We each lost $10 trillion," he said, referring to the money Russians and Americans spent on an arms race that lasted more than four decades. "We only won when the Cold War ended." Later on the Larry King Show (CNN) Gorbachev said, "None of it would have happened without him." In the 1990s, Gorbachev and Reagan had many reunions in Washington, LA, and on the Reagan ranch in the mountains above Santa Barbara.

RECOMMENDED READING

Ken Adelman,

Reagan at Reykjavik: Forty-Eight Hours That Ended the Cold War,

Broadside Books,

ISBN 0062310194

Former arms control director Ken Adelman gives readers a dramatic, first-hand account of the Reagan-Gorbachev summit—the weekend that proved key to ending the Cold War. Based on now declassified notes of Reagan’s secret bargaining with Gorbachev and a front-row seat to Reykjavik and other key moments in Reagan’s presidency, Adelman gives an honest portrayal of the man at one of his finest and most challenging moments.

30

Week 30: Wednesday, June 1, 2022
Boris Yeltsin

Boris Nikolayevich Yeltsin (1931 – 2007) was a Russian and former Soviet politician who served as the first President of Russia from 1991 to 1999. A member of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1961 to 1990, he later stood as a political independent, during which time he was viewed as being ideologically aligned with liberalism and Russian nationalism. Born in Butka, Ural Oblast, to a peasant family, Yeltsin grew up in Kazan, Tatar. After studying at the Ural State Technical University, he worked in construction. Joining the Communist Party, which monopolized power in the state and society, he rose through its ranks and in 1976 became First Secretary of the party's Sverdlovsk Oblast committee. Initially a supporter of the perestroika reforms of Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, Yeltsin later criticized them as being too moderate, calling for a transition to a multi-party representative democracy. In 1987 he was the first person to resign from the party's governing Politburo, establishing his popularity as an anti-establishment figure. In 1990, he was elected chair of the Russian Supreme Soviet and in 1991 was elected president of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic. Allying with various non-Russian nationalist leaders, he was instrumental in the formal dissolution of the Soviet Union in December that year, at which the RSFSR became the Russian Federation, an independent state. Yeltsin remained in office as president and was reelected in the 1996 election, although critics claimed pervasive electoral corruption. Yeltsin transformed Russia's state socialist economy into a capitalist market economy by implementing economic shock therapy, market exchange rate of the ruble, nationwide privatization, and lifting of price controls. Economic volatility and inflation ensued. Amid the economic shift, a small number of oligarchs obtained a large proportion of the national property and wealth, while international monopolies came to dominate the market. A constitutional crisis emerged in 1993 after Yeltsin ordered the unconstitutional dissolution of the Russian parliament, leading to parliament to impeach him. The crisis ended after troops loyal to Yeltsin stormed the parliament building and stopped an armed uprising; he then introduced a new constitution which significantly expanded the powers of the president. Secessionist sentiment in the Russian Caucasus led to the First Chechen War, War of Dagestan, and Second Chechen War between 1994 and 1999. Internationally, Yeltsin promoted renewed collaboration with Europe and signed arms control agreements with the United States. Amid growing internal pressure, he resigned by the end of 1999 and was succeeded by his chosen successor, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. Out of office, he kept a low profile, but he was accorded a state funeral upon his death in 2007. Yeltsin was a controversial figure. Domestically, he was highly popular in the late 1980s and early 1990s, although his reputation was damaged by the economic and political crises of his presidency, and he left office widely unpopular with the Russian population. He received praise and criticism for his role in dismantling the Soviet Union, transforming Russia into a representative democracy, and introducing new political, economic, and cultural freedoms to the country. Conversely, he was accused of economic mismanagement, overseeing a massive growth in inequality and corruption, and sometimes of undermining Russia's standing as a major world power. (Wikipedia)

RECOMMENDED READING

Conor O'Clery,

Moscow, December 25, 1991: The Last Day of the Soviet Union,

PublicAffairs,

ISBN 1586487965

All

Week 21: Wed., Mar. 30, 2022
The Demons

Week 21

The Demons sometimes also called The Possessed or The Devils is a novel by Fyodor Dostoevsky, first published in the journal The Russian Messenger in 1871–72. It is considered one of the four masterworks written by Dostoevsky after his return from Siberian exile, along with Crime and Punishment (1866), The Idiot (1869) and The Brothers Karamazov (1880). The Demons is a social and political satire, a psychological drama, and large-scale tragedy. Joyce Carol Oates has described it as "Dostoevsky's most confused and violent novel, and his most satisfactorily 'tragic' work." According to Ronald Hingley, it is Dostoevsky's "greatest onslaught on Nihilism", and "one of humanity's most impressive achievements—perhaps even its supreme achievement—in the art of prose fiction." Demons is a book of ideas, ideas that have potentially catastrophic consequences of the political and moral nihilism that had been becoming prevalent in Russia in the 1860s. A fictional town descends into chaos as it becomes the focal point of an attempted revolution, orchestrated by master conspirator Pyotr Verkhovensky. The mysterious aristocratic figure of Nikolai Stavrogin—Verkhovensky's counterpart in the moral sphere—dominates the book, exercising an extraordinary influence over the hearts and minds of almost all the other characters. The idealistic, Western-influenced generation of the 1840s, epitomized in the character of Stepan Verkhovensky (who is both Pyotr Verkhovensky's father and Nikolai Stavrogin's childhood teacher), are presented as the unconscious progenitors and helpless accomplices of the "demonic" forces that take possession of the town.

REQUIRED READING

Paul Bushkovitch,

A Concise History of Russia,

Cambridge University Press,

ISBN 0521543231

Fyodor Dostoevsky,

Demons: A Novel in Three Parts,

Vintage Books USA,

ISBN 0679734511

This is our novel for Spring Quarter and you have 10 weeks to read it. So a little bit each week and it will be great. It is the perfect introduction to 19th century Russian revolutionary politics.

RECOMMENDED READING

Steven Marks,

How Russia Shaped the Modern World: From Art to Anti-Semitism, Ballet to Bolshevism,

Princeton University Press,

ISBN 0691118450

Week 22: Wed., Apr. 6, 2022
Tolstoy

Week 22

Count Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy, 1828 – 1910, usually referred to in English as Leo Tolstoy, was a Russian writer who is regarded as one of the greatest authors of all time. He received nominations for the Nobel Prize in Literature every year from 1902 to 1906 and for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1901, 1902, and 1909. That he never won is a major controversy. Born to an aristocratic Russian family in 1828, Tolstoy is best known for the novels War and Peace (1869) and Anna Karenina (1878), often cited as pinnacles of realist fiction. He first achieved literary acclaim in his twenties with his semi-autobiographical trilogy, Childhood, Boyhood, and Youth (1852–1856), and Sevastopol Sketches (1855), based upon his experiences in the Crimean War. His fiction includes dozens of short stories and several novellas such as The Death of Ivan Ilyich (1886), Family Happiness (1859), "After The Ball" (1911) and Hadji Murad (1912). He also wrote plays and numerous philosophical essays. In the 1870s, Tolstoy experienced a profound moral crisis, followed by what he regarded as an equally profound spiritual awakening, as outlined in his non-fiction work A Confession (1882). His literal interpretation of the ethical teachings of Jesus, centering on the Sermon on the Mount, caused him to become a fervent Christian anarchist and pacifist. His ideas on nonviolent resistance, expressed in such works as The Kingdom of God Is Within You (1894), had a profound impact on such pivotal 20th-century figures as Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. He also became a dedicated advocate of Georgism, the economic philosophy of Henry George, which he incorporated into his writing, particularly Resurrection (1899).(Wikipedia)

RECOMMENDED READING

Steven Marks,

How Russia Shaped the Modern World: From Art to Anti-Semitism, Ballet to Bolshevism,

Princeton University Press,

ISBN 0691118450

Week 23: Wed., Apr. 13, 2022
World War I

Week 23

"According to the most recent and convincing scholarship, it was not the case, as the man in the street seems to have believed at the time, and as Englishmen and others were to write later, that the European world of June 1914 was a sort of Eden in which the outbreak of hostilities among major powers came as a surprise.  On the contrary, as its political and military elites recognized, Europe was in the grip of an unprecedented arms race; internally the powers were victims of violent social, industrial, and political strife; and general staffs chattered constantly, not about whether there would be war, but where and when."
—David Fromkin, Europe’s Last Summer: Who Started the Great War in 1914?

"Whatever the intentions which underlay it, German policy in the crisis of July 1914 must rank as one of the great disasters of world history. The leaders of arguably the most successful country in Europe, a country bursting with energy, boasting a young and dynamic population and an economy second to none, a country whose army, whose administration, whose scientific and artistic achievements were the envy of the world, took decisions which plunged it and the other powers into a ghastly war in which almost ten million men lost their lives, the old internal and international order was forever destroyed, and popular hatreds were released which were to poison public life for generations to come"
—John Röhl, "Germany," in Decisions for War, 1914, ed. Keith Wilson

RECOMMENDED BOOKS

This book on the origins of World War I is one of the best works of history I have ever read. It has been a huge success since its publication in 1962. It has sold millions of copies and was on the New York Times bestseller list for one whole year.

Barbara Tuchman,

The Guns of August,

Series: Modern Library 100 Best Nonfiction Books,

Random House Trade Paperbacks; Reprint edition (March 8, 1994),

ISBN 034538623X

David Fromkin,

Europe's Last Summer: Why the World Went to War in 1914,

Vintage Books USA,

ISBN 0099430843

The best overall study of rivalry between European powers during this time:

Alan J. P. Taylor,

The Struggle for Mastery in Europe: 1848-1918,

Oxford University Press,

ISBN 0198812701

A J Taylor,

The First World War: An Illustrated History,

Penguin UK,

ISBN 0140024816

Week 24: Wed., Apr. 20, 2022
The Russian Revolution

Week 24

“Few historical events have been more profoundly distorted by myth than those of 25 October 1917. The popular image of the Bolshevik insurrection, as a bloody struggle by the tens of thousands with several thousand fallen heroes, owes more to October—Eisenstein’s brilliant but largely fictional propaganda film to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the event—than to historical fact. The Great October Socialist Revolution, as it came to be called in Soviet mythology, was in reality such a small-scale event, being in effect no more than a military coup, that it passed unnoticed by the vast majority of the inhabitants of Petrograd. Theaters, restaurants and tram cars functioned much as normal while the Bolsheviks came to power. The whole insurrection could have been completed in six hours, had it not been for the ludicrous incompetence of the insurgents themselves, which made it take an extra fifteen.”
—Orlando Figes, A People’s Tragedy: The Russian Revolution, 1891-1924

"Of all the Great Powers that went to war in 1914, Russia was the most backward and autocratic: here the gap between government and society was larger than it was anywhere else. The Tsar, Nicholas II, was committed to the principle of personal rule, keeping power at court, distrusting his own bureaucracy as a sort of “wall” between himself and his people. He preferred Moscow to St. Petersburg, a “Byzantine” and Eastern tradition of autocratic rule to the Westernizing tradition that descended from Peter the Great. It was Russia’s tragedy, Orlando Figes has suggested, that just as the country was entering the twentieth century its ruler was nostalgic for the seventeenth! He was not content to reign: he wanted to rule. Instead of delegating authority or making genuine concessions to liberal reformers and representative institutions he indulged in a fantasy of absolute power. There was no parliament in Russia until 1906, and by delaying so long in establishing one the regime split the conservative and liberal intelligentsia whose united support was essential for the monarchy’s survival. His empire covered nearly a sixth of the earth’s surface, but he had little of the practical knowledge necessary to govern it, and he distrusted those who did. Given his limitations of intelligence and experience, the Tsar could only play at the part of an autocrat, meddling in government without offering any real leadership. The Tsar’s own chief advisor, Pobedonostev, lamented: “He only understands the significance of some isolated fact, without connection with the rest, without appreciating the interrelation of all other pertinent facts, events, trends, occurrences. He sticks to his insignificant, petty point of view.” The agencies of government were never properly systematized, because it was in the Tsar’s best interest to keep them weak and dependent on his favor and patronage. And it did not help matters that his wife, Alexandra, combined the obstinacy of her grandmother, Britain’s Queen Victoria, with a mystical faith in the mad monk Rasputin, “a peasant visionary given to gargantuan excesses,” as one historian describes him. (She believed that this unsavory character was the only person who could help her son, who had been born with hemophilia.) Her meddling in political affairs—particularly when her husband was at the front during the war—further alienated the regime from its traditional bases of support in the court, the bureaucracy, the Church, and the army. "
Professor Bruce Thompson

RECOMMENDED READING

Richard Pipes,

The Russian Revolution,

Vintage Publishing,

ISBN 0679736603

"A monumental study...of absorbing interest [by] the distinguished historian of modern Russia.... Lucidly written, unsurpassed in detail and comprehensiveness." —Wall Street Journal

"Mr. Pipes writes trenchantly, and at times superbly.... No single volume known to me even begins to cater so adequately to those who want to discover what really happened to Russia." —The New York Times Book Review

Richard Edgar Pipes (July 11, 1923 – May 17, 2018) was an American academic who specialized in Russian and Soviet history. He published several books critical of communist regimes throughout his career. In 1976, he headed Team B, a team of analysts organized by the Central Intelligence Agency who analyzed the strategic capacities and goals of the Soviet military and political leadership. Pipes was the father of American historian Daniel Pipes. Pipes was born to a Jewish family in Cieszyn, Poland, which fled the country as refugees after it was invaded by Nazi Germany. Settling in the United States in 1940, he became a naturalized citizen in 1943 while serving in the United States Army Air Corps. From 1958 to 1996, Pipes worked at Harvard University. The book we recommend to you above is the best most balanced look at the Russian Revolution. There are hundreds of such books available, but we think Pipes does a good job of telling the story as truthfully as possible.

Robert Massie,

Nicholas and Alexandra: The Classic Account of the Fall of the Romanov Dynasty,

Random House Trade Paperbacks,

ISBN 0345438310

Institute Library Call Number: 947.08 Mas NIC

Week 25: Wed., Apr. 27, 2022
Joseph Stalin

Week 25

The great historian and biographer Alan Bullock sums up the differences in the leadership and oratorical styles of Stalin and Hitler as follows: "There is a striking contrast in temperament and style between the two men: the flamboyant Hitler, displaying a lack of restraint and extravagance of speech which for long made it difficult for many to take him seriously, in contrast to the reserved Stalin, who owed his rise to power to his success, not in exploiting, but in concealing his personality, and was underestimated for the opposite reason—because many failed to recognize his ambition and ruthlessness."

Stalin had emerged from the civil war with little glory and much power; Trotsky finished with much glory and little power. Stalin, half-gangster, half-bureaucrat, would use power to trump glory: he offered the Bolsheviks non-charismatic leadership, although he continually invoked the sacred authority of the safely mummified Lenin in its support.

"Unlike Hitler, whose unique position as Führer was openly accepted by all the members of the Nazi Party as the linchpin which held them together, Stalin had to conceal his ambition and at the same time find means of defeating any rivals in an unremitting but covert struggle for power, from which, until his fiftieth birthday in December 1929, he could never be sure he would emerge the victor. The role he adopted was that of the plain man who spoke the same practical language as the party workers from the provinces and was accessible to them. Instead of disguising his exercise of power, he personalized it, leaving no doubt as to whose door to knock on. In the same role he represented the voice of common sense and moderation, opposing the exaggeration of the extremists on either side, stressing the need for unity" (Bullock).

RECOMMENDED READING

Oleg Khlevniuk,

Stalin: New Biography of a Dictator,

Nora Seligman Favorov,

Yale University Press,

ISBN 0300219784

Simon Montefiore,

Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar,

Vintage,

ISBN 1400076781

Institute Library Call Number: 947.084 Mon STA

Martin Malia,

The Soviet Tragedy: A History of Socialism in Russia, 1917-1991,

Free Press,

ISBN 0684823136

Week 26: Wed., May. 4, 2022
The Second World War

Week 26

RUSSIA AT WAR
"Stalin was capable of learning from his mistakes. He began to trust his generals and to delegate operational authority, allowing them to present alternatives for him to adjudicate rather than micromanaging strategy as Hitler did. He appealed to Russian nationalism and even permitted the election of a new Orthodox patriarch and used the Church to bestow moral meaning on the war effort. He allowed army officers to wear the trappings of the old Tsarist army uniforms, the peasants to enlarge their individual plots at the expense of the collectives. He put great poets, censored for years, on the radio to recite patriotic verse, and evacuated one of the greatest of them, Anna Akhmatova, from besieged Leningrad. Stalin himself continued to address his people as "brothers and sisters" or "my friends" rather than "comrades" or "citizens," as he had in his first speech after the Barbarossa invasion. And he evacuated fifteen hundred factories, together with their workers, eastward, out of reach of German bombs. Ultimately ten million workers were relocated in this way, working under military discipline. "By 1943 this extraordinary industrial redeployment had put Russia's production of planes, tanks, and artillery far above Germany's. The Party's ability to mobilize and rapidly concentrate great masses of men and materiel at strategic points and under crisis conditions was clearly a major factor in the Soviet victory" (Martin Malia). In a war of attrition, the marshalling of resources, rather than brilliant leadership, was the key to victory. The Soviet command economy, for all its faults, was well suited to wartime conditions and total mobilization: in fact it was better at improvising than planning. The Americans and the British helped with supplies and motorized vehicles: 80,000 jeeps, 150,000 light trucks, 200,000 Studebaker army trucks, aviation fuel, explosives, copper, aluminum, rubber, rails, canned food, field telephones, boots. More and more the Red Army was able to achieve superiority in numbers, equipment, and even, as the Luftwaffe became depleted, air cover. And the Soviet T-34 tank actually had better armor and more speed and firepower than its German counterpart. Newly organized tank units proved the equal of the panzer divisions: in 1941, six or seven tanks were lost for every German one; by 1944 the ratio was one to one. Radio communications, radar, maintenance systems, and camouflage operations were reorganized as well."
Professor Bruce Thompson

RECOMMENDED READING

Alexander Werth,

Russia at War, 1941–1945: A History,

Skyhorse,

ISBN 1510716254

"Magnificent . . . . It fills a great void. . . . the best book we probably shall ever have in English on Russia at war." —William Shirer, author of The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich

"There is no book in any language with which to compare this monumental but exceedingly readable history of the Nazi-Soviet war . . . in savagery and hatred it was the biggest war in history . . . an engrossing and terrifying book." —Life

"Engrossing history . . . spellbinding narrative." —Newsweek

"Monumental and absorbing. . . . An epic work that will fascinate the ordinary reader." —Saturday Review

Martin Malia,

The Soviet Tragedy: A History of Socialism in Russia, 1917-1991,

Free Press,

ISBN 0684823136

Week 27: Wed., May. 11, 2022
The Cold War

Week 27

THE COLD WAR: A DEFINITION The Cold War was a fierce competition between the Great Powers that proceeded by all means short of direct confrontation. Because there were only two Great Powers after the Second World War, international relations had a "bipolar" character: there were two great blocs, and the competition between them was a "zero-sum" game, which meant that a "victory" for either side anywhere was a "loss" for the other. In other words, the assumption was that the different parts of the international system were so tightly linked that a setback in one area would have destabilizing effects elsewhere. Actual war would be fought out by proxies, surrogates for the Great Powers, and confined for the most part to the "periphery" of the industrially developed part of the world.
Bruce Thompson

RECOMMENDED READING

John Gaddis,

The Cold War: A New History,

Penguin Books; 2nd edition,

ISBN 0143038273

Martin Malia,

The Soviet Tragedy: A History of Socialism in Russia, 1917-1991,

Free Press,

ISBN 0684823136

Week 28: Wed., May. 18, 2022
Alexander Solzhenitsyn

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (1918 – 2008)was a Russian novelist, philosopher, historian, short story writer and political prisoner. One of the most famous Soviet dissidents, Solzhenitsyn was an outspoken critic of Communism and helped to raise global awareness of political repressions in the Soviet Union, in particular the Gulag concentration camp system. Solzhenitsyn was born into a family that defied the Soviet anti-religious campaign and remained devout members of the Russian Orthodox Church. While still young, however, Solzhenitsyn lost his faith in Christianity and became a firm believer in both atheism and Marxism–Leninism, in his later life, he gradually became a philosophically-minded Eastern Orthodox Christian as a result of his experience in prison and the camps. While serving as a captain in the Red Army during World War II, Solzhenitsyn was arrested by the SMERSH and sentenced to eight years in the Gulag and then internal exile for criticizing Soviet leader Joseph Stalin in a private letter. As a result of the Khrushchev Thaw, Solzhenitsyn was released and exonerated, and he returned to the Christian faith of his childhood and pursued writing novels about repressions in the Soviet Union and his experiences. He published his first novel, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich in 1962, with approval from Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, which was an account of Stalinist repressions. Solzhenitsyn's last work to be published in the Soviet Union was Matryona's Place in 1963. Following the removal of Khrushchev from power, the Soviet authorities attempted to discourage him from continuing to write. Solzhenitsyn continued to work on further novels and their publication in other countries including Cancer Ward in 1968, August 1914 in 1971, and The Gulag Archipelago in 1973 outraged the Soviet authorities, and Solzhenitsyn lost his Soviet citizenship in 1974 and was flown to West Germany. In 1976 he moved with his family to the United States, where he continued to write. In 1990, shortly before the dissolution of the Soviet Union, his citizenship was restored, and four years later he returned to Russia, where he remained until his death in 2008. He was awarded the 1970 Nobel Prize in Literature "for the ethical force with which he has pursued the indispensable traditions of Russian literature". His The Gulag Archipelago was a highly influential work that "amounted to a head-on challenge to the Soviet state" and sold tens of millions of copies. (Wikipedia)

RECOMMENDED READING

ALEKSANDR SOLZHENITSYN,

The Gulag Archipelago,

Vintage Publishing,

ISBN 1784871516

Joseph Pearce,

Solzhenitsyn: A Soul in Exile,

Baker Books,

ISBN 080101204X

Week 29: Wed., May. 25, 2022
Reagan and Gorbachev

WASHINGTON, 2004 (Jun 13, 2004, 12:00am Robert G. Kaiser, Washington Post) In the throngs of mourners passing through the Capitol Thursday afternoon, one stood out — a vigorous senior citizen with a distinctive birthmark on his bald pate, whose tight gestures and bright eyes brought back memories of some of President Ronald Reagan's greatest moments. Mikhail Gorbachev had flown from Moscow to pay respects to Nancy Reagan and to the man with whom he changed the course of history. "I gave him a pat," Gorbachev said later, re-enacting the fond caress he had given Reagan's coffin. On Thursday evening, in an ornate conference room at the Russian Embassy, Gorbachev gave a kind of personal eulogy to his first and most important American friend. It combined emotion, rigorous historical analysis and an interesting appraisal of Reagan's place in American life and history. "Reagan," said Gorbachev, 73, was 'an extraordinary political leader' who decided 'to be a peacemaker' at just the right moment — the moment when Gorbachev had come to power in Moscow. He, too, wanted to be a peacemaker, so "our interests coincided." Reagan's second term began in January 1985; two months later, Gorbachev was elected general secretary of the Soviet Communist Party. But if he had warm, appreciative words for Reagan, Gorbachev brusquely dismissed the suggestion that Reagan had intimidated either him or the Soviet Union, or forced them to make concessions. Was it accurate to say that Reagan won the Cold War? "That's not serious," Gorbachev said, using the same words several times. "I think we all lost the Cold War, particularly the Soviet Union. We each lost $10 trillion," he said, referring to the money Russians and Americans spent on an arms race that lasted more than four decades. "We only won when the Cold War ended." Later on the Larry King Show (CNN) Gorbachev said, "None of it would have happened without him." In the 1990s, Gorbachev and Reagan had many reunions in Washington, LA, and on the Reagan ranch in the mountains above Santa Barbara.

RECOMMENDED READING

Ken Adelman,

Reagan at Reykjavik: Forty-Eight Hours That Ended the Cold War,

Broadside Books,

ISBN 0062310194

Former arms control director Ken Adelman gives readers a dramatic, first-hand account of the Reagan-Gorbachev summit—the weekend that proved key to ending the Cold War. Based on now declassified notes of Reagan’s secret bargaining with Gorbachev and a front-row seat to Reykjavik and other key moments in Reagan’s presidency, Adelman gives an honest portrayal of the man at one of his finest and most challenging moments.

Week 30: Wed., Jun. 1, 2022
Boris Yeltsin

Boris Nikolayevich Yeltsin (1931 – 2007) was a Russian and former Soviet politician who served as the first President of Russia from 1991 to 1999. A member of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1961 to 1990, he later stood as a political independent, during which time he was viewed as being ideologically aligned with liberalism and Russian nationalism. Born in Butka, Ural Oblast, to a peasant family, Yeltsin grew up in Kazan, Tatar. After studying at the Ural State Technical University, he worked in construction. Joining the Communist Party, which monopolized power in the state and society, he rose through its ranks and in 1976 became First Secretary of the party's Sverdlovsk Oblast committee. Initially a supporter of the perestroika reforms of Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, Yeltsin later criticized them as being too moderate, calling for a transition to a multi-party representative democracy. In 1987 he was the first person to resign from the party's governing Politburo, establishing his popularity as an anti-establishment figure. In 1990, he was elected chair of the Russian Supreme Soviet and in 1991 was elected president of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic. Allying with various non-Russian nationalist leaders, he was instrumental in the formal dissolution of the Soviet Union in December that year, at which the RSFSR became the Russian Federation, an independent state. Yeltsin remained in office as president and was reelected in the 1996 election, although critics claimed pervasive electoral corruption. Yeltsin transformed Russia's state socialist economy into a capitalist market economy by implementing economic shock therapy, market exchange rate of the ruble, nationwide privatization, and lifting of price controls. Economic volatility and inflation ensued. Amid the economic shift, a small number of oligarchs obtained a large proportion of the national property and wealth, while international monopolies came to dominate the market. A constitutional crisis emerged in 1993 after Yeltsin ordered the unconstitutional dissolution of the Russian parliament, leading to parliament to impeach him. The crisis ended after troops loyal to Yeltsin stormed the parliament building and stopped an armed uprising; he then introduced a new constitution which significantly expanded the powers of the president. Secessionist sentiment in the Russian Caucasus led to the First Chechen War, War of Dagestan, and Second Chechen War between 1994 and 1999. Internationally, Yeltsin promoted renewed collaboration with Europe and signed arms control agreements with the United States. Amid growing internal pressure, he resigned by the end of 1999 and was succeeded by his chosen successor, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. Out of office, he kept a low profile, but he was accorded a state funeral upon his death in 2007. Yeltsin was a controversial figure. Domestically, he was highly popular in the late 1980s and early 1990s, although his reputation was damaged by the economic and political crises of his presidency, and he left office widely unpopular with the Russian population. He received praise and criticism for his role in dismantling the Soviet Union, transforming Russia into a representative democracy, and introducing new political, economic, and cultural freedoms to the country. Conversely, he was accused of economic mismanagement, overseeing a massive growth in inequality and corruption, and sometimes of undermining Russia's standing as a major world power. (Wikipedia)

RECOMMENDED READING

Conor O'Clery,

Moscow, December 25, 1991: The Last Day of the Soviet Union,

PublicAffairs,

ISBN 1586487965