Uncivil Society: 1989 and the Implosion of the Communist Establishment
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Uncivil Society: 1989 and the Implosion of the Communist Establishment (Modern Library Chronicles #32)

3.79 of 5 stars 3.79  ·  rating details  ·  48 ratings  ·  10 reviews
Twenty years ago, the Berlin Wall fell. In one of modern history’s most miraculous occurrences, communism imploded–and not with a bang, but with a whimper. Now two of the foremost scholars of East European and Soviet affairs, Stephen Kotkin and Jan T. Gross, drawing upon two decades of reflection, revisit this crash. In a crisp, concise, unsentimental narrative, they emplo...more
Hardcover, 240 pages
Published October 6th 2009 by Modern Library (first published 2009)
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Lauren Albert
In this look at the revolutionary events of 1989, Kotkin reviews the causes of what unfolded in three countries--East Germany, Romania and Poland. It is a revisionist text in that he disagrees with what has become a predominant argument that the arms race is what lead to the fall of the Soviet Union. Economics played a large role but it was debt, he thinks, more than spending on weaponry, that did in the communist regime. For instance, Eastern European countries thought they could produce inexpe...more
John David
In the west, we are often regaled with unquestioned stories of the fall of communism, most often the one in which the triad of Margaret Thatcher, John Paul II, and Reagan collectively conjure the World-Spirit of neoliberalism and capitalism to defeat the Reds. It’s an account that speaks to our need for heroism. Stephen Kotkin’s account, however, is a revisionist one in that he claims the downfall of the Soviet Union (especially the bloc states in Eastern Europe) was much less exciting than we’v...more
Daniel Hammer
This is a good addition to the large body of scholarship on the collapse of socialism. Kotkin focuses on three cases; the former GDR, Romania, and Poland. He basic argument is that the collapse of the system was brought about by the economic mismanagement of the regimes, coupled with their delusional sense of stability and control in each country and regionally. He refers to socialist regimes as "uncivil society," a term meant to deliberately discount the argument of other scholars that citizen...more
Uncivil Society: 1989 and the Implosion of the Communist Establishment by Stephen Kotkin

The narrative held by most Americans about the fall of the Eastern Bloc is almost entirely false. It goes something like this. Ronald Reagan is elected. He calls the Soviet Union an evil empire. He decides to build Star Wars. The Soviets can't keep up. He tells Gorby to tear down that wall, and they have no choice. We win. USA! USA! USA!

Well, I lived through enough of this to know that narrative was bunk at...more
Jay Hinman
It’s been said so many times (particularly in conservative circles) that it has ceased to lose its sense of moral outrage, but the most “underreported” story of the twentieth century was the misery, economic destruction and mass death caused by Communism - both as an idea, and certainly far more so in practice. Underreported, you ask? I’d say so. It’s not difficult to find books, articles and speeches decrying 20th-century communism’s crimes, from Stalin and Mao to famines and entire generations...more
Very readable and an important read not only to correct perceptions on how everything went down in 1989, but also to shed some light on where capitalism can make the same mistakes. There are important differences, of course, but it really was a combination of the creation of an uncivil society (that is Communist officials that received special perks and entrenched their positions and grew out of touch) and the taking on of major amounts of debt from Western countries in order to pay for increase...more
H Wesselius
Brilliant. Traces the fall of the various regimes to implosion of the uncivil groups. With the exception of Poland, there were no mass civil society to topple the regimes so logically the cause of the demise is elsewhere. A disastrous economic performance, massive debt, and consumer shortages forced the elites to consider changes and these changes had unforeseen repercussions. Allowing these repercussions to play themselves out is Gorbachev and his policy of non-intervention. Unsaid by the autho...more
Fascinating, fast-moving, and insightful. This was an interesting perspective on why communism ultimately fails as well thoroughly reflective on how we view civility.
Becky Gamble
This book was boring. Maybe it's because I find Eastern European history/ Communism history extremely boring. Soooo dry.
Laura Miller
Excellent, lucid and amazingly concise overview of the fall of the Soviet block in Eastern Europe.
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Stephen Mark Kotkin is Professor of History and director of the Program in Russian Studies at Princeton University. He specializes in the history of the Soviet Union and has recently begun to research Eurasia more generally.
More about Stephen Kotkin...
Armageddon Averted: The Soviet Collapse, 1970-2000 Magnetic Mountain: Stalinism as a Civilization Steeltown, USSR: Soviet Society in the Gorbachev Era The Collapse of the Soviet Union: A Very Short Introduction Steeltown, USSR: Glasnost, destalinization, and perestroika in the provinces (Occasional papers. University of California, Berkeley. Center for Slavic and East European Studies, #1)

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